Board games have a public-image problem. This is likely because many remember their childhood and being forced to play “Monopoly” according to rules set by their siblings instead of by the instructions. Who would want to subject themselves to that again? More than you might expect, as a steadily increasing number of people are looking to free themselves from their digital playgrounds.
“Many board gamers enjoy gaming on Xbox but find that board gaming facilitates a more social, face-to-face interchange that is sometimes also more civil,” said Mike Westview of the Community Gaming Night group.
It’s difficult to deny that people talk differently with one another when sitting across the table from their competitor than through a headset over cyberspace. While ignorant hate speech might be condoned with the online community, the physical game board commands mutual respect among players.
Whenever you sit down to a new game, be it board, video or sports, you’re making an investment. Every person’s free time is limited, so many competing interests are pit in competition, Westview said. Board games can be quick, but many of the more popular games require significant time and attention. Unlike video games, they can be played again and again with certainty each game will be very different from the last.
“At the gaming table, you do find out pretty quickly how smart, competitive and funny your opponents are,” Westview said. “Board games reveal how people interact with puzzles and respond to adversity and stress. Some are aggressive, some more reserved and thoughtful in their approach, some try to be more co-operative, and some just love trying new strategies and ideas to see how they work.”
What non-gamers don’t seem to understand is that board games allow the players to be cool. If you’re playing video games, you’re really in a sort of vegetative state, and it’s the game and graphics that look cool. Since board games are about the players, the games get enhanced with every participant’s unique imagination. The players end up becoming their characters much in the way they do with video games, if not more so.
There’s a huge difference within the board game community as well. There are the traditional board games — “Monopoly,” “Candy Land,” “Risk” — and the more contemporary — “Settler of Catan,” “Twilight Struggle” or “Ticket to Ride.” The latter have taken off because they incorporate more strategy and skill while also challenging players to earn points in multiple ways. Folks who have experienced the current generation of games almost universally revile any game that is just a simple roll-and-move, Westview said.
From light to serious, short to long, simple to complex, there’s a good chance in finding a game that interests someone. These days, some games have evolved so far as to be about working together to finish the game rather then beating the other players. The folks at Community Game Night sum it up best:
“It may be a bit of a reach, but board gaming may be one of the best activities to convert a random collection of people into a community.” CV
David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Community Game Night WHEN: Saturday, March 8 (second Saturday of each month) at 5 p.m. WHERE: Westview Building, 1155 S.E. Boone Drive, Waukee Admission: Free Optional items to bring: a friend, a game, a snack to share, two-liter pop (or water), $5 for all-you-can eat pizza. Note: No childcare is provided, but younger gamers are welcome as long as they stay/play with their parents.