The popularity of board games, cards and puzzles - and where to buy them
Games are one of the oldest aspects of human social interaction and the playing of games – we're talking non-video games here – is something almost every human has in common. From checkers to Cards Against Humanity, games in some form have been popular in every era.
"The popularity of games among people has not changed. What's changed is our need for something like games has grown," says Gordon Lugauer, owner of local chain Board Game Barrister as well as Oak & Shield.
Increased use of technology, he says, is the number one reason why so many people are keeping or bringing board and card games in their lives. "The need for building connections has become stronger because we are broken apart by technology," says Lugauer. "Games are great solutions for interconnectedness, something that all humans need."
Kickstarter campaigns have increased the number of indie board and card games available. Recently, OnMilwaukee creative director Jason McDowell introduced his new bicycle-themed game, Visions of Rainbows: The Race For Champion's Stripes.
Currently, the global board games market is worth over $3.2 billion and is set to rise to $8.12 by 2021 according to board games market value data on Statistica.
The most popular games today include the classics – checkers, chess and dominoes – along with later-introduced games like Scrabble, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Uno. Fantasy-esque games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pokemon cards, Magick The Gathering and Settlers of Catan continue to hold strong in the market many decades after their original introduction. (Anime Milwaukee is expecting more than 10,000 people to attend this year.)
But Lugauer says, all puns aside, Cards Against Humanity has been a game changer. "Cards Against Humanity broke many barriers in the industry," he says.
Not only was the original version of the game free – people could print it out at home – but it was marketed by the creators as "a free party game for horrible people."
Prior to Cards Against Humanity, risqué games were hidden in game shops, certainly not front and center.
"In 2006 we sold a game called 'Sexy Slang' and although it did very well, it was a game no one came into the store and asked for. It was something we put where people could eventually discover it and then they bought it on the sly," says Lugauer. "'Cards' made it acceptable to put these kinds of games in the front of the store. They got them out of brown paper bags."
Rubik's Cubes and similar "speed cubes" have also seen a huge spike in popularity. In 2019, the twistable and often perplexing plastic puzzle sold $219 million and is expected to continue to keep growing in sales through the next five years. (This is something I have experienced firsthand through my 16-year-old son.)
Lugauer says he's seeing a trend in cooperative games and believes this social approach will continue to flourish. Local game cafes like Hangout MKE, Oak & Shield and 42 Ale House as well as pop-up game nights at places like Purple Door Ice Cream every Wednesday evening are on the rise, too.
"More and more people are interested in cooperative games where a group or team wins, rather than an individual," he says. "Attitudes are shifting from 'I'm gonna show you how much better I am' to people playing games to connect with others rather than 'beat' them."
Here are a few places to buy board games in Milwaukee:
Greenfield: 6120 W. Layton Ave., (414) 423-7100
Mayfair Mall: 25oo N. Mayfair Rd., (414) 316-3900
Glendale: 5530 N. Port Washington Rd.
6550 S. Lovers Lane Rd., Franklin, (414) 427-8800
Greenfield: 5032 S. 74th St., (414) 281-0000
Brookfield: 17145 W. Bluemound Rd., (262) 789-0280
6913 W. Oklahoma Ave., (414) 328-4651
1204 Minnesota Ave., South Milwaukee, (414) 304-5305
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