“Golden Era of Board Gaming” — 538

At the end of last year, this morsel came across my radar several times… (shout-outs to Andy Stone, Eric Budd, and Mitch Hulse for passing it along! I love that so many of you thought of me when you saw this). You should go take a moment to read it now.

Designing The Best Board Game On The Planet | FiveThirtyEight

While there may be a few somewhat spurious claims made throughout, [1] this article’s mere existence signals something larger to me. This hobby is going mainstream. (Update: Somewhere between the conception, writing and publishing of this piece, it’s come to light that the Green Bay Packers are avid Settlers of Catan players, further fueling my opinion.)

Hobby and hardcore board gamers know and love the genre for many reasons, but at their core, board games have the ability to bring us together in a unique way. They offer a tangibility and a connectedness with other people that is rapidly declining in other areas in the digital age. They put players in a unique mindspace, where problem solving becomes physical and tactical through the existence of rules. (Obviously it’s easy to physically move that yellow cube from one box to another on a piece of cardboard, but when artificially restricted from doing so by another condition that needs to be met, one has to get creative.)

538’s Roeder uses the phrase “Golden Era of Board Gaming”. This is absolutely true. In the next five years, we’re going to see a normalization of board gaming as an activity in a way those of us nerds who have been involved with it for ages are perhaps unprepared for. We’ve seen this before as other elements of geek culture cross that chasm.

This represents a huge opportunity for those of us already in the know. We get to steward new devotees into a special world, where the pastime is problem solving instead of channel surfing. For those of us on the design and production side (or, in my case, desperately attempting to chip my way into the periphery) the opportunity is a hundred fold. In the old world, selling out a run of 10,000 was a fantasy reserved for only the largest of hobby-game publishers. In this new world of New York Times bloggers (…and major league football teams) putting board to table, there WILL be successors and siblings to evergreen titles like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. Game mechanics like ‘resource management’, ‘area control’, and ‘worker placement’ will push ‘roll & move’ to the furthest corners of the clearance section at Target. (And if those mechanics are unfamiliar to you… they won’t be for long!)

I wholeheartedly welcome this transformation from fringe to center stage, and I think we as an industry should do so as well. Embracing and contributing to this is the core objective of Flightless.co. The power of tabletop games to cultivate creativity, connect, and entertain should not be limited to a subculture — it should be embedded in the modern human experience.


[1] Several, to wit: Twilight Struggle is actually not completely original, but is a reimplementation of an earlier game; the use of the term “serious board games” in this context is a little bit confusing to insiders, since “serious games” has taken on something of a social good/educational/‘big problems’ meaning, and the article is really about ‘hobby games’; and “best” may be a little specious given the some aspects of the data source.