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The Unlikely Resurgence of the Humble Board Game


Life + Learning

  • young people playing board games

Shaun, Hespeler | March 1, 2019

I was visiting some friends in Toronto not too long ago, when we decided to check out Snakes and Lattes - a trendy board game café in the downtown area. Personally, I was sold on the idea, but my friends were skeptical. “Who, on a Friday night in downtown Toronto,” they asked, “pays good money to play games reserved for family gatherings and camping trips.”

A lot of people, it turns out. Snakes and Lattes was completely packed with young people and we were told it would be at least 90 mins before we could get in. Undaunted, and thinking it might have just been bad timing, we tried a second location a few blocks away and were met with the same greeting -– if we wanted in, we’d have to wait at least an hour. We never did make it in that night, but I think my point was made – despite what we are encouraged to believe, young people don’t necessarily want to maintain an exclusively digital existence. They want to play together in real life.

I have visited plenty of board game pubs and cafés over the years and the one thing they have had in common is that every single one of them was crowded no matter the time or day. So, what is it about these technologically prehistoric games that has captured the attention of a generation that, we are told, has no patience for the analog world? Why would a young person walk away from the immense, immersive escapism the digital world offers to play with some cardboard, a few bits of plastic, and maybe some dice?

In my experience, there are three simple reasons –- there’s an appetite for tangible social experiences, a drive to share the same physical space, and a desire for authenticity -- three areas in which the digital world falls short.

The participants of Hespeler’s Board Game Café (first Thursday of every month!) have repeatedly reinforced the idea that it’s not really about the games, it’s about the people. Many of the regulars have gone so far as to say they don’t really care what they play, they just like the act of experiencing something together as a group. And, although I do care what I play, I heartily agree. 

If you are feeling like you have too much screen time in your life and want to try something more tangible, more social, and perhaps more enjoyable, come and visit us at the Hespeler Idea Exchange Board Game café on the first Thursday of any month.  I’ll save a spot for you.