If board games told stories, we would know about it.
We would read and listen to these stories. We would write down game sessions, record them, attend them, and replay them by all means, to get to their story. We would find these stories outside the gaming room, filling book and movie shelves as well as theaters. Like any other stories, they would have a life of their own. They would get translated, sung, filmed, played. If board games tell stories, where are they?
And where is their audience? I mean, their non-gamer audience? For, after all, a story is a story and as such can reach anybody, not only gamers. Just like sports, music, cooking or cinema, gaming would have an audience outside the hobby; there would be non-gamer fans.
If board games told stories, players would have fans of their own, just like actors, athletes or cooks. Faithful and passionate non-gamers, thrilled at the idea of sitting and watching them play. And more than happy to pay for it.
Lay audiences would gather to see board games played. Celebrating their favorites, their heroes, their sacred monsters. That’s how we would know that board games manage at least to express emotions.
Games wouldn’t be a niche if they could tell or express anything.
Let’s not tell ourselves stories: board games do not tell stories.
They make stories.
Likewise board games do not express emotions, they generate them, in their practitioners. Board game players are both the artisans and the audience. The beginning and the end. Board games run in closed-circuit.
And little does it matter that the scope of the stories they make is so minimal, most often limited to the magic circle of players and to the moment they happen. Because the real joy, the vast and unique pleasure lies in making them.
What is a story that can’t be told? Which can not easily, effectively, be shared beyond the circle of insiders?
It’s more of an experience. And board games offer a lively, immediate, hands-on experience to players.
But an experience is still so very far from being a story.
A game is an experience, but a story is an experience that is narrated. An experience that has been fixed, crystallized, then taken apart, rebuilt and polished.
While a board game has practically no life beyond its practitioners, a good story becomes all the more alive as it is told to more people, regardless of surroundings, culture, language, time period or any other barrier.
Conflating games and stories is misunderstanding them, not seeing how special and precious they are, each in their own way.
Board games are way too sophisticated to tell stories.
At least as much as stories are way too sophisticated to be told by board games.