Playing board games was one of the highlights of my senior year because of all the fun and friendship involved amidst the chaos of college.
During lockdown, my college friends and I, like many people, found a love for games we could play over Discord calls. When we went back to the campus for our senior year last year, we wanted to emulate or even improve on the fun we had.
So, during the breaks between classes, we headed over to our university library, the Rizal Library at the Ateneo de Manila University, where we could borrow board and card games like you would borrow a book, and play them in the communal learning area in the building.
Those were some of my favorite moments in college. We played everything from historical card game Timeline to word game Train of Thought, mystery board game Clue to speed-matching card game Spot It!
We played on library tables and cafeteria tables, study desks and picnic blankets. I genuinely believe playing those games got me through my senior year—they curbed my stress and anxiety, got me to relax, boosted my serotonin, and generally just made me happy (and not just because I liked to win).
A SPACE TO PAUSE, TO BREATHE
Even though my schedule wasn’t as crazy as it was during freshman year, senior year was stressful. My friends and I worried about class projects with questionable groupmates, a year-long thesis, excruciating lectures, post-graduation plans, clearances and grad shoots and Latin honors.
We also had to face the fact that this was our last ever year in college, and for many, in school altogether. It was crazy, nostalgic, and often overwhelming.
So every game we played, every laugh we shared, was like taking a breath. Amidst the stress of thesis and lectures and projects, sitting down on those chairs and opening beat-up, worn-down boxes of games, trying to figure out how to play it, and getting competitive with my friends was nothing short of therapeutic.
TAKING BACK WHAT WAS TAKEN
I came into my senior year with the mindset that I wasn’t going to spend all my time with my nose buried in readings or hunched over my laptop. I planned to take it all in, savor everything I’ve missed, and spend more time with friends.
Seeing other people sitting around tables in the library play their own board games and get shushed by the library guard because they were being too rowdy gave me a sense of joy. People were having fun, spending time together, and learning as they go—and it was wonderful.
Never has a time come where people collectively realized what we’ve taken for granted. So something as simple as arguing over how to play the game right, or gloating about winning three games in a row, could be something special. I was terrible at speed games and logic games, better at word games and trivia, but I loved every game because I was learning, I was grounded, and I was with people I’ve formed strong bonds with.
I loved it because we were there, present, in moments of respite and joy that made us feel like we could power through all the papers and the possibilities of the future.
One time, after we took over a table and loudly played a game of Train of Thought, a student from another table asked us what game we were playing and where they could get it. It was a simple interaction, but looking back, it’s so cool to think that someone else thought that what we were doing was fun or interesting, and that there was a possibility they’d play it with their friends, too.
Clearly and inherently, board games bring people together. It’s not childish or nerdy. There’s a certain magic in thinking together, competing with each other, and doing something fun. I learned about how my friends play certain games, heard about their memories with certain games, and figured things out with them. I powered through senior year because most of the days on campus, one of us in the barkada would ask, “Laro tayo?” and we’d head on over to the library and pick out games to play.
We never got to play everything we wanted to. But hopefully other people get to. Hopefully those games in the library don’t collect dust, the shelves overflow with new ones, and the boxes get worn down. Hopefully libraries and tables are always filled with dice and cards and laughter. Because sometimes, it really is just the little things that get us to keep going. They build up, get us excited about life, and get us to find and hope for little glimmers of good in every day.