Arts and Culture

From dice to devices: Exploring the digital renaissance of board games

In-person or online, gaming experiences are multiple in player perspectives.

Board games have undergone a resurgence in the digital age in the past twenty years, bridging the gap between traditional experiences and virtual platforms. For example, games like Catan (1995), which got an online version in 2005, the old and popular tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (1974), with its first digital platform came out in 2006, and even ancient chess exemplify the successful transition of classic games into immersive digital formats. 

This fusion of technology and board gaming not only preserves the essence of beloved titles but also introduces innovative elements, ushering and unlocking an era of interconnected play. The perspectives are plural. Three professionals from the gaming industry shared their perspective about the renaissance of these games and their impact in game culture.

“I play Dungeons and Dragons with my high school friends. During the pandemic, for example, most of us were living together in the same apartment, so it was a great escape from all the weirdness and great pretext to see each other,” Simon Gervais said. 

To Gervais, online board games or tabletops don’t necessarily threaten any gaming experience; they can allow people to practice when an in-person meeting is not accessible, for example. 

“Online versions truly make it more accessible for people that may not have a group of friends, or don’t have a group to play, or simply don’t want to leave their home. There’s no bad side—it’s more time management related,” Gervais said.

Stanley Gee-Silverman, who plays online chess and Catan with random people almost every day, believes that games like chess create their own desire to make time, as opposed to being a time fill. 

“It lets you play many more games than you normally could, against many different people,” he said. “It allows you to share your hobby with people around the world, who are similar to you. They are from everywhere: Brazil, Turkey, China, France, the U.S., Germany…” 

Gee-Silverman doesn’t think that these new online versions will threaten friendly gatherings. “It can make people do it more. And like most things, if that feels [playing online] like it is happening, you can evaluate your experience to keep it or not. They are two different things, two different perspectives and experiences,” Gee-Silverman said. “It’s opened, one doesn’t replace the other.” 

Faris Musallam believes that board games turning into online versions sound great. According to him, people normally want to play board games for their social aspect. If they are into the game more than the social aspect, it’s cool for them to have a way to play without finding people to play with. 

“If I don’t have real people to play with, I just don’t play them. That’s because I value the social aspect. People would only be drawn online if the social aspect wasn’t important to them, or if certain constraints prevent them from meeting physically,” says Musallam.

In essence, the shift of board games to digital platforms over the past two decades represents more than just a transition; it’s an expansion of the board gaming universe and culture, enabling a diverse range of experiences that cater to both traditionalists and those seeking the convenience and connectivity of online play.


Colour Commentary: Worlds 2021 is here

The League of Legends World Championship in Reykjavík, Iceland is underway

For the past few years, I’ve fallen out of touch with playing League of Legends. But right around this time of the year, when the world championships begin, I constantly find myself catching the action, entranced in the esports competition that never fails to impress. 

When my high school friends and I discovered the game in 2010, we had synchronized schedules which enabled us to indulge in our near-nightly tradition for most of my teenage years. 

Since then, League of Legends has grown exponentially both in-game and externally from a competitive perspective. While esports and other titles in the gaming industry have subsequently evolved in turn, many gamers credit the early days of League as the birth of the thriving community of gamers we see today. 

I’ll load into Summoner’s Rift, the classic and most commonly played map in League of Legends, from time to time nowadays, but my days of grinding solo queue and teaming up with four of my best friends with the far-fetched hopes of going professional are long gone. Definitely for the better.

But I can’t lie; seeing some of the familiar and legendary faces I grew up watching in the League of Legends scene battle it out against the budding young players that are on the cusp of greatness reinvigorates my itch to play the game. 

Last year, the World Championship was held in Shanghai, China, in front of a whopping crowd of zero for all the games except for the finals amid the pandemic. I still had a good time watching the tournament but admittedly, the experience with no fans left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, this year’s edition of the tournament in Reykjavík, Iceland, will not have a live audience as well.

As is the case every year, teams gather from a number of different regions to compete for the chance to hoist the Summoner’s Cup and earn the title of World Champion. And as usual, the teams from Korea and China are slated as betting favourites to win it all, with teams from Europe lurking close behind and capable of the dramatic upset on occasion. 

North America will once again try to put an end to their everlasting disappointment in international play. I’m rooting for them, but I’ve honestly grown numb to the annual heartbreak and I’ve learned to not take it personally. 

Now please excuse me as I shamelessly reacquaint myself with the game and load into Champion Select. 


Jagmeet Singh and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raise $200,000 playing Among Us

The two politicians played the online game to raise money for a variety of charity organizations in the U.S.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, joined U.S. congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Nov. 27 for a five and a half hour live stream of the popular online game Among Us, with a rotating group of popular online streamers.

Ocasio-Cortez used the online stream as a way to fundraise for eviction defence legal aid efforts, food pantries and community support organizations in the United States. With a peak of over 100,000 people watching Ocasio-Cortez’s stream, around $200,000 was raised.

Among Us is an online multiplayer game, where players are crew members on a spaceship, and the goal is to keep the spaceship intact and return to earth. The catch is that one or two of the crew members have been replaced by a shape-shifting alien, The Imposter, whose goal is to sabotage the ship and kill crewmates.

According to a New York Times article, Among Us was created in 2018, but gained popularity during the pandemic. Influencers such as James Charles and Felix Kjellberg — commonly known as PewDiePie — have streamed the game on Twitch, attracting millions of views.

Ocasio-Cortez first live streamed Among Us on Oct. 20, with over 400,000 views. According to a Vox article, this was one of the 20 most-watched live streams in Twitch history.

According to the article, Ocasio-Cortez is known for using media platforms and games such as Animal Crossing to reach young audiences in fun, organic, unconventional ways.

During the recent game with Singh, Ocasio-Cortez stated that she was trying to get Bernie Sanders, an American politician known for his progressive ideologies, to participate in a future game.

“I could see him getting cranky with this game,” said Ocasio-Cortez during the live stream.

Singh had over 30,000 people watching his stream, and during the game he talked to his viewers about his policies and the pandemic. He often played as The Imposter, and even had a round where both him and Ocasio-Cortez were imposters.

“Do you believe we need to bring in a wealth tax?” asked Singh while simultaneously killing other players in the game.

He mostly talked about issues affecting young people, such as how he saw that younger people were being scapegoated for going to parties and spreading the virus, while in reality young people were putting themselves at risk to work service jobs.

“I think it’s great to see politicians courting young people,” said Ethan Cox, editor and co-founder of Ricochet Media — a public interest news platform. “But to really engage younger generations, politicians need to be unabashed champions of the policy they want, such as a Green New Deal, racial justice, wealth taxes and strong social programs.”

“Playing Among Us is a great way to reach younger voters with a strong message, but you need to do more than just show up. You need to show that you will fight for the priorities of younger people,” he said.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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