Board Games have been with humans longer than art and longer than language. We imagine that primitive man was dull-witted, but I can guarantee you that one of your early ancestors could have beaten you at a game of mancala.
One of my favorite historic references to board games was Hippocrate’s account of the ancient Lydians. The Lydians encountered a famine that rocked their civilization. To prolong their resources, they would only eat every other day. On days they went without food, they would play games.
They went on like this for 7 years, until they decided that to survive they would send half their population to a new land, while the other half could live on the remaining resources. They played one final game to decide who would stay and who would go. Some scholars believe that the exodus of the Lydians corresponds with the founding of the Roman Empire.
So games are the direct result of one of the most influential empires the world has ever seen, and we still see games as an integral part of our social fiber. Games are in our art, our culture, and in the stories we tell one another, and next month I begin a board game exploration. Join me on my journey by sharing any good board game stories you know! See you next month!
Have you seen Pulp Fiction? You know the scene where John Travolta stabs Uma Thurman in the chest with adrenaline because she’s OD’d from accidentally snorting heroine?
Did you pay close attention to that scene? Did you catch what was in the foreground on an end table?
A copy of Operation.
Could’ve been anything, could’ve been Scrabble, could’ve been Guess Who, but clever narratives are built out of little details.
So many Board Game References are a surprise. Not because they are hidden or obscure, but because they’re hiding in plain view. You’re probably already thinking about it, and I can confirm: there was a board Game episode in your Saturday morning cartoons, in your Primetime dramas, and in your 80’s sitcoms.
Not just chess, either, all kinds of board games, everywhere, all the time. I’ve sifted through enough pop culture at this point that I’m more surprised when I find out a series doesn’t have a board game reference (like how those bastards at HBO cut Cyvasse from Game of Thrones, not that I’m bitter).
My initial research into finding board game references was simply being vigilant. I’m excited to say I’ve uncovered hundreds of Board Game References that I’ll be sharing starting this coming January.
Think you have a board game reference I’ve not already found? I’d love to see if you can stump me. Post your favorite shows and movies on our Reddit Forum, I’ll let you know whether or not they have a board game reference in them.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love board games. I worked at a board game store, helped out a Board Game Cafe, helped organize a Board game Development Group, orchestrated a MegaGame, and was lead developer at a board game company.
Board Games have been an integral part of my life, and I see them everywhere. It’s only recently that I’ve noticed not everyone sees the board game around them. I like to point them out, and describe how cool they are.
One of my favorite board game references is from a show called RWBY. A team of young women become friends and fight monsters. During their downtime in one episode, they play a board game.
Ruby and Yang, sisters, are competitive but also super entrenched in the drama of the board game. Yang also takes an attack and turns it against Ruby, which is indicative of her melee fighting style.
Weiss grew up in a well to do family, and is confused and disinterested by what appears to be an amalgam of Risk and Yugioh. Well, Weiss is only disinterested until Ruby points out that she’s winning, then Weiss becomes overly invested in the game.
Blake is distracted and frustrated. There’s a real life problem that she’s become obsessed with that’s driving a wedge between her and the rest of the group, and it become obvious how bothered she is by how she’s not interacting with the game. Also, society’s “rules” have never been kind to Blake, so it’s not surprising that a board game would not immediately appeal to her.
When these four characters sit down at a board game, we see a ton of personality, set dressing, and foreshadowing at the same time that the show is being genuinely funny. This is just looking at the characters, too, there are a ton of implications about what it means for the society these young women live in that a board game exists about warring kingdoms.
I . . . won’t usually write these walls of text for the upcoming articles, but I could go on and on. There’s so much depth to these references, that’s what Board Game References is all about.
Remember that episode of Friends when they go to the beach house, get drunk, play a Happy Days Trivia Game? Surely you remember that they made it “strip” and only Joey got naked, because of course, right?
Do you know the rules to the Simpson family board game of Scrabbleship? Have an idea about how many different versions of Monopoly we see in Springfield?
Were you paying close attention in West World to see that the first time we see Ford encounter the symbol for the maze, it’s on a table where hosts are playing dominoes. Wonder why they chose dominoes instead of poker?
These are board game references. Anytime board games, card games, role playing games show up in pop culture, it’s usually for an interesting reason. I catalog them on this site and see if I can’t dig into the deeper meaning of their existence.
Board Game References begins in earnest this January. Excited about it? Want to share a board game reference that you know? Submit your favorite board game references here or discuss on our Reddit Forum.