Friday, April 22, 2011

Decline of Board Games

I don't know about you, but I love board games. And I don't mean playing board games, I'm saying that I love the whole idea of them. The mix of tactile sensation of all the little pieces and cards and dice, some friendly competition, and inclusion of your favourite people all gathered around a small, flimsy piece of cardboard keyed up with bright primary colours.

Back before video games and television primetime, what did people do? When families used to actually have conversations, what did they do to pass the time? They played board games! These days, no one really appreciates them as much as they used to, even as much as ten years ago, when there was a steady pace of board game commercials on television as well (and not lame ones, either, but actual, honest-to-goodness well constructed board games).

I think we need to penetrate the 'gaming' market again with board games. As opposed to video games, they are great for bringing people together socially and actually stimulating conversation and companionship. The only conversation that video games establish is when you scream curses at your teammate at the top of your lungs for accidentally shooting you instead of your opponent. And more often than not, you don't even know your teammate because you're talking to them through the magic of internet from halfway around the world. If people actually forged relationships this way, I might see some benefit but all I have ever experienced through these inventions is either pranking or just plain cruelty for the fun of it.

The way I see board games, they are very inviting. No matter what your skills and weaknesses are, they are usually manufactured in a way to allow anyone to win. Even Trivial Pursuit (my arch-nemesis in board game format) is designed to cover a wide variety of topics so as to provide an even chance of winning to everyone. And in my experience, by the end of the game, no one remembers who won anyways. It's one of those "not the destination, but the journey" things.

One store downtown has the right idea. Snakes and Lattes Cafe is self proclaimed as the "first board game cafe in Toronto with 1500+ games and specialty treats". The website has a catalog of all of its boardgames on file at the cafe, with stats like playing time, minimum and maximum players, and lots more info so you can make an informed choice. The cafe itself has all the classics as well as a lot of rare/old board games from exotic countries that you may never have heard of before. For example, I found "The Settlers of Catan,"
 a game of German origin which has not only won Game of the Year in its own country in 1995 and in the U.S. in 1996, but it is also continually rated as one of the "best games ever" by, who describe the game as this:
In Settlers of Catan, players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players collect these resources to build up their civilizations to get to 10 victory points and win the game. Multi-award-winning and one of the most popular games in recent history due to its amazing ability to appeal to non-gamers and gamers alike.

And, as a special bonus to you readers, I have compiled a nice reference for you to better choose your next board game to play.

1) The Classic - Monopoly
# of Players: 2-10 (depending on whether you're okay with using a penny or ring as a playing piece)
Time: 180 min
Special Skills: Monopoly is the all of the entrepreneurs (both realized and at heart), you'll ahve to be a shrewd businessperson in order to succeed! Or blow all your money on Oriental Avenue. Teal is a pretty colour. Don't eat the pieces, they're made of metal!

2) The Realistic - Game of Life
# of Players: 2-6
Time: 60 min
Special Skills: Spinning that dial is all in the wrist! But, as life itself, this is a game of complete chance. Try to use your psychic powers. And always go to college. You'll pay off your student loans by your tenth turn!

3) The Stressing - Operation!
# of Players: 1-6
Time: 20 min
Special Skills: No room for tremors here! Bring your dexterity and maybe a little extra for the guy over there with the shaky hands. Practice is recommended with the buzzer turned OFF before the game is attempted. Sidenote: this game will quickly and effectively determine your aptitude to become a brain surgeon

4) The Social - Guess Who
# of Players: 2
Time: 20 min
Special Skills: This game is lots of fun, just make sure your racism is in check. I have seen it get pretty ugly, pretty fast. Playing in public places adds a whole new level of fun in comparing the faces to actual people walking by or sitting near you.

So why not try playing a board game? Let me summarize those pesky facts:
  • obviously, they're fun!
  • your eyes won't burn into the back of your head from staring at a digital screen
  • no batteries, controllers or connection cables needed (usually)
  • better friendships with your friends/family
  • expand your skills in fine motor skills, knowledge of useless trivia, etc
Are you convinced yet?


  1. I remember those days playing monopoly with my friends for hours. So entertaining and competitive =P

  2. I keep a few board games for rainy days that normally involve drinking as well. Typically we play Risk, but a 1 on 1 favorite of mine is Stratego.

  3. Me and my friends are so in this game ! I have an ASO brain account ;)