14 November 2012

Have Designer Games Entered the Mainstream?

I was first introduced to designer board games by a roommate in college. They introduced me to Settlers of Catan. I was then introduced to Ticket to Ride through another friend who had played Catan with me. Once I found a local gaming store, the rest is history. However, it seems to me that in the last 2-3 years, games have become more mainstream. Before they were isolated to small groups of people who played in the back of comic book stores, but now it seems that games are everywhere. So, it begs the question, are designer board games, no longer an obscure subculture? Are they now part of the what everyone is talking about?

Location Location Location
First of all, 5 years ago you had to go to a specialty store to buy designer games; now, you can find them at Target, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc. Target has a special section now for designer games and contains several Catan games, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and about a half dozen Fantasy Flight titles. My local Barnes and Noble has a whole area devoted to games, and about half of them would be considered designer games. This just wasn't the case a short time ago. Retail companies are beginning to see that there is a market for newer, and I would argue better board games that Monopoly and Sorry!.

Media
From Settlers of Catan being on Big Bang Theory, to applications on phones, video game consoles, and tablets. Board games are becoming more visible. Before you had to seek them out, now they have commercials, YouTube channels, and the like. Just do a search for Will Wheaton and I am sure you can find out about the latest board game. I also saw that the latest offering by Plaid Hat Games, Mice and Mystics, is on Yahoo's top toy list for Christmas. Finally, Rich Sommer of Mad Men has been doing a segment on G4TV's Attack of the Show, discussing board games. The fact that all these media outlets are taking the time to feature games in some fashion is just another indicator that games are becoming mainstream.

In the past, the gaming hobby was mostly spread by word of mouth. Although I still believe that this is the way most people get into gaming, the gaming megaphone has become louder over the past couple of years. The introduction and discussion of designer games in the big box stores and into the media has brought gaming to the attention of some who would otherwise not know about it. In the end, it can only be good for the hobby to have more people engaged in it, whether through apps, tv shows, or a friends table. In the end, it means more gamers. So, has designer gaming become mainstream? Not yet, but soon when you tell someone you played Ticket to Ride, they will be saying, "Oh, I've played that", instead of "Oh, what's that about?"

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