The rebirth of board games and the new social revolution | Drew Blas | TEDxTopeka


Translator: Rosa Baranda
Reviewer: Sebastian Betti That’s really great. We kind of had a lot of really deep,
really weighty topics, so hopefully this is going to let you
take a little bit of a breather; we’re going to relax and talk
about something easy and simple. But what I want to get across as a message is that something
even as simple as board games can have some unforeseen consequences, can have some outcomes
that can be positive in our lives, and can have good results. So, we’re going to talk about board games, and this field has gone through
a lot of different stages. We have, of course, in history,
the early board games: you have Monopoly, and Risk, and Sorry! And all the Parker brothers,
Milton Bradley classics, and we have people who fondly remember
their family game nights with those games, and that’s a wonderful time,
and it’s good to remember those fondly. And then there was a rebirth of board games started in the 1980s,
went through the 1990s. And these board games came about for some of the social classes that maybe were considered
a little bit more outcast: the geeks, the nerds,
who would often get together as a respite from the lives they lived, and they would play these games together. And there was a huge new avenue for them to play together and enjoy themselves
without being ridiculed. So we had this kind of rebirth. And since then what has happened is those people have grown up, they’re now adults, they’re 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings, who fondly remember those days, and they’ve taken it with them, and as they have we’ve seen
a kind of a second rebirth, a new revolution, where
things like comic books, things like superheroes
have become popular again: we have movies like “Iron Man,”
“The Avengers,” “Spiderman”; we have popular TV shows
like “The Big Bang Theory”; and all these things are coming from what the now adult generation is remembering fondly of their childhood. Except now they are
the drivers of the economy. So they’re re-experiencing
these things once again, a lot of them with their children,
enjoying themselves, and it’s become big business, it’s become something
that everybody gets in on. So this new geek-chic is powering a new sort of positive feedback cycle. As it becomes more popular, it’s now no longer something that just the geeks and the nerds
and the outcasts experience; but we have more people,
who are just regular and everyday, who hadn’t had these experiences,
are now joining together. And when that happens
we get new media, new board games, new TV shows and movies
and all these kinds of things that brought in their appeal: they get new topics, they get new genres, and that leads to more diversity. And this positive feedback cycle
keeps going and going, and the same thing
has happened with board games. So board games today
have become even bigger thanks to all of the different people
who are enjoying playing them. All sorts of people
with different backgrounds, and all sorts of different ages
and different generations coming together. And so we get not just
your typical tabletop game, your games like “Sorry!” or “Risk.” We get new types of games
with new mechanics that help to squeeze out the juices of what it means to interact socially with one another. And two of my favorites,
that I want to talk about specifically, is “deception” games and “cooporative” games. Now, traditionally we only had
the normal everyday competitive game, where you have some number of players,
maybe about 4 to 6 players, and you would play until somebody wins. But now we have new topics, new mechanics, that help to drive games that people enjoy even if they don’t like
to play competitive games. So we have games where you cooperate, games where you play together
towards some common goal, and everybody works side by side. They bring their ideas on how to
accomplish some sort of goal. There are games where you can
play and be research scientists, looking to travel the world
and cure a mysterious plague and you’ll do research
and you’ll help heal people. And everybody kind of
wins or loses together. And losing is okay too,
but you like to win. And then we have other games;
these are games of deception, where everybody plays and they don’t know who else at the table
is their friend or their enemy. And you sit there and
you take on a new persona, and you might undermine somebody else or you might truthfully be working
for the same goal and not even know it. And those games are always a lot of fun because afterwards,
when everything is all revealed, everybody then sits around
and wants to talk abut what happened. They want to say “Oh, I had no idea
[what happened] all along that you were the betrayer.” So it’s a really enjoyable experience, even for those people who typically don’t enjoy direct competitive games, where they’re just out
to be the one sole winner. So we have all these new mechanics,
all these new genres, that are bringing more people together and making a bigger board game community, and it’s doing some other
interesting things too. It’s taking all those people,
and they are getting together, but they’re doing it without technology. Ironically, board games are
coming from an era of people who are typically considered
geeks and nerds, whose role models might be people like Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk, but yet, when they sit down at a table there are no computers,
there are no cell phones. Matter of fact, it’s frowned upon
to take out your cell phone when the whole goal of the game is that you need to be
interacting one on one, you need to be looking people in the eye, you need to be focused and attentive
on what’s going on, and so it’s a little bit of a faux pas; and technology kind of doesn’t exist
in that space. It allows you to escape. And so, we have this wonderful
get-together of everybody, and what starts happening is we have different people
from different walks of life, and the most prominent one
are different age groups. There’s fathers who bring their daughters. There’s grandfathers
who bring their grandsons. And unlike family game night,
where everybody sits around the table whether they want to or not,
and plays together — it’s fun, but let’s be honest,
there are those people who are just there because they have to be — but here’s a place where everybody
is there because they want to be, and you have two people who otherwise
wouldn’t know each other: one who’s 50 or 60, 70 years old, and one who’s 7, 10, 12, sitting at a table, on a completely equal footing. They’re all playing by the same rules. That 10-year-old has to play
the exact same game that the 70-year-old does. She’s got to stand her own, and everybody works together or everybody plays the same game, and it’s kind of a beautiful
thing that happens. These are people who don’t necessarily
know one another, and yet they’re interacting socially in a way that just
doesn’t happen anywhere else. We have young children who — Think of … how often do they
really interact with other adults? Besides their teachers, who are
telling them what to do all day long, and besides their parents, who are telling
them what to do all day long. They don’t necessarily get
a lot of direct interaction where their opinion,
their thoughts matter just as much as the adult next to them. But board games are providing that, and it becomes a really amazing force to help them grow, and to help everybody have a quality social interaction. And so, I want to share
a couple of personal anecdotes, about just how strong
that emotional bond can be, and just how surprising it is. I was one day sitting down
to play a game with a friend of mine, and he brings his son,
his 10-year-old son in. And the boy comes up to me and he says: “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.
My dad has told me so much about you.” And I looked at him, and then I ignored him
and I turned around. I didn’t even understand what he was saying. It was so unusual! And at the time I didn’t realize just
how mature for his age that really was. But I did understand that it was something
I had never seen before. And I just didn’t know how to respond. In fact, he showed me that day that he was more
socially mature than I was. Ask yourself how many 10-year-olds
you know like that. And we sit down, and we played games and thankfully I got to know him
very, very well but we would play games and his thoughts, his opinions,
his ideas, his insights, it turned out,
not just in playing the game, but were part of him as a human being that I otherwise never
would have known existed. I know in older men; a grandfather
who brings his grandson, six years old, to play board games. And a six-year-old is barely
able to seat in their sit for 10 or 15 minutes
at a time, let’s be honest. But here, they learn to sit,
they learn to focus, they learn to listen, they learn to win
and they learn to lose. And especially for a six-year-old,
but true for all of us, is sometimes it’s hard to lose and when you see
a little boy or a little girl who looks out and says, “Well,
I’m going to try better next game.” Those are just the bricks. That’s a shocking experience. And a really positive one. So I’ve had this amazing
experience of sitting down, at a table, with a group
of fellow human beings, of all ages, of all walks of life, no technology needed, and learned how to
have a real social experience. And so I challenge you all
to do the same. Thanks. (Applause)




Comments
  1. I was hoping you are talking about Dungeons and Dragons Drew…Warhammer, Munchkin. Still cool, but board gaming is awesome…I even have a family day when we play Talisman, monopoly.

  2. What about the ancient board games like: Backgammon, chess, go and ur? Board games have always been around for thousands of years. But great talk nonetheless.

  3. Board Games have never really disappeared, I think that the current climate and opportunity for everyday people to bring a good game idea and concept is much easier than in the past. Board gaming does foster great social opportunties. 😀

  4. I fear what has happened to video games will happen to board gaming.

    Video games used to have tons of content upon release, good long stories, wonderful art pieces… metal gear is art, and look at its state now, dead and ruined. Most linger by beating the dead horse off nostalgia (mario, sonic, anything Nintendo)

    like video games, board gaming was a hobby of nerds. Nerds making games for nerds and geeks alike.

    Then things become trendy, trendy becomes super marketable. What's marketable becomes exploited. I'm afraid to see what the board game equivalent of "micro transactions" will be.

    It's already sorta happening. for every board game made, there's 11 Social deduction games created. It's not terrible but it sells, and it's because it's easy for "normies" to pick up.

    Anyway, I feel kickstarter will bring about the micro transaction equivalent which may be "get the 3 expansions even though the game isn't out yet! Just pay more for content that should be in the base game!"

    Sometimes it's justified by the volume of content, but I don't like this pattern being established.

  5. This was one of the worst TEDx Talks I've ever heard. No slides showing games laid out on tables to show the complexity and variety of modern games. No images of any kind, in fact. No mention of strategy vs. luck & decisions vs roll/spin & move. No mention of science, travel, geography, or history based games like those made by Phil Ecklund or Genius Games or even games like Fauna, Expedition, or Trekking the National Parks. No mention of the full spectrum of train games, from TransAmerica to 18xx games. No mention of games that are like Apples to Apples or Scrabble, only fun. (That was snark.) Nothing about board game clubs or events like Origins & Essen. This guy talked in vague generalities, which is great if you want to communicate to experienced gamers in some kind of secret code, but lousy if you want to introduce people to modern board games. And what was with the pacing back & forth & constantly moving into dark parts of the stage?! This was so boring I turned it up to 2x the speed hoping to hear SOMETHING that would fascinate the average listener, but it just made his pacing more annoying. TEDx Talks tend to be sub-par, but this is ridiculous. There was practically no content that demonstrated the evolution of games & the delivery was terrible.

  6. Look, I love board games, in fact my job ties with gamification and UX design, but this talk was very unenlightening. It was just a recap opinion piece that adds no hidden insights or engaging discussion points for audiences to mull over…better luck next time.

  7. very good analysis, of social interaction with board games, although a list of board games broken down into catagories, cooperative, competitive games would have made the analysis more interesting to the audience

  8. Been a videogamer over the last 35years but spend most of my spare time now playing boardgames. My favourite game is Orleans but I play all types of genres.I still play videogames but play more casual play mainly on my switch👊👍

  9. It is all about balance. I am in my late 30's and a huge board gamer now (for the last 2 yrs, coming from those young memories he mentioned) – So I do think these games provide a fantastic avenue for improving your brain, for having social interactions and it would be great if more people spent more time on the table and not on their screens. However I also see in this environment how some people totally immerse themselves and close their minds to only do geeky stuff or play games. That is an additive behavior and won't be good for them.

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