I’ve been in the game industry a long time, and over the years, there have been a number of credible threats promising the total annihilation of the board game business. I can remember back to the 90s when CDROMs were all the rage, and were poised to render every game in print worthless as a static, boring, hunk of pulp compared with the bright shiny lights, sounds and graphics that burst from the magical CDROM.
As you may remember… pfffffffffffft. That fizzled fast. The millions of dollars it took to build a CDROM rendered them unfeasible almost as fast as they hit the scene. Video games, mobile apps, and other high-tech products have all been glanced at as newer, more credible threats to good ‘ol cardboard games, but have, in my humble opinion, only served to push sales of the classic box-o-pulp format.
I’m not saying one is better than the other, and I’m not saying digital gaming isn’t humongous and growing all the time, but it’s obvious that board games smell a bit like Rock and Roll – they’re here to stay.
In a world where the devices that make life so much easier and more convenient and help us accomplish incredible things, also make more and more impossible-to-ignore demands on our time and attention, board games reconnect us with the salt of the earth. Board games ground us.
Social media and high-tech mobile gaming have severely addictive attributes, much like drugs, or in my case, cookies. They’re deliberately designed that way. They’re fun and dynamic, and allow us to play with others around the world. They’re magic. And they’re so pervasive that we’re practically unable to escape them. They consume our thoughts and consume our down-time, and eventually consume chunks of what used to be family time, friend time, alone time, and re-juice time. “Down-time” is no longer down, and many of us are careening toward adrenal burnout, mental overload or some other aspect of a state of constant overwhelm.
I’m guilty. I get caught up in the digital world all the time. And I’m trying to be conscious of how it’s stealing authentic personal time from me and my loved ones. I’m paying attention and noticing how their distraction squanders, or actually steals the space in my head that used to be quiet and fertile. That’s the space where ideas germinate and from which inventions spring. When that imagination space is always full of other people’s thoughts, it’s tremendously discouraging to original newcomers. Creativity is the first and most valuable casualty. I recently read this article in Washington Monthly: How to Fix Facebook Before It Fixes Us. I recommend it. Beyond the evidence that there are nefarious forces at work to steal our attention and change our minds for purposes from politics to product marketing, it discusses the way social media gets its hooks into us, and even though we think of ourselves as the consumers of social media, we are, in fact, the product.
Lately we like to think that we’re more in touch than ever with more people than ever from all eras and aspects of our lives, but in reality, the opposite is true - though we have become connected to many, perhaps hundreds, it turns out that we enjoy a rich closeness to fewer and fewer.
It’s not too late for us – we don’t have to be the product of big digital media and gaming if we don’t want to. Or we can at least commit to be vigilant to remain woke about what’s really happening as we still enjoy the comforting glow of our phones and the games and other delicious digital goodies they provide us.
The thing about board games is they’re tangible. They provide physical, tactile experience. They are intrinsic works of art, graphics and illustration. They even smell good – I would argue, even better than most kinds of cookies. Board games force us to look into each other’s faces and interact in immediate proximity and in real time. They tell us stories and conjure settings in which we become characters to play out an infinite variety of narratives. They give us a forum to show our skills and share our thoughts up close and personal causing us to interact with each other in this wonderful place known as the Here and Now. Board games are authentic, teach us the meaning of authenticity and invite us to share our own authentic selves. And in this world, at this time, authenticity is troublingly rare and more valuable than gold.