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The quarantine games

“How Can We Make Settlers of Catan Into a Drinking Game?”

Bridge connects hipsters and oldsters
Bridge connects hipsters and oldsters

Dear Hipster:

If I were to spend my quarantine trying to master an incredibly complicated game (you know, the kind of thing everybody always says it takes a lifetime to master), would it be cooler to learn chess, the so-called game of kings, or go? Instead, maybe I should dedicate myself to memorizing all the killer, two-letter ‘x’ and ‘z’ words in Scrabble that aren’t really words unless you’re playing Scrabble. I could even learn to play cards, something like poker or contract bridge, which have all kinds of rules and secret lingos that only players can decode. If I had to pick one of these things, which would be the most badass?

— Madi

Are you sure you don’t want to just get into baking? Last thing I knew, everybody bakes now. Used to be only hipsters were coaxing life out of sourdough starters and mastering the art of handmade puff pastry just for kicks.

For sure, board gaming has wild hipster cred. Generally, when you get hipsters playing board games together, you’re dealing with more of a “Hey How Can We Make Settlers of Catan Into a Drinking Game?” scenario than a “Yo Bro I’m The Next Bobby Fischer” scenario. To put it another way: getting so worked up over a game of Risk that you want to throttle your erstwhile best friends is one thing. Dedicating yourself to a compressed lifetime of studying the Sicilian Defense, the Pinckney Rule, or the Blackwood Convention (two of those are real things from the games you mentioned, and I will leave you to figure out which) is another thing entirely. Thus, I am not sure it can ever be per se “cool” to throw yourself headfirst into the mastery of a game like chess or go.

As a quick point of color commentary on the choice between chess and go, I will say that I have noticed go players tend to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people that go is the more “complex,” and therefore purportedly superior, game. That may well be true, but it always sounds a little insecure to me, and you know what they say about kings who have to say “I am the king….”

Trolling go players aside, I suspect the most hipster of your options would be teaching yourself bridge. Unlike the other games you mention, you don’t need full-on prodigy skills to move beyond basic aptitude, you just need time, so it’s at least a realistic goal. More importantly, bridge has a bit of a “lost artform” mystique about it, because, if you’ll pardon my reliance on stereotypes here, it’s got a real reputation as something exclusively understood by a shrinking number of old people. Can you think of some other things that, until recently, were only understood by shrinking numbers of old people? How about typewriters, vinyl records, lumberjacks, those bicycles with one giant wheel, film cameras, tweed, fermented foods, and just about every other hipster affection/affectation you can point out from the last decade?

Of course, there is no rhyme or reason to the hipster desire to resurrect the antiquated and obsolete. Why vinyl records, but not landlines? Both deliver higher fidelity at the cost of convenience, but only one passes muster. Thus, you could easily ask, “why bridge,” and I could only reply “why not bridge?” and we are both maybe right.

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Bridge connects hipsters and oldsters
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Dear Hipster:

If I were to spend my quarantine trying to master an incredibly complicated game (you know, the kind of thing everybody always says it takes a lifetime to master), would it be cooler to learn chess, the so-called game of kings, or go? Instead, maybe I should dedicate myself to memorizing all the killer, two-letter ‘x’ and ‘z’ words in Scrabble that aren’t really words unless you’re playing Scrabble. I could even learn to play cards, something like poker or contract bridge, which have all kinds of rules and secret lingos that only players can decode. If I had to pick one of these things, which would be the most badass?

— Madi

Are you sure you don’t want to just get into baking? Last thing I knew, everybody bakes now. Used to be only hipsters were coaxing life out of sourdough starters and mastering the art of handmade puff pastry just for kicks.

For sure, board gaming has wild hipster cred. Generally, when you get hipsters playing board games together, you’re dealing with more of a “Hey How Can We Make Settlers of Catan Into a Drinking Game?” scenario than a “Yo Bro I’m The Next Bobby Fischer” scenario. To put it another way: getting so worked up over a game of Risk that you want to throttle your erstwhile best friends is one thing. Dedicating yourself to a compressed lifetime of studying the Sicilian Defense, the Pinckney Rule, or the Blackwood Convention (two of those are real things from the games you mentioned, and I will leave you to figure out which) is another thing entirely. Thus, I am not sure it can ever be per se “cool” to throw yourself headfirst into the mastery of a game like chess or go.

As a quick point of color commentary on the choice between chess and go, I will say that I have noticed go players tend to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people that go is the more “complex,” and therefore purportedly superior, game. That may well be true, but it always sounds a little insecure to me, and you know what they say about kings who have to say “I am the king….”

Trolling go players aside, I suspect the most hipster of your options would be teaching yourself bridge. Unlike the other games you mention, you don’t need full-on prodigy skills to move beyond basic aptitude, you just need time, so it’s at least a realistic goal. More importantly, bridge has a bit of a “lost artform” mystique about it, because, if you’ll pardon my reliance on stereotypes here, it’s got a real reputation as something exclusively understood by a shrinking number of old people. Can you think of some other things that, until recently, were only understood by shrinking numbers of old people? How about typewriters, vinyl records, lumberjacks, those bicycles with one giant wheel, film cameras, tweed, fermented foods, and just about every other hipster affection/affectation you can point out from the last decade?

Of course, there is no rhyme or reason to the hipster desire to resurrect the antiquated and obsolete. Why vinyl records, but not landlines? Both deliver higher fidelity at the cost of convenience, but only one passes muster. Thus, you could easily ask, “why bridge,” and I could only reply “why not bridge?” and we are both maybe right.

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