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June 27, 2015 / Jett

In Response to “Card games and board games are dying out, and it’s no great loss”


Recently, a published article on The Telegraph sent board gaming enthusiasts into a tizzy. Written by Harry Wallop, he wrote a scathing piece on the hobby called “Card games and board games are dying out, and it’s no great loss“. As a huge fan of board games, it’s tough for me to not just angrily lash out, but I’ll try and tackle this with a cool head.

I may have my doubts about the research he’s pulling from, but I can let the core premise of it pass:

The survey suggested that while 73 per cent of parents remembered regularly playing board games as children, only 44 per cent of the children polled said they do so now.

It’s not hard to see why less modern kids will have remembered playing board games. In a world dominated by the internet, video games and smart devices, kids have more options than ever. Furthermore, most of their parents probably grew up on old games like Monopoly, the Game of Life and Candyland, all of which have aged horribly or were never good to begin with.

But what about the likes of Settlers of Catan? Or Ticket to Ride? Or Pandemic? All of them are modern classics that have sold millions of copies. Sadly, none of them have the cache of those old mainstream hits, at least not yet. Up until a few years ago, I was oblivious to the modern board gaming boom, and most of those around me still have no idea that the scene now is cooler than ever.

King of New York Board Game

That said, it’s going to take some time for this modern upswing to impact our youth. The kids game scene hasn’t seen the same type of resurgence as the more complex and adult fare, but it’ll happen. I think the swing starts with older parents discovering games like King of Tokyo or Hanabi from their gamer friends, followed by those parents teaching cool tabletop games to their children. While it’s unfair to expect board games to have the impact on future kids in the same way that it did for the kids of yesteryear, there will be an uptick in due time, and possible a more meaningful one. With all of the excellently-designed games out there, the kids that do venture down this path will likely have a much better time than I ever did playing Snakes and Ladders.

The parts of Wallop’s argument that drives me nuts are when he uses blanket statements to unfairly eviscerate the entire medium of board games for being boring and not worthwhile.

 

They are deeply, deeply dull games that teach children nothing except billiard rooms are not be trusted…Also, a vast number of board games are badly designed, with too many pieces, rules, and faff. Lose one small element and whole, cumbersome game is ruined.

He mentions his experience with Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble and Bananagrams. However, it’s painfully obvious that he’s completely unaware of all of the great things that have happened to board gaming since the release of Settlers of Catan about 20 years ago. Modern board games are not just for kids. From the dramatic fantasy zombie apocalypse Dead of Winter to the fascinating racing simulation of Formula D, there are games of all sorts meant for all audiences. Furthermore, many of the best modern games are elegantly designed to be easy for anyone to learn while being hard to master and always entertaining. Board games have been so clutch for me, Steff, our families and our friends, as they’re such a great way to play and interact with each other that no other form of entertainment can provide. It would be a much more interesting argument if he had bad things to say about board gaming’s brightest titles, but his entire offense is based around trashing the lowest hanging fruit.

photo 2(8)

If he wants to dismiss the runaway success of games like Settlers of Catan, the growing gaming cafe movement and the deeper integration of board gaming in mainstream media, that’s his prerogative. He can base his personal beliefs on whatever criteria he wants. I’m even supportive of people making controversial takes as long as they’re backed by some sort of logic or facts. However, the one stat he pulled from the survey isn’t nearly strong enough to support his arguments about board games being “dull”, “badly designed”,  or a medium for “a generation of nerdy schoolboys”. Due to how much of his argument is just conjecture, there’s no real reason to take any of this seriously.

Glad to see that I’m not alone on this stance. The article itself has received hundreds of comments, as well as a lively Reddit thread about the matter. However, it seems like Wallop only doubled down on his stance.

In light of these events, I can see him never backing down in order to save face. If so, that’s a shame. He has no idea how much fun he and his family are missing.


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One Comment

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  1. ManOfYesterday / Jun 27 2015 7:07 AM

    Seems like a piece that was written out of ignorance. Would have been cool if he responded to the backlash by actually exploring the world of modern board gaming.

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