The prevalence of video games hasn’t slowed the growth of the tabletop market. Eurogamer noted board games were back in 2012 and since then, outlets have been charting their growth each year.
The board game business isn’t quite as lucrative as the video game industry, but it rakes in around $880 million a year in America and Canada alone. This growth is expected to continue, says Milton Griepp, ICv2’s boss in an interview with The Economist: “We’ve seen double-digit annual growth for the past half-decade.” So, why the sudden resurgence?
The rise of this analog social pastime is somewhat indebted to digital apps and downloads. Board games weren’t something people typically stumbled upon like they do now. I was introduced to Magic the Gathering through friends and they were introduced to it through their friends or parents. The spread of tabletop games were mainly through word of mouth. But apps, YouTube “Let’s Plays,” and social media have demystified them a bit — people have more opportunities to curiously peek in on these activities without anyone seeing. TheHearthstone app could very well be the new gateway drug to Magic the Gathering.
This increased exposure has, in turn, created more acceptance of the medium, and Kickstarter has made an opportunity for more unconventional games to come onto the scene.
A few months ago, Caroline Hobbs put her story-driven tabletop game, Downfall, up for funding on Kickstarter and was met with a flood of support (in the form of money). The game is unique in many ways; it has no board and no combat — it’s all about creating a civilization and destroying it.
The players craft this world, its values, sigels, and proceed to act out scenes, centering around three characters and the catastrophic event that brings this city to its knees. This kind of gameplay was entirely new to me — it was D&D without the stat sheets and combat — and Hobbs explained that “story-driven games are popular and [a] growing family within the community.”
She has play tested her game among a number of different people and “[e]very game is incredibly unique.” The place can be entirely fantastical or based in a contemporary world. Part of the wonder of games like these is being able to connect and share an experience (and I don’t mean through Twitter). I’m talking about something more immediate.
Hobbs explains how she’s able to achieve this in Downfall, saying, “It’s all about giving players the tools to make the story they’re interested in telling.”
Eva Moskowitz explains why geeking out on games is so important for youth.
She recalled one recent game: “We were a floating metropolis with rampant nationalism. The really exciting thing that came out of that game was the creativity of the two guys I was playing with. They’d never played a game like this before, and at first were a little hesitant about pushing things forward — they were waiting for me to be a [Game Master] or something. But once they saw that they could be creative, they got really into it and we had these great scenes of family feuds, political intrigue, and war.”
I like to think of games like these as real-world therapy. When there’s so much in our lives that’s out of our hands, it’s nice to connect with others and act out something we can have a say over — something that’s tangible and real. If only for a few hours.
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
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