There is no lack of recreation options in the world today. Everything from the constant influx of new streaming videos on YouTube to the ever-expanding world of online MMORPGs and the old standby of TV, brought to us on demand by cable companies and dedicated services like Netflix. What makes all of this readily available entertainment problematic for families is that they tend to pull us toward isolated recreation. Sure, MMORPGs are community-based, but you play them from a home computer. An old standby in family recreation, the board game, may be seeing new life and offering families a better way to engage with each other.
While most homes could probably cobble together a functional version of Monopoly board or find a battered old edition of Sorry, the world of tabletop games has expanded exponentially in recent years. Its chief proponent has been, improbably, former Star Trek: The Next Generation actor, Wil Wheaton. Wheaton has hosted two seasons of a popular web series, aptly name, Tabletop.
The premise of the show is simple. Wheaton, and whichever of his friends or family he can get on set that day, literally sit around and play a board game. The show has secured a massive following, averaging around 50,000+ views per episode. But the proof of tabletop gaming’s resurgence is best demonstrated by Wheaton’s, record-breaking, Indiegogo campaign to fund Tabletops‘s Season Three. The campaign generated approximately $1.4 million from over 22 thousand supporters.
What makes this show especially valuable is that, with few exceptions, every episode introduces an entirely new game and includes a brief explanation of the rules. This makes the show a resource for parents looking for new games their kids might like and gives parents a primer on gameplay.
Watching the show itself can serve as a form of family recreation, it’s entertaining to watch, and lets everyone see how the games work before they play. How many people have tried a new game and wished that they had that available? Delivery of the show via YouTube, something socially-acceptable to teenagers, can also act as a bridge between the siren song of the Internet and the down-to-earth joys of playing a board game.
At a time when parents must not only compete for attention with their children’s friends, but with smartphone apps, tablet computers and an always-on Internet, board games offer a comparatively inexpensive – average cost is $30 – avenue to engage their kids in a way that is fun. Just as importantly, those games help kids and teens develop social skills, such as managing frustration in a controlled situation or cooperative action, and even help to develop mental skills. By introducing the idea of board games through a Youtube show, parents may also have an easier time selling social media-entranced, tech-savvy teens that analog games have a place in their world too.