Now in classic 1D
In this day and age of computers and handheld electronics of all varieties, is there even a point to tabletop gaming anymore? I’ve discussed how video games will never die, but has the board game or card game been “strictly outclassed”? Or, is there still a place for gathering around a kitchen table on Friday nights? The Inverseman here with a few thoughts on the matter.
One plus the video game always has over the board game is in the physical visuals and audio as well as the game taking care of any bookkeeping, like combat math in an RPG. Video games also have portability but there’s one timeless asset of the unplugged game’s convenience: no need for a charger or an internet connection. When stuck without a power strip or when your ISP feels like taking a holiday, you’ll always be able to play a well-constructed tabletop game.
However, the tabletop game goes beyond simple boredom busters in a blackout, the lack of a screen extends to another dimension, the one inside one’s head, imagination. When playing a tabletop RPG, the players are immersed in their imaginations. If your DM is good, she’ll paint a landscape of words as you weave through her world. Even in chess, as neutral as it seems, there’s a flavor that makes the queen feel so mighty and pawns so expendable. Our minds enjoy the engagement even without the screen, because the fact they are in the first place is more than enough. Just like how television did not send the novel up in flames of 451, the tabletop game will only die if the imagination goes with it.
Now think back to your best deck in a trading card game. Perhaps it was the old lauded Charizard-Venusaur “VenuZard” deck from Base Set Pokemon? Perhaps it is a current metagame-tuned deck in another game? Was that deck always the same down to the very last card? That deck probably started in a very nubile form with only one or two “good cards”. But over time, you worked towards more cards and the “better cards” were added to the deck by your own discretion until it became a masterpiece. The same could be said for a character in an RPG (online or not). That character becomes an extension of the player; his in-game skills become better, his backstory is canonized, and he becomes an expression of the player.
In games like Warhammer 40k, your army has been painted painstakingly and the battlefield has been fully furnished to an artistry. This is much unlike a regular game where characters have personalities and motivations set mostly in stone, canvasses already filled, and ultimately handed out complete to the player. While not exclusive to non-video games, it is far more common to see players take ownership and slowly evolve their own player characters in every which way. The first three Final Fantasy games did the very same, four nameless Heroes of Light were for you to decide who they were and grow into powerful saviors of the land. Instead of instant-gratification of a complete whole, many tabletop games take it slow making everything the player does exclusively his or her own.
There is one last element to the tabletop game that also ensures its immortality alongside video games, and that would be the pure sociability of the offline game. The player gets to see in real time and in-full the expression and emotions of his or her fellow players. Idle chitchat, good food, and drink may be shared among the players before or after the game. In my college days, many of my friends and I would spend late nights into the mornings playing Bang! The Bullet! and making late-night runs to fast-food joints and food carts. Humans are social creatures, so the quality of socialization is just as important. While the internet opens many conveniences and options, still play games together offline and unplugged because there is still a desire to compete and collaborate face-to-face. I’d actually surmise this being the paramount reason why we still have more board games beyond Monopoly.
In our modern day obsession with the authentic, there is still a call for authentic communication and the game is the facilitator, and it is welcomed in any form it takes. Perhaps the larger statement would be that gaming itself is an immortal irreplaceable part of life. Join me next time when I eat an unhealthy amount of curry.
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