Tabletop gaming and its ever-widening popularity

Cast of 'Critical Role'

Courtesy of Geek and Sundry
The cast of ‘Critical Role.’ The show is recorded in front of an audience and broadcasted live on the video-streaming site Twitch.tv. The show began in March 2015 and is on its 110th episode.

Isaac Davies | Staff Writer

Tabletop games have started to make a large comeback in recent years. On Aug. 18, nine voice actors walked onto a stage in front of over 5,000 screaming fans from all over the world to play, of all things, Dungeons & Dragons. While thousands of people coming together, both in person and online, to watch other people play a game (particularly one so quintessentially nerdy as D&D) is nothing new, it may be a sign of a bigger shift in group entertainment.

Tabletop games have become so popular that, according to New Statesman, in the first half of 2016, tabletop games made six times more money than video games on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. On top of that, research compiled by Euromonitor International, a business intelligence company, shows that since 2013, the sale of tabletop games has increased about 1 percent every year and is expected to continue this upward trend. According to Geek and Sundry, a popular tabletop website, tabletop cafes are popping up all over the world, with 200 opening up in Beijing alone. A local tabletop shop, Phantom of the Attic in Greentree, is starting to pick up steam, as well.

“We have a lot of interest in role-playing games and miniature-based board games,” owner Ron Russitano said. “The Heroclix group, that meets once or twice a month, talked about expanding and meeting once a week.”

Heroclix is a battle royale-style board game that uses miniatures of super heroes from both the DC and Marvel comics Universes. It’s not the only group that meets regularly. Russitano also mentioned a group that plays Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game (another battle game that uses miniatures) that recently grew in size from four-to-six players a week to twelve-to-fifteen players a week.

Russitano seemed most excited about the monthly Pittsburgh Pathfinder Society meetings at his shop. According to The Pathfinder Society’s website, they host bi-monthly meetings, one at Victory Pointe in Southside and the other at Phantom of the Attic. At each meeting, players roleplay through preset adventures or continuations of ongoing adventures. Both novices and rugged veterans of the game are welcome.

Other than D&D or miniature-battle games, classic board games like Monopoly and Life are included in the realm of tabletop games. Ciara Van Gheem has been an avid tabletop player for three years. She currently works at Gamehaüs in Glendale, CA, that has over 1,500 board games. She says that the games they have range from Mousetrap to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, a story-driven board game that puts the players in the shoes of the famous detective.

According to Van Gheem, Gamehaüs sees a large variety of customers coming to play board games. While historically tabletop games have been labeled for nerds and the like, their rising popularity has attracted a wider audience. Families with kids come to teach their kids games that are more complicated than Clue. Teens come in only knowing how to play Life and want to learn more dynamic games. She says that they even get couples on a date looking for fun two-player games. Tabletop games are not just for the social shut-ins anymore.

“We get all kinds of people coming in to play games,” says Van Gheem.

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