The future of board games is nostalgia and quality

Those two seconds felt like an eternity as I sat at the kitchen table hunched over in agony, my future waiting to take shape.

I’ve always dreamed of owning a sailboat so I could spend my days lazing around enjoying a frozen Arnold Palmer with jumping dolphins. On an accountant’s salary, the fantasy was possible — even after venturing into a Victorian house to house my wife and twins. All I had to do was avoid property damage during tornado season, cross my fingers that the stock market survived, and scrape together one last payday to close out my savings account.

As the wheel came to a stop, my breathing quickened. I had turned too hard and landed on an 8, forcing me to skip the ‘Buy a Sailboat’ area and land on ‘Midlife Crisis. Start a new career.” The boat would have to wait.

The game of life it prepared me for the hardships of growing up. Easing with bright colors and over-the-top scenarios, I learned how medical bills, taxes, and, yes, emotional crises could get in the way of my goals. They subtly taught me the importance of education, voting, giving to charity, and flexibility — and I loved it. Every Sunday morning, my sister and I would wake up in front of the family, lie down on the carpet and escape to our fantasyland in a box, unaware that we were learning lessons beyond our years.

As I got older and most of gaming went digital, I began to look back on those days with a gnawing nostalgia. My collection of board games, though still intact, had become almost visible under the dust, sidelined by a bunch of expensive devices with buttons and screens and catchy theme music. I began to miss covering up my handwriting during Nonsense game nights and baselessly accusing my friends of peeking over my shoulder UN. I longed for the wholesome simplicity of it all.

Something beautiful happens when people get together to play an analog game. The playing field is level – it requires patience and attention rather than fine motor skills and coordination – and most importantly, everyone gets a moment to shine.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who woke up one morning and made a concerted effort to prioritize board games again. The hyper-digitalization of the last two decades has exhausted people moving from one screen to another all day. Ironically aligned with the rise of aesthetic platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, vintage culture experienced an explosion, spawning a back-to-the-bass movement that inadvertently popularized leather Yahtzee! stirrer and silent tone Parcheesi plank.

In the early 21st century, goliath board game manufacturers made cheap attempts to modernize the classics, shrinking game boards, swapping wooden pawns for plastic ones, eliminating equipment, and slapping suspiciously low labels on products that hinted at their stripped-down quality. Simply put, they miscalculated their audience.

Hasbro’s favorite party Taboo is a typical example. While once built with rugged hardware, newer versions have sought to quietly eliminate the stand-alone card holder — a key component to effective play — and swap the battery-powered buzzer for a rubber “squeaker” seemingly modeled after a dog toy. Suddenly, the game felt silly and disorganized. (Hasbro eventually revived the electronic version, revealing a box that read, “The electronic buzzer is back!”)

Today we are in a golden age of gaming as the masses are finally realizing that the rapidly evolving technology is neat, but it doesn’t compare to the connection that comes with crypto Sovereigntyhotly themed instruction booklet and rally your closest friends IRL to battle it out in a few rounds Munchkins.

For many of us, the near future of gaming is tabletop, nostalgic, and back in the direction of quality over affordability. It’s the vintage version of it Indication you found at an estate sale, the tangible version of it Code names that reminds you of Zoom happy hours just isn’t, and the original Carcassonne box that you have been attached to since it found success after other German style games like Catan.

Sure, the future of gaming is also compatible with mobile (admittedly I have it Wave length and 5 Second rule on my phone for desperate cases when I leave boxed games behind), but the mobile versions only remind us how much we appreciate an authentic brick-and-mortar setup. Heck, the Switch I bought right before the pandemic is no longer on my vacation packing list — instead I’m keeping room in my suitcase for a few board games that help set the mood for the getaway. Even if I’m going to happy hour with friends, what better way to pass the time than packing Scattergories the Bananagrams to keep our minds alert?

The truth is: Board games are not outdated. In fact, indie game developers are actively breathing new life into the industry every day. And until the day I’m done The game of life with a sailboat in the garage of my beautiful home, I will never again allow the old faithful to gather dust.

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