Pawns and dice in a board game.

The President of Underdog Games Studio Nick Bentley is out on a mission – to find out why exactly people dislike board games, or the hobby altogether. As a prominent game designer, this topic is of great interest to him and he has done quite a bit of research, gathering some very interesting data over the years. His main weapon – user polls. Is it effective – most definitely. Who better to ask why they dislike board games than the people who actually dislike them? As the saying goes – keep your friends close, and your “enemies” – closer. Naturally, there are some dominant factors that seem to stand out more than others. Nick Bentley was kind enough to sort his over 440-reply survey data by popularity via Twitter, so let’s take a deep dive into them and find out why and perhaps give credible “solutions” to these issues.

People Gave Their Reasons – We Give Insight

1) Length of play – the most common reason given by the participants is that board games take too much time to play. While this rings true for some board games (I’ve had Catan games lasting for well over an hour and a half), there are tons of board game genres out there – like family games and party games – that last for just about 15 minutes. Those types of games are usually dynamic and fun and are sure to make the 15 minutes worthwhile.

2) Complexity – in other words, people think that board games are too complicated and would much rather do something less mentally taxing. I can definitely relate to this one. Modern board games tend to take “originality” to a whole new level, including very complex and convoluted mechanics just to stand out from their competitors, leading to a steep learning curve. All of these things lead to feelings of anxiety and shame in players for not feeling intelligent enough to understand the rules. To be more specific, there are 28 responses linked to player anxiety, and an additional 3 linked to shame.

3) Lack of interest – to put it simply, some people find board games boring. For me, this is rather baffling, because of the sheer variety of board game genres out there, and board games in general. To give you an example, over 4000 board games are published annually – quite a number. I’m not saying you should try every single board game out there, but there are wonderful online sources that can sort board games via genre, game length, complexity, and other criteria that you can specify. There is bound to be something for you, you just have to be brave enough to look and have it a go.

4) Competitiveness – people claim that board games are too competitive in nature and bring out the worst in people. This is simply untrue for a variety of reasons, but Nick Bentley has invented a term for these types of people, which he calls the Over-Investment Syndrome. Over-investors are usually people who care way too much about wins and losses. They tend to feel publicly and socially humiliated when they lose, and even when they win, feel they’ve subjected their opponents to the same. This naturally leads to stress, anxiety, and frustration. This is also reflected in the survey, with 14 people admitting to feeling stupid when losing, and 38 feeling that board games spark frustration.

5) Lack of socialization – according to some people, board games cause a feeling of dissociation. Again, a baffling reason for hating board games, considering there are tons of cooperative board games that inspire socialization in all their shapes and forms. Anyone who has ever played a board game knows that usually a lot of talking is involved between players. There are jokes thrown around, you have some laughs, and you play some games. That’s what the hobby is all about. If people actually feel like this, perhaps a change of company is in order.

6) Cost – people feel board games are too expensive. This statement is a matter of perspective. Some people don’t have enough money to put food on the table, some people don’t have just enough for the newest iPhone. Yes, board games can be expensive – just look at some Kickstarter campaigns. Then again, so does every hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. For instance, you don’t have to buy the absolute premium edition of a game to play it or invest in every single expansion as soon as it comes out. Slow and steady does it. Pouring large sums of money at once into a hobby is never a good idea. Plus, not every game out there is expensive. Some are quite affordable and accessible.

7) Association with negative stereotypes – we’ve all been there. At some point of our lives, we’ve all been called “geeks”, “nerds”, etc. People don’t like being called names or being associated with something negative. It brings shame, frustration, and dissatisfaction, among other things. That’s just never OK. However, people need to realize that this goes for every community. Anime lovers are called “weebs”, and most recently the term “gamer” is being used as a derogatory term. There will always be people who don’t understand you or your hobbies. Should you care? Absolutely not. Remember you join a community for a reason, and as long as it makes you happy – that’s all it matters.

Some Words of Encouragement

Overall, people need to realize that when they overthink a situation, like whether or not a hobby is socially acceptable, what names will they be called – they will never relax and have a fun time. We live in a world where opinions are easily voiced and shared online. Some of these can be toxic. Avoid this toxicity Furthermore, as Nick Bentley himself has stated – if you happen to be an over-investor, stop playing with over-investors. This is a recipe for disaster, as you will feed off of each other until the end of time – trust me, it ruins friendships. Consider playing cooperative games, something less competitive and more team-focused. After all, we’re all a team, we all love board games. We at The Meeples Herald will see you in the next one!

Krasen Gechev

A self-proclaimed warrior-poet, Krasen is a man of many hobbies – ranging from combat sports training, LARPing, to writing poetry. One of those many hobbies happens to be board games. Be it with a fist, pen, sword or keyboard – he aims to be just, merciless and effective.

A self-proclaimed warrior-poet, Krasen is a man of many hobbies – ranging from combat sports training, LARPing, to writing poetry. One of those many hobbies happens to be board games. Be it with a fist, pen, sword or keyboard – he aims to be just, merciless and effective.