board games

Various board games 

As an R1 research institution, WVU is involved in a multitude of research projects in fields such as biology, physics, psychology and even board games.

Joe Wasserman, a Ph.D. student at WVU, is a board game expert.

photo submitted by Joe Wasserman

Joe Wasserman

Wasserman was recently cited in a Wirecutter article as being a board games and learning researcher. 

Wasserman grew up in the Chicago area and received his undergraduate degree in anthropology from the Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He then received his master’s in communication from WVU and is currently pursuing his Ph.D.

“After graduation, I organized and hosted several tabletop game design jams, which is basically like a group of people getting together for a short time and making a game,” Wasserman said. “Typically, it focuses on digital games, but for us, it was always tabletop games. Through that, I sort of got the reputation of a board game person.”

In the article for Wirecutter, Wasserman was asked what the best board games for beginner gamers are. Wasserman said it is difficult to name the best board game because people are so diverse in their board game taste.

“Without playing games, you can’t know what your taste is,” he said.

Wasserman conducted studies on people’s motivation for playing board games.

He found that face-to-face social interaction, being a part of a community, intellectual challenge and being immersed in a fictional world were people’s top reasons for playing.

For Wasserman, the reason he plays games is due to the combination of getting together with people he enjoys the company with and who have a shared interest in board games as well as figuring out how games work.

Wasserman said his favorite style of game is games that are fairly complex with a very broad decision space. Examples of these types of game are Container, Rolling Stock, 1830 and Indonesia.

Wasserman said he is not a fan of games where the best move is obvious or the outcomes are completely left to chance. He enjoys board games for the ability they have to bring people together and the options they give players to create their own game dynamics, as opposed to video games where the rules are set. He said that he plays to have fun and not necessarily win.

“In any given game, only one person can be the winner, so most people are not going to be,” Wasserman said. “My research most broadly is about cognitive, social and behavioral consequences of consuming media. But within that, I’ve been focusing on games and learning with a further emphasis on tangible games like board games and systems thinking competencies or the ability to understand complex systems.”

Assistant Culture Editor