On Social Networks
The resurgence of board games around the world today is nearly entirely due to social networking via the internet, i.e. sites devoted to the sharing and preservation of information about board games.
If you're reading this blog, you're part of the social networking scene. In the case of this blog, I pick the topics of conversation, but you contribute to the discussion through the comments. Information is disseminated and preserved.
Regular websites pick a general topic of conversation, such as fishing, humor, or board games. If a regular website hosts forums, the forum channels are specific areas within this topic, and readers begin specific topics of conversation within these channels.
Generic social networking sites have no specific topic of conversation. They let the users create their own topics, and then have conversations within these topics. Conversations about specific topics on general sites are typically shadows of the conversations you can have on websites devoted to particular topics, such as board games. So why do they exist?
Their best use is to direct people with overlapping interests to the specific sites. You may discover that your friend Tom likes board games, and then wonder about his interest in them. While the social networking site will have a channel devoted to board games, your best bet is to go to a site that provides focused and complete information about board games, as well as social interaction among the readers specifically devoted to the subject.
In the case of board games, BGG is the premier social networking site. In addition to information, pictures, reviews, questions, analysis, and so on covering over 30,000 board games, the site has information on designers, publishers, conferences, and anything else you can imagine.
(Well, except for news. News occasionally crops up in the forums, but your best bet is to follow board game news on my blog, or check out BoardGameNews for comprehensive industry information on all but the biggest game publishers.)
BGG has over 100,000 registered users and millions of visitors each month. The site provides dozens of methods for sharing information and communicating, including ratings, reports, blogs, lists, forums, a wiki, private messages, avatars, and so on. There are, in fact, so many users that the volume of information can be a little overwhelming.
BGG, along with some other sites, provides real-world location based forums and player matching, so you can find other players in your local area.
MySpace is a generic social networking site which provides personal home pages as well as groups for discussion on various topics, where each group is basically a forum. Groups about board and card games on MySpace include (with subscriber count): Not your average board games (48), Settlers of Catan Playas (74), Board Games Bonanza (95), The Boardgame Club (150), Vs Trading Card Game (299), Magic (4310), and Poker Addicts (12,776). There are also many other groups devoted to narrower topics, such as Risk, Monopoly, a specific game club, and so on, most with less than a 100 participants.
You can also use Myspace to search people for "board games", where the term may match profession, interests, or blog posts of a specific user.
Facebook is another generic social networking site. It's major feature above MySpace is that it provides an open API that lets anyone add applications to the site, which users can then add to or link to from their personal pages.
The major board game application on Facebook is by none other than Board Games Geek: BGG. It is, essentially, a smaller version of the site which you can access from within Facebook.
A number of other applications let you play multi-player board games on Facebook.
Linked In is a professional networking site only. It's intention is to foster business relationships. It doesn't provide the same groups and forums as MySpace and Facebook do.
Searching for "board games" on Linked In turns up professional profiles of people who work with board games or who have an interest in them beyond work. Introductions can be then be made by third parties.
There are smaller board game networking sites, generally devoted to further specific niches within board gaming, such as kid's board games (e.g. KidGameRatings), but none has anywhere near the breadth of tools which Board Game Geek provides. There are also many other generic social networking sites with smaller user bases.
Amazon and other online retail stores, such as FunAgain, have added social networking tools to their site. On Amazon, for instance, the topic of conversation is typically a single product, such as a board game. Readers add ratings, comments, pictures, and so on to the conversation.
In addition, Amazon lets readers create lists of related products.
An entire class of websites is devoted to bookmark sharing. On these sites, you create a list of sites and (hopefully) add tags so that each site can be classified according to its subject. Others then peruse aggregated list of sites on a topic (Sphinn, Reddit, del.icio.us, Digg, etc...) or browse through random sites according to topic (StumbleUpon).
Searching for "board game" or "board games" yields related information with varying results on each site.
There are hundreds of blogs covering board games, although most record only personal player sessions or game analysis. For a comprehensive list of the more relevant and interesting blogs and sites about board games, see the left sidebar of my my blog.
Mailing lists and newsgroups were the earliest form of social networking on the internet, and they continue to this day. One major board game related mailing list is Spielfrieks on Yahoo Groups, and there are many others.