The Evolution of Gaming….Old School Style!!

Written by Russell Sztukowski. Media by Michael Trieb.

For many thousands of years, cultures have entertained themselves with games. Board games have been thought to date back five or six millennia to small wooden artifacts found in the tombs of the pharaohs, to carved stone tablets found in South American ruins. While many ancient games still remain, such as Chess, Checkers, Go, Mancala, and Backgammon, since the start of the 20th century, the popularity of board games has increased dramatically. Throughout the 1900s board games seemed to be a very popular family activity. Tons of new companies sprung up and began producing names we know and love today, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, Sorry, and many others.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting a board game
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Into the late ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s, it seemed as if board games reached their pinnacle. New and intriguing ideas and concepts were coming out on the fly, and more complicated games were being created involving moving parts, batteries, small electronic mechanisms, and large, colorful, and decorated setups. One may begin to wonder where these types of games went to. Today, the, the most common games we see played are card games, classic favorites, or simple setup games, like Apples to Apples, Uno, trivia games, Monopoly, and the like. Why did the board game market find a peak and taper off into a steep decline coming into the 21st century? What happened to the creativity of the game companies? In the early ’90s the video game market was still young, but as years progressed, the market exploded in advances, with new technologies blooming and old ones becoming obsolete just as quickly. An array of video-gaming platforms arose and new companies were being born left and right to take hold of the new technologies and dive into this fresh new market. Computer comprehension and graphical capabilities became simply stunning as more and more memory was able to be fit in smaller and smaller quantities. In this explosion of computerized gaming, it seems that there was also a shift away from the production of board games by companies. However, with the age of video games becoming so apparent with the 4th generation of the PlayStation to be released by Christmas, and games becoming so sophisticated that they can track your movements, some might wonder whether board games are becoming obsolete and cannot keep up with current technologies. Are board games dying?

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Granted, the old styles have passed into a vague mist from which there seems an unlikelihood of returning. There is clearly no resurfacing for games like  It From the Pit, where you have to move your player pawns before the mechanical arm snags you into an icky swamp, or Forbidden Bridge, where stealing one of the precious jewels may cause the flimsy rope bridge to cast you into the alligator-infested waters below. While video games are still a hit, some board games that are new to the market have made a much greater impression than expected and may even be causing a shift back towards a more classic style of gaming for some of the more dedicated consumers. The new games are similar in many aspects, but are quite different in others. Newer board games seem to be geared towards the older and more sophisticated audiences, and less towards a youngsters and a family-oriented style of game play (though some may still be played in that way). These newer games include Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Game of Thrones, Mice Mystics, Agricola, Decent, Pandemic, and Dominion.

So perhaps the issue is not that there are not great games out there, but that they are not main-stream enough to get a hold of and play with your friends. Although the styles of good board games may have changed slightly to a more targeted audience, the market is still out there for those who are interested. It is important to understand though, that you aren’t going to find anything worthy of the ‘board game junkies’ on the shelf at Walmart. Much of the market has turned away from storefront shopping and is vastly located online. So, don’t fret fellow nerds and gamers! While we may never again see the beloved and interactive games from our past like Fireball Island, Tornado Rex, or those truly classic adventurous games such as Hero Quest, a new breed of board games is being unleashed that may mark our generation just as those before us did. It is up to you, though, to decide whether this for the better or the worse.



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