It doesn’t matter if we’re talking wargaming, roleplaying games, board games, or miniatures – gaming is experiencing a boom. Not like when the industry first emerged, but certainly more than in the previous decade. Of course, as someone who is in the gaming business, I am pleased with the increase in popularity. As a gamer, I’m even happier. One must wonder why gaming has become more accepted. Like many things, there is no one answer to that. Here is where I believe the trend emerges from:
It’s about people. We live in a society of texting, Snapchats, and whimsical updates about our cats on Facebook. Our technology has driven down our attention span and the opportunities for us to interact face-to-face with real people. Gaming is contrary to that. It forces/allows us to sit across the table from other humans. It is not driven by technology as much as simple rules and how well we interact with others. Gaming, by its very nature is about engaging with others – regardless of the kind of game you’re playing. In short, it is refreshing to play a good game with other people and have non-cynical/non-internet based fun.
New games are bringing in people. Regardless of your opinion of the games themselves, games like Settlers of Catan have brought in new gamers to our ranks. People that might not have giving gaming a second thought now are branching out and trying new games and meeting new gamers. In that respect, games like Settlers of Catan are gateway drugs to a much broader and more appealing segment of the gaming industry.
It forces different kinds of thinking. Our day jobs can be routine at times. Gaming often requires strategic thinking, planning, cooperation, and puzzle solving. It is a social release – much like Facebook or Twitter only far more entertaining (compared to looking at meme’s of people’s cats). Much like work, there is a bit of luck involved (in the form of dice for gamers), and games require looking at things from different perspective. Often times our jobs simply don’t affront us that kind of opportunity to activate these brain cells.
It is about being a big-damned hero. The real world is sometimes downright mundane. There’s nothing heroic about sitting in traffic for two hours to get home so you can mow the lawn. Take up a good RPG however, and you can be the kind of hero that saves the day and does things that would be impossible or inconceivable in real life. That escapism is not only seductive but a core element to the fun that games provide.
It’s all about your imagination. During a typical day our imaginations rarely get a chance to be set free for a wild romp. Play a miniatures or RPG however and it is all about reliving a battle or some epic quest. Role playing games in particular don’t require much more to play than imagination and some dice. It is storytelling that where you are part of the story. I daresay that most good adventures would make good readings as a novel – and gaming is the medium that puts you into that story and helps guide it.
Old school role playing is back in vogue. When gaming first got started there were not reams of books and tables and charts needed to play. Most of the rules were a mere framework and the emphasis was more on players actually playing the roles of their characters. During the boom years, people wanted a table for everything and the game became less character driven and more rules centric. In recent years, the pendulum has swung back. Many of the new systems really emphasize character personalities, quirks and all. This has allowed those of us who were around in those early years more welcoming of the systems.
Kickstarter has played a role too. Kickstarter has allowed titles that have not been available for decades to come back and be brought new life. Sure the rewards are delivered late (if at all) but a number of systems that people enjoyed in their youth can be purchased new now as a result.
It’s accepted – now it’s mainstream. Shows like The Big Bang Theory have exposed gaming to a massive audience. At the same time you can now buy some games at Target. It used to be that if you wanted to purchase a game you had to go a store that was, at times, a little weird for outsiders. The Big Bang Theory has desensitized people to this kind of shopping experience. Thanks to the internet however, you can buy a game and avoid a gaming store altogether (though I don’t recommend it – gaming stores rock). There’s no longer a social stigma or embarrassment associated with buying a game. You can walk into a Barnes & Noble and walk out with hundreds of dollars’ worth of gaming supplies and no one will think lesser of you.
In fact, you might just make some new friends…