Why Tabletop Games Are Better Than Video Games

chess loadingThis week, and much to my wife’s dismay, I’m on a tear about video games.  Now—before you get the wrong idea: this isn’t going to be some psychological or sociological diatribe about how video games ruin children’s brains or disassociate us from reality or undermine the fabric of family or any of that nonsense.  Pshah.  Let me say right up front that I love video games.  I don’t play them as much as I used to, and I’m hopelessly stuck in the 80s and 90s when it comes to video game eras, but I do not reject video games on principle.  In fact, I may have it in me to write an entirely separate article on the psychological, sociological, and educational benefits of video games, but that’s not this article.  This article is about why video games suck.

Recently, I spent $60 purchasing an external storage device to connect to my WiiU.  This is because the WiiU—a video gaming console—has an extremely limited amount of memory for storing data for the very video games it is designed to play.  Having downloaded fewer than a dozen old school, 8-bit games from the Nintendo e-shop, combined with the handful of games the kids like to play from the WiiU discs,  we have already reached a point where every time the kids want to play a game that isn’t the last game they played, I need to go into “data storage management” and delete files in order to create space for the current game to run.  This is to say nothing of when the good people at Nintendo decide it’s time for an update, at which point the kids can’t play until the update is complete, and the update cannot be completed until I delete files to create space for the update.

The fun doesn’t stop there.  Thanks to a recent “update,” there is now some sort of glitch in the WiiU, such that users like me can’t even access data storage management anymore.  Instead, when we try, a loading window appears, reading “PREPARING,” which it will thus read until Kingdom Come, or until you forcibly cut power to the console, whichever happens first.  This means that, as of this point, the $60 I spent on the external storage drive has been a complete waste, since I can’t even access the data in order to move it to the external drive.  Granted: there have been some “workarounds” posted on the internet, but none of them has worked for me so far.  If you have any suggestions that might solve this problem, please leave them in the comments section below.  More to the point: I shouldn’t have to scavenge the internet for workarounds to fix problems created by mandatory “updates” to my video game console.

I should simply be able to insert my video game media into my video game console and PLAY the damned video game.

nesNeither WiiU nor Nintendo in general is the only culprit here.  All of us who had the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the day can preach about the “special techniques” we invented to get the faulty software to work: blowing into the cartridge; repeatedly flickering the power button; pressing the spring down—just so—and so on.  We believed in these methods religiously, and they were equally true, but the fact remains that the tech was simply shoddy.  Precisely the reason that, whenever you turned on The Legend of Zelda each time, you were filled with dread, as you had no guarantee that your hundreds of logged hours would still be “saved” when you returned.  In related news, I have recently had to completely re-format my Microsoft laptop, because MS immunity is the digital equivalent of HIV.   My wife went through three Samsung Galaxy phones in under six months because they kept fatally malfunctioning, until she ultimately went back to IOS.  Meanwhile, I have a Roll Through the Ages app on my iPhone that now crashes every time I play thanks to a recent, so-called “update.” By contrast, let’s look at tabletop games:

When I put the game on the table, it works.

I suppose I could end this rant right there, but indulge me a little longer.  Let me count the ways:

  • My closet offers plenty of “storage space” for my tabletop games; I do not need to buy an additional closet, sold separately.  Of course, hobbyists like myself could probably use an additional closet or two, but that’s because our collection is vast, not because the house was ill-equipped in the first place.
  • When “updates” are released (called “expansions” or “new editions”), I am not forced to buy them or find room in my closet for them just so I can play the original game.  And, if I do play them, and I decide they actually make the game worse (as many “updates” do), then I can easily remove them and can still play the game I want to play.  (An exception here is “collectible” or “trading” card games, which is why I typically hate these kinds of tabletop games.)
  • If I “save the game” for later, leaving it on the table until tomorrow, I can have reasonable certainty that it will still be there when I return, unless there has been some clearly identifiable cause of the deletion.
  • If I’m missing any pieces essential to the game’s functionality, I can typically replace them with virtually anything: a coin, a button, a scrap of paper, whatever.  Besides that, if I am missing pieces, that’s probably my fault for not taking care of the game, or the result of some accident or another, not an unforeseen side-effect of some mandatory “update.” (The dice in my physical copy of Roll Through the Ages still seem to roll just fine since the IOS “update,” and my table doesn’t inexplicably collapse.)

die mf dieIn short, video games suck because they are computers, and computers suck.  They are faulty, unreliable, annoyingly invasive, and totally pervasive.  The digital revolution is a kind of oppression built upon pleasure and convenience.  Worst of all, and contrary to popular argument, it isn’t dis-associative in the slightest.  Quite the contrary.  At the end of the day, we welcome it, together.  Perhaps this is why I’m so pissed off.  I’m just mad at myself.  And to underscore that even further, let me close by saying: thank you for reading my blog.

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Do you have a workaround for the data storage problem I described above?  Please help me!  If not, let’s chat anyway.  What “magical” techniques did you use for your own NES?  Are you annoyed by “technical difficulties” as much as I am?  Which do you prefer and why: tabletops or video games?



10 thoughts on “Why Tabletop Games Are Better Than Video Games

  1. Doug says:

    “In short, video games suck because they are computers, and computers suck. They are faulty, unreliable, annoyingly invasive, and totally pervasive. ” = In reality, the operator who chooses a faulty and unreliable solution is what sucks at computers.

    Users that choose to play with specific flavors of technology (Windows, Android, Nintendo) are going to get the the experience they signed up for. Whether it would be better hardware, software, or most importantly a better operator typically do not have such of a negative experience.

    I do agree however that updates more recently in this generation have more of a negative impact than a positive when it comes to gaming software companies. People just want to PLAY, you had your chance to make it right prior to the release! (online/multiplayer gaming has an excuse to patch holes to prevent cheaters online)


  2. As a lover of video games and tabletop games, I was very interested in reading this article. I will admit that video games have caused a level of frustration in life that is only matched by my sports fandoms, but I honestly have trouble comparing the two types of games because they both give me joy in such different ways. I consider video games much more of a private enjoyment than most- my friends all love connecting and playing games together online, but I’m more of a single player gamer in anything but games like Mario Party or Super Smash Bros where you play in the room with your friends. Playing video games is my way of unwinding after a long day at work, whereas board games is a way for me to spend time with people. While memory and expansions and everything you mentioned about video games can definitely be annoying, ultimately the enjoyment I get from those games overpowers that, similar to how I can ignore certain clunky game mechanics or bad luck when playing board games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally respect where you’re coming from, and what you’ve written makes perfect sense for one like yourself who still has a passion for video games. As for me, video games have left me by the wayside. I’m a video game dinosaur. I love the old ones; modern games just don’t interest me, and I don’t really make regular time for either. My “wind down” activity is reading (books, magazines, or comics), or just TV, be it addictive serial stuff like Breaking Bad or just good fodder like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

      Honestly, though, with two young sons and trying to run a game design business, there’s very little “down” time in my life at all. 😉


  3. I too am stuck in the 80’s & 90’s. I still play Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, and if I could play Q-bert, and Frogger again, I most definitely would. Having teenage nephews, and seeing how finicky new systems are, I am loathe to buy one (still just have a regular Wii), but my guilty pleasure was definitely Rock Band a few years ago. Like Godirectlytogaming mentioned, I play video games when I am wanting some “Me” time. I am a big Diablo fan, so that is my game that I play when I am feeling like just playing something on my own. I am a very social person, which is why I love board games, and would choose them first to play, but nothing beats a rainy day where I can sit down, and play Diablo, or some HOGs.

    Liked by 1 person

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