Why Play Boardgames? As Seen on Boardgamegeek

Other October 3, 2016 0
Why Play Boardgames? As Seen on Boardgamegeek

By Russ Williams:

As seen on Boardgamegeek under the subject:

An unappreciated reason for the board game renaissance (with implications for its future)

russ wrote:

A: I’m skeptical about electronic “smart” boardgames without screens being more appealing than electronic “smart” boardgames with screens. For me, the appeal of boardgames over electronic games is not just literally about screens.

But time will tell.


Q; What are the other dimensions of your distaste for electronic games? Is it something you can put into words?

A: Some practical issues:

* Software is sometimes buggy; I dislike the feeling that my play of a “board” game could literally become locked up and unable to be continued due to a software bug.

* Similarly electronic hardware dies or goes obsolete. In ten years, when some custom electronic gadget for a “board” game breaks or stops working for some mysterious reason (as often happens to consumer electronics, after all), it seems quite likely that it will be impossible to repair, and perhaps expensive to replace (searching on ebay or whatever). Whereas if a physical board game piece is lost or broken, you can at least usually improvise a new piece or repair it, and carry on playing your game.

* Software is generally not modifiable by the end user, especially not in this kind of consumer product. So there’s not much flexibility in terms of playing with house rules or variant boards/maps/pieces or new official rules or undoing someone’s move by mutual consent during a game or exploring what would have happened if someone’s losing move had been done differently, etc. (Consider the case of your own game Catchup, and the app which is still playing with the obsolete rule set!)

* Ecological/pollution/waste issues with the chemicals in the batteries and various electronic components in mass produced electronic gadgets, as compared to the more ecologically benign paper, wood, plastic, etc components of traditional boardgames, which are far less dangerous when they end up in the trash later on. Especially for the kind of game-specific dedicated hardware you’re apparently describing (separate electronic gadgets for each game, as opposed to various programs which could all be run on a single computer or smartphone, instead of requiring new hardware for each new game).

* Most consumer software is privacy-violatingly intrusive and untrustworthy and insecure. “Internet of things” devices (which these “board” games probably are in some cases) are ridiculously insecure and get malware-infected and misused for massive denial of service attacks etc, or simply maliciously broken/vandalized.


And then there is a purely subjective aesthetic/philosophical issue: I find one of the very appealing core things about board games is exactly that they use “inert” physical components which are “brought to life” by the players themselves.

Everything that physically happens in the game is due to player actions, not due to some electronic gadget doing silent invisible computations behind the scenes. And not only the physical stuff, but also all the game mechanisms/rules/systems are carried out by the players, whether it’s direct player decisions (e.g. moving their pieces, buying widgets and paying money to the bank, moving their score marker, etc) or players implementing “non-player” things like dice rolls to randomize game events.

With software, you can trivially easily achieve arbitrarily complex rules (and many computer games do that, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink just because they can), but I find it far more interesting (from a creative/artistic point of view) to see what can be done when you don’t have the crutch of a computer to do arbitrary amounts of work behind the scenes, but instead the game rules/system/model must be not only understandable by the players, but directly implementable by the players.

And ultimately, that desire for a non-screen experience is not really about screens per se, but about a non-electronic non-virtual experience, period. The screen itself is just an obvious easily blamed manifestation. (For me, anyway.)

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