Sunday, July 30, 2006

World Boardgaming Championships

Most of us who play chess have likely indulged in other boardgames. So you may be interested to know that The World Boardgaming Championships meet this week in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from August 1-August 6.

Not long ago, I stumbled upon a very nice book, Spin Again: Board Games from the Fifties and Sixties by Rick Polizzi, which made me curious about the history of board games and a little nostalgic for my early teen years, when I spent hours perfecting my piece arrangement for Stratego. Of course, kids today are more likely to play computer games than board games, and if they play board games at all they do so online. I can't help but speculate about what they have lost, beginning with unmediated human interaction (versus the more immediate but lonesome stimulation that the video screen offers).

Just today, in fact, I experienced my own example of this generational divide. My three-and-a-half-year-old son has recently become fascinated with the Rescue Heroes. He has seen a couple DVDs of their adventures, has a few action heroes to play with, and has even tried their interactive video game. So I thought he might enjoy a Rescue Heroes board game I had picked up, which is basically Snakes and Ladders with animals to rescue along the way. He was initially resistant, recognizing right away that it was not going to be as stimulating as flying a helicopter around a volcano to rescue people surrounded by lava flows (as the Rescue Heroes video game offers). But he humored me and we had a nice time together, incidentally working on his counting, having a talk about the importance of rules, and giving him a little ego boost when he left me in the dust.

I'm glad to find that board games have not vanished from the landscape of children's play, and that they're still sold in the toy stores. You have to wonder how much that may change in the future as computers become more central to our world. It has been said that chess and the web are made for each other, and the advent of computer chess programs has coincided with a boom in the worldwide popularity of the game. Chess may be fortunate to be so readily translated to play with computers and online, while many other board games seem destined to become artifacts, resurrected only once a year at the boardgamer's convention. We can only hope that doesn't happen, though, since many boardgames have a lot to offer kids.


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