While computer and (especially) console games are just discovering the delights and benefits of community, board games have always been a social experience. And unlike the enormous teams required today for game development, board games can still be created by one or two people at a cost of next to nothing. (Admittedly, board games have a higher cost of goods.) As a result, board games are relatively free to experiment and innovate. Sure, a successful game like Carcassonne will still spawn expansions, and even an attempt to stretch the franchise by applying the brand to a marginally-related game like Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers. But the vast majority of games the industry produces are wildly original, in a way that those of us in the electronic games industry can only look at with sadness and envy.
Not that there aren’t many glimmers of hope in electronic gaming. The arrival of casual games as a viable market is bringing a whole new demographic to the game-playing world. The growing indie games movement offers a venue for experimentation that the big publishers have long since abandoned. The rise of academic programs in game design and game development brings with it the promise of myriad student projects, which can help lead the way toward new genres and new types of gameplay (go to intihuatani.usc.edu/cloud/flowing to see a great example). The growth of “serious games” — games meant to teach and heal and spread ideas in the arenas of government, industry, medicine, political action, and many more — are already bringing new understandings to interactive entertainment. And the Internet continues to serve as a marvelous way to distribute low-budget but often wonderful little games. Let a thousand flowers bloom. —Steve Meretzky —What We Could Learn From Board Games (GameDaily)