The demotion of Monopoly’s famed iron drew major headlines, but there’s a lot more going on in the world of board games than swapping game pieces.
This weekend’s Board Game Jam challenges competitors to conceive and construct their own game in just 48 hours. Now in its third year, it’s just one piece of Toronto’s growing board game subculture.
Adam Clare, one of the Jam’s founders, credits Bloor West hub Snakes and Lattes as the catalyst for the burst of gaming activity.
“People assume that a board game is throw a dice, move and pick up a card,” he says. “That’s the most boring thing on the planet.”
The café, which boasts more than 2,500 different games, has exposed a lot of people to European strategy games like hobby market juggernaut Settlers of Catan.
Samantha Lerner, co-owner of similarly-minded Parkdale café Go Lounge, agrees.
“They have been integral in bringing gaming to the forefront.”
Snakes’ 2010 opening brought what was once a basement activity into the mainstream. One needs only to look at their long lines for a table to see the upswing in interest; the waits inspired Lerner, a fan of classics like Scrabble, and her business partner to launch Go Lounge in November.
But the Jam and Euro-style gaming cafés are part of a general upswing in hobby game sales.
Meanwhile, traditional board game maker Hasbro failed to meet its fourth quarter sales expectations last year.
Both Clare, who teaches video game design at George Brown and Lerner, who “cannot stand video games” pin the shift on the over-saturation of digital media.
“A board game,” says Clare, “forces you to acknowledge the player across the table.”
Board Game Jam runs March 2-3 at George Brown College, 230 Richmond St. East. Learn more at boardgamejam.com.
Test and refine
New at this year’s Board Game Jam will be the inclusion of experts to counsel creators on how to bring their games to market. “There’s no way someone will have a game ready for sale at the end of board game jam,” cautions Clare. But the progress made can still be put to good use. The Jam has yet to produce a commercially available game although some are making steps in that direction. Above all else games needs to be fun, he says.