Blurring the Lines – Gamer Games vs… That Other Kind

I find it interesting that games these days don’t seem to fit as snugly into the gamer or non-gamer types. For a while now you could find Magic: The Gathering at stores that didn’t carry games of the more complex sort but often that was the exception to the rule. As things have gone along however more stores are beginning to carry games that they would not have carried five or ten years ago.

While it would be simple to say that stores are simply carrying more diverse kinds of games it seems that the games themselves have gone through some change as well. Games such as Heroscape, which first appeared primarily in Wal-Mart and Toys R Us show us that some games are appropriate for both gamers and non-gamers. Another game which seems to fall into this category is Risk (certainly the new version but even Risk 2210 appeared in some stores that did not specialize in our hobby), but then it was a mass market game before it was hijacked by Avalon Hill.

I always loved being annoying when I was younger and on occasion intentionally irritated parents, teachers and sometimes friends. Apparently, with all those years of experience behind me I have forgotten how to turn it off in my old age but that’s beside the point (which is interesting primarily because this whole comment is most certainly also beside the point – and what is interesting about my use of the word interesting is that this whole thing probably isn’t).

An example of being annoying on purpose was when we studied probability in High School and I would constantly and repeatedly ask the teacher how many sides the die we were pretending to roll had. At one point i even did the problem (phrased as a “If you rolled a die five times what is the probability…”) several times using different sided dice. This of course just made a whole lot of extra pointless work for me but what can I say, I was committed.

The teacher took my comments with mostly good humor and asked that I bring my dice in, which I did. In the end of course, he simply stated that most “normal” people know that a die has six sides and I would do best to assume that this is what was being asked for in the future.

More and more often I see games in bookstores, Wal-Marts and grocery stores (specifically Wegmans, a store that is in essence a grocery store but does not seem to follow the normal grocery store rules) which are either a game I have seen at game stores or look like they could be found at a game store. A really interesting example I noticed today at Wegmans was Dicecapades. While the game itself does not look particularly interesting, perhaps like a less zany version of Quelf, it does come with all those wacky sided dice that many people don’t seem to know exist.

I have already written about how I think some party games bridge the gamer gap. Obviously not all games designed to be played with a large group of people are “gamer” games but I do think that many appeal to certain kinds of gamers. I’ve been wanting to get into the topic of “Why We Game” for a while now, and I won’t get into it deeply here but I feel that many people game for the social aspect of it and thus some gamers seek gaming for social reasons and party games work very well for that.

I can only assume that more interesting and intriguing games becoming common at stores that would not normal have such games is a good thing. The greater the exposure, the greater number of players and thus the hobby expands. One interesting result of this is that it becomes even more important for reviews of games to be available as gamers need to know if the game is really going to appeal to them and their friends. This too can only be considered a good thing as reviewing games is one of the things we like to do here at Pair O’ Dice.

If you have seen a game being sold someplace that surprised you I would love to hear about it!

    ojiepat Says:

    I ran into this phenomenon this summer. I’m visiting my family and they said, “Let’s play the train game.” I’m expecting them to pull out a dominoes game or something, instead out come Ticket to Ride… a genuine Alan Moon game. Blew my mind. My family playing a game that I would play… it was cool, but freaky. 😉

    Matt Says:

    I think the level of gaming is changing because it’s losing its underground stereotype. Gone are the days were people think, “You have to be a geek to game.” Some of it has to do with the success and accessibility of certain games, across different gaming platforms.

    For instance World of Warcraft and the Wii have opened to door to the average person to join the ranks of the quintessential gamer type. True they are video games, but I believe the board / tabletop game is directly linked to modern video gaming. You can see how the original table top RPGs became the basis for MUDs and how MMO’s are just MUD’s with pictures, and it’s evolved from there. Also now the physical elements involve with the table game has made its way into the gaming console arena with the Wii. The increase in the diversity of the video game market with those links has definitely influenced the tabletop game market as well.

    It’s also got to the point where “our” games have also become more accessible, without sacrificing game play. Take the new edition of D&D. I remember trying to get into D&D back in second edition and feeling overwhelmed. Even 3 and 3.5 had its moments where things were tough to understand. 4th seems to be pretty simple and has leveraged a lot of elements that you can find now in your average MMO, but just on paper. I can see a new person that is introduced to D&D now more likely to have fun on their first adventure because they aren’t spending the entire time trying to figure out what the hell THACO is and because they’ve seen these elements before in other arenas (like WoW).

    There are just more people that want to game, and they want something with a little more thought then something like Yahtzee. Because of that you are going to see more challenging and engrossing games, like the games you could only find at our favorite gaming store, in more public places, like the Wal-Mart.


    Some good points Matt. Video and computer games continue to converge with tabletop games. And they certainly introduce more people to gaming.

    It seems board, card, and role playing games positioned to pickup the interest of these new players need to be simplified; players used to video games which juggle all of the rules and math need a smooth transition into tabletop gaming. I just hope they don’t all go that way since, I’ll admit, I’m often a fan of more complex gaming fare. Though as long as there’s an audience for such games there’s a good chance for products to come along which appeal to people with my tastes.


    It is cool to hear that a store like Wegmans carries some games. I don’t expect to see any around here in Trader Joe’s but they are really food-focused anyway.

    I still remember being especially impressed by the reach of Heroscape, which has managed to pop up in places I would not have expected a miniatures wargame to be. That would not have happened if it wasn’t wildly popular, and along the way it must have gotten picked up by some people who otherwise wouldn’t have given it any notice, simply by its wide exposure.

    Let’s hope Hasbro and others can wedge a few more solid games in there, widen the aperture…


    Pat- I have, a couple of times, gotten my family to play some of my games. But I haven’t had a situation like yours, exactly; closest might be the fact that my parents owned the original Eon (’77?) Cosmic Encounters, which became a favorite of mine that I went on to purchase later when rereleased by Mayfair. I do think my copy has probably seen more play 🙂