The Value Of Focusing On Something Else

Last night, on vacation with extended family, a few of us stayed up late playing Risk. As players of this game know, these episodes can go on for hours and hours. We laughed harder than I had laughed in a long time.

Board Game Meetup #1 @ Firenze by Flickr user katsuma
"Board Game Meetup #1 @ Firenze" by Flickr user katsuma

As I went to bed (of course the game is not finished, it is likely to last for another day at least), I remarked to myself on what a good time we had talking. It’s not often people spend such extended time together in conversation. It seemed to me that one of the functions of board games and card games is to create a diversion for people, so that when conversation ebbs we can focus on something else. Then, renewed, we can focus again on the conversation. Without this alternative focus, the conversation might burn out.

The game also provides a constant stream  of fodder for conversation, adding in new minor events on which to comment.

It felt good and this morning I am thankful for the role board games play in our lives. It makes me wonder how we can translate that second focus into other things too — it’s helpful to be able to take a break within the intensity of conversation, to be able to keep it rolling. For instance, in a very intense project, how could we use an alternate focus to create the opportunity for a little rest, to help maintain intensity?

Published by

Brad Rourke

Executive editor of issue guides and program officer at the Kettering Foundation.

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