According to University of Pittsburgh researcher Zachary Horton, board games are experiencing a renaissance. Horton says that during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, rather than turning away from board games – a traditionally physical discipline experienced entirely in-person – people are now playing them remotely, as social distancing demands. If that’s the case, then it means board games are soaring in popularity during the pandemic; you might expect board game play to decrease as people are less able to meet in person, but it doesn’t seem that this is what’s happened.
So, what’s happening? Is board game popularity soaring during the pandemic? According to the Guardian, that’s exactly what’s happening. During the first official week of UK lockdown as a result of the coronavirus – that’s March 23rd through March 30th – sales of board games and jigsaw puzzles rose by a staggering 240%. This has happened around the world, too, which indicates that it’s happening as a direct result of the lockdown being imposed. It’s safe to say that board games are enjoying a massive surge in popularity during this lockdown.
There are a number of reasons behind this. Of course, first and foremost is the fact that everyone’s stuck indoors. There are plenty of ways to spend your time indoors, of course. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you could finally embark on that gardening project you’ve been meaning to get into. If you’ve got friends or family members sitting around bored during the lockdown, though, board gaming could be the perfect solution to that problem.
Perhaps the most important reason for the surge in board game popularity – besides everyone being stuck indoors, that is – could be an increase in accessibility across the board (no pun intended). Where once tabletop games were seen as the premise exclusively of people who frequented certain shops and were socially ostracised (an awful stereotype, but one that persisted), board games are now opening up and are a hobby enjoyed by plenty of people of different backgrounds. It’s definitely board games’ time to shine.
Info-graphic published by Betway.
The rise of podcasts has helped board games become more mainstream. Podcasts like Shut Up And Sit Down and The Dice Tower have made board games cool subjects. Once again, when everyone is stuck indoors thanks to coronavirus lockdown, podcasts become a much easier prospect, although thanks to daily commutes the golden age of podcasts is lasting a very long time indeed. When we hear our favourite podcast personalities chat about board games, there’s an element of FOMO that makes us want to check out the games they’re playing and have as much fun as they are.
In addition to podcasts, the rise of board games is being helped to no end by social media and YouTube personalities. Again, Shut Up And Sit Down has a strong presence on YouTube, but Geek and Sundry’s highly influential show Tabletop also had a huge impact on the world of tabletop gaming. Personalities from the “geek world” like Wheaton and Felicia Day would gather to play board games together, and watching the easy camaraderie and bonhomie with which they conducted their play sessions made us feel like we could do that, too.
While the initial buy-in cost of board games may seem high, the reality is that board gaming can be a much cheaper and more financially viable hobby than many others. This is another reason board gaming is becoming more popular in the time of coronavirus. If you buy a product at a time like this, you likely want it to be reusable, and there’s no better reusable entertainment product than a board game. You’ll probably replay video games a few times, but board games are endlessly replayable because they vary depending on who you’re playing them with.
That’s another reason board games are taking off right now: the intersection between board games and video games is showing a lot of gamers that they would be interested in board games. There are a huge amount of video games on digital storefronts that feel like board games despite not being direct adaptations. Similarly, games like Sid Meier’s Civilization and XCOM: Enemy Unknown are taking rules pioneered by board games and turning them into digital experiences. There’s so much crossover between the two disciplines that the audiences are cross-pollinating to great effect.
There’s a traditional idea that too much screen time can be harmful. That’s definitely true to a certain degree. Turning off your phone, your tablet, or your laptop and spending some quality time with your friends or family over a board game has long been the dream of many overworked families. There are so many board game options out there right now that are optimal for groups of people that it’s hard not to recommend a board game during times of boredom. Board games are increasing in popularity because they present an alternative to staring at a blue light-emitting screen all day.
These are just some of the reasons we think board games are taking off in 2020. Even as the coronavirus pandemic eases off and more lockdown restrictions get lifted, we can’t see the popularity of board games waning, especially in the age of forces like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Speaking as huge board game fans ourselves, we hope to see many of you around the virtual table in the future!