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Cardboard Children - Rab's Board Game Think Piece

Piece Of Think

Hello youse. I realised that I've never done a board game think piece. You know what a think piece is, right? It's like – It's a bit of writing about a thing, and it's composed of things that you've thought about that thing. Or something. I mean, I know that sounds like every bit of writing, but think pieces are different. They must be, because people keep writing them. So what would a think piece about board games look like? Welcome to RAB'S BOARD GAME THINK PIECE.


Hi. Here's a piece of my think.

Look at where we are these days in board gaming. Look how much things have changed! It's big business now. Where once there were a few little companies publishing games and others specialising in exporting German games around the world in small numbers, under the shadow of the big mass-market boys with their Monopoly and their themed Risks, there are now some big old giant juggernauts stomping around the market. Fantasy Flight Games have the Star Wars license and are running with it like a linebacker for the Georgia Steelmongers (sorry, I don't know anything about American Soccer), and companies like Plaid Hat Games have transformed themselves from small indies into much larger indies owned by giant publishers. I swear to you – only five years ago, it all still felt really small-time, very niche. Now it feels like board gaming is everywhere.

People are even earning a living talking about board games. The Dice Tower, a YouTube channel run by Tom Vasel, used to be just videos of a nice man talking about board games into a poor-quality camera. Now it's a big network, and Tom's full-time job, and he even has people working for him. Talking brilliantly about board games! And there are a few other enthusiast sites and podcasts, funding their work through Patreon and such, turning board game talk into a nice little side-job. Board gaming is just enormous now, right?

And look at Kickstarter! Even a guy like me, who used to be very suspicious of Kickstarter and stuff, has flung a hefty chunk of money into a Conan game that I know absolutely nothing about. Like an idiot. Because I liked the nice pictures. Have you seen the money these people are making on Kickstarter with their zombie games? Zombicide has been Kickstarted about twenty times at this point. People just can't get enough of those tiny little plastic zombies! Where are they putting them all? Up their butts probably. (This is the first time I've ever used the word “butt” in a bit of writing. I should write a think piece about that.) But yeah, look how massive board gaming is!

But is it massive?

We live in a bit of a bubble on the internet, don't we? On Twitter, I follow a lot of nerds, because they talk about all the things I like to hear about – films, comics, zombies up butts. On Facebook, a lot of my friends are into the same stuff as me – wrestling, horror films, zombies up butts. On Instagram, I just follow really attractive people because I enjoy looking at their faces and bodies. But this bubble – it can make you think that everybody is playing board games, when maybe they're not.

Recently, due to what might be some kind of psychological and emotional crisis, I've been moving in a slightly different social circle on occasion. And I can tell you that, in my head, none of these people are playing board games. When I'm standing drinking a glass of the very best pink wine of some kind at some fancy do in the heart of the Scottish media industry, which is more like one rotating room of delusional strugglers than an actual industry, I'm never going to ask anybody what their best loadout in X-Wing is. I'm never going to ask that fashion model which strategy she prefers to play in Caverna. That young guy who's loaded on coke probably isn't in the mood to talk about his favourite card combo in Magic: The Gathering.

But this is all in my head. This is all my problem. Oh no. I can feel the point coming.

That's the thing about a think piece. Because it's made up of your own thoughts, it can keep changing all the time. Here's the meat of my meat, then. (I love meat.)

I think I've always had a bit of a thing about cool. We all know “cool” is bullshit. It's undefinable and without value. But I've always wanted to kinda be it, whatever it is. And that's quite an embarrassing thing to admit. There's nothing less cool than wanting to be cool. But then, maybe admitting that you'd like to be cool is kinda cool, because it's admitting a vulnerable side to yourself.

And here's a sad admission – I've spoken about board games on this website for years. I've made TV shows about video games, written about them forever. But I've always had that slight cringe about it all. How terrible is that?! I hide it well, most of the time. On occasion I've even set myself up as some kind of champion of these geek pursuits. “LOOK UPON ME! I WILL CARRY THIS FLAME! THIS FIRE OF WRATH!”

But then, how awful is this thought - “Is this person safe to talk to about board games?”

As disappointing as this may be for you to hear, sometimes I hesitate before telling someone I have over 400 board games in my house. Sometimes I catch myself and think “You are going to sound like the kind of guy who puts plastic zombies up his butt.” There is a division, still, between people like us and the otherfolk, isn't there? There's me and you, pretending we're swinging swords at Orcs. And then there's everybody else, phoning the bank about stuff. That's how it works, right? But then, why is everybody watching Game of Thrones?

Why is everybody playing board games all of a sudden?

Why is everybody playing video games?

What's happening?

Are we cool?

Friends... Are we cool now?

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