Maybe you’ve noticed it or maybe you’ve just not been invited, but a lot of South Africans are currently hosting more and more board game nights. From party games to serious (geeky) competitions, South Africans are coming together to kill monsters, test each other’s general knowledge and conquer each other’s kingdoms.
But what is the cause of this? Some might say Eskom, but we’ve not had load shedding in a while. Perhaps it’s the general growth in the consumption and creation of games in SA, from digital to analogue. With this growth, people in SA are becoming more aware about games, especially local games.
A local game developer and creator of the board game “After Robot”, Tsitsi Chiumya, suggests that there are three kinds of board gamers in South Africa. The first, and the biggest, would be the “social party” board gamers. These are the people who play casual board games like 30 Seconds or Monopoly. Then, there are the more “enthusiast board gamers” who enjoy playing games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Magic the Gathering. These gamers generally enjoy playing in competitions and take board gaming more seriously than the social players. Finally, there are the rural board gamers who play local, rural board games in order to bring friends and family together for entertainment.
Whilst these are the three main types of board gamers in South Africa, there are those who fall in-between or take these groups further. For example, some people enjoy playing educational games to encourage mental growth in children or people with special needs. Some people play Settlers of Catan, but also enjoy a game of 30 Seconds. Some people enjoy rural and uniquely South African games but also enjoy Magic the Gathering.
There is a massive mixture of the kinds of board gamers in SA. But the question still remains: Where did these people come from? And why is the board game community so big in SA? There has been a massive increase in the amount of board games that are purchased, played and created throughout SA. With the community gradually increasing in size, it’s interesting to try and determine what is causing this growth.
Perhaps it’s the ever-growing types of board games that are available to us – from competitive games to educational games to cooperative games, South Africans are extremely spoiled in that we have access to all types of games from our local distributers. Board Games SA, Blowfish Games and Skycastle Games are just a few of the massive distributors that make it possible for South Africans to buy any kind of game that they are looking for.
It could even be because of the many gaming conventions that occur during the entire year. rAge, Icon and Geek fest (to name a few) are all massive conventions that, amongst other geeky things, promote board games and expose them to South Africans. Especially Icon, where the public are able to pick up a board game (from a ginormous pile of demos) and play it with friends and family. Our local distributors even hire “game guides”, which are people who teach the public how to play the games that are available in the pile.
Perhaps, instead of trying to figure out what the cause of this growth could be, we should just accept that fact that we, as South Africans, are geeks. We love our games, we love hanging out with our friends and when there’s no power, there’s always a board game.
“Generally, I think that board game culture is growing slowly by surely in SA. And it would be interesting to see how far it goes” – Tsitsi Chiumya.
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