Tuesday, November 15, 2016

David Sax's "The Revenge of Analog"

David Sax is a writer and reporter who specializes in business and culture. His work appears regularly in Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Yorker's Currency blog, and other publications. He is the author of Save the Deli, which won a James Beard Award for Writing and Literature, and The Tastemakers. He lives in Toronto.

Sax applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, and reported the following:
From page 98:
Toward the end of the night I stood over a table in the corner, where ve men were playing a kids game called River Runner. Players had to match cards by memory, so as to cross a raging river. It looked so simple and perfect, I asked the designer, Daniel Rocchi, whether I could buy the prototype right there. These guys were members of the Board Game Designers Guild of Canada, a community built around mentoring and helping fellow designers get their games to market. It was partly led by Sen-Foong Lim, an occupational therapist and professor of developmental psychology, who had designed games as diverse as the hilarious infomercial party pitch But Wait, There’s More! and an adaptation of the TV show Orphan Black.

Lim saw game designing as a “jobby,” a mixture of a job and hobby that made just enough money to justify the time it required away from his family. Even though there were blockbuster games out there, the vast majority of tabletop games were made for the love of gaming. “My goal is simple,” Lim said. “The more games we put out there, the more the culture of gaming grows.” Lim acknowledged the power of digital tools to bring that analog culture to life. He had raised money on Kickstarter, was a regular on Board Game Geek, and even hosted his own podcast. But he also firmly believed that the revenge of board games was due to the real, physical communities made possible by such places as Snakes & Lattes.

“Snakes is proof,” he said, looking around the café, which was completely full on a Monday night at eleven p.m. with people of all ages, sexes, backgrounds, and interests playing all sorts of games. “Proof that this hobby is further reaching than a bunch of guys living in their mom’s basement, playing D&D. This is a real place where real people play real games,” said Lim, as he set up yet another game, and his friends all gathered round to play.
I used Page 98, because 99 is actually a blank page between chapters. It takes place at the end of chapter 4, the Revenge of Board Games, which focuses on the growth of tabletop games and the places people play them. What’s incredible about this is how much cardboard games have grown over the past decade, even though we now have easier, more powerful access to video games anywhere than ever before. A lot of this chapter takes place at Snakes and Lattes, a pioneering board game cafe very close to me in Toronto, which is one of the better known ones worldwide, for bringing gaming out of the shadows (and the super nerds) and popularizing it with a wider swath of the population.

The key ingredient to Snakes and Lattes, and the games boom in general, isn’t the location, or the food or drinks there. It’s the ability of board games to bring people together in real time, as a sort of social lubricant. Games are the excuse for relationships and interactions, and they deliver it in a real, analog way that’s vastly more meaningful and rewarding than any online multiplayer game. This holds as true for couples on a first date going to Snakes and Lattes, as it does for the regulars there, who go weekly or even daily. The text above takes place at the end of a game designer night they regularly host, where aspiring and professional board game designers come to test out prototypes and get feedback from peers. It’s the perfect example of the type of real community analog goods and ideas can foster.
Visit David Sax's website.

--Marshal Zeringue