(scared of) Going digital?

Do you remember when board games that require a digital component launched? I sure do, as it sparked a lot of conversations. Some people where excited, others – not so much. Now it’s old news. Much like digital versions of board games.

There were some reasons for some fearing the rise of app-driven board games: a rise in their popularity might mean that more and more games would need a smartphone or a tablet nearby, and without constant support from the publisher they could become unplayable.

While it’s obvious that the former will not come to pass anytime soon, the latter could potentially happen. Although, with internet’s ability to save pretty much anything from being lost, if we’d ever really lose them, we’d probably be having much bigger problems than not being able to play a few board games.

The discussion went on for a time, first started when FFG’s XCom hit the shelves, and then got more speed with CGE’s Alchemists. At the same time, nearly nobody felt the need to ponder upon the ramifications of more analogue board games going analogue. Does it really mean that true-analogue gamers have nothing to fear from them?

It does. Probably.

In a broader context, it seems that competition between digital and analogue is not fierce enough from one to draw people away from the other. With Hearthstone doing great for the last few years, Magic: The Gathering does not seem to be worse off. If anything, the two games often share a fan base – and if Wizards really feared the digital cannibalizing the analogue, they would not be coming up with newer and newer versions of their flagship game for the PC and gaming consoles.

On a more personal level, digital board games can make a bit of a dent. I know myself that after installing digital versions of some board games, I’ve never returned to their original versions. Compare the time it takes to set up, play and tear down a game of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in real life and on your phone, and you’ll probably see why some (myself included) will never play the actual board game again.

The other factor is companionship. I’m blessed with being surrounded by great people willing to play games with me, and digital board games usually offer multiplayer, but they also offer games against AI opponents. Whichever option you choose, the digital game will deprive you of actual human contact, but when played against an AI it will also spoil you with eliminating the one thing you may be bothered with when playing against actual people around your table: downtime. And, oh boy, is that addictive.

Now, I play some games exclusively on Steam or on my smartphone, and I know that I will probably never play them in real life. Yet, I’m not bothered, as I am also not tempted to suddenly supplant a significant part of my collection with digital versions of board games – to spend time and probably some money.

The stats seem to back my personal feelings as well. Game sales do not take hits from offering a digital alternative to the original product. If anything, they manage to show how fun board gaming is to those who don’t know the hobby yet. They also offer an alternative for those of us who are not as lucky as me when it comes to potential gaming partners.

An alternative, if I might add, already provided by Vassal – completely free, although with a bit less of graphical flare – which sure did not hurt the hobby. If anything, the digital versions of our beloved games are doing their share to show us that the golden age of board gaming can be even better. And that is a great thing indeed.

While on the subject: maybe you want to try some of our games in digital format? Here’s a link to Dragonsgate College – our newest outing on Tabletopia.

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