YouTube channels help board gamers overcome the biggest challenge: learning the rules

Even though the global video game market now eclipses the international box office and is on track to exceed $220.79 billion in sales this year, there are still those who prefer something a little more “old school”. “when it comes to games. Board games of all kinds are still very popular, and its revenues could double in the years to come.

In fact, the global playing card and board game market saw sales hit $13.75 billion last year, while it could exceed $31 billion by the end of the decade.

Many factors explain why board games remain so popular. Part of that is that tabletop games are a lot more social than video games, but it’s also a lot easier than ever to produce a board game. Whereas in the past, even creating a mockup for a design was extremely expensive and laborious – today’s print-on-demand allows anyone with an idea for the next Trivial Pursuit Where Settlers of Catan to get “on board”.

However, there could be another consideration, namely YouTube.

Board game videos

One of the biggest complaints about many board games is that the rules have become increasingly complex to understand. Even the most complex video games offer a “tutorial” that can teach players the finer points, but until recently board games required you to read the rules before you could start playing. In many cases, a potentially great game has even been ruined by bad instructions.

There are now several channels on YouTube that can help players get the game started and roll the dice. Among these is Players’ Aid, a review website and YouTube channel that provides reviews of various new games and, more importantly, even offers examples of how it’s played.

“We focus on conflict simulations and historical board games because we are history fans and want to learn more about our past,” the creators said in an email. “We share our thoughts on how the game plays and what it looks like. We do however occasionally do full videos where we will show how the games are played and discuss the rules. Some people want to see the game in action to better understand How it works.”

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The complete rules

For players who need even more instructions, there are channels such as “Harsh Rules”, “JonGetsGames”, and “Before You Play”, which offer step-by-step walkthroughs. Each has short videos to get you started with a game, as well as longer segments that showcase everything from setup to wrap-up.

While none of them have the audience size of some of the most popular video game channels, the experience is similar, and maybe even a little more rewarding, because watching the playback of a board game is essentially instructive. It’s no surprise for these content creators that they find viewers.

“I’m an example of someone who went from focusing entirely on video games to board games,” explained Jonathan Cox of JonGetsGames. “The 2000s were dominated by video games in my spare time, playing Rock band daily at World of Warcraft.

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He added that a year after diving into board games, his interest in new video games had surprisingly dropped. The fun Cox received from playing a head-to-head game eclipsed what came from video games

“At one point in my early twenties I seriously considered pursuing a career in video games due to my huge interest. I find it fun to work full time in gaming now, but it’s kinda for board games,” Cox admitted.

For Ben Harsh of Harsh Rules, he got hooked on tabletop games when he received a copy of Axis and allies for Christmas in the early 1980s. When he enjoys both video games and board games, Harsh said that video games actually suffer when it comes to more complex simulations, especially military games and historical. This explains why many of these more complex titles have found an audience.

Yet with the great complexity that many board games now offer, comes a huge rulebook that not everyone will want to read.

“I don’t think you have to give up complexity and ‘dumb things’ to grow the viewership,” Harsh explained. “What I think needs to be a priority is to improve accessibility to the game with superior instruction. Without proper instruction, people will only buy a limited number of boxes of cardboard pieces and pieces in plastic.”

Until that happens, Harsh is among those who will teach for the rest of us – even for games with instruction manuals that seem aimed at someone with a master’s degree in board game studies. !

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Hitting the books (rules)

A concern for Harsh is that the rulebooks are actually reduced so as not to scare players away.

“Many companies try to stuff and compress their rules because they fear consumers will be put off by the length,” he warned. “Honestly, I’m going to take 40 pages of clear writing, diagrams, and game examples out of 20 pages of disorganized walls of text littered with acronyms and with no contextual references.”

Another problem is that board game designers tend to be board game players and therefore make too many assumptions, Harsh said. “You need to make sure a new player has the proper background information that most experienced players take for granted.”

So his YouTube videos are more for those who haven’t rolled the dice a million times or spent countless Saturday afternoons setting up a game for that evening. Instead, Harsh tries to ensure that his instructions will help new players, while helping the more experienced player.

Of course, the question to ask these creators is who teaches the professor? Cox, who has seen his JonGetsGames channel grow from a part-time venture when it started in 2017 to a full-time gig during the pandemic, said it needed to be taken as seriously as any career. . While it may seem like it’s all “fun and games,” Cox regularly has to abide by the books — in this case, the rules.

“Whenever I sit down with a new rulebook for a game, the first thing I do is set up the game according to the instructions in the rulebook,” Cox noted.

This allows him to familiarize himself with the space occupied by the game, as well as with all its components. From there, he begins the process of reading the rules, which includes methodically learning one section after another and not continuing until he feels he fully understands even the least aspect. more complex game mechanics.

“The rest of the world usually falls away and I’m often surprised how much time has passed once I get to the end and feel comfortable with how the game works,” Cox continued. “I really enjoy reading the rules of games, it’s wonderful to see how all the pieces fit together.”

Raymond T. Helms