How tabletop games are taking players back to a simpler era

In this age of digitalisation, gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox may be grabbing public attention but it’s the simpler games from yesteryear that are quietly gaining traction. The renaissance of tabletop games is overshadowing digital innovation because simply put, the former brings life and imagination to the table.

The games in question were traditionally played by a group of people around a table, and include puzzles, card games, and board games. Today, such games can be played online with a wider community of players. For instance, there are multiple platforms where thousands of members log in to play rummy online. Other games that have been digitised and gained popularity online in the Indian context are chess, backgammon, and poker.

Gaming enthusiasts have attributed this growing trend to the inherent framework of tabletop game design. They boost interaction with people and encourage conversations in an impactful manner. We live in an era of GTA and PUBG, but in terms of growth, tabletop games are broadening their otherwise niche audience. What sparked this revolution?

Mental engagement

A new generation of tabletop games in various genres – such as card games, board games, and puzzles – is fuelling the global gaming industry. Simple games like UNO, bridge, rummy, or chess offer a depth of mental engagement that video games often lack. Their unique visual and tactile nature lends a different experience.

Take chess, for instance, which requires one to devise strategies to win, with each move affecting the outcome. Chess boosts creativity and spatial awareness and rewards players with something more valuable than money: a sense of accomplishment.

Alluring themes 

What is the theme behind Pokémon Go? It is an augmented reality game app that pushes people to walk around and capture virtual Pokémons (cartoons). Interesting as it sounds, games that boost mental engagement pair strategy with an exciting theme to retain and extend the player’s interest in the game.

It is this suspense of how the game unfolds that brings players back to the table. A tabletop card game like rummy itself has variations such as gin rummy, Indian Rummy, 13-card rummy, and Oklahoma rummy, which encourages players to test their skills and experience moments in the game that are both exciting and memorable.

Social participation 

When was the last time you heard a millennial child say that games are their favourite gift? In this digital era of smartphones and tablets, social engagement and participation have radically changed. So much so that what used to be played after assembling at a friend’s house is now done at home, glued to one’s personal screen.

Thankfully, this notion is changing and tabletop games have begun to fill this void in interpersonal engagement. This is one of the most important reasons for their comeback. Gamers today crave the presence of other real individuals who share a common passion. Tabletop games offer the best of both worlds.

With online platforms, a player can not only play but interact and engage in conversations with real people in real time. Online chess websites have ‘chat rooms’ where members can hold discussions, analyse games, or observe other players’ moves as an audience, thus forming a virtual club. It is this very nature of tabletop games that are attracting players back.

Chill zone

Tabletop games have the power to bring a calming effect to an otherwise busy day. They lack the noise and the sense of urgency that is characteristic of video games; they require one to sit down, evaluate the game, make mistakes, devise counter tactics, cover-up and finally learn from their actions. Since each round is unique, these games have a greater replay value compared to snazzy high-end video games.

Parting words 

More and more people are turning to human-centric games, whose growth is fuelled by the passion of new players who are taking them up as a hobby, an after-work stress-buster, or simply as an outlet to improve their creativity and mental skills.

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