On Grief and Gaming
This weekend, my grandfather passed away. He was a great man, my Grandad, who played a huge part in my childhood, helping raise me from the kid I once was to the mildly successful adult I am today. I will miss him dearly.
I was lucky enough to be there right at the very end. His last coherent words to me, before passing on, were: “love is most important”. He was always wise, and that stuck with him until the moment when he moved on. On Friday 15th September, at around 8.40pm, he moved from this mortal world, surrounded by four grandchildren and my mother. All of us holding his hands. It’s how he would have wanted to go.
In times of grief, people deal with their emotions in different ways. Some people turn to humour, some turn to keeping busy, some cry hysterically, and some sob meekly in the corner. I have to admit, I am not good with death, especially when it is someone so close.
It comes as no surprise to readers of this blog, that I am an introvert. I find solace in solitude, and abhor large crowds for too long (the one exception being conventions, oddly enough, where I feel at home). I also find solace in order, and in times of upheaval, that order (in whatever format it may take) can be a great comfort.
The morning after my Grandfather passed, I sat on the floor of my living room, and I ordered a shuffled stack of around 400 Star Wars: Destiny cards into five different piles. I, as a man in my mid-twenties, sat cross-legged, stacks of cards around me, reading the text and placing them meticulously in order. I then proceeded to organise the dice into different coloured piles, before building a deck out of the free cards my friends had given me. It was such an arbitrary act, something which, at times like these, really doesn’t matter, and yet it was such a comfort.
Death is a time of transition as much as it is a time of loss. It’s strange how even in the 15th century art of Tarot the Death card is not recognised as the end, but rather a point of change. It’s a metamorphosis from one state of existence to another, whatever that state may be. It may be living to dying, or it may be happy to sad, rich to old, left to right, order to chaos – whatever it is, it is something different.
Board games, as a hobby, however, are intrinsically about an order. It is what board game mechanics are all about. Worker placement is about the organisation of people, set collection is about organisation of different types of resource (whatever that resource may be), even push-your-luck is about mathematics.
Galileo said that “mathematics is the language in which God created the universe”.
I digress, but the point is still sound. Board games, and video games to some extent, are about rules. The rules may change, they may be in a state of flux (like in Fluxx), but the rules are still there. Whether those are rules as complex as Scythe, or rules as simple as Uno. Rules are rules. Rules are ordered. Rules are not chaos.
In that moment when death takes a loved one, it can become chaos. In a single moment the world can appear upside down, inside out, and like nothing really makes sense anymore. We all know the sensation, as even if you haven’t lost someone so close you can imagine what it feels like.
Having that one thing, no matter what it is, to help ground yourself back in life is so important. Whatever it may be, whether it cleaning the house or using humour, being with people or sorting Star Wars: Destiny cards into order, it is needed.
In Loving Memory of Malcolm McMillan
He played the game of life and won.
– RIP –