British Columbia

Why people get addicted to board games, according to a game designer

Vancouver's Terminal City Tabletop Convention celebrates the millennia-long history of board gaming by bringing hundreds of people together to play some of the latest and greatest games on the market.

Human beings have been laughing and crying around the tabletop for centuries

Board games have captured the imaginations of humans for millennia. (Fotyma/Shutterstock)

From backgammon to Monopoly to Settlers of Catan, board games have long brought families and friends together for evenings of light-hearted and fun-filled competition, even if they're sometimes made all the more memorable by brief board-flipping fits of rage.

Humans have been laughing and crying around the tabletop for centuries. In fact, archaeologists have uncovered fragments of board games in ancient Egyptian burials that date back over 5,000 years, including the still widely-played game Senet.

Senet is one of the oldest games on Earth. (Tim Sneddon/Flickr)

So why have board games long captured the imaginations of many? According to game designer Brad Finlayson, it comes down to one of our most basic traits: we're social animals, and games make for memorable, face-to-face experiences.

"As a game designer, I really like to pay attention to what makes people addicted to games," he told host Michelle Elliot on CBC's B.C. Almanac.

Finlayson has arrived upon a simple formula: the more fun people have with each other when they play a game, the more likely they are to play it again.

"I quite often judge my prototypes on how loud and boisterous and laughing people are when they're playing," he said. "If they're yelling and laughing and jumping out of their chairs, then I know that I'm onto something."

Let the good times roll

Finlayson has been around games all his life. His father owned an arcade when he was young, and the two always bonded over table top games.

He took his love for board games to the next level by creating his own. He recently started an online funding campaign to launch his latest creation, Wizard's WARdrobe, a fast-paced strategy game where players take on the role of apprentice wizards.

Finlayson's Wizard's WARdrobe began as a simple idea crudely put together on cardboard and paper. (Brad Finlayson)

The game will be on full display at Vancouver's Terminal City Tabletop Convention, an event that brings together board game addicts to explore hundreds of different games.

The event was founded by Shannon Lentz, who also decided to turn his passion for gaming into something he could share with others.

"I was originally going to Victoria every year for a [tabletop] convention there, but there's nothing in the Lower Mainland to equal that for board gaming," he said. "So I decided to just start one myself."

Game on

Lentz founded the event in 2013. He says it was tough to get the word out at first. But after just a few short years, the event has taken off, selling out for the last two years.

"There's definitely a big market for it," he says.

The all-day event runs several tournaments for games including Star Wars: Imperial Assault Skirmish, and 7 Wonders. There's even an award for best game design of the year. This year's nominees include the makers of Bullets and Teeth, a zombie survival card game, and Galactic Coliseum, a futuristic board game where gladiators battle mechanical monsters.

Gamers fill up the sold out 2016 Terminal City Tabletop Convention in Vancouver. (Terminal City Tabletop Convention)

While many of the games celebrated at the convention are far more elaborate than checkers or Yahtzee, Lentz says the appetite for strategy tabletop games is growing.

"It's no different than learning a video game, except that there's the added social element — like getting together with your friends, and having some drinks."

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Why people get addicted to board games, according to a game designer