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Tabletop Games Shouldn't Try to be Video Games

Video games are great. Tabletop games are great. Tabletop video games are less so.

There is something that has always seemed a little strange to me about tabletop games getting video game variants. I completely understand why they exist. It is great to be able to play Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan on the bus using your smartphone. Equally, you may not have people readily available to come over and play Dead of Winter or Pandemic when you are in the mood. There is certainly a market and they definitely have their uses, I just have never really liked the idea.

Perhaps it's because I am not a big fan of multiplayer in general. Certainly not online multiplayer. Obviously, as an avid gamer, I do dabble in the online scene. But for me, video games have always been primarily either a single player experience, or else a couch co-op/competitive game. Tabletop games, however, are an intimate physical gathering played with snacks and drinks. Turning Settlers of Catan into an online experience, completely diminishes the magic.

Even with fancy graphics, it isn't the same

Although my general preference for single player video games does make me somewhat biased, I don't think it makes my case any less valid. Tabletop games just fill a completely different need and occupy a different part of life than video games, and to play them in their digital form spoils them just a little bit in my eyes.

Tabletop Simulator is a fascinating tool, and I was initially very excited at the idea of being able to play my favourite board games while other players were in one country and I was in another. But I soon found that not only was it not the same, but that it actually started to turn me off the physical board game itself.

They are not without merit, particularly on mobile devices

I don't even want to try out new tabletop games using the program for fear that I will never be able to have my first experience of the game as it should be.

I want to place the meeples, to roll the dice, and to accuse my girlfriend of lying to my face. While Tabletop Simulator and video board games have noble intentions and indeed actual purpose, they completely remove the intimacy, camaraderie, and tactile magic that make tabletop games so very special.

If you have no other option whatsoever, no matter what you do, then yes - enjoy these games in the only way that you can. However, if you can even get a group together to play a game of Munchkin a few times a year, then do that and never reduce the game in your mind by playing it online.

Tabletop video game adaptions have their purpose and can indeed be enjoyable, but they are a shadow of the true games on which they are based, and I implore my readers to enjoy your video games on the screen and your tabletop games on the table.

Published Jun. 7th 2015
  • The Soapbox Lord
    Featured Contributor
    A lot of these digital versions can be used as "demos", so to speak, for people who want to try the game before shelling out $50+ for one game.
    It is also great to play your favorite games with friends who no longer live near you.

    At the end of the day though, as you said, nothing beats sitting around a table with friends playing MTG or board games. How else can you mess with friends in Munchkin?!

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