In my mind, board games have traditionally been framed with a rigid dichotomy between the tangible and the digital. Call me ‘old school’, but when I think of board games from my childhood, I picture long warm afternoons spent curled up on the back veranda, engrossed in fantastical tabletop adventures and often remorseless card battles with my younger sister. But if I’ve observed anything in the past weeks to months of social isolation, it is that the internet can be so important in facilitating connections with others, and that this notion is most definitely applicable to my traditional perception of board games.
Amidst the unique circumstances we find ourselves in currently, I am going to take a fittingly unique approach to this individual project dossier. I’ve decided to use this current period of isolation as the ideal opportunity to explore ways in which traditional face-to-face board games can and have been readapted within a digital context.
Collaboration is perhaps a term that has not held so much meaning to me in the past as it does now. I find myself in a collective Zoom meeting every second day at the moment, and have learned a great deal from this process of working together, albeit remotely. When observing this through the lens of board games, Zagal et. al. (2006) note the shifting in experiences of collaboration in gaming through digital presence. They argue that “faster always-on Internet connections together with cheaper technology have witnessed an increase in the amount of games that can no longer be played alone” (Zagal et. al. 2006).
Author Tristan Donovan discusses the enduring popularity of the old-fashioned board game platform and the potential for “old-fashioned” board games to thrive in the digital age. (2017):
“The new games that are becoming really popular, word first spread about them through the Internet… So it’s actually been quite helpful in reviving interest in board games”
My initial idea for this project was to dust off the boxes of some old board games lying at home, and reconceive the playing experience from an adult perspective. I am interested to look into the changed experience of gameplay over time (we often made easier rules when we played as children) as well as a deeper analysis of the different mechanics, themes and settings that I have been learning throughout the last five weeks of this subject.
Beyond the nostalgic appeal of reliving the played experience from childhood, I am also hoping to examine the shifting role that technology plays in our interaction with media and mediums, particularly within the current environment where we all find ourselves in isolation. This form of media archaeology, as Huhtamo and Parika write, is an innovative way examining our contemporary “media culture” (2011). They write that “the advent of new media has challenged many scholars to investigate the media culture of late modernity… Efforts have been made to pinpoint where the ‘newness’ of social networking… or interactive gaming lies and to lay the foundations for philosophies and languages of new media” (Huhtamo & Parika, 2011)
As such, for my final project I am hoping to reexamine board games from my childhood, however use Zoom to conduct virtual playing sessions with my family and sister who are unable to meet in person due to social isolation. Each session will be recorded on Zoom and then edited into a YouTube video, which will be posted alongside a short accompanying blog post that will delve further into the theme, mechanics and other interesting elements of the game.
A digital artefact such as this, I imagine, would appeal to other people currently in isolation. Countless similar videos have been made in the past with varying degrees of success and popularity. Some of my personal favourites are the videos Some Lovely Board Games (see below). I believe this sense of nostalgia is something that would appeal to a wide audience, with the educational addition in the form of the accompanying blog post attracting an even broader audience.
- Starting from week 6, I will play one game each week virtually with my sister, family, or friends for 5 weeks total (see above for links to online versions).
- Each week I will conduct further research into the theme/mechanics/history etc. of the game and summarise my findings in a blog post.
- I will also summarise my experience of playing the board/card game in a virtual setting, and whether my opinion of the game has changed since childhood.
- I will then post the blog and video and ask for feedback on twitter/discord
- I will use this feedback to help shape the following week’s iteration
All in all I hope this artefact sheds a new light on the boardgames of our childhood, and encourages people to find creative ways to continue playing despite being unable to see each other physically at this time.
Huhtamo, E, Parikka, J 2011, Media Archaeology, University of California Press, Berkley
Knowledge@Wharton. 2017. Why Old-Fashioned Board Games Thrive In The Internet Age. [online] Available at: <https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-old-fashion-board-games-thrive-in-the-internet-age/> [Accessed 17 April 2020].
Zagal, J, Rick, J & Hsi, I 2006, SIMULATION & GAMING, Vol. 37, No. 1, March, 24-40