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Evil Robot Overlords

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A new edition of Monopoly has been announced, involving an evil robotic Sauron tower that is responsible for handling many of the game’s mechanics automatically, such as dice rolls and calculating money totals.

First of all, I still don’t understand why people think monopoly is fun.  Maybe there are people out there that quite enjoy spending hours slowly draining money out of the other players as one by one they are eliminated and have to go find something else to do while the others finish the game.  That guy is not me.  I’ve tried to think of ways to change monopoly to make it more fun, but I usually end at the conclusion that the end result will just be Settlers of Catan.

Secondly, can we all just stop and think about this for a moment?

This robot rolls the dice.  It can tell where the player’s pawn lands.  It handles monetary transactions.  It knows when you’re bankrupt.  So… what exactly do the players get to do when playing this version of monopoly?  If you don’t get to roll the dice, count your money, or handle your property cards, it seems to me like you’ve just become an observer.  The only one actually playing the game is the robot.  Players have just become human slaves to the machine.  In a game that’s already kind of boring and very limited as far as what you can actually do… this may make the game “faster” in some areas but really it just removes actual involvement with the game.

I’ve been thinking lately about the seeming surge of the use of technology with boardgames.  I’ll admit, sometimes it can be cool. (The Omega Virus, anyone?)  However, when you put a board game on an iphone, an iPad, or a PC, doesn’t that just make it a video game?

I understand that there are certain draws to combining technology with board games.  Some games have a lot of pieces that are easy to lose track of.  Some games have a lot of statistics or dice rolls or numbers that need calculating.  It’s convenient to let a machine do all that complicated stuff.

But come on, people! We spend enough time in front of our computers, with our technology, all the time.  I go to work and spend all day designing web banners and editing videos, all on a computer.  I go home and hop on the computer out of habit.  My phone is a computer I can check any time.  Need to know something? search google.  Need movie times? Hop on moviephone.  Need to talk to someone?  Text or hop on AIM.  Computers are everywhere.

Maybe it’s sad, but board games are one of the few ways to get away from computers.  They’re a great way to interact with others… in real life.  Relationships are deepened much more quickly in real life than over a wire.

I think board games are a great way to get away from the incredible ADD-ness of life.  In a world with new distractions every 15 seconds, we need something to keep our attentions.  If you’re running a website, the most you can hope to get someone to stay is about 2-3 minutes.  Maybe longer, if they’re shopping and jumping from product to product.  Most board games last at least half an hour, many around an hour to an hour and a half, and some upwards of 4-5 hours.  I think this is great.  I think we need more things that take a long time.

I think dealing with all the pieces and calculating totals are great ways to exercise our brains, rather than just letting our computers do everything for us.  Learning new rules for a new game, and learning new strategies for our old ones, has to be very healthy.  I’m not saying here that electronic board games, or video games, are inherently bad for our minds.  I just think that we’re hurting ourselves by assuming that putting something on a computer makes it “better.”

Personally, I love opening new board games.  I love punching out all the pieces, examining the cool miniature figurines that come with, and feeling the rough surface of the game board.  I love handling cards and constantly re-organizing them as I think of the best way to play them.  I love picking up my plastic guy and then hesitating as I decide where to move before placing him back down again.

I love joking with my friends and sharing snacks as we play.  I love arguing about the rules.  I love recounting my cards twice just to make sure I didn’t forget anything.  I love it when my nemesis doesn’t reveal his total until I’ve finished calculating, and how he recounts if my total ends up being higher.

I love boardgames for being a very enjoyable, social hobby that doesn’t require a power source.  I love the fact that if there was a huge storm and the power went out, we could still play Smallworld by candlelight.

In my opinion, I hope that publishers don’t start incorporating more technology into gaming.  I hope we don’t have to purchase batteries all the time in the future to enjoy our hobby.  I hope we keep up with the cardboard and plastic tokens and pawns, because we need that.  We need to be able to get away from our screens.  We need reasons to go over to someones house instead of staying in our rooms alone.

Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

So… what do you guys think?  Is technology good or bad for board games?  Do you think there is an appropriate way to mix technology and board gaming, or should they stay separate?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

-wolfie

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

Discussion6 Comments

  1. Hear, hear! Though I do agree that The Omega Virus is AWESOME. And while I had the board game version of Axis and Allies for over ten years, I never once got to play it, whereas I played the computer version many times in the same time period. But for the most part, I prefer my board games analog, thank you.

  2. The biggest problems for me are:

    a) more expensive
    b) more breakable
    c) more power consuming
    d) extraneous noise and sound effects
    e) no house rules, breaks, or handicaps
    f) less tactile fun
    g) longer, waiting for the computer to react and fiddling to get it to react properly
    h) unnecessary pandering to gadget junkie kids, rather than improving gameplay

    Yehuda

  3. THE OMEGA VIRUS!!! Played this more than a few times growing up, I don’t think we ever played it correctly though. I remember just being mesmerized by the fact that it talked to us.

    The self-playing monopoly is stupid. There’s definitely some cool things that can happen with multimedia in games. But I’m with you, most of the time it’s worthless.

  4. Couldn’t agree more! While I imagine some rare existing games could benefit from computer enhancement, most would be horrible, and if you want a gadget-incorporated board game you should design a new one from the ground up to do that (Which is probably what makes the Omega Virus work so well as a game).

  5. Very well said. I agree with your reasons for not liking the game. I’ve tinkered with it myself to no avail.

    This new game is disturbing and I’m afraid of it as a trend.

  6. @Yehuda that is a great list

    thanks for the comments everyone. I’ve been seeing a lot of flak about this new version of Monopoly all over the place. Hopefully the negative feedback shifts ‘progress’ in a different direction.

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