The sun is just over the yard arm on my 50th birthday. To stave off opening a lock down beer for another hour or so, here I am. Writing my 467th blog post since I launched GoPlayListen back in 2011. Back then, my intention was to write about going places, playing games and listening to music. The music writing dropped off fast – there’s only so many times you can write about going to see the same crusty old bands with the same crusty old people 🙂 I still do a bit of the ‘go’, but only if it involves gaming too. But if I ever actually get around to doing a board game podcast, the ‘listen’ will be back too. Full circle.
It’s a strange (read: miserable) time to have a landmark birthday. I’m very aware many people are genuinely suffering thanks to coronavirus. Three friends have lost a parent during this time, creating heartbreaking situations due to shielding, travel bans and restrictions to gatherings. Others have lost jobs, or had scares and hospital stays. But that just makes me feel more guilty for being miserable about something so meaningless. Which makes me more miserable. Gawd, what a whiny baby. But you know what I mean. On the plus side, at least I don’t have to worry about some misguided soul throwing me a surprise party (shivers). And I don’t ‘have’ to be sociable.
Reasons to be cheerful
With ‘go’ out the way due to covid, ‘play’ and ‘listen’ have become heightened. Just like the senses, my brain is rewiring itself to cope with this loss. Rerouting my go hours to more playing and more listening (and some gardening, weirdly. But who knows how the brain works?) Money saved on travel and hotels has been funnelled into funding music venues and musicians. Whether its buying CDs and T-shirts, or getting my name put on venue ‘walls of fame’ to help them survive the crisis, I’ve been doing my small bit. And it feels good.
Time saved on going places has been put into playing (and gardening, obvs). Which hasn’t been easy, seeing as half the point of me leaving the house tends to be to go play games. Here, online gaming has been an incredibly satisfying outlet. If I’m playing a favourite game, chatting to friends and having a glass of adult beverage, its a good evening. In person would be better, but its a perfectly acceptable substitute. And I don’t have to wear trousers. But I’ve gone on about online gaming enough of late, so won’t repeat myself here.
[insert cricket analogy here]
As for being 50, it’s hard not to be reflective – both looking backwards and forwards. I tend to find things I say are, in my mind, glass half full. But they tend to come out sounding almost completely glass empty/smashed/full of piss.
For example, I’m looking forward positively because – with any luck – I’ve only got 10 years or so of ‘work’ left to go. And the rest (if any) will be MINE. I’ve always been confident I could fill my days if they were free of work. And have never understood people who claim they would be bored. Being furloughed for 10 weeks has only strengthened my feelings that, if anything, I’d be busier.
The other recent phenomenon has been Black Lives Matter. Well, not ‘new’, but you know what I mean. I can’t help thinking it will be another false dawn. As we watch film companies edit a few dodgy scenes in films, while doing nothing about the disparity in their board rooms or in their casting and hires. The coming second wave of covid in the US is sure to topple this 65th wave of equality sentiment in the news cycle soon. Which is a fucking travesty. We seem better than ever at ‘protesting’, but worse than ever at doing anything about it. The nauseating waves of meaningless social media memes do nothing except make those posting them feel better. Stop it. If you really feel something, go and do something.
Inclusivity – and YOU
I know there are problems of racism, sexism and I expect every other ‘ism’ in the board gaming industry. Just as there are in all walks of life. And I know that, as a white male, I’m much less likely to come across/notice them. But in my little corner of the gaming world, I’m often conscious of how joyfully diverse things are. My games have come out through American, German, Greek and Polish publishers. I’ve played with people of countless creeds and colours. And I’ve had brilliant game experiences with both pensioners and kids of all sexes – often at the same time. Being 50, 60, 70 etc will not be a barrier.
But as I say, I do know I’m in a position of white male privilege. So help me out. I have this blog, this mouthpiece, and I’m happy to share. Do you have a story to tell? Of despair, of hope? Of your troubles as any kind of minority, in gaming? you can tell your story here – or I can talk to you, and we can put it together, together. Just get in touch, either by replying here or contacting me via social media. The more stories that get out there, the more people will realise even the smallest things can add to that big pile of prejudice. Let’s do something.
Right, I need a drink…
Note: The cricket photo is of absurdly talented batsman Mark Ramprakash reaching a 50. I used it because he too is 50 this school year. We went to 6th form college together, not that I expect he remembers me. He wasn’t often in the smoking room… Our mums were friends. We even played a bit of cricket and football together, in the park, when we were young. And while I’ve probably had more board games published than he has, I grudgingly admit he has done slightly more with his first 50 years. But i’m coming for you in the second 50, Mark!