William Rainbird

Australian based in London. Founder of Giraffic Themes. Addicted to travelling.

Boardgames: a healthy snack for developers & designers

12th May 2011

As creatives, we all know that you simply can’t be creative all the time. We all have those days, or even weeks - where you’ve lost your mojo and every attempt at getting into a creative groove just ends up in frustration. The more you try finding that groove again, the more frustrated you get.

The more experience you get - you understand that these moments come around and the best course of action is to step away from the computer (or put down the pencil) and go put your mind on to something else. I’ve read countless blog posts about how to “find inspiration” outside of design. Go to the cinemas, check out an art gallery, read a book or even taking a walk can all help feed more inspiration into our brains.

It makes sense how all those activities mentioned above are healthy for artists/designers, but what if you’re a developer? Now, I’m a web designer but I guess I could call myself a front end developer as well (jQuery, javascript, HTML, CSS) - so I still spend the majority of my time on the computer with syntax in front of me as opposed to say Photoshop.

What do developers do when they hit a form slump? Going to watch a movie or reading a book are obviously great ways to take a break, but you wouldn’t exactly think that they’re feeding inspiration to programmers to rush back to their screens and start coding again.

The reason why I’m writing about this is that over the past few weeks I’ve discovered that there’s something I immensely enjoy doing, that some of my developer friends seem to not enjoy as much - playing boardgames. Especially strategic boardgames*.

Now when I say that some of my developer friends don’t seem to enjoy playing boardgames - I am only talking about 2-3 people, which is way too small a sample to reflect every developer on the planet. But it did make me think about how similar boardgames are to developing -  which is why I believe I enjoy it so much as a pastime.

Lets go back to the “creative groove” I discussed earlier. I believe the developer version of this is called “in the zone”. I’ve been in the zone before. It’s great when you need to solve a problem and you suddenly sit up straight at your desk.  Your mind is ticking, you’re scribbling all the logical steps onto paper, you start coding, you hit a few hurdles, you climb over them. Then you get to the stage where it’s all coming together and it’s as if you’re surfing on a double rainbow. It’s a great feeling, it’s the reason why we code.

I also get a rather similar feeling when I play strategic boardgames. I have a problem I need to solve (how to win), I need to work out the best possible steps to solve that problem (which method), I hit a few hurdles (usually my opponents!) and I guess the ‘surfing the double rainbow’ equivalent in the boardgame world is when you’ve just realised that you’re going to win the game and you’re struggling to wipe that smirk off your face.

This is why it interested me so much as to why my developer friends don’t seem that interested in strategic boardgames. None of my friends that I play boardgames with on a regular basis are developers, or even people who regularly use a computer for that matter.

For me, playing strategic boardgames is a healthy way to take a break. Not only do you get a break from the world of electronic gadgets - you’ll also get to have a fun time with your friends - all whilst keeping your brain sharp.

*My favourite strategic boardgames are Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassone.

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11 Notes

  1. rainerbird posted this