The Big 5 and Why They No Longer Hold That Title
It is interesting to see the evolution in any sort of industry. In Japan they have three types of toilets. The most primitive of the three is not much more than a hold in the ground. The middle-range toilets are what you would see in most homes in the United States or another developed country, and the most advanced is a Bidet. The funny thing is, that the middle-range toilets are actually pretty rare. You will most likely find the primitive or the super advanced. It is as if all the countries resources were poured into making a better form of the toilet and didn't worry about using what they had. Well, board games follow a quite different trend that I think is almost as interesting as Japanese toilets.
Board games have been around far longer than most of us care to acknowledge. Of course I am sure there were some earlier than Chess, Checkers, Go, and Mancala; but these types of games mark an age of gaming that built a foundation for others. These games are classic and ingenious in their conception. Once mass-production was available, these games were taken to the next level and gave rise to a new form of games. Unfortunately, I can't say that this new generation of games was anything special. Founded on greatness, they rode their way into history, but don't have what it takes to be one of the greats on the list of board games.
I hope none take offense at my analysis of these games. They are classics and for that reason they must have had something to them in their day and age. I would guess that many reading this article that still love these games. Here is what we can learn from each and why it is so surprising that they all became one of the legends of board games.
Who could forget hours upon hours of moving your little Scottish terrier around the board hoping for the opportunity to buy boardwalk? I wish I could. Monopoly is simple enough in concept. The game is played by moving around the outside of the board buying properties that others will have to pay rent on as they move through. The true strength of monopoly in my opinion is the different versions of the game that you can buy. Who wouldn't rather buy the Millenium Falcon instead of a Railroad? I think the flaws in the game are pretty obvious. For those less convinced, here they are. The game takes forever! That isn't inherently bad. Games can go on forever if they stay interesting. This is where Monopoly takes a nose dive. Circling the board over and over leads to a seemingly never-ending sequence of buying, paying, getting thrown in jail, and never seeing much progress. This is an obvious flaw in the game that has been let on to because it didn't take long for a speed version to come out: just deal out all the properties at the first of the game and go from there. Lets look at what monopoly did right though. Monopoly brought trading and bartering into the game. Truly ingenious. One major aspect of modern gaming is the ability to interact with the other gamers and quite possibly sweet-talk them into or out of a deal. Monopoly gave this to us in a very popular way. It was a minor part of Monopoly's game play, but it stuck with gaming nonetheless.
I would say The Game of Life is one of the most boring games I have ever played. Monopoly is long, but The Game of Life is really boring. I will refer to it as Life from now on. Now, maybe my perception of the game is flawed because I have rarely played it the way it was intended to be played, but I haven't met many who even know the real rules. I count this as one of its faults. On the other hand however, I think it's claim to fame is the same thing that led to its downfall. Allow me to explain. What Life introduced to the table was role-playing. This is the same way Sims got so popular. Life was a small taste of living out your life in a fictional and fantastic way. This is something that has stuck around in modern gaming. A good game will give you a small break from reality. Whether it is becoming a pirate for the hour or the settler of a new continent. Life brought role-playing to light and killed itself in the process.
Now I realize that there are hard-core Risk fans out there and I am not trying to sway their opinion because I wish I could like risk, I really do. Risk is getting there in my opinion. Risk has a few flaws and one of them is game length. The game often times takes forever to complete. Risk and Monopoly have the same problem in the fact that both of the games end in theory long before they actually end. What I mean by that is you can see who is going to win long before the game ends which generally makes you just want to end the game without a clear ending and declare someone the winner. This is never a good thing. What can the gaming world take from Risk though? Complete control. The game introduces an element that in ground-breaking. All the game does is give you a map, an army, and some countries. What you do from that point on is up to you. Who doesn't like feeling like they are the makers of their own destiny? This game doesn't introduce many curve-balls which for most games is a very good thing. This is one of calculation and careful planning. Things are predictable and you need to know when to just cut your resources. Definitely a good point of this game and one that has been taken and used over and over in more recent games.
Clue is another giant of a board game that for some reason made it into the classics hall of fame but has never really been that fun. It seems as though the game relies solely not on your ability to guess well, but on your ability to make assumptions. Nine times out of ten there is little to no strategy on your part, but rather a shot in the dark and an occasional hit. But what has clue done for gaming that was relatively rare before it? Clue immortalized the implementation of strategy. I'm not talking about the kind of strategy in Risk. The strategy involved in Risk is strategy known by everyone. Clue however, has a strategy that is completely unique and relies completely on the person that game. A good player of the game will know that there are a million paths to victory and it is all about what will get you there fastest.
Finally, a game so classic that they had to make a movie out of it: Battleship. You can't say battleship is a nail-biting game of intrigue. No, Battleship is a pretty boring game. You guess in the dark right up until you hit something. Then you guess one to the right. Then you guess one above. Then you Guess one to the left. By this point you know where their ship is. A slightly tedious game that definitely gets old by the end of it. But what did battleship give us that we didn't find many places elsewhere? Portability. One of my favorite attributes of a game. Battleship was the first to be designed for mobility. Two little cases that open up, fit back to back, and can be taken anywhere. This is one major step that Battleship made for the gaming industry.
Even though the games are old, not really that fun, and have all but been replaced; the reason that we keep them around is that they did give us some founding principles. I don't mean to diminish the value of these games. I mean only to point out that it is okay if they aren't played much anymore. They have served their purpose. Now we can move on to bigger and better things. Thank you classics.