You sank my nostalgia

February 14, 2011 by Tim

I caught this on Kotaku over the weekend. Maybe you saw it… maybe you couldn’t find shit trying to navigate Gawker’s new layout. Either way, it’s a short demo video they grabbed at the Hasbro showcase, showing off the new “Battleship Live”.

I love board games. I love technology. And yet, I’m wary when the two intersect. I always feel it involves chipping away at the heart and charm of tabletop gaming.

It reminds me of the whole Monopoly update not too long ago. I’m not talking about the funky round board, I’m talking about everything going digital. No more paper money, now all the players have a debit card that you swipe through a magnetic reader. It’s all automated. It’s all clean, and sterile.

Is it convenient? Hell yeah, I’m sure it is. Is it neat? It kind of is, yeah. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like the Monopoly experience is going to be slightly poorer for the lack of paper money and a banker.

When I used to play Monopoly, I used to try and be sly with my money. When no one was looking I’d slide a bill or two under the game board in front of me. It was my secret savings stash. At a glance, I looked like I was living hand-to-mouth, no threat to anyone… and then when the time was right… POW! Those orange bills came out of nowhere and hotels sprung up like weeds.

And I’m sure everyone at one time or another has played with a sneaky banker… the person you entrusted with the financial establishment of your tabletop world, only to find out later they’d gone all Enron on you.

This is just my opinion, but tabletop gaming is all about the human element. Its direct social interaction with friends and family. I feel like some of the best tabletop games are the ones that actually allow for the human X factor to some degree.

A short while ago I raved about the Battlestar Galactica board game, and that’s a perfect example. There is a clear set of rules for players to follow, but such a large portion of the game comes down to the people playing the game, and conversations that take place. Arguing that so-and-so is or isn’t a Cylon, defending your actions, condemning others. Pointing the finger, distrust, deceit. It’s an element of the game that can’t be quantified in a rulebook.

I love video games, but I play tabletop games for entirely different reasons. If I have a handful of friends over, I’m more likely to break out the board games than video games (and it’s not just because 90% of all developers have said “Fuck you” to split-screen co-op”.

I just feel that board games offer a more personal and interactive experience. And when I say interactive, I mean the interaction between people.

I enjoy and encourage technological advances. However taking board games into a digital or electronic space also seems to mean making the experience more insular. With the original Battleship, you had to talk with your opponent, at the very least to declare the coordinates for your attacks.

With this new Battleship Live, though, it looks as though two people could sit across from eachother and play the game without saying a single word to eachother, or needing to directly interface at all.

The idea of moving your ships, and having a spy plane are pretty neat… but is it worth having an obnoxious computer voice play middleman between you and your friends?

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