The Evolution of Board Games: The Digital Advantage

By Mike McPeek
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What's old is new again. It's a phrase we hear time and time again as ideas that have stood the test of time get recycled as the next big thing. Nowhere is this phenomenon more true than in the case of popular board games. Though they've been around in one form or another since the 19th century, board games, both familiar and brand new, are enjoying a resurgence.

The games' newfound popularity is due to both traditional and high-tech influences. Familiar games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Battleship have stood the test of time. They've been enjoyed by groups of family and friends for generations and are even credited with being the foundation of long-standing family traditions.

But is there a place for these games in today's atmosphere of instant gratification, constant connectivity and social networking? In short, yes. While there has been a major shift from gathering around the kitchen table to depending on electronic media, board games are once again gaining popularity.

We recently reviewed WordsWorth, created by 99Games Online. It represents a convergence of some of the best traditional word-oriented board games with popular video game technology. WordsWorth is reminiscent of the classic Boggle word game in that it presents players with groups of random letters with the object of finding as many words as quickly as possible. It's every bit as enjoyable as the physical game and may even provide some exercise for the brain that, at least anecdotally, helps in maintaining long-term mental acuteness. Making it more engaging and fun is the dropdown action as used letters are replaced by new ones making for an ever-changing game board. The effect is similar to the popular Bejeweled video game.

Another advantage that the digital version of board games hold is that the gaming surface can be modified to fit your personal preferences. While Boggle is played on a surface four letters high and four letters wide, WordsWorth can be customized to accommodate grids from five-by-five to eight-by-eight letters.

Board Games Go Social

The traditional board game requires the presence of all players in the same location to access the playing surface. WordsWorth, like other electronic offerings, can be played in a variety of modes with almost limitless possibilities. You can challenge yourself if you choose. And though a smartphone isn't likely the ideal platform for multiple players, an iPad is an ideal replacement for an old-fashioned board. Whether using an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, multiple players can take advantage of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi networking for a rousing competition.

Beyond local multiplayer competition, you can play with friends wherever they may be using Facebook, the Game Center, a large group of player clubs or by searching for individuals by name. You can even play with interested people that you may not even know anywhere on earth.

We'll probably always have a soft spot in our hearts for the tried-and-true board game. They bring back fond memories of a simpler time when the pace of life was less frenetic. But in today's always-connected world, it's nice to know that familiar board games are never further away than our smartphone or tablet. And who knows? You could even learn something and make new friends along the way.

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