Alternative verbs to "play"

I was having a random thought yesterday. I have no issue with using the verb “play” for describing what I do with games, but I have “played” games with some people irl who I could imagine being more pretentious about a word that is more associated with something children do.

Has anyone ever heard a different word (“experience”?) used to describe our hobby? Does German have an expression that differentiates “play” as what children do from “play” as a group playing a heavy game would do? Do dedicated war gamers “play” their games?

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Nope, playing with toys is exactly what it is.

Though I do still find it jarring that boardgames are always a subset of toys for online shopping and searching (but “videogames” get their own category).


German has one word for everything that other peoples play and that is “spielen”

  • mit Spielzeug spielen (toys)
  • Brettspiele spielen or brettspielen as a verb (boardgames)
  • Computerspiele spielen or computerspielen as a verb
  • Rollenspiele spielen or rollenspielen as a verb (rpgs)

Not very creative, I know. German is good at word recycling. Also “gaming” and “playing” both translates to “spielen”.

@Benkyo on the one service where I put up my game adds it is indeed listed under “Family & Children > Toys > Boardgames”
But the other service actually had it under “Hobby > Games > Boardgames” right next to Computer Games :smiley: Yay.

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You could ‘dally’ but that implies that you’re not really taking it seriously. I do like the idea of ‘revelling’ and ‘frolicking’ in games,

an online thesaurus has play as ‘have fun’ so you could ‘have fun’ with games.


Ah, the eternal difficulty of writing a taxonomy of everything…

Even people who are very serious about sports still talk about “playing football”.

(Though I vaguely remember a very heated discussion on… BGG, maybe? about whether you should glue the wheels of toy cars if you’re playing Gaslands with them. I mean, they’re not toys after all… yes, yes they are.)

Benkyo: videogames got to be big money before most of the online shopping etc. sites were set up.


Just a hunch but, I suspect people who would seriously object to “playing” games are people I would not much enjoy sharing a gaming table with.

As a purely theoretical linguistic puzzle, what verb would replace it though? And why would “play” be more objectionable or offensive than “game?” “It’s just a game,” for example seems to carry more culturally dismissive power to me than any equivalent I can imagine for “play.”

Edit: I see I took a bit too long typing on my phone as raged_norm has suggested a few alternatives for “play” that hadn’t loaded so I neglected to take into consideration in this comment. Next time!


I totally agree, I can just imagine it happening


I use “cheeky gander” personally

(No. I don’t do this.)


I think play fits really well with what most games try and do which is to creates safe zone in which weird things can happen with (ideally) zero danger.

When people play a role in acting I feel like this is similar to what’s game does - act out say a backstab, a cruelty, a hand of friendship in an artificial environment.

I think this is true even in non role playing game (consider the mean act of denial in something as abstract as azul).

I feel maybe if a game is too solo and too mathsy maybe that should get it’s own word (puzzle perhaps) but I think where a game provides a prism through exploring feelings play is a nice one for me.


Jim Wallman who has designed many a Megagame or military simulation for the public and governments still calls all his unit markers toy soldiers.

Define it how you want.

Saying that I experienced Kingdom Death. It didn’t feel like play. :blush:


I think the fact the these are board games, they are played. Ditto with videogames, and wargames. All games are played to my mind. It keeps an implied sense of fun behind the exercise too.

But I can also imagine that some people may not subscribe to that description, and may in fact get very irate at the suggestion they have been playing with toys. I’ve certainly seen some angry debates over whether ‘wargame’ is a description reserved for purely historical simulations vs a game about war that may include fantasy and/or sci-fi.

My inclination is to be inclusionary.

On the other hand one likes to retain some meaning to specific terms. “Boardgames” no longer necessarily means “games with a board”, because it’s been broadened to include the whole hobby games field; “card games” doesn’t seem to get used much. I think “historical wargames” is a usable description for the real-world stuff, and if you’re being paid huge amounts of money it’s “conflict simulation”.

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Except in online stores, where they weirdly separate them for no reason. I can understand a section just for CCGs/LCGs, as they’re a niche all of their own, but otherwise it’s a very arbitrary distinction.


That’s their problem.

Play is an important part of learning and discovery. Mathematicians play with ideas and find new insights.

Play is the basis of professional sports. The NBA is full of basketball players and millions of people pay to watch them play.

Meh, just point them to Wikipedia.


It’s not a game, it’s recreational systems/workflow analysis and administration.


I like that from the very beginning with HG Wells or the Wehrmacht, the hobby has faced this head on and talked about playing war with toy soldiers.

Given the weighty nature of these things IRL, there’s a virtue in accepting that we only play …

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I may or may not have used the phrase “it’s not about luck, it’s about probability management” in reference to a game… :see_no_evil:

Bonus points for guessing which one.


It would be a fair thing to say about Rallyman: GT :slight_smile:

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I’m guessing Terraforming Mars.

Rallyman: GT

Terraforming Mars