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The Big Conversation Space
Timothée Richard 12.16.20

"Old-school" games are back!


Faced with the first cultural industry of video games, board games are moving away from a culture of connoisseur to reinvest other scenes of emotional understanding.

If the board game was largely to the trouble in the early 2010s, lately show that gaming has not completely crushed fun activities.

In Cannes, the international board game festival welcomed a growing attendance in 2019 (+ 20% of visitors in one year) and according to the firm NPD, the market is now estimated at 322 million euros, or 9.4% of the total gaming sector. A first that serves as a revisited perspective for the years to come.

Experiences, cooperation and freedom of expression

On the internet, YouTube, through a wave of channels dedicated to table games such as Bower’s Game Corner (6,100 followers) or Le Passe Temps (35,000 subscribers), has become in the space of two years a network central and an appointment for publishers, as players wishing.

In the United States, media like The Versed talk about “revivalism” and publishers too are keeping up with the latest societal changes.

To better stick to its time, Hasbro, the publisher of the famous Monopoly is reinventing itself, has released Monopoly for Millennials. A version where the “possession race” has disappeared in favor of purchases of “experiences“, also adapting to the fragmented attention span which shakes the players’ ability to stay at the table for whole afternoons.

Monopoly for Millenials

Other approaches have also emerged. The “legacy” games which consist in participating in part in the development of the rules have now international references (Zombie Kidz Evolution, Pandemic Legacy, Seafall) and in Anglo-Saxon culture, the “STEM” universe (Science, Technology , Engineering and Mathematics) is also a booming entry key that has been able to democratize with the general public.

This is evidenced by Wingspan, a game that has received praise from the New York Times for its way of popularizing the world of birds and democratizing a certain idea of instructive board games for years to come.

More generally, a Guardian article explains this summer that cell biology, evolution, epidemics and the logic of colonization of third planets have become a more elegant and innovative prism for the game.


In 2018 saw the introduction of “The Big Conversation Space”, devised by Clémence de Montgolfier and Niki Korth, is a “flexible framework designed to encourage PLAYERS to converse freely, openly, playfully, and strategically about a wide variety of topics ranging from the absurd, to the deeply personal, the darkly pragmatic, to the confusing, and beyond”. Last summer in France, the launch of “Koé“, which means “voice” in Japanese, was reported in the media. The brainchild of Franco-Japanese designer Marie Ferragut, this game is intended to fuel conversation and help players retain an auditory memory of the people and moments dear to them. This aspiration is consistent with a recent trend for the liberation of our collective voice.


In recent years, the market offering has also included cooperative games in which players work together “against the game”. Six out of the eleven nominees at the International Games Festival in Cannes this year were in this category. A player might be asked to protect an enchanted island from evil spirits (Spirit Island), carry out a police investigation (Detective) or give telepathy a try (The Mind). Today’s game makers are factoring a higher level of collective emancipation into their thinking.

Even the business world is getting into the swing of things. The French accounting firm Accior has developed Nosco, which means “learn to know” in Greek. This Clue-like game about everyday life in a corporate environment aims to clear up misunderstandings, improve the quality of life at work and synchronize the physical, mental and emotional presence of personnel.


Participatory experiences for brands

Many brands wanting out of the “spectacular event” rat race are looking into game formats that are simple and have plenty of appeal.

One engagement-building solution is to have a specialist (e.g. in France, a member of the Anima Event network) organize a scavenger hunt. In 2017, the Louvre offered a treasure hunt possibility to help visitors discover its riches! The same year, the Wall Street Journal published “How Nike is Reinventing the Great Sneaker Scavenger Hunt”. In 2018, internet users had to log onto Craigslist to find the Nike x Martine Rose capsule collection and the rapper commented that it was like a digital Wild West, i.e. totally uncharted territory for retailers. Clearly, games offer brands interesting avenues to explore for the purpose of building rapport with their audience.


Kenzo has taken a very different tack in its collaboration with the digital agency Artefact. To jazz up its online experience, the brand has used gameplay to whip up a competitive frenzy.  Visitors to its “Shopping League” e-shop were required to play and win a game – defeating other would-be buyers – in order to purchase one of 100 pairs of limited-edition Sonic sneakers. This endeavor paid off, attracting nearly 200,000 unique visitors during the twelve hours of the campaign.

Kenzo Shopping-League-image1

In the realm of customer experience, it’s not a question of leveling – from the bottom – but of integrating, into the product proposition, the immersive levers of happiness marketing. A moment when we move away from traditional transactional to highlight friction, the emotional dimension of buying and the primacy of relational situations over things.

Cover: The Big Conversation Table

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