Game deboxing is a term that has been borrowed and extended from collector speak. Many collectors seek to keep their items untouched, in their original condition. They call it NRFB, Never Removed From Box, or MIB, Mint In Box. Thus deboxing an item means taking it out of its original packaging, most likely by destroying the packaging and devaluating the item.
Once the measurements have been taken — the target size is usually the minimum size that can hold all of the game components — the box is cut, sometimes folded and reassembled, with the aprons and corners taped or glued together.
The results are not consistently convincing, but most deboxers are proud of them no matter what. There is also a trophy aspect to deboxing.
Box reduction is an interesting practice in many ways.
It seems to be fairly specific to board gaming. Deboxing is rare, but more frequent in board gaming than any other industry I can think of.
It is radical. Here we are dealing with amputation followed by reconstruction: a miniaturization that is irreversible. Deboxing is an extreme reaction (to oversized boxes) which itself provokes extreme reactions.
It is controversial. One has only to read discussion threads dealing with deboxing to realize that several gamers frown upon that practice, ridicule it, or consider it a sacrilege.
The Clash of Two Visions
The fiercest reactions occur when two opposite visions of what is a game box come into contact.
The do-it-yourselfers’ vision is technical and utilitarian. The box is mere packaging used to carry and store the components of a game. For them the solution is simple and straightforward: adapting the container to the content. They call it box reconfiguration.
The collectors’ vision is aesthetic and emotional. The box and its artwork are part of their gaming experience, event if it is not used in play (sometimes it is). For them, every single component of a game (especially the box) has something sacred (I have seen gamers refusing to throw away even the empty cardboard sprues, that they keep in the box).
Consider books. Libraries routinely dismantle them, even sacrificing their original cover and artwork, in order to rebind them and make them more durable. It would hardly be the first choice of a book collector, though.
It goes without saying that gamers who keep their opened game boxes in shrink or in large ziploc bags (a practice called board game sleeving) in order to protect them from the slightest sign of wear, will throw a fit at the sight of a knife cutting through that beloved and precious cardboard.
But deboxing remains irritating even to gamers who don’t care obsessively about their game boxes.
The Downsides of Downsizing
Deboxing — sometimes called downsizing — still requires some tools and supplies. And skills — I know that any attempt at deboxing on my part would end in disaster, because I lack the minimum of manual dexterity and know-how.
Deboxing can weaken a box beyond repair, and will drive the game resale value down. But games that are most often sold in oversized boxes are not the ones having the highest initial price point anyway. They are light, popular titles, with large print runs. Codenames or Splendor hardly qualify as collector items.
What could make gamers debox their games?
Making games easier to carry around seems to me a much more convincing justification than gaining space.
In strict terms of cubic inches, you would need to own a huge game collection, and to debox dozens of games, in order to get a significant gain of space. Otherwise, if I had to cut lots of game boxes to ensure a minimum living space for myself, I would conclude that I might have more pressing priorities than playing games.
The most plausible explanation is the simplest one. Some people cut their game boxes because they enjoy doing it. They might have a passion for games, but they also have one for handicraft. Just like scrapbooking, bookbinding – or taxidermy for that matter –, such a rather extreme form of pimping is a hobby in itself, a hobby with its own craftsmen.
And why not?
How do deboxed games look to you? Like shrunken heads, or cute bonsai?
- Deboxing For Sale, by Daniel Solis
- Deboxing Codenames, by Daniel Solis
- Deboxing Costa Rica, by W. Eric Martin
- Deboxing Diamonsters, by W. Eric Martin
- Deboxing Star Wars: Rebellion, by Stephen Venters
- Keeping your game boxes in shrink, by MissMerc007
- Keeping your game boxes in shrink, by citilogic
- To keep boxed or to debox, on TonnerDoll.com
- Deboxing for Doll collectors
- Deboxing used to describe game box cutting