Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Difference Between Games and Toys

I'm not actually going to tell you the difference between games and toys in this post, despite the title.

I'm going to tell you the difference between board games that are "games" and board games that are "toys".

It is unfortunate that we use the same word for both, just as it is unfortunate that we use the same word 'wine' for crap you get for $2 a bottle at the supermarket and wine you taste at a wine tasting club. The former is a soft drink that tastes wine-like. The latter is wine.

Ask anyone what a board game is, and they will tell you it's something for children. Why not? The board games they know are Monopoly and Sorry. Oh, yes, they do like Scrabble, I suppose.

If that's the case, then what's Chess? Is that "for children"? How about The Game of Go? Or Bridge?

Why are these not the games that pop into your head when you hear the words "board game"? Everyone knows that Chess is not "for children" (although children play Chess).

It's because we have painted our games in bold colors, slapped them with movie licensing, simplified the rules to idiocy, and changed them to be able to be won by anyone, so that they will be interesting only to children. Then we stuck them in the toy stores alongside the Barbie dolls and Tickle-Me-Elmos.

We have destroyed games. We have stunted them to look like and act like toys, so that's what they are. Look at Or any other big retailer. "Toys and Games", as if there's no real difference between their target audiences. Because the only games they carry are toys. That's their target audience.

Somehow, a few great ones managed to escape this: Chess, Bridge, and so on. These are still acceptable for grown-ups.

Of course board games that are toys are not acceptable for grown ups. They don't challenge your brain. They don't add anything to your life, the way work, exercise, or reading does. We both agree on that. (*)

So I'm hear to shout, as loudly as I can: I don't play with toys! I play games!

The board games I play are games like Chess and Bridge. They may look a little more like Monopoly, because they come in boxes and have themes, have pieces and cards.

They may not take a lifetime to learn how to play, or make you feel stupid when you play. They may not be boring, and you may sometimes even win by luck.

But they are not toys. If you came here looking for toys, I'm sorry to disappoint you. When I link you to Board Game Geek and FunAgainGames, I'm not linking you to a site about toys or a toy store. I'm linking you to thousands of games, games that are not carried in toy stores, because toy stores carry toys.

Oh, you may find a few games in a toy store, here or there. You may also find a few good bottles of wine in a random supermarket. But it's not often.

I'm writing this blog to share it with you. There is a whole world of board games out there that you have never heard of. Thousands of games that are not toys, and a better use of your time than watching television or surfing the Internet.

Games that will connect you with your family and friends, stave off aging, expand your mind. It's a whole world that you never knew existed.

Prepare to change your life.


(*) Of course, toys have their place: for children, and to enjoy with children.

Image by dare.


Anonymous said...

And I, for one, thank you for opening the world of games and sharing it. I love to be challenged by a game, and I love finding the new, rare, and exceptional games that inhabit the dark outer-reaches of mainstream. Delegated to specialty shops because they refuse to be toys.

You've already shown me several games that I can't wait to get and play. I look forward to finding more.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

You've already shown me several games that I can't wait to get and play.

Duncan: That may be the nicest comment anyone has ever left for me.