Table Talk – Are Board Games Good For Your Mental Health?
We know board games are designed to be fun, but in what specific ways do they positively (or negatively) affect our mental health? Let’s discuss!
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I'm an introvert. I don't have many friends and I don't get out much. The game group I play with weekly is some of the only socializing I do, and without it I think I'd be in a much darker place.
I truly appreciate this video. Paula's experience is somewhat similar to mine. It has become my barometer of where I am mentally and emotionally. The amount and complexity of games I can play is positively correlated to my mental well-being.
When I find myself in a good place, I can game for hours, mixing in a heavier title with more mid-weight ones. I get immersed in them and time flies. I feel great and want to play even more games.
When I am in a bad place, getting any game on the table is a crippling decision. When I do find a lightweight game that provides enough structure and immersion for those times, it provides a nice respite and a reminder that I can still do things. These moments when I am completely immersed in a game help take some of the stress and overwhelmed feelings away for just those moments.
I think like many things it depends on the people around you and the experiences they create. I actually find myself unusually stressed with certain groups – particularly overly competitive types who want to also know that they are in fact the best / better than others – when in reality i just want to chill with my games and want others to relax too. In some ways, it reminds me why i quit multiplayer PC games
So good, Rodney and co. You should be proud of the honest, considerate and helpful way you shared the topic. I am grateful that it was covered at all, but your mode of communication was such a blessing on top .
Board games are absolutely beneficial to my mental health. As someone who has struggled with depression my whole life, games are a good distraction from the things I deal with. They keep me from isolating myself and cause me to interact in positive ways with people. I've built memories and relationships with people through board games. And I enjoy the creativity and fun that they bring. It's even a hobby that has helped me to repair relationships with family by creating a positive time to spend with one another. Thank you for this great topic!
What a great topic and great video, Rodney! It definitely got me thinking. Do I prefer co-op board games over competitive because I do find myself sometimes having an internal dialogue when I've lost? I will admit this has happened mostly with things I'm not good at, such as sports. But I could see myself going down that road if I were to continually lose competitive board games too. Overall though, I have found playing board games to be such a delight, whether it is with my buds or even by myself, it is a great way for me to relax and enjoy some downtime.
Thanks for posting on such an important topic guys… I know the structure and immersion of tabletop gaming has really helped me when my mental health has been poor, and the hobby has brought me new friends. So many good points in this video…
I'm someone who suffers from bipolar disorder but primarily from the manic side of it – which is more to say the mania can be so severe that the depression is more of a repreive than a bane. About 15 years ago, I discovered hobby board games and fell in love with the concept of them, the tactile nature, the creativity of what you can do physically with games but fell out of it after a couple of years. I had trouble finding people to play with, and when I did have groups my behavior was hard to control away from devolving into something rather uncouth. Ultimately, though, I fell out of the hobby after a final group try which I remember clearly: we played Splendor and it was my first time playing and probably everyone else's 100th time. Each move I made was met with some sort of antagonistic "why would you do that?" remark – and this experience ruined the hobby for me for years. Board gaming never did really leave my mind completely and a few years ago when the first Final Girl Kickstarter began I got wind of it but more so, I got wind of solo gaming and its popularity. When I was initially interested in the hobby, solo games or solo options in games were few and far between, but now there's an abundance of them and I've felt like I've found my "group" now: myself and the game. Playing solo games, which I pretty much exclusively do now, has been what I was looking for out of the hobby to begin with; though 15 years ago the concept seemed strange even to me. For my mental health being able to escape into whatever world the game is bringing me to with details I can fill out with my imagination is a godsend… and even more so, being able to enjoy games without being concerned of others – be it how they think of me or how irrationally frustrated I may get with them – is the therapeutic experience I've needed. When I'm having a particularly manic time games nearly always ground me and help me find my center again. Even if its only during game play it's still a relief that is very much needed; which honestly, in my situation, is something only solo gaming in particular can do.
Hey Rodney! Thanks for making this episode. I overcame anxiety and depression through boardgames. Specially during Covid.
Bravo for addressing such a relevant, yet challenging topic to discuss. Everyone’s points were spot on. Having a hobby, any hobby, is a great way to cope with stress and let off some steam. Board games give the opportunity to have some human interaction in a low-threat, fun environment, which can make them a nice mental health “supplement.” You guys rock. Keep up the great work.
Spending 40+ hours in a mundane job that I feel trapped in (because it pays the bills and im begrudgingly good at it), taking a day off once a month to learn/play a board game by myself allows me to actually exercise my brain and genuinely lift my spirits, as instead of another shift of emails and calls ive won the favour of the Fairchilds, sold the most cattle or slayed a world eating robotic parasite 😅
I love board games, I love to think about what board games certain friends or family would enjoy and try to tailor those experiences to them. I suppose I like to see people have a good time and enjoy the hobby as I do. Which I think can play into mental health. If someone is having a bad day or whatever, as you guys said, just playing a game to change the life scenario for a moment could help. But yes, it could cause more issues if a person is losing a game. That is why I love to play co-op games. It really helps everyone to feel they are part of team, and if you can find a good co-op game that doesn't lend itself towards an alpha gamer, people can really have a great time together even if they lose the game. In that case they lose the game together, they all go down with the ship together. Or, conversely, they share in the victory and feel a part of that win. I almost hate play competitive games anymore. I love that there are so many more options these days for cooperative games. Cooperative games can also lend themselves so much more to conversation, as you aren't just taking turns for yourself, but can discuss and share and strategize. So overall, I think board games are a great hobby for mental health and a great activity to bring people together if done correctly, when you take the time to think about who you are playing with and what they might enjoy or what the group might enjoy. Or it can be quite a negative if you are making people play games that they don't like and it can really sour the mood. There's a lot to be considered, but a lot to be gained as well.
Excellent to see a new tabletalk, was a very interesting and informative episode. My family aren't big game players so I tend to gravitate more towards solo games which help me to get away from real world problems for a while and relieve some stress. That is unless I get into a losing streak then I get more fed up. I find to mitigate losing when we play as a family I tend to suggest co-op games so we all win or lose as a group and nobody feels left out. Probably a bit 🙄 I know but I've found just watching the antics of the WiP team on some of their videos cheers me up when I'm feeling down. One negative thing I find is that I look for a game to play in my collection and then find several I haven't played for a while and think, I must play this one or maybe this one and then start to spiral down thinking I just don't have enough time to play them all.
Rodney and the Watch It Played Team – Thank you for producing this video, it is definitely a topic that resonates with me. I always enjoyed playing games as a kid, but really took up the hobby back in 2014/2015 at a time when I was struggling with my mental health caused by long work hours and stresses/pressures in my job. Playing games helped me to escape these pressures/thoughts for a few hours a day, and in part helped me get through this period in my life, and helped me refocus on what was important to me. The hobby then helped both me and my family get through some of the longest CoVID lockdowns in the world in 2020/2021 in Melbourne, when we were restricted to minimal hours/kms that we could leave our house, and nightly curfews – playing games helped distract us from the daily news reports on case numbers/extensions to the lockdown etc etc. Chaz's comments definitely apply to me – I've always struggled with anxiety in large groups, to the point where I will avoid attending events where large volumes of people will be present. However gathering to play games with family and friends has helped me overcome some of this anxiety, and this year I will be attending a couple of board game conventions, something that I would have avoided in previous years. Thanks again for raising this topic, I'm sure it will resonate with a lot of people.
For me it's mindfulness. Participating in board games keeps your mind in the moment and gives it a rest from day to day thought cycles.
It's also great to introduce people to gaming and see them get so much enjoyment from the hobby.
Totally resonated with this.
One area not mentioned, painting the minis. I really find that helpful for my well-being too.
I think this discussion is incomplete without openly considering the tendency for purchasing addiction that is commonly but almost joyfully admitted throughout the community. Granting the benefits of playing games discussed, we know that the other side of that coin is a well documented tendency toward compulsive accumulation of boxes that might enjoy that play once or less every year. The fashionable response has been to point out that financially unhealthy spending is relative to income or insistence to let people enjoy their collections the way they want. Sure. But given this opportunity to consider the mental health correlates associated with this hobby, let's consider the tendency to perpetually chase highs through acquisition and how it sits alongside the named benefits of actually playing (and further how it is generally uncritically promoted by the majority of critical content / cultural spokespeople).
Speaking of mental health and its sustainability, nobody can say more than people who lives in wartime countries. As a Ukrainian, I've already living in such circumstances for more than a year, and I don't know how to describe my mental condition now, It more or less stable and that's enough for me. When almost every day you see death of your people even far away from frontline, after barbaric and atrocious missile attacks, when you feel yourself as a prey, because your neighbor wants you literally cease to be, and doesn't care or even rejoices when his missiles hit our houses and dealt causalities among civilians. And board gaming hobby in such circumstances is more the way to switch, to distract yourself from wartime news and really help to maintain sustainability of mental health, rather than a simple fun addition to your life. We play board games during blackouts at winter under a candlelight, when it was almost no electricity after missile attacks on our power plants. So I can say that the board gaming literally saves my mental health, as well as for thousands of Ukrainian people. Being in bomb shelters, there are not so much activities that can fit better for spending time in here than the board gaming, especially for kids. And also thank you for your work and ability to learn new board games faster
Thank you for doing this and sharing. As an LPC and LMFT and gamer I have been thinking about thi topic for the past several years. I am hopeful there will be more research in this area over the coming years. Great job on callign out both the positives AND negatives! I often find gaming to be a sort of meditative experience that offers space to think in a semi-controlled environment.
Mostly I’m with Monique. When most of everything in the world can twist daggers into you, boardgames become that happy place. A great theme helps you escape. That and doing stuff with your hands, the act of working the game itself, participating and not watching. Like she said, for a few hours, I can go to Mars or the snow or an ancient island or the Star Wars universe and not give the monsters my time.
Hoarding and compulsive collecting are huge issues that each and every gamer confront for themselves. I realized I was way too far into it and started culling my collection – IMMEDIATELY I felt better. Also, I struggle with anxiety amd need a decent amount of buzzing going on so games and strategies keep me busy internally and even my psychologist mentioned how important games and movies are for my own personal mental health.
Thank you so much for this video, this is such an important topic to talk about. Boardgaming helped me a lot when establishing a social circle after my divorce, and found myself becoming a solo mom in a country where I don't speak the language.
You're heroes Rodney and WIP team! Was that Gest of Robin Hood? How..?
Its was very interesting, must say I wish it will be the first in a long seiries of movies and not just two. Its VERY important.
As a family physician with 40 years experience, I can confidently say that the game table is a place for healing and forming relationships – when people are seeking that. It can also be a place where people with problems can bring those problems into sharp visibility. The gaming industry’s creative efforts to face and overcome toxic behaviors have made me proud. The gaming table not only gives us escape – it gives us permission and encourage to stretch ourselves.
The year I struggled the most with my mental health has been the year I fell in love with boardgames — but I don't know that this is causation, and not correlation.
On the one hand, I definitely agree with many of the sentiments shared in this video (especially Rodney's initial thoughts about games providing social structure, and final thoughts about stepping away from technology), and I know games have been good for me in many of those ways, and others. But on the other hand, I must say boardgames have alienated and distanced me a bit from my closest friends.
I fell in love with board games, hard, but they haven't. When they play with me, I always feel like they're playing more because of me than because of the game — if this makes sense. None of my friends loved the games I love the most — they don't care for Cole Wehrle's games, they still want to play light cooperative stuff. And even when we do play, I don't feel like they're INTO the game.
So now I'm at a crossroads where I'm disappointed that I don't really get to enjoy my favorite hobby with my favorite people, and I concluded that I need to find "people like me" to be able to fully enjoy it. This hasn't been very positive to my mental health… But I believe it can lead to good things down the road. It's just an adjustment phase.
For what it's worth, just want to throw in my positive insight to this fantastic topic.
I'm a minister that performs counselling for autistic and young adults with mental health issues.
Besides (first and foremost) teaching to live a life with God, part of the therapy I give relies HEAVILY on board games! I tout them as much as I could!
Now, we aren't playing Magic Realm or Mage Knight, but family-friendly games that puts these individuals, at a table, interacting and THINKING with other like-minded individuals. This works INCREDIBLY WELL!
Many a time where we've together put on a Watch-it-Played video to learn a game! You've helped in more ways than you could know!
Thank you so much for this topic! Board gaming, from what I've witnessed, works!
Great vid about combining one of my favorite hobbies with a topic that should be adressed more. Thank you.
Your structure comment was on point. Friend gatherings all too often turn into gripe sessions, which can be damaging to everybody's mental health. Board gaming groups, on the other hand, have a fun focus which tends to keep the atmosphere positive and uplifting.
My buddy is doing PhD on mental health and I am super into board games, I finally a video we can share and discuss! :)) 😀
I've been feeling down a lot recently, and I have dips where I just feel lonely. And tabletop games are such a great way for me to just do something with someone and just have a fun time. It's a chance to talk and laugh, and just connect through the actions of the game. Because talking about the game we're currently playing, is still talking with someone, and that feels really nice.
For me the thing that demoralize me is that I rarely play them, i have spended thousands of dollars on them but rarely play, I have tried and tried to make a stable group to gather monthly, i even wish weekly, but i can´t this makes me think , why bother? why continue wasting my time and money even though I enjoy them, maybe i am just bothering all around me trying to push this on them. even my wife doesn´t like playing with me. so that's hard. And also the FOMO seeing a game on discount or a kickstarter and i want to get it but i have to save money and by the stated before why even bother if I don´t play but it bugs me don´t getting that game
My wife past away a few years ago and I was devastated. I had played board games before, we enjoyed Pandemic and I was even playing Star Realms competitively. I had heard about this game Castles of Burgundy which I picked up tucked away in the corner of a comic book shop with a completely tattered box, the shop keeper said "idk £10?" And it was agreed. My brother-in-law and I played that game a few times and I knew I was hooked on the hobby. I moved again, we had moved for my wife's job shortly before she became ill so I moved back to where I was previously and where my job was based. I found a group here who were crazy enough about board games that about twice a year they would all take a day off work to play TI4. Over the next 6 months I learnt on average 4 new to me games per week on top of replaying the favourites. I don't know where I'd be without these friends and board games, I might have had to move back to South Africa and live off my savings until I got my head straight. But board games just accelerated my mental recovery(just in time too as COVID absolutely wrecked mental health for everybody). I still struggle with grief and PTSD, but I know there are people I can still connect with. The structured interaction is the first thing I thought too, it so helps when you are feeling awkward. I'm glad that you immediately brought it up in the video. The whole video full of well thought out discussion. I mentioned that I was a competitive Star Realms player, I didn't realise I was such a competitive person. I have learned to be a bit more layed back in the hobby and that while the goal of winning is important, it's more important that everybody is welcome, comfortable and having fun. I still do play competitively, but I channel what might otherwise be a negative into specific games. I won the Star Realms legends tournament at UKGE and now I'm full throttle on Crokinole, people know what they sign up for when we have a competitive match of those games and the UK Crokinole community is brilliant. I've really enjoyed traveling for the tournaments and having really challenging matches, I just wish I could play with them more often (Star Realms you can play competitively online, but not Crokinole). I intend to find more of them on the calender and to travel to them as well as see more of the UK. Well that was a lot of text. I'm just glad to see discussion on this topic which is so important.
What a great video. Great production and content, you all brought up great points! I really like what Paula said about board games are a measuring stick for her current mental state. Never though about that, but that will certainly be something I pay more attention to.
I nod along every here and there. Escape from reality, imersion into the homes of the woodland creatures in Everdell. The tactile stress relief of carefully punching and sorting components, arranging all the bits and pieces. Playing just for the sake of playing, not really caring if there is a win or a loss in the end.
Thanks for a great video and also for all the other content you regularily put out!
How good boardgames are for you mental health really depends on the game I think. For example, getting the autofail with arkham horror LCG is not good for your mental health.
All bad jokes aside, boardgames are a strong connector for me with other people. I am not good in social situations and don’t connect very quickly with other people. But with boardgames I have made many friends and also had great fun with total strangers. We did not become friends or stayed in contact, but for an hour (or more), we shared an experience and we had fun.
Furthermore, it is a growing hobby and it give a connection with people. Many of my current coworkers also play boardgames and there are sometimes boardgame nights. There has been talk to have boardgame nights outside of work. Normally I would have 5 excuses ready, but because there is a shared activity I am not. There are monthly boardgame events near me. I have a weekly boardgame group. I wouldn’t had my current social circle if it wasn’t for boardgames.
And I agree with Rodney Smith about that it calming that boardgames are clearly structured. A microverse of a non-important problem to solve outside the hectic of everyday life.
Loved the video. It really resonated with me. I was a first responder to a lady who had completed suicide, although we managed to resuscitate her she wasn't stable and ultimately passed away. Being hyper-responsible, I irritationally and compulsively blame myself for her passing and have struggled with an endless stream of negative thoughts since. Board gaming is one of the things that has really helped me carve out 'space' in my head (I know it's an old referrence but it's kinda like when Atton teaches you Pazaak in KOTOR). I love that it's a hobby that asks very little of me – if I can't bring myself to play a heavy or very social game I can play something lightweight or even go solo. If I don't even feel up to that I can participate passively just watch people play (this and similiar gaming channels have been a balm for difficult times).
Pre-COVID our gaming group met once every month or 2 for in person board game days. During COVID we discovered Tabletop Simulator, and have had a virtual weekly game night now for over 2 years, and it has been incredible for my mental health. During COVID it gave me something to look forward to every week, and since my group of friends are all parents of young children, it is very hard to get together in person, but everyone is capable of making 1 virtual night a week. Tabletop Simulator saved me during the pandemic and continues to keep our friend group consistently engaged, I absolutely love it.
Excellent video and topic — Thanks!
OMG…Rodney…your #1 is LITERALLY what I say about games all the time…wow. Agreeing to play with the same set of rules and "compete" or possibly cooperate toward the same goals and set the real world and whatever rules it has aside is so nice…
I move to Canada 4 years ago. Canadians are nice people with a strong sense of community. However, maybe because the seasons or the size of the country, which leads to a low population density, they live isolated and I’ve known more depressed people here than in other places and countries (even many of them get medication against depression). In addition, they are not good at create and maintain personal contacts and relationships. It’s hard to find people here to get well because it’s really hard to connect with them in a more personal way (beyond work or situational moment). Board games have helped me known Canadians, interact with them and understand better their culture and experience how nice persons they are. Also, because what they mention in our regular gaming sessions, gaming help them to ease depression, express themselves better and develop the social side. So, it is a win win 🙂
Going analog at a low stakes social activity is a great moment for me. BG is great for interaction among people, knowing better the ones around the table and at the end of the day, it is good for me.
Yes, very important for Mental Health.. It is the think that keeps me on rails
On the losing streak, I think one exit for me has been coop games, losing to other ppl tend to impact more in my case compared to loosing in a coop setting
Great great great great great great video guys. Thank you for speaking it!
Others here have related how board games are helpful with dealing with personal mental health issues. I would like to bring up another idea. The idea that board games act as a 'bench press' for the mind. Just as the body needs exercise to remain healthy, a board game stimulates the mind in areas such as problem solving, pattern recognition, memory improvement and many others. Gaming allows you to practice taking 'risks' without suffering potential serious consequences (other than losing the game, of course.) Allowing your brain to 'practice' risk taking may help you to be somewhat more comfortable when it comes to actually making important real-life decisions. Sometimes life is described as a game where we overcome challenges to get to our goals. My take on this is that board games may help you by strengthening the mental tools needed to solve those challenges.
A lot of my favorite activities are weather dependent so board games keep me sane in the winter
So much of this video really resonated with me. I also don't often self-reflect on the state of my own mental health. But each of the segments in this video seemed to echo my own thoughts about this hobby, how it helps me, and why I love it and need games in my life. Thank you for your wonderful channel, and in particular this video. Also, I have been an Audible subscriber for several years now, and audiobooks have been another incredible source of mental support for me. Two of my favourite hobbies wrapped into a single video 🙂
As someone who deals with depression, board games are a good, if only brief, escape. Both board and video games help focus your mind on a goal, especially when I was younger. There is a negative side. For me, it’s not losing that’s draining, it’s when others don’t enjoy the game or understand the rules. While teaching our group Viticulture or Relic Expedition, some didn’t understand the rules or strongly disagreed; this lead to feelings of frustration and failure.
I really appreciated this video. This is something no one discusses. Thank you for discussing.
This is very thoughtful, thank you. I often struggle with my mental health and joined a games club a year or so ago, however, the two things were not related, I joined the club to reengage with a hobby from my childhood BUT the activity, the friendships and the structure have helped my mental health. I love the focus and distraction it provides and I now have a solo game always set up in the house to provide an ‘escape’ to my own world. It’s often like a meditation for me