I watched a fascinating TV documentary about ‘Ludology’ at the weekend. Ludology, as I discovered is the analysis of boardgames in general – game history and design, as well as gaming culture – not just Ludo. But it was the mention of this enduring favourite that grabbed my attention.
You see, as children, my siblings and I probably spent more time playing Ludo than any other boardgame. We challenged each other so regularly, and so fiercely, that we wore out the original cardboard playing circuit. Our father had to fashion another out of wood so that play could continue.
Who would have thought that the simple task of getting four tokens ‘home’ could have prompted such intense plotting, careful strategising, temporary alliances, revenge ‘killings’, not to mention the calculated deployment of the coveted ‘six’?
As the second-to-youngest, boardgames were also the only domain that allowed me the chance to win against my elder siblings. In every other activity, their superior size, strength, speed, and cleverness meant I would be outclassed. But Ludo was the great leveller. I might even beat the adults.
What I came to appreciate through the documentary’s conversations with boardgame designers and with hobby gamers, though, is that what one consumes when one plays is not the boardgame, but the other players. And what one gains through repeated play is not expertise, but self-awareness.