My son is ten years old. For him, high speed internet access, virtually wherever you are, has always been there. I never get tired of telling him stories of life before the internet though. Thick Yorkshire accent… “When I were a lad, t’ internet never existed!”
I was chatting with a friend of mine last week about the meaning of the word ‘Met’ as in The Met Office (the UK government’s weather agency). I proposed that it stood for Metropolitan. You see, ‘The Met’ as a phrase can refer to The Metropolitan Police (London’s police force), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York) or the weather service, depending on the context. Since The Met Office was based in London, I argued, it made sense that Met stood for Metropolitan.
However, he insisted that it stood for Meteorological. Ah, now that also sounds plausible, doesn’t it? What with it being a weather service and all. So I whipped out my phone and looked it up. An eager young teenager nearby who had been following our discussion asked, “How would you settle a question like that before the internet?”
“You wouldn’t!” I exclaimed. “You’d just argue about it all night in the pub. That’s why old men ramble on so much.” So today I thought we could have a look at how the internet has transformed the world of boardgames.
Oh, you want to know what Met stands for now, don’t you? Well, I was wrong. It stands for Meteorological. It isn’t even in London. It’s based in Devon.
The internet has affected the world of boardgaming so much, that it’s hard to cover even the major areas. It’s ironic that boardgaming for many is a way to take a break from the technology-filled lives that we lead, when it wouldn’t exist in anything like its current form without modern technology. It’s a great example of how technology can facilitate rather than dominate our lives.
How has the internet affected boardgames?
YouTube wasn’t the first internet development to influence boardgaming by any means, but I think it might have the largest affect on the industry today. People generally watch TV a lot, except these days many people watch YouTube far more than traditional TV shows (certainly my son does!).
YouTube has allowed millions of people to watch very specific niche content that would never previously have had enough of an audience to warrant its own TV show. The Dice Tower alone has had over 100 million views on its channel. That’s an awful lot of people watching videos about boardgames.
The primary way that I discover new boardgames is by watching YouTube. Most of the boardgames I buy, I buy because I’ve seen videos about them on YouTube. YouTube reaches so many people. The boardgaming hobby is growing and growing and in large part that’s because of YouTube. The more games people hear about, the more they buy. The more they buy, the more companies can make.
Google the name of any boardgame and nine times out of ten, the number one result is the relevant page from BoardGameGeek (BGG). The reason BGG is so high up Google’s rankings is because so many people use the site.
BGG is the Wikipedia of the boardgaming world. If I want more information about a game I have seen on YouTube, the first place I always go is BGG. You can watch more videos, see pictures of the components, read reviews and the forums are very active. Virtually every rules question ever thought of has been answered in the BGG forums. It’s incredibly useful.
It also allows you to discover other games that you might like. Apart from ranked lists of the highest rated games in many categories (strategy, family, thematic, etc.), you can search for games by mechanic (eg. deck builders), number of players or complexity and then sort the results by rating again to quickly see which ones people rate the highest.
BGG is the master hub that holds the entire hobby together. Everyone who is involved in any major way in the boardgaming industry uses BGG regularly. No other site comes close.
I’ve gone for Facebook as it’s the one I use the most, but this category is really for social media in general (excluding YouTube). I am a member of quite a few boardgaming groups on Facebook and a lot of them frequently feature questions from people along the lines of, “Can anyone recommend any games for 5 players with a Zombie theme?”
Many of these questions come from people new to the hobby and they are always greeted with a flurry of responses recommending appropriate games. I like to think I have a reasonably good knowledge of modern boardgames, but there is nearly always at least one recommendation that I’ve never even heard of.
Again, it’s a great way to discover new games. People joke about asking a question of the ‘hive mind’, but it really is an incredibly efficient and powerful way of tapping in to the combined knowledge of thousands of experts in the field. It’s like asking what Met stands for in a pub with 1000 people in it who all work at The Met Office. Accuracy is substantially improved!
Crowd funding in general is an extraordinary development that could never have existed without the internet, but it has been particularly influential in the boardgaming hobby. There are so many games that simply wouldn’t exist without Kickstarter. It allows people with great ideas for games, who lack the means to make those games, to realise their dreams.
It allows huge, sprawling miniatures games to exist that would never be commercially viable without Kickstarter due to the cost of production. It allows niche games to be made that would never sell enough copies to be commercially viable otherwise.
It has become such a significant publishing platform in the industry that many companies now use Kickstarter for promotional reasons as much as anything else, even if they could afford to make the game without Kickstarter. Kickstarter projects generate buzz and excitement and allow companies to potentially sell far more than they would do otherwise.
There are plenty of dud projects on Kickstarter for sure and Kickstarter games have seen their share of trouble over the years. However, I think overall that Kickstarter has been a real force for good in the industry. It brings people together over a common cause, which is what the internet is so good at.
There are obviously lots more ways that the internet has affected boardgaming, but those are the ones that stand out for me. In what ways do you think the internet has affected boardgaming the most?