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Board games vs. video games and my progression into table top gaming

2010 August 31
by Michael Schroeder

Each type of gaming has it’s place, be it, table top gaming (as my friend coined, “analog games”) or video gaming.  I most certainly enjoy board gaming more than video gaming, hence, why I have a board gaming blog and not a video game blog. But I thought I’d pound out some characters here to discuss what I think the pros and cons are of each type of game and my overall feelings on them, as well detail my progression from digital gaming to analog gaming.

I grew up a video gamer. I remember the first system I must have played was the Magnavox, Odessy II – which is an Atari system. It was either my sister’s system, or my family’s, not sure which. But nonetheless, I played it, and enjoyed it. My favorite game I would have to say, was Jungle Hunt. In Jungle Hunt, you were this Indiana Jones type character that had to jump falling boulders, swim through treacherous waters while fending off killer fish and to ultimately save the girl. Sounds good, in all its pixelated glory.

Fast forward to Christmas of ’85. I opened up, what would be the next 20+ something years of my life…the Nintendo Entertainment System. I don’t remember where my parents purchased it, but I’m sure glad they did. The version I had came with ROB the Robot, the Nintendo Zapper (not the lame orange version) and Mario and Duck Hunt. I also want to mention that my copies of Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. were the separate versions of each other, not the combo game…I feel old 🙂 .

I immediately fell in love with the NES and from then in 1989 I received the “brick” Game Boy. Then in 1991? SNES. *Side story here.* Some of you may remember the World of Nintendo store/kiosk in the Factory Outlet Mall (now called Fashion Outlets). Well, I remember when Street Fighter II came out. The game costs $80! Whenever I went to the arcade or the World of Nintendo, hordes of people were standing in front of the screen, playing this game. In order to raise enough funds to purchase the game, I remember selling a copy of Super Adventure Island for $40. That’s not bad, considering the game just came out, and it probably cost $50 or $60. I think my parents probably fronted the rest of the money for me to get SF2, that or I sold something or cut the lawn a bunch of times, I don’t remember.  Ahh, fond memories of getting slush puppies then going over to the World of Nintendo in the FACTORY OUTLET MALL…not the fashion outlets, which is now all apparel and accessories – heck I even remember the mall having an arcade. Aladdin’s Castle at the Summit Park Mall had much better games though, and much more. *end of side story * Anyways, then onto a Sega Genesis and then on September 26th, 1996 – Nintendo 64 – codenamed Ultra 64. Spent some great times playing that, throw in a Playstation in there as well, and computer games, which I also was addicted to…progress a bit further now to about 2006/7. I was introduced to real board gaming and alternative table top games.

Fast forward to present. I rarely play video games and I always have board games on the mind. Which ones I want to get/try next. When I’m having gaming sessions. This blog. Thinking of great board game ideas, etc. etc. I am a board gamer and I’m proud to say it. I used to consider myself a video gamer. In fact, I thought I was the best at video games. I thought I had the best hand and eye coordination of anyone I knew. And as a video gamer, that was something I loved thinking about myself. Now that I think back on it…what a stupid and shallow fantasy.

Social Stigma’s:

I no longer consider myself a video gamer and that’s OK. I personally now feel that as I get older, table top gaming is more socially acceptable (granted you keep up your personal hygiene) than video gaming. Some of you may be thinking, “what? is he nuts? board gamers are nerds/dorks/geeks/losers, that don’t keep up after themselves.” While it’s true, that there is a huge nerd stigma with board gaming, there is also that stigma with video gaming.

In my opinion, there are more barriers to entry on video games, compared to table top gaming.

  1. You go up to most aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, grandparents and ask them to play Call of Duty or Metroid with you – they probably won’t. But ask them to sit down to a friendly board game, and I bet you they will.
  2. Portability – I feel that board games/card games are much more portable then video games. Are you really going to not mind disconnecting your xbox, packing it up, unraveling it, and hooking it up at another location? With board games, just throw it all in the box, and place all the pieces where they belong, usually quite quickly, and you just have a box to bring around with you. Now I know there’s game boys and portable systems, but I’m mostly talking about consoles hooked up to TV’s here. Also to mention, board games can be played on just about any surface, not so with electronic gaming. Also to mention (this is a stretch here), with electronic gaming, you need electricity, not so with table top gaming – candle light or day light will suffice.
  3. Lack of interest. Let’s be honest here, most video games are shoot ’em ups , fantasy themed or sports and your parents aren’t interested in that (more than likely – if your parents are in 50’s+)! But sit down with some abstract table top game like Blokus and I know my parents enjoy it. They actually want the game now that I think about it.

Creativity and Intellectual Challenges:

Both video games and board games have their fair share of creativity and are thought provoking. But I definitely feel that board games are much more creative. I give props to many board game designers for coming up with great mechanics and methods of play with just blocks, cubes and cardboard. Beautiful art can do wonders when illustrating a theme. Board game designers are working with a much more limited platform. While computers and technology can provide tools to create limitless words – the board game designers are working more in a limited capacity. Creating a game with physical pieces that one can touch is much more difficult to me, than working with game engines.

But that’s also where video games are great. In little effort (walk up to the tv and console, turn them on), you can immerse yourself in an alien world and live out a great story! That’s where I give video games props, and that’s where they can be put to good use. Technology has made creation of worlds and stories so easy and limitless for us, and don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy video games. But I feel video games have spent it’s creativity for now. It’s all the same. How many darn versions of Call of Duty and other games like that are out there. That’s all I see lately, it seems. Which I’m exaggerating a little – I hope you get my point.

I would also like to get my two cents out there in regard to mental stimulation in comparison of these two mediums. I feel that board games offer more mental stimulation and strategy than video games. Now before I upset you die hard video gamers. I want to point out that I’m speaking very broadly. I know there are plenty of mentally stumulating games out there…but let’s be honest – it’s not as much as board games.

When it comes to new wave/alternative board games, these games are strategy games! Someone can sit there for 15 minutes trying to plot out their next best move. You don’t often see that in video gaming. The closest I’ve seen is with the game Myst or the 7th Guest, two classic puzzle games that I love. Video games are often more, tactical. There are plenty of tactics in board games too, but again, more often than not, it’s strategy. As I get older, I am appreciating more of this style of game.

Now don’t get me wrong here. One of my favorite board games is heroScape. heroScape is often a skirmish/tactical game. But you can still spend enough time plotting a strategy out based on your units and opponents units abilities, along with the set terrain. “Hmm…my chances of defeating this unit is this, but if I don’t, I can always fall back on this higher terrain here, from which I do benefit.” I think that table top gaming is inherently, slower paced, and therefore, offers the player more time to plot his moves. With video gaming, there is almost the need and urge to rush ahead, more so.

Both mediums have their place:

While it’s obvious that I favor board games, I also do enjoy video games. Both mediums have their proper place. I plan on getting the remake of Goldeneye for Wii this coming holiday season, and I plan on spending many hours playing it. Will it give me much satisfaction? I certainly hope so. But it does have it’s place. It’s place is when I’m not feeling extremely social, and where I feel like playing against an opponent online or in person, when I feel like having a fun time, yet I’m feeling like just lazing on the couch. Video games to me, can certainly prompt discussion amongst friends, but I also think that board games are more of a social activity as well. While you could play a lot of euro games, such as Race for the Galaxy, solitaire, you do need another person (granted your not playing the solo version :-)) and more often than not, your sitting directly across your opponent. With video games, you are all facing the same direction, towards the TV. Similar to watching a movie. When you go out on a first date, a movie is a terrible idea. It does not an environment and situation that is conducive to discussion.

A place a board game has, is if your feeling like partaking in a mentally stimulating activity, that is sociable and enjoyable, while having the opportunity of playing with people with a array of varying interests. Again, which could certainly be with video games, but more often, it’s not. To me, video games are more for when your home alone, and you have a need of fun to fulfill.

In summary, while it’s clear that I favor board games, I do feel that both mediums have their place and both satisfy a need. But those needs are dependent on the situation or circumstance you are facing. If your home alone or not, how sociable your feeling, how much effort you feel like putting forth – physically (it requires more effort to set up a board game, than to turn on a TV and console), and overall, just what your in the mood for!

Michael Schroeder is a board game enthusiast, has written an eBook entitled, “Beyond Monopoly: A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Board Games” (Kindle, Apple iBook), is busy designing games and owns an eCommerce board game store, Meeple Village! He also has a podcast that complements this blog, “Board Game Dialog (also available on other podcast aggregators).” He is mike6423 on BGG.

11 Responses leave one →
  1. September 13, 2010

    Nice article and I agree totally remembering Atari and playing clue with friends. Our company trying regain some of the feel of kids playing games together on a board yet bringing some technology to try to keep it interesting. Let us know what you think. Please check out our site.

    • September 13, 2010

      Hey I heard about your company watching videos about GenCon. That’s pretty neat. That’s a novel and bold idea of combining new technology with traditional board gaming. Technology has made the world smaller and more connected yet it tends to close people off. Looks like you’ve made a product that brings people together with the traditional medium, being board games, and in with the new. Pretty cool!

  2. Randolph Carter permalink
    September 28, 2010

    I agree with many of your points here about the pluses of board gaming. I know I would be doing more board gaming myself if my own circumstances were different—meaning, my friends lived closer and were more open to board gaming. As it is, I am only able to game with them in online PC games. I’m not the most sociable creature on this earth and the thought of seeking out like-minded people in my vicinity to play board games with is a rather high barrier to entry for me. So, I log into an MMO most nights to group up with my friends and have a good time, while during my days at work I’m listening to podcasts and reading blogs about board games. Perhaps when my son is older and can participate in some of the board games I’ve been collecting I will feel more of a balance in my gaming life.

    I’m enjoying your blog. Keep it coming….


  3. May 21, 2011

    I found the material that you presented here to be very interesting. I will be checking back again soon. Thanks

  4. July 12, 2011

    Yeah I, pretty much agree with your whole article. My new interest in board games has quickly grown and I no longer consider myself a video gamer. I just really appreciate the complexity, strategy, and game mechanics found in board games, as well as card games. I also, agree there’s more of a social aspect to board games, which I appreciate. Sometimes when your playing video games, it’s as if you become daze and you ignore everything around you, even the people you’re playing with. Board games do have a social aspect and truly is something that can be enjoyed by all age groups.

  5. November 30, 2011

    Wonderful site. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to some buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you to your sweat!

  6. Adam permalink
    January 29, 2012

    What I like about board games is that you face the person you are playing with, and are infinitely more civil.

  7. rajiv permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Good article. I’m heavily into boardgaming, warhammer anyone! However the huge plus of a video game is you can play ALONE. If technology one day will allow us to combine tactile pieces with AI whereby a person can sit down and have at it against a computer controlled opponent thats the day video games will become obsolete. similarly thats the drawback of boardgaming you have to get out and hunt around for an opponent. sure the social side is great, but not everyone has the time to get out to hobby stores etc to get a game. I have just an hour to spare at the weekend and i just end up playing against myself on the board.

  8. Daniel permalink
    June 14, 2013

    Thanks Michael for this article. My name is Daniel. Am writing from Nigeria. Your blog on board games is indeed a rare one and I perceive you have a lot to impact in this genre which is very evident in this your nourishing article.
    I prefer board games to video games. Every married man or woman will prefer a board game. Its a bond ‘point’ for families.
    Video games are also good but are full of fantasies.
    How do you ignore the creativity that comes with board games by mere combination of dots, lines and shapes. It has this unique catch and touch. What about he contact with your opponents in touch and smiles, the mood of excitement and oneness?
    Another very interesting thing about board games is that, third parties can take part also. Both parites can have their supporters who watch and cheer them up while they play. Thats the fun in it too. As for me, I love borad games.
    Please I will appreciate update on your reports. I will check this blog regularly.
    Thanks for this article. God bless you.

  9. Denny permalink
    July 13, 2013

    I’m married with 3 kids and have recently heavily entered the board gaming world. (Heavily means I have always liked board games but not as obsessed with it as recent years.) I too went through the Nintendo, PlayStation 1, PS 2, Xbox, Xbox 360 stage. My argument is this, in 10 – 15 years, what are you still going to be playing. Xbox 360 came out in 2005 so that gives it roughly a good 8 year run because Xbox One will be out soon. Gaming systems, lose their steam, burn out (literally), or TV’s become so advanced that you can’t hook up older systems on it, or you just can’t stomach the older graphics anymore. In reality calculating the gaming system you buy, lowest price is $100 if bought used and add in all games (I try to never spend more than $20 on a game but most people pay more), I have spent about $1000 on Xbox 360 and all games alone and that is a low estimate. Figuring I also did the same for PS2 and Nintendo that’s a lot. PS2 and Nintendo I don’t even play anymore. Compared to board games that I still have that I got even before I got my Nintendo, I can still and still do play those board/card games. And no video game is as challenging as going head to head against my wife in a board game. I want to dungeon crawl, I have Thunderstone. Fight weird monsters, Arkham Horror. Build up a civilization, Settlers of Catan. Work cooperatively to save the world, Pandemic. Tax your brain, playing Lost Cities Card game with my wife. Want a heated conversation, steal one of my wife’s routes in Ticket to Ride. Now THAT leads to a fun evening.

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