Stop and get Board

The other day I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was making a board game and he was really surprised and wondered why I wasn’t making a computer game. Whilst I love computer games/apps (and I plan to make a version of my board game as a screen-based app at some point) I explained how the board game experience is so much more rewarding.

This isn’t an anti-computer game article. The advances of playing collectively or against people the other side of the world is fantastic, but it will never beat the opportunity to have friends, a partner or family members all together around a table, either battling it out to be the victorious winner or collectively fighting to defeat the board in the now popular co-op games.

Not only are board games great on a social level, but also in this modern age it’s nice to have the opportunity to stop and switch off because we have so much digital interaction on a daily basis either with friends or AI. Recent studies have shown that too much screen time is bad for you (he says typing on his phone), so a chance to turn off, but still tactically and strategically stretch the mind with a board game is not just rewarding, but a lot of fun.

Now days, we are no longer limited to the ‘classics’ like chess, monopoly and the like. We now have a whole menagerie of games available to us, from Abstract (strategic, no theme), to Deck-building (card based deck construction), from Euro (economical based game) to Ameritrash (which involve luck, conflict, and drama).

With all these different types of games we are now awash with choice to satisfy different needs. No matter what tickles your gaming fancy, there is definitely enough variety for board games to easily compete with their digital screen-based cousins.

So I’m not here to berate screen-based games, there are plenty enough articles out there discussing how bad they are for us. I personally think we need to play them with more moderation–according to the BBC “Children aged eight to 11 who used screens for fun for less than two hours a day performed better in tests of mental ability”.

Board games give all of us an excuse to spend more time together, where you can chat and laugh without staring at c-list celebs dancing on your TV. But they also give us the chance to spend time working together to save humanity. And there’s something really appealing about beating your opponents with beautifully designed Portuguese tile patterns instead of shifting rather dull pixel rendered blocks around a screen.

I talk from personal experiences. I have an 11 year old son, whom I don’t see enough, so from our point-of-view, it’s so much better for us to sit at the dining table playing a few different games than him sitting in his room on a tablet, and me filling my time as if he wasn’t there. So the value to us is more than just about the game, it’s time spent chatting, competing, working together, laughing at each others demise but overall being civil and celebrating fair-play and victories, whether you win or lose, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Along with the time spent together, he’s developing logic and reasoning skills, improving critical thinking and boosting spatial reasoning. And according to Health Fitness Revolution it’s also beneficial for me, along with the laughter and fun (who can say that’s bad for you?!), it’s supposed to reduce the blood pressure and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

But before you start to think that my 11 year old son is just into board games, he’s like any other child his age—he loves everything from playing with LEGO, reading, watching cartoons to spending time engrossed in—yes—Minecraft on his tablet, whilst also finding time to run around in the forest and climb trees.

Playing games isn’t just for holidays like Christmas, and board games are certainly not just limited to parents and kids. More and more board game cafes are popping up all over, and make a nice alternative to going to the pub. There are numerous groups on Meet Up (London on Board now has over 12,000 members) with games being played every night of the week. We certainly are seeing a revival in popularity of board games. And this isn’t just a flash in the pan fad, as documented in the Guardian, Tom Hyams, director of UK Games Expo, explains that this has been going on for 10 years.

So if you like the idea of switching off for a bit once a week/month and playing some board games, but don’t know where to start, just google “board game café in your local area” or search for your nearest store that stocks games, and ask their advice.

So stop, switch off, there’s a whole new exciting world to get on board.


Neil Barrie, father, creative director and board game designer, is soon to launch his debut game GoDotty on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. *edit* Now available on Kickstarter

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