How playing board games can make you a better activist

Photo Credit: Civic Engagement & Leadership Development

We believe that playing games can allow people to see themselves as agents of change while creating memorable moments that inspire action.

Yet, board games don’t just let people immerse themselves in a world of imaginative storylines and gameplay – they can also help players improve real-world skills and focus their collaborative efforts in their everyday lives.

So let’s take a closer look at how playing board games can help players imagine and plan for a better world.

Board Games Can Increase Creativity

By playing physical games together, players can develop new creative skills and ideas that allow them to meet challenges head-on in the real world. 

Having a group of people gather around a table for a board game is not only a good time, but it also helps players develop interesting approaches to achieving their goals. Games can help get people out of their shells while teaching them to work with others so that they can reach a common objective, or obtain an individual aim through clever solutions. Basically, games build people’s imagination muscles as well as their ability to problem solve.

In Game Changer: The Game of Activist Tactics, players have to rely on their radical imaginations to convince the round’s Decider that their activist tactic is the best possible option compared to the ones other players have. Players draw cards and use the object or idea listed on the card to come up with an idea on how to apply the card to an effective strategy. There’s laughter and high fives, as well as incredible moments of inspiration and inventiveness.

Board Games Can Teach Effective Planning

Playing board games gives players the opportunity to try new things and develop effective strategies that they can use in the real world. The forgiving environment of board game-playing lets people test strategies to determine what works and what doesn’t without the burden of significant consequences looming overhead.

In addition to teaching players how to develop working strategies, playing board games encourages patience. Being that it takes time to move through trial and error processes, players learn to take it easy and apply their ideas in a less stressful environment. These casual settings help foster confidence in one’s planning abilities, even when they’re applying said skills to advocacy efforts and community ventures.

In Co-opoly: The Game of Co-operatives, players have to collaborate to effectively plan and execute their decisions. The outcome of the game relies heavily on the players’ ability to work together, balancing individual and collective needs. If one player loses, everyone loses together. Victory depends on everyone working together and sharing in both risks and rewards. 

Board Games Can Strengthen Interpersonal Skills

Part of what makes board game-play such a useful hobby is the fact that it often means getting together as a group. As such, playing collaborative and cooperative board games teaches individuals how to find common ground and get along with each other, even when they have some different goals along the way. Working on this specific skill is invaluable in the real world, whether people are engaging in overcoming adversity through non-violent activism, or they’re trying to fight for workers’ rights.

Photo credit: Solidarity St. Louis

Board Games Can Inspire Empathy

With a lot of board games, people get to take on the role of a character: they can often choose to play as someone they see themselves reflected in, or as someone whose experience is different than their own that they’d like to explore. For example, in the game Rise Up: The Game of People & Power, individuals play as members of a community who organize together in order to achieve social change. As the game progresses, players tease out the story of their movement and how it affects their characters.  

Playing games inspired by real issues brings these situations to the forefront of people’s minds. It can help them think about how life works for people outside of their normal circles, and in this way, gameplay can let players look at life and causes through the lenses of others’ lived experiences. 

Fun Can Inspire People To Take Action

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

Whether people are competing in a game or trying to overcome an obstacle together, playing games about changing the world gives individuals fun practice when it comes to advocacy. And honestly, that’s something activists need more of: the ability to have fun.

Board game scenarios can effectively reflect challenges that activists face in their real-life social justice efforts, and as such, overcoming adversity in a game helps give people the mental tools they need to win victories for their causes. Here’s the deal, though: when it’s done in an exciting and engaging way, players create connections to the game’s theme and are more likely to want to get involved with it in the real world.   

At the TESA Collective, we work hard to ensure that our games are not only fun and engaging, but inspirational and highly useful at the same time. We aim to create experiences that bring people together, both to enjoy an evening of story-based problem-solving and to challenge the way they look at the world around them. Gameplay is a tool as well as a hobby, and we’re happy to help activists and community-minded individuals improve their ability to organize and win together.

Support Our Work

TESA is proud to lead the development of games, tools, and programs for social change. You can support our work while having fun: buy our games about changing the world. TESA can also work with you to build a game, program, or tool for your cause!