Saturday, November 17, 2007

Are boardgames relics? Or the future?

In some ways, boardgaming as a hobby has never been better. There's an active community online. The quality of the games, both from the standpoint of physical presentation as well as game play, have never been better.
Yet the cheesiest, most poorly-done video game sells more copies in a few days than the best-selling boardgames do in their total runs.
Personally I find video and computer games less fulfilling to play than boardgames, but to be honest I have to concede that there are probably generational factors at work. I don't think computer games -- or computers period -- can ever be as central to my life as they will be to my children's lives.
But I also wonder at the long-term staying power of computer entertainment, at least in its explicit sense. The trend in other computer uses seems to be to embed the computer to enhance everyday objects and make them easier to use. Cars, for example, have computer chips running a lot of functions -- invisibly to the driver.
I wonder if, down the road, the same may be become true for boardgames. Will there be a market for combining the computing power of games with the quality components possible with a physical game. Heroclix, for example, is a clever way of creating a mechanical "computer" of sorts for game play. What might be possible with an embedded computer chip?

1 comment:

  1. With the advent of affordable notebook computers, one option is to have play aids that perform some types of grunt work, leaving the players to focus on the essence of the situation on the map.

    A good example is a double-blind search system for naval wargames that I co-developed with a friend. Based on an Excel spreadsheet with built-in macros, it to conduct searches, air searches, etc. Players plot the movement of their fleets and air searches. The spreadsheet clicks the moves forward and informs either player (or both) of coastwatcher sightings, contact by opposing fleets, air search sightings (with uncertain accuracy in the reports and the possibility the opposing player won't know his/her fleet was even spotted!)

    I agree that there's something much more satisfying about being able to see a situation unfold on a physical map. This is especially true if a large map must be depicted on a small computer screen. I now use dual 20" screens and can get quite a bit within a single view; but it still can't match the rich context of a physical map and playing pieces.

    Santa Fe, NM