Conference time again, this time at the Indiana Library Federation annual gathering. Glad there was gaming included in the program; one interesting session I dropped in concerned the other type of gaming, just as virtual but not quite as digital. Board games typically take a backseat to their video counterpart, and it is unfortunate that this is the case. However, with an increasingly cult-like following, more students and adults alike are making board games not just mainstream, but the preferred form of gaming at their institutions, clubs, whatever. So convincing and charismatic was Christopher Harris, ALA Mover and Shaker, as well as author of Digitalreshift and Infomancy, he just about had me heading out the door ready to purchase Settlers of Catan after his presentation.
Throughout his talk, Harris, a self-admitted gaming geek, gave numerous reasons “why board games PWN”. Calling them “curriculum aligned institutional resources”, the strength of board games within any institution, be it school or academic, equals and even surpasses the influence carried by the shinier, sexier video game titles. Indeed, Harris stresses that board games provide a gaming experience rather than simply being provided, and should be the first step when establishing a gaming-centered curriculum. Harris explains:
- Board games make you money – For the price of any popular video game console, numerous board games can be purchased, tested, and distributed for circulation. Successful usage may then allow for purchase of video consoles with increased funding.
- They make you use more of your brain than you thought you had – nowadays, people really have to think critically, often using mathematics, logic and other skills not typically used in an FPS. Huzzah for higher order thinking skills!
- They’ve lasted forever – Not that old Monopoly set gathering dust in the attic, but games like Go and Chess have been around and will be around forever. Thus, they have high replay value!
- Board games give you “telepathy” – rather than reading other players’ minds, they put you into their’ shoes, allowing players to exercise empathy and strengthen prediction patterns according to the game structure.
- Board games may teachers cry (tears of joy) – imagine incorporating fun, collaborative, and practical examples into your lectures, teaching plans, instead of having to continually prepare for all those meaningless state-sponsored tests.
- You’ll be surprised who’s playing: They’re not just for geeky boys…the females can be just as rabid when it comes to gaming activities.
I left the presentation thinking that board games really have a prominent place in terms of the future of gaming and instruction. The level of critical machination needed exceeds its video counterpart, and the level of imagination for creating such games generally is more robust, in my opinion. A list of captivating, topically current games to consider, suggested by Harris include (descriptions after clicking):
The overall message is that board games cannot be ignored. They foster cooperation and collaboration, “higher order thinking”, and cost-efficient replay value. They’re just worth it.