Friday, April 20, 2012

Are board games and RPGs better than video games?

Get ready to nerd-fight! Let this recent Forbes article be your primer, which basically boils it down to board games/RPGs are infinitely re-playbable but take bunch of time to create:
“You can buy a great board game for under $20, and every time you play it, it’s a new game,” Silver noted. “This is a toy that can be played over and over again, so the consumer sees value in this type of purchase.”

Compare that with any major release on the consoles. Gamers play $60 for a vanilla title, and often fork out more for downloadable content or expansion packs.

Quintin’s argument is pretty compelling, but I’m not entirely sold. Yes, board and pen-and-paper games do come from a pure spring of ideas, and aren’t bogged down with the limitations of tech or the high expectations of massive profits. But aren’t we actually just comparing apples to oranges?

A good Dungeons and Dragons campaign is hard to beat on its own terms. You have to imagine a great deal.

And you have to set aside a pretty substantial chunk of time. Not just your time either. You need to find actual people to play with. Video gamers often play with friends either in the flesh or online, but at least in my experience the time requirements of a good board game or pen-and-paper RPG are vast in comparison.
...I get that, but isn't that doing that "work" the fun part? One passage I take umbrage with though:
Whereas board games require us to think, and pen-and-paper RPGs require us to imagine, video games tap more directly into the actual play.

We have to actually fight that skeleton knight, not just tell the DM what we’re doing and then role the dice. There’s pros and cons to each form, and while both low and high-tech gaming can be extremely fun and gratifying, I think we’re talking about two very different experiences that can’t really be held up the one against the other.
I'd aruge that "fight" in this example is really just semantics. Mashing buttons ain't fighting anymore than rolling dice. The one instance I could see that point is with gestural-based game systems like the Kinect or Wii (full disclosure, I own a Wii and it's a lot of fun). While I agree playing video games is more physical, I'd suggest it's better to just state that low-tech and high tech gaming gets you to use your brain in different ways and leave it at that.

I do agree though, with his clincher:
Maybe the gaming industry has mirrored too often the film industry, and needs to get back to its cardboard roots.
Indeed. Let's hear it for a healthy dose of homebrew, bootstrap creativity!

Read the full article at

Your thoughts?


Sully said...

Interesting article for sure. I'm curious as to where games like Magic: the Gathering would fall in the analysis. Low buy-in cost (that rapidly gets expensive for the dedicated), unique game experience every game, regular expansions, easy to find others to play with and learn from... I love D&D, but family schedules make it very difficult lately to keep the regular game going, but I play at least a couple games of magic with my kids every day.

Venger Satanis said...

Interesting post.

I'd say that board games engage the intellectual center, video games engage the physical center, and tabletop roleplaying games engage the emotional center. Perhaps that's why old school gaming based on wonder and fear are some of players most memorable moments at the table. The strangeness of unknown depths into the earth...