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Kevin Schut


Game On

Board games revisited.

You might not realize it yet, but the Germans have successfully invaded the Americas, leaving in their wake a path of such thoughtfulness and creativity as has been rarely seen in human history. Today's board games—heavily inspired by a well-established German gaming culture—are reviving an ancient form of cultural expression and meaningful activity.

If you grew up with Monopoly, Scrabble, and Risk in a musty closet and haven't given them much thought since you left your parents for the adult world of literature and cinema, you might be excused for thinking that games are the weak link of human cultural expression. You wouldn't be alone, either: until recently, with the singular exception of chess, our culture has typically put games in the same wastebasket as crocheting, waterskiing on the lake, and monster-truck rallies—relatively meaningless pastimes with varying degrees of acceptability. The church has sometimes led the criticism of games, associating them with addiction and slothfulness.

But that's begun to change. For starters, the swiftly developing medium of video games is forcing us to reconsider our literary and film-based assumptions about storytelling and visual and aural art—a topic worth discussing another day (that's the book I'm working on right now). But the growth in popularity of board and card games, nursed in part by the role-playing game community and (since the 1990s) by the lively German gaming culture, has created a vibrant, global community of gamers. Low-tech, screenless games highlight something we can see in games as old as chess or the ancient Egyptian game Sennet: games can touch and encourage a part of our humanity that can go underdeveloped in a culture focused solely on books and films and television. The boom in board games shows us that God created humans to be remarkably complex beings with many avenues for expression.

The game that is most responsible for this international resurgence is Klaus Teuber's Settlers ...

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