Har' to Port! The digital boardgames issue.

When it comes to boardgames one of the crown argument a majority of gamers like to use as a virtue of this kind of entertainment is that it's disconnecting... From the network, that is, from the computers and technology. It's good, ol' fashioned fun with cardboard and wood and plastic. You take the things, and they are exactly as interactive as you can make them with your bare hands. I know this argument well, because I use it myself when praising the glory of boardgaming hobby to the neophytes of this kind of fun! However, even if this argument sounds like a mantra by now, muttered by the hordes of boardgamers, it cannot be a Golden Truth followed by everyone... because if that would be the case, we wouldn't have ports, now, would we?

Just for the sake of clarity - by Ports I mean fully digital versions of a boardgame, usually in form of a mobile app and even full game released on consoles and/or PC. Which kind of make me ask a question...

If the golden value of a boardgame is the fact, that it allow us fun and entertainment without a need for a computer, why the heck Ports not only exists, but are doing pretty gosh darn well?

And they do well, for sure! Just look at the classics. Catan on App Store, the official Settlers of Catan App have over 14 000 reviews, mostly positive. Carcassone got over 10 000 review there and do exactly as well on Google Play Store, both titles also easily finding their way into the category of over 100 000 installations! And when these are most likely most popular titles as they are, by now, known even to the population that would not describe themselves as boardgame geeks, other games - even those dedicated to heavy players! - find their fully digitalized counterpart sooner or later. Agricola, San Juan, Le Havre and even such big, mindburning title as Through the Ages already got or are on their way to become a boardgame turned videogame.

Now, now, just to clarify. I don't think it's a wrong trend... I just point out a curiosity of such growing desire to enjoy your favourite boardgame even without a boardgame. What happened to the 'because it's not a video game' argument? Where it left? Or maybe it never did, but the gamers adapt to the simple and convenient reality, that by now they don't have to carry huge, heavy boxes with them wherever they goes to play their favourite titles, because a simple and lightweight device - such as a tablet - can be a game shelf on its very own?

Well… I don’t have the answer, and frankly, I am not even sure If I should try to dig it out. The fact is, we have them, so why not use them? When I go out of the house I wouldn’t forget to pick my smartphone, my tablet or my Kindle, right? I reckon this is somehow similar to the debacle that Kindles and other e-readers faces when their popularity emerged and surfaces with enough foam to cause some discussion… Like, the classic question:

Are you still a reader, if instead of enjoying a real, printed on paper book you rather read them letters off the digital, e-ink screen? Can you call yourself a true book fanatic, if you prefer to carry a single, lightweight device with your reading collection instead of carrying about a proper tome (Tried it with hardcovers of Song of Fire and Ice books, didn’t work out so well for my shoulder…)?

The little storm of such discussions is still sometimes heard over the vast ocean of the internet, but by now a consensus of some sort was reached, that reading is not defined by how you read and what tools you utilize to do so, but by the mere fact of, well… Reading. No matter if you do it with your first print run of Lord of the Rings, so yellow and tattered it smelled of last century or on a state-of-the-art, slick and slim powerful device that just got released to the shops to the delight of fans of modern gadgetry.

And so, my beloved readers, I will ask you this simple question:

Are we still boardgamers, if we play boardgames in their digital form? Is enjoying Catan or Agricola or Neuroshima Hex on our mobile devices somehow less of an experience? Does it not make it a boardgame anymore, and if no, what define a boardgame?

Just a little food for thoughts, really.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7/14/2015

    Exactly! I love board games and I play them whenever I can and wherever I can. Mobile multiplayer makes it much more accesible and thats why I am usually paying for those apps.
    I guess no one can argue that the mobile devices are a good addition to board games in any possible way. Otherwise it would be hypocrite because they use the apps anyway...