What term do you use to explain your hobby to those not in the know? Does it differ from those familiar with it? In this extract from issue 27 Matthew discusses how we refer to or hobby and why. Issue 27 is still available as digital download or in limited print stock.
Terms of Endearment
By Matthew Lee
An interesting topic took hold recently in a reviewers and media group I am part of. The ensuing discussion revolved around a simple question; when we talk about the hobby do we call it board games or tabletop?
This is a subject I have thought about in the past, but haven’t broached within the pages of this publication. Indeed, this is one of the first things we had to decide when beginning The Campaigner, as we wanted to make sure the publication consistently used terms.
Both terms have their merit, and certainly neither is truly right or wrong. Let’s take a look at what these terms mean to those who work on The Campaigner.
Board games has a long history attached to it. Many people, when board games are mentioned, think back to play in their childhood. The term has an intimate connection to spending time with family or friends, and carries a heavily nostalgic feel. It also calls to mind a very limited type of game experience.
Tabletop is a more modern classification. It broadly encompasses a variety of game experiences. In most cases it doesn’t carry any kind of childhood nostalgic sentiment. Instead it conjures up a much larger image of the types of game experiences it encompasses.
Here at The Campaigner we have chosen the term “tabletop” as our catchall. Of the two terms this allowed for the greatest amount of flexibility, as well as inclusivity of most game types. There are those who still use board game, quite successfully, in a catchall sense. BoardGameGeek is a prime example. But even they have recognised the limitations of the term, with things like RPGs being separated out under its own banner.
For us, tabletop offers a number of benefits as a term. It comfortably encompasses the essence of the hobby, which be it quick card game or sprawling wargame, usually happens on a table (or table-like surface). It is the one essential and fundamental piece of equipment which all tabletop gamers are bound to possess in some form.
Using board game as a catchall begins to confuse things when you want to talk both about games in a general sense, as well as games that use boards in particular. There are people who already struggle to understand words with dual meanings when used in different contexts, so we wanted to ideally avoid creating another instance of this. Plus, it is a lot quicker than writing “board games, card games, roleplay games and wargames” every time you want to talk about the hobby as a whole.
The remainder of this article is available in Issue 27. The issue is still available as a digital download or in print.