Tabletop games overwhelmed by a new wave of popularity

For some tabletop players, the pandemic shutdown has made their favorite pastime much harder to enjoy. For others, it introduced a new kind of escape.

The pandemic and its quarantine have created a watershed moment for tabletop gaming. As the world came to a standstill and people were forced to stay indoors, many turned to online games to keep in touch with their friends. Interest in games such as Dungeons & Dragons – commonly referred to as D&D – and Magic: The Gathering has increased; as a result, Wizards of the Coast, the company that makes both, saw record sales for each in 2020.

By CNBCD&D sales rose 33% in 2020, continuing an upward trend in success since the game released its fifth edition in 2014.

Meanwhile, Magic saw a 23% increase in business in the same year, with an additional 17% increase in digital game licensing revenue.

It’s not just games that have seen a boom due to the pandemic. Roll20an online table game customer, saw such a surge in new user activity in March 2020 that its servers assumed it was a targeted cyberattack.

Shows such as “High Rollers” and “Critical Role” rode the wave of online live streaming that exploded in popularity at the start of the pandemic, with the latter releasing an animated show based on its first Amazon Prime campaign. in February.

Now, branded items and clothing line the shelves of bookstores. Video games for D&D and Magic attract millions of players, but more for the latter than for the former. Actual gaming podcasts fill any podcatcher at your fingertips, and almost daily there’s a fresh crop of indie games released on storefronts like DriveThruRPG and Being forced to stay home seems to have done wonders for the tabletop gaming scene.

As more and more people discover the hobby, the demographics show that people who play the games are getting younger. Max Stenzel, owner and operator of Off/On the Square, 228 E. State St., said most new people he’s noticed playing D&D are between the ages of 15 and 25.

“The ones I’ve seen pop up, for the most part,” Stenzel said, “are high school kids who may never have experienced a D&D game before, but they’ve played games Or people who just graduated from high school and actually have free time and money they can spend on dice, books and so on.

For newcomers and veterans alike, there are some stark differences between playing in person as part of a group and playing on a computer.

Ben Hollendonner, a Magic player since 1995, said sessions on the free digital game Magic: The Gathering Arena tend to end earlier than in-person sessions. In-person games are more likely to let things play out in hopes of the perfect card being drawn, but online players are encouraged to give up games if it’s clear they’re about to lose.

“Because of the way the app’s game is structured,” Hollendonner said, “you’re not rewarded for playing as much as you are for winning. So if you don’t win…you’re rewarded more for just conceding. the game quickly and move on to another game where you have more chances of winning.

Both Stenzel and Hollendonner noted that online gaming also lacked a social aspect. Players have to be careful not to talk to each other online and can’t read body or facial language like they can in real life, Stenzel said.

Hollendonner said people used to Arena’s limited interactions should be more sociable with other players in person. Hollendonner, also a D&D dungeon master, said the abundance of resources for creating digital maps means that players who start playing online tend to be more dependent on visuals and find it harder to adapt to the style. of the theater of the mind in person. play.

“I’ll be honest,” he said. “Buying maps and miniatures is expensive… It costs next to nothing to get a digital map pack or forge digital tokens in MS Paint.”

Some things, like the clash between story-driven and game-driven D&D players, transcend generations.

“These two sides have waged war on each other across all generations of D&D,” Hollendonner said.

The wide variety of table games available means that anyone interested has a wide range to choose from.

There are both role-playing games and collectible card games based on “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Power Rangers” and even “My Little Pony,” Stenzel said.

D&D is planned”next evolution” set to release in 2024, the game’s 50th anniversary, and the Magical Professional Tour was resurrected for the 2022-23 season after a four-year absence.

Whether it’s rolling dice or throwing cards, nothing seems to slow these games down.

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