In a digital age when Candy Crush, Pokemon Go! and Minecraft seem to rule the gaming landscape, good old-fashioned board games are enjoying a resurgence. These include family classics such as Monopoly, The Game of Life, Pictionary and Scrabble along with newer, edgier games like Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity and Catan.
Games and puzzles were the fastest-growing toy category last year, with sales up 16 percent from the previous year, according to NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service. The growth is being fueled by all types of games, from family strategy board games to brainteasers and adult and preschool games, the service said.
In response to the trend, toymaker Hasbro announced in June that it is launching a Gaming Crate subscription service that sends three new board games to consumers every three months for $49.99.
It’s no coincidence millennials are getting most of the credit for the renewed interest in board games. Born between 1982 and 1995, they were the last generation to grow up with few choices beyond traditional table-top games. Subsequent generations were raised during a time when video games, mobile devices and PlayStation and Xbox gaming systems became widely available.
GET YOUR GAME ON
A partial list of businesses that offer free-play board games and/or game nights:
>> The Armchair Adventurer, 650 Iwilei Road, 843-1250
>> Other Realms, 1130 N. Nimitz Hwy., 596-8236
>> Infinitea, 91-5431 Kapolei Parkway, 628,4868
>> Rainbow Tea House, 98-044-C Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea, 487-0777
>> Frostcity, 2570 Beretania St., 947-3328
>> Timi House, 82 S. Hotel St., 521-7888
>> Momo Tea, 1665 Kalakaua Ave., 382-7488
>> Teapresso Bar, 510 Piikoi St., 591-1840
>> Serg’s Mexican Kitchen Nalo, 41-865 Kalanianaole Hwy., Waimanalo, 259-7374
>> Mr. Tea Cafe, 660 Ala Moana Blvd., Kakaako
>> Nice To Meet You Tea House, 1130 N. Nimitz Highway, 200-0169
>> Grace In Growlers, 143 Heklii St., Kailua, 975-9317
>> Smith & Kings, 69 N. King St., 537-2222
>> Taps & Apps Brewpub, 95-1830 Meheula Parkway, Mililani, 626-8277
“Maybe board games never died, we just forgot that we loved them,” said Joey Carranza, 28, of Ewa Beach, who works as a media director at Grace Bible Church Pearlside, which hosts a weekly game night.
“Everyone wants to have fun, and the older you get, the more creative you must become in finding ways to have fun.”
Nostalgia is cited as another reason for the growth of board games, which can be a way for millennials to reconnect with their childhood and less complicated times. Plus, they offer a cheaper alternative to a night out and can satisfy a desire for social connectedness.
According to a 2016 study by Intel Security, half of millennials polled found appeal in the idea of a “digital detox,” or unplugging. Board games provide that break from smartphone notifications and create community.
Keith Champaco, 25, of Kapolei said he enjoys board games at home with friends. Two current favorites are Cards Against Humanity and the strategy game Catan.
“I think we’re all vying for community, like we’re all in our microworlds, and it brings us out of our own little space,” said Champaco, who works as a barista at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
“It’s a great icebreaker.”
SHOPS AND BARS
Game nights and free play are happening not only at home and in churches, but in shopping malls, coffee shops and bars around the island.
When opening Nice to Meet You Tea House with her family a year and a half ago, manager Dayna Gao drew inspiration from the boba cafes in Asia that offer board games to customers.
“It’s a good way for people to enjoy themselves and relax,” Gao said. “We have two large tables for families so they can enjoy tea and food and games for them to play with.”
The shop is stocked with such games as Jenga XL, a larger, cardboard version of the block-stacking game, and Crocodile Dentist, where players take turns extracting teeth from a crocodile, hoping not to pick the “sore tooth” that will trigger the mouth to snap shut. The cafe draws college students who come in to study and tourists who want to try the shop’s signature cotton-candy milk tea.
At Smith & Kings in downtown Honolulu, a new shipment of board games arrived late last month that included titles the pub’s managers and owners grew up playing.
“We get all ages that come in to play. There’s our business crowd, younger people, even families come with kids, and they’re especially drawn to the games the parents grew up with,” said bartender Ian Junsay. “People see our Uno or Jenga and are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t played this in forever!’”
The Armchair Adventurer in Iwilei sets out more than 12 gaming tables for customers to use. Every Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., the game store hosts a meet-up for Oahu Board Gamers, an informal group with over 1,000 members registered since its founding in 2007.
“The board game market is experiencing an incredible boom right now,” said Robert Welch, owner of The Armchair Adventurer. “From what I’ve seen in the store, this popularity cuts across all demographics — millennials, for sure, but also young kids, families and grandparents at all income levels.”
On Thursday nights a crowd of about 40 people ranging from college students to retirees shows up. Some bring a suitcase filled with games, while others bring one or two of their favorites. Many just show up and play whatever is available.
Ray Dion, 55, of Mililani said he likes lesser-known fantasy/strategy games such as Clank, a deck-building game in which players venture into a dungeon to retrieve valuable artifacts, and Roll for the Galaxy, a dice game of empire building in space.
“Other people would not be caught playing some of my board game choices,” said Dion, one of the Oahu Board Gamers organizers. “That is the huge advantage and draw for having a large group of people. You have diversity, so you can dip your toes into new games or find others to play your favorites with.”
The shared interest in board games has created friendships, and events are very much family-oriented, with kids allowed to play along with the adults.
“I personally just enjoy playing games with people on the other side of the table. I play computer and smartphone games as well, but nothing beats the smiles and surprise of real people,” Dion said.
For information on Oahu Board Gamers events, visit meetup.com/settlers-106.