We are now firmly in holiday season, and for the first time in far too many years, I have come home for Thanksgiving. Writing this from my Mom’s living room, I can smell the familiar smells of her cooking, hear the sound of my siblings chatting, and see the football game on TV. Each item connects to a string of memories that brings me back to my childhood and reconnects me to a sense of who I am and where I come from. Rituals like holidays, birthdays, and family dinners bring us together while providing familiarity and context for our lives. I am grateul that one ritual in particular has made my life unfathomably rich and joyous. I am grateful for the ritual of playing games.
I am a lifelong gamer. From a very young age, my family would bond around a game of Uno, Monopoly, or Sorry. In my elementary and middle school years, I would create entire fantasy worlds and adventure in them with friends. This happened initially via completely unstructured play and then eventually via games like Dungeons and Dragons and Talisman. The medium of playing games allowed me to forge friendships and helped me to develop valuable skills that I continue to use throughout my life.
When I was sixteen, I discovered the game Magic: The Gathering. I didn’t know it at the time, but that discovery would soon fundamentally change the course of my life. Within a year, I had won the US National Championships and soon thereafter became a professional card player, helping to pay my way through college and earning a decent living for a few years following. I traveled around the world to tournaments in places like Sydney, London, Tokyo, and Prague. I quickly began to accumulate friends from all over the world- all bonding together over the common language of games. Those friendships are ones that I still maintain to this day, almost 20 years later. They are the people I rely on the most and to whom I owe more than I can ever properly communicate.
I am grateful for what games have brought into my life. I am grateful for the many friends and loved ones who I have had the pleasure of playing games with. I am grateful that I can design games that bring people together. Finally, I am grateful to all of you for being here and allowing me to share this with you.
Please take the opportunity this ritual provides to appreciate all the blessings in your life.