It’s been great recently to see quite so much about games and puzzles in the media. There have been plenty of articles in the papers about boardgames (here, here and here, for example), and in particular it’s been encouraging to read articles in the mainstream media suggesting that there is life beyond Monopoly and Cluedo.
BBC Four is currently in the middle of its Game On Season, featuring documentaries on board games, outdoor play and crosswords, amongst others.
Last week BBC Four showed its eagerly anticipated documentary on Kit Williams, creator of treasure hunt classic Masquerade, which you can watch on iPlayer.
Also still available on iPlayer is James May’s recent BBC2 series Toy Stories, which each week took a classic toy brand from my generation’s childhood - Airfix, Plasticine, Meccano and Scalextric - and turned it into a giant engineering project. Later this month, the BBC will broadcast the final episodes, on Lego (20th December) and Hornby (Christmas Day).
Add to this the current vogue for games manufacturers to team up with Hollywood for upcoming film versions of Risk, Battleship, Monopoly et al., and it’s clear that something is up. I can think of three reasons for the renewed interest. Firstly, although it’s unlikely that the traditional industry is ever going to claw back the lead that the video game industry has established over it, there does seem to be a renewed appetite amongst the public for games that have a more sociable element to them. Secondly, it’s well-known that recessionary times lead to more time spent at home, for both economic and psychological reasons. And thirdly - and I don’t know if this is oversimplification or not - but there seems to be a strong nostalgic element to this, most clearly seen in the Game On season and in James May’s series, and nostalgia is a state of mind to which even TV commissioning editors and Hollywood producers are susceptible.