Upper Malden, September 2021.
I'm in the wind swept town of Upper Malden, where we're surround by crops of apple trees and honey bees. It's late September and I'm meeting with Vince Guffer, part time Traffic signal and collector of modern board games.
Vince meets us hesitantly in his garden due to current Covid restrictions and hatred of anyone not wearing a hat, and we slowly pass through some extremely awkward small talk before he heads into the problem at hand. You see Vince is one of the tens of people who suffer from the extreme public embarrassment of box farts. He feels it's time that he shares his story in order to help with other sufferers.
He stutters several times as he begins to start his story, reassured by his partner who clutches his hand tenderly and squeezes it when they see Vince start to wince since he's convinced people will think he's talking mince.
Prompting him, I ask him where he first noticed the problem.
"Well, it never seemed to be an issue with the older games, you know, the likes of Monopoly and Risk, where the boxes were smaller and thinner. You could open and shut the boxes all day and night without so much as a whisper. And then I got Heroquest."
At this point Vince shifts uneasily in his chair and I press him onwards. He stares at his feet for a second.
"We had just enjoyed a game and I was packing everything away before we were going to get something to eat and I remember pushing the box lid down and it sounded like a badly played trombone." At this point, Vince breaths out slowly, reaching over for his drink. He continues.
"Then it was like every game from then on, from Viticulture by Stonemaier to Zombiecide from CMON. I almost stopped going to my game groups. Every time it came to packing up, people would look over to me putting the lid down on the game I'd been playing, and while they weren't chuckling loud you just end up getting paranoid. I knew for a fact that Jade almost peed themselves after the wet sounding one that happened last time I played Root." Vince grimaces as that painful memory surfaces, but he powers through.
"I almost went to the doctors to see if I had a cardboard intolerance. I don't really want to close a box in private anymore, let alone when my friends visit the house. The thought of going to a Con, and it happening in front of strangers is putting me off ever going again. I can't sell games because every time someone asks to check the contents afterwards I let one rip that sounds like someone blew up a raspberry factory. It's really effected how I even think about tabletop. I wanted to buy Gloomhaven but the thought of even lifting that lid terrifies me,"
Luckily, there is support for those who suffer from box farts. Vince has recently founded an online support network aptly called 'Support Helping Anxiety for Reverberating Tabletop Storage', or SHARTS for short. He's positive that prevention can help people with their Box Farts before they end up turning to SHARTS, and he's produced a range of support articles including "Closing the Lid on Box Farts" "Packing up, not following through" "Box Farts, the silent but deadly problem"
I ask Vince if there is anything he could feel Board Game Designers could do to help the problem?
"Well, think about your boxes, test them, and remember to take into account that there are people who are out there suffering before you decide your box needs to be big enough to fit a small child in them."
Vince is in the process of trying to set up a charity in order to increase awareness of the problem and he's started writing a book, though its more like a pamphlet at this stage. Vince is convinced that he won't let his affliction of floating a carboard biscuit effect his gaming.
"I'm just hoping that if one person finds comfort in reading this then I'll be pleased. It would be nice to know that someone else is going through this as well as me."
Vince offers to play a game of Dwellings of Eldervale and I politely decline.
If you have been effected by the affliction of box farts, then you can contact though the SHART discord group which will be linked at the bottom of the article. Remember, there is the embarrassment but there is also hope. I would like to thank Danielle Standring for putting the idea in my head with their hilarious box farts video. https://twitter.com/dani_standring/status/1488345103370489860