I’ve thought for a long time that the board game is dead. There were few things I enjoyed more in my younger days than gathering around a table with four of my friends and deciding the fate of the world, circa 1945, over a game of Axis & Allies, or competing for the Shogunate of Japan in the 1600s in Samurai Swords. It wasn’t just war games, either; we played as everything from dungeon crawlers and barbarians to railroad barons and hotel managers.
Thanks to the spread of video games—particularly those played in a multiplayer setting over the Internet—the convivial, social atmosphere of a night playing a board game seemed to have been rendered obsolete. With games like Halo and World of Warcraft, getting a group of friends together to play a good old-fashioned board game was about as easy as pulling teeth. It wasn’t just board games, either; online role-playing games replaced dice-and-paper RPGs. Even Dungeons & Dragons turned into a computer game. And we all know how obnoxious repeated requests to help your buddy till his land in Farmville can be.
Everything I knew and liked was dead, and kids these days didn’t know how good it used to be.
Little did I know I was in for a severe challenge to my notions recently when I attended the Origins Game Fair, which is held in Columbus, Ohio. It’s been held every year since 1975 and has only grown in size. This year, the organizers decided to add a literary track to their panels, and I was invited to participate as an author. I had no idea such a place even existed.
Tens of thousands of gamers from across the globe congregated inside the Greater Columbus Convention Center and spent five sleepless nights and bleary-eyed days enjoying the personal company of their fellow man (and woman) and playing good old-fashioned board games. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. There is still an entire world out there for someone who likes to play games with others.
It was an orgy of imagination and creativity. And to be honest? I think it’s a superior gaming experience to digital gaming, and I was glad to see that its demise has been vastly overstated. For more than 5,000 years, humans have been gathering to play games, and only in the past 20 have we deviated from that model. I’m not discounting video games as a source of entertainment, but they’re simply not as social. We should all make an effort to get back together and play games face to face, even if it’s just to play cards. I think it would help us re-learn some of the social graces we’ve lost as a society and help us think further outside the box. I truly think that half of the success I’ve had in my life was a direct benefit of the skills I learned commanding plastic armies across a cardboard map, surrounded by my friends—and playing different characters in a role-playing game, for that matter.
I think we could all use more of that. I think we could all be more well-rounded people if we could all just get outside of ourselves and interact with each other in a better way.
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.
Thu., Nov. 20, 7 p.m. / Free