Tabletop games score on strategic thinking and connectivity
As the dice tumbled, anticipation mounted. "DOUBLE SIX," you exclaim, sweeping the board with your arm, summoning the chips. You knew that risk would finally pay off. The gamers nod at you, admiring your skills, urging you to try again...
You may be in a gaming cafe on a Friday night and the stakes may be low, but you are gaining valuable business and social skills while playing an adult tabletop board game. Risk calculation. Collaborating and forming alliances. Strategic planning. Honesty - and the consequences of cheating. Managing your emotions during the game, and acknowledging disappointment, or being a kind and gracious winner. And celebrating a FUN activity for what it is.... just for fun, and just to be social at a friend's house or one of hundreds of new Gaming Cafes in your city.
Tabletop games are bigger than ever. According to NPD, the toy industry analyst, not only were toy sales still on the rise in 2016, but of all the categories posting year-over-year growth, "games and puzzles" (which covers board and strategy games) are leading the pack in growth (up 16% Jan-Sep 2016) and showing no signs of decline in 2017.
So why are adults flocking in 2017 to strategy games emphasizing skill and not luck (also dubbed "Eurogames") when videogame software and hardware is more amazing than ever? Why are game cafes and gaming conventions popping up in every major urban market, appealing to every demographic - from Cards Against Humanity for teens/young adults to war strategy games like Settlers of Catan? Why are high profile actors and social media personalities like Wil Wheaton getting in on the game? (Click here to see his web series TableTop on this very topic, or read web magazine The Escapist for what's hot on tabletop.).
My theory: connection. We have more tools than ever to connect, yet studies show we feel more disconnected than ever. Depression and suicide aren't diminishing with newer social media tools, and with so many choices, it's no wonder that people are seeking creative ways to re-engage. Whether through art, music, theater, film or gaming (and congratulations to Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, who is sweeping Tony nods with a show on this very topic), people who find solace in genuine human connection will navigate life with less anxiety, and more hope.
Tabletop games are one creative and clever way in which humans are not only refining their strategic planning skills, but coming together, face-to-face, sans screens. Whether in a living room, a gaming cafe, or in a giant convention hall, it's important to remember that gaming is more than an amusement - it's a social tool. Loners don't truly enjoy being alone... they just need a point of connection, and simply want to be invited to the table with the game itself as a social buffer. Tabletop games teach valuable skills, but are also a point of entry into a vast and intimidating social network where the sign-in doesn't require a password, but a ballpoint pen offered by a friendly host.
Let us know in the comments what YOUR favorite tabletop game is.