Logistics of Computer and Board Games

There is a vast array of computer games available. There are single player games without a campaign (Tetris, Mine Sweeper) that you can just play without preparation. Then there are games with a story (The Witcher, Mass Effect, Bioshock). These solitary games are not the scope of the articles. Rather I am concerned with multiplayer games. And there are the kind of cooperative games (Saint’s Row, Borderlands, Diablo) and the competitive games (MechWarrior Online, World of Warships).

The multiplayer games can be played on the same computer either via split screen (Need for Speed 3), shared screen (Little Fighter 2) or taking turns with a hot seat (Worms). Other games require a computer for each person and can then be played over the internet or local network (Splinter Cell Blacklist, Borderlands). With these types every player needs to have a license for the game.

The time of split screen games was when laptops were super expensive, only few people had desktop computers and internet access was not available everywhere. Playing with multiple people on the same computer was quite normal. And consoles had the same user experience with up to four players in a lot of games. Even people without computer game experience could just join for a session at no extra onboarding cost.

Later, more people had their own computer. We would gather for LAN parties and play games over the networks. It was during a time where DHCP was exceptional, one would have to fiddle with static IP addresses and game clients would not discover servers automatically. One needed a bit of understanding to get it to work. At the time games were bought on CDs, had to be installed with a key. And then some games would allow being played with the same key on the network as long as one started them up with the CD (Need for Speed Underground) whereas others strictly needed their own CD key (Command & Conquer Generals). As games were expensive many people resorted to cracked versions.

These days games are rather demanding in their system requirements. You either have a beefy gaming system or you don’t. And you either have a desktop PC and carry it to the host of the LAN party or you have a gaming laptop. If you do not have a PC, you are basically out. And one would not go and buy a 1000 EUR gaming capable laptop and a game for like 50 EUR just to participate once. There is also no sensible way to share part of your computer with a guest at this point, I haven’t seen split screen in a while except on Nintendo consoles. And even Xbox games which used to have a split screen do not have one in latest versions (SSX).

To get around this I have a gaming desktop PC and a gaming laptop. This way I can just give the laptop to a guest and then play with two people. I bought it used, so it wasn’t that expensive at 400 EUR. And buying the game via third-party key reseller means that one can obtain them for 10 EUR or lower. If you buy some older games (which run better on slightly older hardware) you can get around paying 1 EUR per for a key. But this does not scale well for more people. One could only invite people who have gaming laptops, but this makes it compatible with only selected people who are already invested in gaming.

Other people drew me into enthusiast board games. I knew the standard children compatible kind (Monopoly, Uno) and the established card games, but one of the first I got introduced to is Scythe. The complexity is beyond what I have seen before. At first it took my whole concentration to just make a valid move given all the options that you have. And during the second time playing I actually was able to devise some sort of strategy. At time of writing the base game can be bought for 60 EUR and supports up to 5 players. Only the host needs the game, everyone else can just join at no extra monetary cost. Setup take a bit of arranging the cardboard on the table, but there is no network troubleshooting to do, no “I cannot see your game” or “I can see it but cannot join” going on. The largest investment so to speak is explaining the rules to the people, which one would have to do with computer games as well. After a while people will know the rules and devise strategies.

Board games are more open to playing with people who are not invested in these types of games. Still one wants to have some variety in the games. Only the host has to buy them, but they are rather expensive just from the material cost. Computer games can be bought much cheaper via the right timing (sales, bundles) or key reselling platforms and still do not feel used like a used board game would. So depending on how much variety one wants in games and how many different playing partners one has, both computer and board gaming can turn out to be expensive.

Although I have been focused on computer games for the most part until now, I really appreciate the accessibility of board games over their technologically more fancy computer counterparts.