By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
As Townshippers bundle up and hunker down for the rest of winter, an ever-increasing amount of them will be doing so gathered around the table. Buffeted by the embrace of nerd culture as pop culture, and by the COVID-19 pandemic, board games, known more broadly as tabletop games, once thought to be displaced by newer forms of entertainment such as video games and even movies & TV, have made a resurgence. Local gaming stores, and long-time fans of the hobby, have taken notice.
“I think it’s making a big comeback,” says Oliver, Imaginaire’s board game specialist at their Sherbrooke location in Carrefour de l’Estrie. “It was a big way to socialize during the pandemic,” explains Oliver over the phone. Since gatherings were restricted and people preferred smaller, familiar social groups, demand increased for novel forms of entertainment. Oliver says tabletop games represented to many a chance to do “new activities with the people you [already] know.”
Employees at the Griffon, another local tabletop game store on Wellington in Sherbrooke, echoed those at Imaginaire. “One of the interesting things is the popularity of board games actually started going up before [the pandemic],” says Ryan Leavitt. He estimates that business really picked up in 2015-16, around the same time that many other historically nerdy interests found more mainstream popularity and acceptance. When he first started at the Griffon in 2012, Leavitt says they “used to easily get away with having one employee working on Monday or Tuesday,” but due to the hobby’s growing popularity, they’ve had to start staffing the store with at least three employees every day.