25th February 2024 9:38 am
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Boardgames companies unite to try and tear your attention from the screen

As much as we love videogames and all things digital here at htxt.towers, there’s something to be said for stepping away from the screen every once in a while. Which is why a bit of news in from a group of local boardgames distributors caught our eye this morning.

The Unplug Yourself is being co-ordinated by three boardgaming companies in South Africa – Blowfish Entertainment, Boardgames SA and Skycastle Games – and they launched it at this year’s rAge exhibition with a huge stand that offered attendees the chance to take part in a wide selection of non-electronic games.

At its core, Unplug Yourself is a call to arms for electronic gamers looking to enjoy the ‘game’ element of their favourite pastime, just in a room full of actual people and using environments built on table tops, complete with props like dice, cards, miniature figurines and pens and paper. And boards, of course.

It’s basically a call for a return to gaming’s roots, which is of course the social experience and tactical challenge of board games played by groups of people sitting around a table.

As they said in their press release, “The campaign hopes to tear down the misconception that table top gaming is boring, difficult or somehow sub-par to electronic gaming.”

“Unplug Yourself is all about a gaming revolution, redefining perceptions and bringing change – about opening people’s eyes to a new world and a fresh way of gaming,” says Skycastle director Eugene Vermeulen.

Boardgamers play at rAge.
Boardgamers play at rAge.


Despite tabletop gaming not being as new and fresh as the campaign would have people believe – the earliest recorded boardgames are over 7 000 years old – seeing this happen in 2014 is fascinating to behold. I’ve personally watched the gaming industry go from board games to PC games to console games, and now on to “free” to play mobile titles that demand optionally require more money to fully enjoy than regular full-priced games do. And now it’s come full circle, with board game enthusiasts extolling the virtues of where it all began once again.

I’m not entirely sure how it’s happened, really, as to me the appeal of electronic gaming is that you don’t have to get everyone together at a single location at a time convenient to everyone, the visuals, sound and storytelling are – for the most part – so much better and you don’t have to put up with the inevitable bickering that breaks out. Well that’s not entirely true, but you can always mute annoying players or find a different server far easier than you can smack people in the chops or kick them out of your home. Plus, you can almost always find a group of people to play with because someone, somewhere, is always playing that game you like thanks to the magic of the internet. (But that’s just me.)

Still, I recognise that most people are more sociable than I am, and board games can certainly be a great way to unite like-minded friends for a few hours of stimulating live-action gameplay while sipping beverages, eating pizza and talking smack, face to face. You know, like people used to do before the internet. But then, if that was so great why’d we stop doing it?

The ancient Settlers of Catan remains the best selling box set at boardgames.co.za.

Not a replacement

The Unplug Yourself people acknowledge that tabletop gaming isn’t going to replace electronic gaming entirely, and instead say it’s “…an addition, a completion even, and many electronic gamers are embracing its unique flavour into their gaming culture. Whether it’s Settlers of Catan, Magic: The Gathering, Heroclix, X-Wing, Ticket To Ride, Ascension or a host of other games that are currently taking the world, and South Africa, by storm; the fact is, table top gaming is here to stay and it’s no longer the second rate substitute, but a platform where some of the most innovative advances in gaming in the world are currently being made.”

To that end – of popularising the art form once again – the Unplug Yourself website promises “official events, competitions, exclusive deals and much more…”, so if you’d like to try something new or you’re a tabletop grognard with countless living-room battles/D&D campaigns/Magic: The Gathering clashes under your belt and you’d like to partake in the pastime’s revival, head over to UnplugYourself.co.za and sign up to be kept abreast of any and all developments in the South African world of non-electronic gaming.

We’re thinking of starting a regular column on boardgaming in South Africa too. Would you read it?

Dedicated boardgaming venues like DeeTwenty are few and far between, but they exist in South Africa if you know where to look.
Dedicated boardgaming venues like DeeTwenty are few and far between, but they exist in South Africa if you know where to look.

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