Connect with locals through gaming!
2018-12-10 | By Ute Limacher-Riebold
Understanding a new culture is like learning a new game: whether we observe others playing, study the rules before we give it a try, or learn by doing, the goal is to connect, play and have fun.
How can we best socialise with locals? Especially when the language represents a significant barrier, I encourage inter- nationals to meet with locals by concentrating on what they have in common instead of focusing on the differences. If we meet people through common interests and hobbies, we connect in a safe and healthy way that doesn’t push us too much out of our comfort zone.
Time to play
Gaming is back—not marathon gaming sessions alone on a device nor gaming for money. It’s the social fun of board and card games that are booming, and not only among mil- lennials. Despite the massive success of video games in recent decades, the board gam- ing market experienced a significant growth in the late 1990s and, as an article in The Guardian stated in 2012 , board games are “making a comeback”.
ames have a goal that players aim to achieve. Some modern board games are based on defeating opponents like the early board games that represented a battle between two armies. Other games represent real-life situations with no inherent themes, like checkers, or with a clear narrative, like Cluedo (also known as Clue), and range from having very simple rules like Tic-tac-toe to being fairly elaborate like Dungeons & Dragons. Whatever the game, having a common goal and a healthy amount of competition brings people of all backgrounds together. And since, according to a survey done by Multiscope in 2013 , 63% of Dutch people regularly play board games, there is ample opportunity to “get on board” with locals.
How to connect with locals while gaming
More and more game cafés (or gameries) and game shops offer the opportunity to play the games in loco , allowing people to meet. “The main aim is to play a game, so, if you like gaming, this is a great way to connect with locals,” says volunteer Antonio Gutierrez, External Training Coordinator for ACCESS.
When Antonio moved to the Netherlands in 2010, he looked for ways to connect with the local community and decided to do so whilst pursuing his hobby: board gaming. He did this in France and Belgium before and found his ‘tribe’ in The Hague in the same way. “You start going to these shops and figure out what game you want to play. You can play on your own or ask the owner of the shop to connect you with other players,” he says. “You can also join a club or a community of gamers. There are some internationals in those clubs, but 90% of the members of the gamers are locals.”
Where you can play
The Hague: tabletopkingdom.nl, dekoperenpion.nl, games-workshop.com/en-NL/Games-Workshop-Den-Haag Groningen: purperendraak.nl Amsterdam: friendsfoes.nl, gamekeeper.nl Leiden: facebook.com/degravincafe Delft: speldorado.com Utrecht: subcultures.nl/en Haarlem: spellenhuis.nl, the-boardroom.nl
What are the most popular games?
It depends on the community of the gamery or board game café and on the age and interests of the group of the gam- ers; toddlers play with their parents, teens play with their peers. Games can be played by everyone from ages three to 99 and as the concept of most of the gameries is to sell games whilst offering their clients the opportunity to try them out, connect with other players, and form a true community, you can find all kind of games: 30 Seconds, Forbidden Desert, Escape, Flash Point, Ticket to Ride, Dungeons & Dragons, Small World, Agricola, Carcassonne, Pandemic, Game of the Goose, Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, The Settlers of Catan (Catan), just to name a few.
Antonio’s favourite games are Warhammer 40000, “the thrilling hobby of table-top war-gaming… where mighty armies clash across war-torn worlds, and the forces of Chaos strive to overthrow the Imperium of Mankind,” and Zombicide where “you go on a mission together with the other participants and kill the zombies, fostering teamwork and strategic thinking.” But he also likes X-Com the board game (which originally was a video game), Magic The Gathering and King of Tokyo.
How much does it cost to participate?
The cost to participate varies from place to place. At the Boardroom in Haarlem you can play all the games you want for only €5 a visit. Other places, like the Tabletop Kingdom in The Hague, offer free play and just ask you to consume a drink and a snack while playing. The concept is to try out the game and, if you like it, purchase it.
What if I don’t know the game (yet)? Can I join as a newbie? What if I struggle to speak Dutch?
In Antonio’s experience, “The gaming community is very open: everybody is welcome and the owners are there to help you understand the rules of the game.” Also, the Dutch speak English easily and are happy to help with understanding the rules. Furthermore, the owners will help you find the right game for you.
Who have you met while gaming?
Antonio has met many of his friends playing board games. He even met Menno de Koning, who won Heel Holland Bakt (a Dutch cooking programme on television) three years ago. Antonio ended up in a video with him , so, you never know whom you can meet whilst gaming!
“You connect with people across the table,” says Matt Leacock, board game designer most known for cooperative games such as Pandemic. “It is a very human thing and it is tactile: you need to handle the physical components, to get the feel for the texture on the cards and see the wood grain on your components.”
Where can I play board games?
“Some cafés have board games that you can play while having a drink. I am going to the Tabletop Kingdom , a gaming store in the city center, close to Het Plein,” Antonio says. “Oliver, the owner, organises board game evenings in [alternating] places like cafés, breweries (for adults only). He organises tournaments, workshops like the one for fathers and children on Father’s Day, painting challenges, etc. Thursday evenings are board gamesevening, and Friday card games evening. Here you can trade your Magic Cards, buy new sets and play one-on-one, or play multiplayer with different rules. Have a look at Tabeltop Kingdom’s Facebook page to find out more about it.”
About the author
Ute Limacher-Riebold is a trainer at ACCESS. She supports internationals during their life abroad and helps them through transition at Ute’s International Lounge. utesinternationallounge.com