When was the last time you sit down and played a game or two with your children or your parents? Was it Mahjong? Did you enjoy it? Mahjong is by far the most popular board game in the world among adults. Although it is not the simplest game, but its entertainment value is ranked much higher than Monopoly or Poker. How many times have you heard conversations among Mahjong players discussing
game strategies? Two big
reasons why a three hundred year old abstract board game can still be popular among many cultures are its vast permutation complexity and sophisticated player-interaction. Many Mahjong experts will tell you that skill and luck alone are not the only contributing
factors of winning a game, but the keen observation of players' behavior and gesture during a game holds the secret of winning. A person with good memory skill will undoubtedly have a slight advantage of winning. Researchers have concluded that playing Mahjong game among elderly can prevent early dementia or Alzheimer. In addition, Mahjong also brings
together friends and relatives with hours of fun and rewarding experience.
Game apps are the opposite of board games in many ways. Most game apps are played in solitude. Even with network games, players do not need to observe the physical gestures of their opponents. All interactions are done through online communication with their game console or smart devices in a simulated 3D environment. All game apps are designed with emphasis on visual actions and arcade style movement. The key of winning in apps is how players react toward a given situation in real time. You are playing against time in most cases. With so little time to think for their actions, players' ability to focus attention on a task will eventually be shortened. As a result, attention span of humans is decreasing as more people are playing online games on their mobile devices. Today, more people are physically living in solitude while busier than ever to keep up their communication with others through social apps. Nonetheless, game apps do provide us a convenient gaming platform, but they tend to isolate our thinking and decision process.
Board games are essential for the emotional and intelligence development of children growing up to their adolescence. Children with early exposure to abstract board games will help them to adapt to rules, reasoning and logic. The ability to interpret textual contents into permissible actions can help a child to raise his level of abstract thinking. Board games also provide a medium for children and adults to express their inner emotions. Their
emotional strength and weakness can be easily observed through games. Physical social interaction among children and parents can only be possible with playing games. Furthermore, board games can inspire children to learn from their mistakes as well as to train them in coping with difficult situations and dilemmas. Patience and perseverance can help children to develop good temperament. Abstract board games are embedded with a lot of discrete mathematics principles into their designs. Strategy training can help children and adults to improve and refine their problem solving skills throughout their life. Thematic board games can also be educational and entertaining. Game designers
use ingenious concepts and mechanisms to simulate all sorts of topics. These
mechanisms are the basis for many designs of modern game apps. Without the preexistence of board games, game app designers would never be able to come up with new ideas. So board game playing can inspire the creation of next generation game designs. These are just some of the fundamental benefits of playing board games.
It may be true that all games can be programmed to run on a smart phone or computer, but the experience of playing real board games with real players through face-to-face gatherings is just not the same as playing virtually on a smart console. With advances in super computing technologies, humans have been outpaced by computers equipped with superior artificial intelligence algorithms. IBM's Deep Blue and Google's AlphaGO have demonstrated their superiority over human players in "Chess" and "Go" games. Keep in mind that these successful algorithms are the results of decades of scientific
research by human scientists. In the realm of computer science, anything is possible. The evolution of board games and computing technologies is inseparable now and in the future. It is our duty to insure that our future generations will continue the tradition of playing family board games, and not self-indulging themselves in game apps alone.