For some reason, in a world where things are becoming more and more digital, games made up of cardboard pieces, wooden tokens, and cards are having a renaissance. A quick search of Google Trends reveals that searches for “Board Games” in the United States have been on a steady upward trend and reached an all-time high around Christmas of 2018. The broader board game industry has been experiencing explosive double-digit growth in nearly every segment. It seems like Board Game Addiction is running rampant.
Why is that? Let us look at a couple of possible reasons:
I grew up playing NES games with friends at sleepover birthday parties. We would stay up all night, having Tecmo Super Bowl tournaments, or taking turns on Super Mario Brothers 3. As I got older and went to college, I would play Halo on the X-box and trash-talk with my friends in the same room.
Not long after that, if you wanted to play video games with your friends, you each did it from your home and spoke to each other through a headset. You also started playing online games with strangers, which meant you had to listen to 12-year-olds hyped up on Mountain Dew tell you about how they had sex with your mom last night. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy that.
When you are playing a board game, you are able to sit in the same room as your friends, maybe have a drink or two and enjoy yourself. It reminds of the overnight parties from elementary school, except now we are huddled around a table, not a TV. In addition, I’m 35, so screw all-nighters; I need to get my kid in bed or she is a mess.
Social Media/The Internet
Growing up, I had a couple of years between middle school and my sophomore year of high school where I got pretty into Magic the Gathering. I lived in a small town in rural South Dakota, so we had our group of 3-4 people who played the game for a few years, and then it slowly trailed off.
Today, with board games, there are SO many ways to interact with others who have similar interests. I am a member of several board game groups on Facebook where I am always hearing about a new game, or seeing someone’s “shelfie”. I am following people on Twitter and Instagram where I see pictures from Origins, or Gen-Con that make me want to travel and go to a board game convention.
YouTube allows me to watch a game played. For more complex games, I go there first… then fill in the blanks when reading the rulebook. Some board game companies are even producing their own rule videos and putting them online. I watch unboxing videos, where I can see what the components look like, and how “pretty” a game is.
Kickstarter has really allowed small companies or individuals to create their own games. Back in the 50s, you needed to be a major toy company to come out with a new game, and get it on store shelves. Today, almost anyone, if they work hard enough, can create their own game. With so many games, the quality of board games seems to be on the rise.
Hopefully, you live in an area where you have an FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) to support your gaming habit. If not, luckily there is Amazon or any other online retailer willing to ship these board games to your doorstep!
Today, there is an almost limitless variety of types of board games. One night, I am playing Above and Below, where I am exploring caves, gathering resources, and building a community. The next afternoon I am playing Love Letter where I am trying to earn the attention of a Princess. Later that night, I may be playing Scoville, where I am trying to grow the hottest peppers. There is literally a game based on almost any topic. If you like puzzles, there are games for you. If you like zombies, there are games for you. If you want to work together, there are cooperative games for you. If you want to vanquish your foes and dominate others, there are games for you. Seriously, if you want to pick flowers, there are games for you!
People today are constantly on some type of device. It might be a laptop or tablet at work, or constantly having your phone buzzing in your pocket. People are looking for a way to unplug, take a step back from all of that, and just interact with others.
Board games are a great way to get the family together and do something different. Make everyone put their phones down and do something together. The fact that that are fun is just a bonus! I was introduced to board games a couple of years ago by my brother, who brought Pandemic to a family reunion. I had never played a game like it, and while we failed at saving the world from disease, we discussed strategy over dinner and played another round that evening where we were successful. When I got back home, I bought Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, and King of Tokyo. Now, almost 3 years later, we have a room in our house that is dedicated to board games.
Overall it is probably a combination of all of the ideas listed above as well as several other reasons I did not think of. The important thing is that right now, board games are booming. Game publishers are constantly coming out with new games that we are all excited to play. So take a “shelfie”, support a kick starter campaign, get together with friends to have a game night, and be appreciative that we are living in the golden age of board games.