As I finished cleaning up and making space for a third board game shelf, I had to look back. Less than two years ago, all I knew of board games was Monopoly sucked, Stratego was win, and Sorry was (and still is) among my favorite games. As I walked out of a laundry mat, I noticed a store named Armored Gopher Games. I wandered in, looked around, and decided to return on their “board game night.” From seeing the pictures, I'm sure you can guess what happened next.
There was two things that lead towards my conversion. The first was that, despite my best efforts, Friday Night Gaming was falling apart. I used to have friends over to play video games like Warhawk, Mortal Kombat, Halo, King of Fighters, etc. Time passed, fewer had the time for it, some moved away, and eventually we were going from 6-8 people a week down to about 3. The next part that changed was gaming itself. Couch Coop was dying, the emphasis for local gaming was dying, and the online community was a bunch of jerks. Worse yet, this change in attitude was reflected in the local gamers in their competitions too. You can say “well, just play with your friends” and that's fine and dandy, but what if the friends on your friends list didn't want to play the same games you wanted to? What if you're itching for some The Outfit and the usually response to player death is “Yeah, burn the f*****?” The websites and blogs were becoming worse as well. We had turned from a celebration of gaming to a bunch of elitist pricks hoping for company failures instead of celebrating successes. Video Gaming was turning ugly and I was tired of it. Judging from some responses to blog posts in the past, I'm not the only one.
A closer look at the first rack
What I discovered, as I started getting more and more into board gaming, was all the old values were there and present. You had to think tactically, switch strategy midgame, be ready for strong opposition, and definitely think your way through to victory. Initially, I was horrible and just had to take my lumps. But like in all games, the more time I spent, the better I was becoming. I'd only lost one game of Burrows (14 game winning spree currently), Dominion was typically my jam though I'm good at most deck building games, I'm horrible at economic games, but worker placement is a genre where I'm slowly gaining proficiency. If none of this makes sense to you, don't worry. It would be like if I was talking World of Warcraft and you were just getting into Tetris.
The other thing is, because gamers face each other, most of the deplorable behavior found in modern video gaming was being stamped out. Of course everyone, from time to time, had their whiny child moments but for the most part, things are much more pleasant. And social, I cannot emphasize this enough. I recently attended Geekway to the West where 300+ gamers loaded themselves into the Westport Sheraton in St. Louis and all sat down, playing games with one another, strangers and friends all treating each other with respect. Games were won, games were lost, but it was all a celebration of gaming.
A closer look at the second rack
A bigger shock was the reaction to new gamers. Every video game community has their start, where new players are welcomed, embraced, and taught how to play, until they have enough gamers. Then the culling and shaming begins. It happened with DDR, Guitar Hero, Halo, well hell... name a Video Game, it's happened to. Top this off, as Nintendo started introducing more and more gamers into the fold, gaming had turned against these gamers. Instead of going, “you enjoy WiiSports... yeah, it's fun. Try this game, it's a little more advanced and it's why we are so passionate about this industry,” most gamers took the “screw your Carnival Minigames crap, you don't belong in gaming.” A video game store is an aggressive affront to nongamers, pushing them away then we all wonder why they don't buy more games. My mother is a prime example of this. She won't step foot in a gamestop and loves match 3 games. I put her on the path of deeper games and right now, she's beaten every DS Final Fantasy and has a 140 hour Dragon Quest IX file.
I do love me some Dominion
Board gamers, meanwhile, have the exact opposite attitude. While there is a notion of snubbing more random quickplaying games dubbed Ameritrash in the culture, for the most part gamers welcome new people into the fold. They show what they think are great games, gauge reactions, suggest different games, and things move from there. I have never seen a new person turned away from board gaming and I've seen a lot of people willingly give up their place in a board game just so someone can try it out. When was the last time you can recall this behavior outside of Rock Band?
With me being this into board games, obviously that means I'm not into video games anymore, right? Wrong. I've been video gaming all my life. I still buy the latest consoles, play the latest games, still enjoy online as well as single player, and still love having people over for some fighting games from time to time. I just love board gaming now too. I have 162 board and card games, and counting. In June, I'll be attending the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. (as well as volunteering at the Zman Games booth on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) I'm not abandoning video games in any way, shape, or form. But I do know a lot of gamers feel like me, the community turning into something ugly, and maybe board gaming is just the pill to cure. Check out your local game store, see if they have a board gaming night, and you just might find a new hobby...
Let's play some REAL Mahjong...
Read all that? Good. Because here's a special announcement that only good readers will know. I have a copy of Lords of Scotland by Zman Games sitting around. This game plays up to 5 people, retails for $10, and is a cutthroat battle lines game. So here's the deal, feedback. Want to see me talk about board games more on the Cblogs? Want to see me cover video game related board games like the upcoming Gears of War by Fantasy Flight Games? Just want to tell me board games don't belong on Destructoid and piss off? All that, and more is fine. Give me decent feedback, your name enters a chart. By this time next Monday, I'll roll a winner, send a PM, get an address, and ship this mother out to you. I would prefer US entries only although I may make an exception for Canada. Basically I want to avoid paying import taxes on a $10 prize.