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