In honor of today’s release of the new Xbox One and last week’s debut of the PS4, I thought it’d be fun to remind us all why we’re not standing in line at night to get our hands on one of these beauties. Okay, chances are a lot of us split our time between the tabletop and the living room with the TV, but we’re board gamers, and we love celebrating our hobby when everyone else is going crazy about the latest, greatest, tech gadget.
Read on for ten reasons why tabletop gaming is better than videogaming.
1. The next generation comes every year (and the launch games are great)
Every videogame console has a lifecycle. A new generation releases; developers rush to utilize the new technology powering the device, resulting in often poor-quality gaming experiences at launch. Eventually, they learn to master the hardware and spend some time pulling of crazy and creative things, but shortly after that a new generation releases with all-new hardware to learn.
Board games, however, have no hardware to master every 7 years. Every year, new games come out that build off of what exists to create new, interesting experiences. Concepts are birthed and then flourish and never have to re-start. Whether or not you’re a fan of “cult of the new” there are definitely games coming out every year with better components, better art, and new and interesting twists on the gameplay of games from previous years.
2. Backwards compatibility is standard
When a new console generation releases, many gamers worry about backwards compatibility. This usually matters only in the first year or so; players want to be able to play the latest games for their old console, especially when waiting for the great new games for the new console to release. If your game console is a table, you never have to worry if you’re thinking about getting a new one; a table that plays your new games will play your old games as well. No software updates, incompatibility glitches, or emulators needed.
3. One game, five people
Want to play the latest, greatest game online with your friends? Sure, it’s easier to get connected when you don’t have to be in the same room. you can even play across the country. But if you want to play with your friends, each one of you has to buy a copy of the game. On the tabletop, one player needs a copy for everyone to be able to play, and gaming groups can take turns purchasing games to save money and still everyone gets to play all of those games. And if you want to play long-distance, there are a lot of websites that let you play games on-line for FREE.
4. No red rings of death
Probably the biggest fear when purchasing the newest generation of gaming console is that there might be some yet-to-be-discovered hardware issue that will turn your expensive electronic device into a fancy paperweight. We all remember the “red ring of death” from the last generation, and reports of issues are already coming in from a small percentage of PS4 owners (http://www.polygon.com/2013/
5. Games have a longer life cycle
When’s the last time you played a video game that was more than… 2 years old? Some of the really retro classics have made a small comeback, but old games aren’t generally being replayed in force. And multiplayer games? Good luck finding opponents with many games that aren’t the latest and greatest. If your old console dies, you’ll have a set of games you can’t play and the farther removed the world is from that console, the harder it is to replace.
Compare that to 30 year old board games that are just as fun and playable today. Settlers of Catan is still pretty raging in popularity and it came out almost 20 years ago. That’d be like Goldeneye ’64 being played more online than the latest Call of Duty or whatever it is kids are playing these days.
6. More original games
The videogame world is chock full of sequels. It makes sense; players fall in love with characters, game worlds, and control systems, and they want more of it. Like it or not, a majority of gamers will notice and desire the sequel to their favorite game rather than an unknown entity. Independent games exist, but the biggest games are sequels and spin-offs.
Boardgames do sometimes get sequels and expansions are not rare, but a huge majority of the games that come out each year are original titles, not sequels. It makes more sense in the board gaming world, because players are looking for new experiences, new mechanisms, and new ways to play, not more stories and updated graphics for their favorite games. I’m not saying that sequalization is totally horrible, but the boardgaming world gives fresh new ideas a better chance to shine.
7. You don’t need to upgrade your table for the latest graphics
Console gamers at least have the advantage that a game designed for their console will work for their console (unlike PC gamers who have wildly varying hardware and have to deal with compatibility and quality issues), but if you fail to upgrade to the newest console, eventually you stop getting new games and the latest, greatest graphics. New hardware allows developers to push the limits on what a game can handle visually and behind the scenes, and if you don’t have that hardware, you’re out of luck.
When a new boardgame releases with amazing components and beautiful art, you don’t have to worry. If you buy the game, you’ll have the art, the pieces, everything you need to run the game.
8. No console exclusivity
Unless you have pools of money in your backyard, you probably can’t afford to own every modern gaming system. Invariably, that means that an exciting new game you want to play will release on the OTHER system as an exclusive. Do you shell out $400 for the other console just to play one game? I won’t include retailer-exclusive bonuses in this since board games do have Kickstarter rewards and convention promos that are hard to get your hands on, but at least if there’s a game coming out you want to buy and play, you can buy it and play it regardless of what other games you own or what kind of table you have.
9. No batteries or internet required
We live in a modern age where electricity and internet connections are readily available. But sometimes the power goes out, sometimes we go on vacation where we have no easy access to the internet, and sometimes game companies push the limit with what is required for a game to work (yes, I’m talking about internet-connectivity-required DRM). Once you own a board game, you OWN it. You don’t have to check in with the publisher every day to make sure you’re still allowed to play. You can bring the game to the park and play with your friends outdoors without worrying about draining the batteries or being able to see the screen. Boardgames are great to bring along on camping trips. Boardgames won’t constantly alert you when updates are available and your friends just signed online and you have new messages. And sometimes it’s just nice to get away from the screen for a while.
10. Your arcades are still alive… and free
Video game arcades are fewer and farther between, since home consoles offer a “social” gaming experience via the internet with better graphics and a focus on gameplay rather than just draining you of quarters. But I remember going to arcades as a kid; it was fun to play games with the big plastic guns, the steering wheels, and the multitude of games available. Aside from the need of a tall stack of quarters to keep playing, it was great fun to play games outside of your house, with your friends.
Not everyone is so lucky, but many of us live in range of local gaming stores that have board game libraries. You can go there and play those games for free. Stores hold game nights, tournaments, and all sorts of exciting events (okay, sometimes there are entry fees for tournaments). It’s the cardboard equivalent of the arcade, and the number of game stores is growing with the hobby.