Board games are splendid indoor sports that combine pleasure of interactive play with an appreciation of craftsmanship. In recent times, however, they are being abandoned for their electronic counterparts, write FUNKE OSAE-BROWN and OBINNA EMELIKE
When Adeojo and his wife Ronke entertain their family, including their young grandchildren, there is nothing they enjoy more than chess, backgammon, draughts or invigorating games of cards. A large part of their pleasure is derived from the beautifully-crafted American-walnut games table on which their tournaments take place. The playing surface, which is chequered in ripple sycamore and rosewood, reverses to a backgammon board laid in satinwood, ripple sycamore and Macassar Ebony, while the weighted chessmen and backgammon pieces, which are hand-carved in rosewood and sycamore, are stored in two integral drawers.
Adeojo and his family are part of the few that still relish the joy and intrigues that come with playing indoor games like chess, draught, ludo, scrabble and others. In recent times, there seems to be a shift in people’s taste for video games as an alternative form of indoor game. Some years back, many people tried their hands on indoor games to excite themselves. Those were the days when board games such as chess, monopoly, ludo and even draught were in vogue. They were very engaging, as two or more people could call for a duel and at times take to betting with valuable possessions on who wins. It was just a wonderful way then to relax and catch some fun.
From the more tactical chess game to the intriguing and brain-tasking scrabble, to monopoly, draughts, and the less intellectually-tasking ludo, all these games kept many of their aficionados positively and perhaps intellectually busy – so that their minds would not be idle and become profitable for the devil to work on.
Chess and scrabble aficionados at times could be so busy that food would matter very little to them as they strived to maintain their lead or reverse the opponent’s victory. But there seemed to be more excitement for locals who took to the draught game. Some would even hide from their wives or relations to play the game because once their fingers were placed on the board, nothing seemed to matter again for them.
Then, the draught enthusiasts were so indulged in the game that they could even bet with money or personal belongings to engender commitment, as they thought that singular act would induce real challenge and heighten their excitement.
If you say that was then, you may not be mistaken because the fever of another form of excitement seems to be catching fast on these one-time diehard fans of the table/board games.
The ability to generate visual feedback, sustain interaction, manipulate or manoeuvre the joystick to your choice of fun or action, complexity of programme, among others are wooing more fans to video games. With their personal computers, commercial or personal video game consoles, among other small handheld devices, fans of video games can at least control what they want or determine outcomes with their mouse.
On a visit to popular shopping malls, the swiftness with which some young chaps manoeuvre the device to excite their youthful and adventurous mind is unimaginable, especially on specialised video games such as arcade games. Adults are not left out. Those who enjoyed video games in their teens still carry over the excitement to their young adulthood. The scene at the video game arcade at The Palms, Silverbird Galleria, and some other malls most weekends is that of a father and son/daughter engaging their leisure minds and swift fingers on a rather brain-tasking video game.
While the table/board games give excitements, video game players think there is more excitement in being in charge of your game as you control it with the handheld device, manipulate the cursor to outwit the tact of the already programmed video game. The variety of the games, feedback and ability to be in charge and self-help nature of the video game endear it to a new crop of fans.
“Dad, I have won the computer,” screams a boy of 12, after winning Superman 10, one of the tough video games. His father commends him because he actually won the computer.
Some parents think exposure to such games has a way of expanding the scope and general knowledge of children beyond school homework and instructions at home. But with the growing generation of video game players, board games may be on the way to extinction.
Video games are becoming common these days as they come in varied forms but attractive prices. The fear is that when the generation of board games players passes on, there is the likelihood that fewer people will remember how to place tiles on draught board or throw the ludo dice. The worst, however, is that people now resort to online games. Instead of playing the table games in its manual form, they do it online.
“This is a computer age, and even games are better played online now,” Jude Nwakodo, an ICT consultant, says, noting further that nowadays people are tired of following norms as they want to do things differently as long as it excites them.
Board games have been played in most cultures and societies throughout history; some even pre-date literacy skill development in the earliest civilisations. A number of important historical sites, artefacts and documents exist that shed light on early board games.
However, Bolu Adeogun, an IT expert, discloses that many board games are now available as computer games, which can include the computer itself as one of several players, or as sole opponent. The rise in the use of computer is one of the reasons given for the decline in board games. Some websites allow play in real time and immediately show the opponents’ moves, while others use email to notify the players after each move.
“Modern technology, the internet and cheaper home printing have also influenced board games via the phenomenon of print-and-play board games that you buy and print yourself. Some board games make use of components in addition to – or instead of – a board and playing pieces. Some games use CDs, video cassettes, and, more recently, DVDs in accompaniment to the game,” Adeogun explains.
He observes that video game is gaining popularity among old and young because it involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. “The word video in video game traditionally referred to a raster display device. However, with the popular use of the term ‘video game’, it now implies any type of display device. The electronic systems used to play video games are known as platforms; examples of these are personal computers and video game consoles. These platforms range from large mainframe computers to small handheld devices. Specialised video games such as arcade games, while previously common, have gradually declined in use,” he says.
“The input device used to manipulate video games is called a game controller, and varies across platforms. For example, a dedicated console controller might consist of only a button and a joystick. Another may feature a dozen buttons and one or more joysticks. Early personal computer games often needed a keyboard for game-play, or more commonly, required the user to buy a separate joystick with at least one button. Many modern computer games allow, or even require, the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously,” he adds.
According to him, video games typically also use other ways of providing interaction and information to the player. Audio is almost universal, using sound reproduction devices, such as speakers and headphones. Other feedback may come via haptic peripherals, such as vibration or force feedback, with vibration sometimes used to simulate force feedback.
For some people, game boards are still the best form of indoor games as they go just beyond their functionality; it has more to do with their sheer beauty in terms of construction and design.
“It is the quality of the wood, the combination, colours and fine detail, such as the ebony stringing and the superb craftsmanship involved, that make it such a pleasure to use,” notes Adeojo. “And having such a beautiful, one-off piece made especially for us is fabulous, it sits in our games and media room and everyone who comes over want to use it.”
To him, having a beautifully-crafted board and handmade playing pieces turns simple pastimes into special occasions. “Now, people are spending more time entertaining at home as they are finding traditional pursuits, such as bridge, cribbage and board games, enjoyed over a few drinks are a sociable way to spend an evening,” he adds