In Internet Era, Board Games Make Comeback

Article excerpt

If the makers of Trivial Pursuit really want to stump players, they would do well to consider adding this question:

"What toy was selling at an all-time low a few years ago, but today is making a comeback because of the Net?"

Answer: board games.

In a time of PlayStation 2 and interactive Internet games, board games might seem a bit passe.

Not so.

From Watsonville, Calif., to Wakefield, Mass., people are shunting blips and bytes for cardboard and dice. Sales of board games are up for the first time since the joystick grabbed control of consumers' leisure time.

Part of it is simple nostalgia - the desire to return to something tried and true instead of the latest technical contraption. Perhaps more telling, though, is a desire among many Americans to turn away from computer screens and feel a greater sense of connectedness with friends and neighbors.

"Just interacting with people, that's the big draw for me," says Craig Massey, who took up board gaming as a serious hobby several years ago.

He plays several nights a week around the Boston area for up to five hours a night. His group usually has dinner beforehand, then settles in to play a wide variety of strategy games, such as Settlers of Catan and Aladdin's Dragons.

The group consists of people with advanced business and computer degrees; Mr. Massey works for an Internet research firm. "Internet- savvy people all looking for personal interaction," he says.

Statistics bear out a desire to reconnect through games. Sales of board games rose 34 percent in 1999 and are up 23 percent in the first 10 months of this year, according to the NPD Group in Port Washington, N.Y. That adds up to some $400 million for board games this year.

'An old friend'

There have been several reasons for the resurgence of board games. With the Sony PlayStation 2 as scarce as the needles on Charlie Brown's tree - and with no other "must buy" toys on everyone's list this year - parents have gone back to basics.

"When [parents] see familiar games like Twister and Monopoly and Candyland, it's like seeing an old friend," says Mark Morris, a spokesman for Hasbro Games.

Moreover, many board games have repackaged themselves to appeal to a younger audience. For example, Monopoly - originally released in post-Depression 1935 - now has a Pokemon version.

Yet, at the same time, board games have benefited from a backlash against the Internet. Two years ago, Hasbro began promoting the idea that game nights are a good way for families and friends to spend time together.

Lisa Brinton was receptive to that message.

"Some of my fondest memories growing up are playing games at holidays or other family events," says the Watsonville city employee.

After mentioning to family and friends how she missed those times, a group began to form. …