Ever since I discovered that you can play board games online, I have been a regular online gamer. BSW is the place where I place the most but I also regularly play at SuperDuper Games and Button Men and I’m willing to try other sights. I periodically go back to Isometric for Dominion and someday I’ll probably end up on Vassel or Yucatan.
Now, let me be the first to say that playing board games online is not the best way to play games. Playing games face-to-face with real components is the best way to play games. I remember, years ago, one of DM wanted to switch our D&D game to online to make scheduling easier. That flew like over like a battalion of lead balloons.
Despite that fact, playing online does have enough virtues that it is something that I am sure I will continue to do steadily.
First and most importantly, it is much easier to work around the schedule. I can do it from home so I don’t have to worry about travel time and I don’t have to worry about other people’s schedules. Some of the people I play face-to-face games with have schedules that don’t work easily with mine and others are almost infamously late. Like two-and-half to four hours late on a work night, which sometimes means that they get there when I’m ready to start wrapping things up.
A lot of the sites I like to go to, it’s easy to find a quick pick-up game that will fit into my schedule and let me get a little bit of gaming in on a busy night. On sites where you’re playing by e-mail and a day or more might go by in between moves. I know that would drive some people crazy but that’s sometimes what you have to do to play a game.
Another benefit is that when you play online, a lot of the fiddly housekeeping is taken care of by the computer. I really don’t mind such things (After all, if I did, I’d be in the wrong hobby) but I have at least one friend who doesn’t like to play Lost Cities face-to-face because he doesn’t have a computer to keep running score. And let’s face it, it does speed up play and prevents you from making mistakes in housekeeping. I remember a game of Thurn und Taxis where half the table started their own discard pile and didn’t tell me so those cards didn’t get reshuffled.
Playing online also lets me learn new games without having to buy them myself and lets me decide if I want to actually buy a game. Now, don’t get me wrong. Learning a game online game be a real pain, particularly if the other players don’t speak in English and you can often miss crucial rules, particularly if the computer was taking care of them for you.
Despite that fact, BSW convinced me to buy TransAmerica, Dominion, Lost Cities and Ingenious, all games I’ve gotten a lot of play out of, as well as other games. It also convinced me not to buy some games as well. Getting to test drive games is a real benefit. By the same token, playing online may be the only way to get to play a game, either by it not being readily available or no one else in your circle likes playing it.
In addition, playing games online lets you find out about gameplay outside your usual little pond. I have found that my regular group definitely can develop a group think about how to play a game, what strategies to use and what reactions to take. Breaking out into a larger, much larger pool can teach you how small a fish you really are and can teach you a lot of tricks you never knew were out there.
I think those are reasons that can apply to a lot of people. However, there is something else that I learned from playing games online.
While I do play some video games, on a whole, I’m not much a video game player. By the same token, I don’t enjoy playing against A.I.s much as far as board games are concerned. However, I do enjoy and actively seek out playing games against other people, if they are on another continent and I have no idea what they look like.
I mean, for all I know, they could be computers but playing against what I honestly believe are other people gives me a level of enjoyment and fun that I keep on doing it. Playing against a computer doesn’t feel like play in the same way that playing against other human beings.
I’m not sure how the social element of gaming fits into me sitting alone (save for a cat or two) at my desk but somehow, at least for me, it’s still there and still matters.
Gaming online is not the end-all, be-all of gaming for me. Indeed, it’s a weak second compared to sitting down with a group of friends or even strangers. However, it is still something that has become part of my life as a gamer.