Here at the College, it seems as though every day I learn about a new avenue that students are exploring outside of the classroom. It’s mind-boggling to learn about just how much goes on within the tiny perimeter of our purple bubble. This week’s new discovery was inspired by the recently founded Williams Boggle Society. Having virtually no clue what a Boggle society actually does, I sat down with one of its members, Nate Munson-Palomba ’20, to figure it out.
The Williams Boggle Society is a group that, as the name would suggest, plays Boggle together. Boggle is a word game where players try to generate as many words as possible from a four-by-four array of random letters. The words are created by connecting the letters in any direction. Similar to games like Scrabble and Bananagrams, there’s an advantage to originality, where longer, more complicated words generate higher scores. The best part of Boggle, however, is that the games themselves are limited to three minutes. This time constraint makes it so that “there’s less pressure,” as Munson-Palomba explained, “because the games go so quickly.”
The idea of having a space to depressurize in an environment where productivity and pressure go hand-in-hand is in part what makes the Williams Boggle Society so unique. “There’s a weight associated with joining a group at Williams,” Munson-Palomba said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” But with a slew of sports teams, performance groups, activist clubs and other extra-curriculars that require more focus and commitment, groups that are relatively more “low-stakes” are almost “de-emphasized.” Many of the current members of the Williams Boggle Society are involved in activities that require more rigor and regularity, as are many students at the College. Yet, they were attracted to the club because of its open-ended, freeform nature. “Many groups are pressurized in the sense that you still have to show up on time, go to practice; you’re expected to compete and hopefully do well.” Munson-Palomba said. The Williams Boggle Society provides a change of pace from the mindset that investment in a club is contingent upon hard work and success. “There can be a balance.”
New this semester, the club was formed out of the desire to have more casual spaces on campus. Munson-Palomba and a few of his friends would have regular get-togethers to chat and unwind in their free time. Three-minute Boggle games perfectly complemented the relaxed nature of these hangouts, and eventually they decided to expand beyond their immediate friend group. It was noted that club members found enjoyment in combining socializing with board games to take the edge off of a tiring day. “What’s nice is that it still requires some thought and intellectual effort. It’s a game that’s easy to learn and hard to get good at, which are the best kinds of games,” Munson-Palomba said. In comparison to other board games, such as Monopoly, where “you know you’re committing to a four-hour game,” the swift-and-easy nature of Boggle lowers the stakes even more.
One of the primary goals of the club is inclusivity. There are no barriers to entry for the Williams Boggle Society: No pre-existing skillset or experience is needed. The game itself is relatively straightforward to pick up, and I was told that it takes only one round to understand how to play. The accessibility of the game contributes to the open and casual atmosphere surrounding the club itself. “It helps people relax in a place where it sometimes feels like it’s hard to,” Munson-Palomba said. “And that’s not the club’s mission so much as a byproduct of what it is.” Indeed, the existence of groups that necessitate varying levels of commitment and intensity is what contributes to the diversity of student activity on campus. A group existing for sheer enjoyment and camaraderie can sometimes be overlooked.
“The intense academic nature of the college we go to can make students feel like they’re not employing their intellect. A few games of Boggle at the end of a long day is a great way to wind down while using your intelligence in a fun and competitive way,” Nicolas Welch ’20, treasurer of the Boggle Society, said.
Ultimately, a vital part of the Williams Boggle Society is the casual social dynamic infused with the game setting. Anyone can walk in through the door of Brooks Library every week or two when the club meets, advertised on Daily Messages, to chat about current events or day-to-day anecdotes, or who knows – maybe even join a game of Boggle.