Variant: Are Games Useless? | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Variant: Are Games Useless?

In my various travels through the webs, I stumbled upon this article by Jacob Russel titled, “Games are useless.” The article basically boils down to two main points: (1) board games are a waste of time, but that’s ok; and (2) board gaming is on the decline. There’s some more in there about people who “get” or don’t “get” board games, but those two items are the major themes. Is he right? My take after the jump.

I disagree with Jacob on both points. On this first point, I see where he is coming from. A lot of board gamers justify their hobby by talking about how it teaches virtues, or helps kids learn skills, or how it is a social activity, etc. etc. He doesn’t see it that way.  I have to say, I agree with his sentiment. I happen to believe that board games do teach reciprocal play and turn taking skills. That it can help people be good sports, learning to lose gracefully, and win with dignity.  But, lets face it, I don’t think the majority of people play board games for those reasons.

I certainly don’t. I play games because they are fun, and for no other reason. So, while I don’t think the arguments of some gamers are absolute rubbish, I do think they miss the point entirely. Board games are recreation. They let you blow off steam, challenge yourself, and have a good time. In that way, they are like sports, or video games, or even TV. None of these activities have intrinsic value for the betterment of human civilization. Except that they provide recreation.

I more firmly disagree with his second point. Board games have been gaining in popularity for the past fifteen years or more. And Euro-style games have never been this popular (in the USofA). While Jacob argues that the sheer number of Americans who resist the hobby as evidence that it is in decline, that’s pretty short-sighted, in my opinion. Every hobby grows from geek-niche to mainstream. It used to be that only geeks in computer labs could write code. Now, there are numerous developers. And, while certainly not everyone can write programs, those who can are usually not seen as dweebs, but as people with an interesting talent or skill. When board games are seen more as recreation, and less as kiddie stuff, (perhaps by Playing in Public), the tide will turn as well.

But what say you? Are board games intrinsically valuable? Are they in decline?

There is 1 comment.

  1. Kevin E. Schlabach said on August 15, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Well, my first response was similar to yours… and I was going to link to the PiP Campaign… but you did that for me!

    I disagree with both points. As a family man, I think board games are very good for the family. Both as a social bonding venue, and because they are VERY educational and developmental for minds under 16.

    I do agree that once you pass teen years, game are pretty much social recreational fun at that point.

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