Updated: Jul 15
I’ve always been interested in nature, in large part due to my father’s love of the outdoors. I never cease to feel wonder whenever I catch sight of a bird in flight or a shark gliding along the reefs. As an avid birdwatcher and diver, I am able to satisfy these yearnings with trips to islands and tropical rainforests.
Right now, I can do none of those things. There are days where I feel the urge more strongly than others — those are the days where I yearn to breathe in the scent of dew-laden mornings. On those days, I play board games. Games like Wingspan and Oceans, because they remind me of the experiences waiting beyond my door.
Wingspan is essentially a game about managing birds. You draw birds to your sanctuary, and use their powers to attract even more. The game itself is resplendent in beautifully drawn art — and the digital adaptation of this game brings those birds to life. It is a simple game, but it is a game that brings a sense of wonder.
I have longed to play this game with my father, who is my bird watching partner. He is mostly home during these trying times, but is often busy with the work he is tasked with. When we do find spots of leisure, it is us chatting and reminiscing about past trips. I can feel a sense of yearning when we speak — he often talks of plans for a trip, but none which could come to pass.
We were standing outside in the garden the other day, and the twittering of a bird drew his attention.
“Look at that!”
I feel my eyes following his gaze and the bird in question takes flight, chirping. I see him smile, and the excitement creeping into his voice.
My father could be called a stoic, but it is in these moments that he is most human.
He treats the neighbourhood stray as though it were his own — oftentimes she would wait patiently for the sound of his footsteps. She would greet him with a meow, and he would shower her with praise and affection. She trusted him completely, and nothing could shake that.
People say cats can’t be affectionate, but I would like to tell them this: cats are more like humans than you imagine. They care deeply about those who care for them. Whenever a person says that they dislike cats due to their selfish and standoffish nature, it makes me wonder if the person sees cats as badly-behaved dogs.
When my father makes small talk to the stray, or when he excitedly points out a new bird — memories of trips come rushing back. In the sea, he would observe the schools of fish and look into crevices formed in coral. Oceans by North Star Games brought the love of the ocean to our home.
It is a game where you create species to live in a marine environment quite like our own. You add traits, and try to survive a burgeoning era. The art is reminiscent of the nature guides on my shelf, and the Deep Deck is a testament to the fascinating deep sea life we know so little about.
As I pen this in my room, I can hear the chirping of birds outside my window. The cool air and sharp cries bring me back to the moment with the bird in the garden. Once I am done, I will dust off the boxes and play a game or two with him.
I think he would appreciate the moment.
Author's Note: As both Singapore and Malaysia enter into new Covid-19 restrictions, it is important to remember to connect with the outdoors. Even if you can't travel or go to gatherings, going for a walk in the park can help you help feel less alone. Part 2 will feature Malaysian wildlife and Asian nature-themed games.