Cooperative Games — The Next Big Thing?
written by Ross Grenier, Boing! Toy Shop Game Master
We all remember at least one game gone wrong. Whether it was a sore loser flipping the board, someone who’s played a few too many times trampling everyone else, or that one friend who refuses to share their sheep in Catan, game night can be a little rough on everyone. Lately, there’s been an emergence of games in which everyone gets to win—or lose—together, and they are cooperative games. These new games are growing in popularity, and slowly taking the world by storm.
But what is a cooperative game?
Cooperative games have the players try to reach a common goal or defeat a common enemy, rather than competing against each other. In Mysterium, a newer game to hit the shelves, one player is a ghost trying to lead the other players to solve the mystery surrounding their death. Hanabi is a card game that has everyone work together to make sure the fireworks go off without a hitch. Forbidden Island has you all racing against a sinking island to collect totems, which you use to save yourself and your team by halting the island’s sinking. Even Dungeons and Dragons is considered a cooperative game, as everyone is working together as an adventuring party to make a fun story.
So, why would you want to play a cooperative game?
There are a lot of reasons why someone might not want to get competitive against their friends and family. If there’s a large skill gap, such as with siblings of different ages, or even kids against adults, it can make a competitive game a little uneven. It’s not fun if one person is always winning, or if one person is always losing. By having everyone work together, suddenly it becomes a competition against the game, not each other. A good cooperative game will make it somewhat challenging to win, but not impossible, driving everyone to work their hardest to cooperate and beat the game. Lastly, a good reason to choose a cooperative game is the same reason for getting any other game, because it looks like a game you’ll enjoy. Plenty of cooperative games include the dynamic, challenging, or fun elements you enjoy in all your other favorite board games, like resource strategy, puzzle solving, deck building, or story telling, just without the element of competition against your fellow players.
Where can you look for cooperative games?
You can always check your local game shops! At Boing!, we carry quite a few cooperative games for a range of ages, as do most places that sell games. With their growing popularity, one that suits your needs shouldn’t be too hard to find. For the younger crowd, we always recommend the brand Peaceable Kingdom. They make fantastic games tailored to teaching preschoolers and young children cooperation, puzzle solving, and strategy. On top of that, they do so in a way that’s fun and engaging, with lots of different themes and stories. While there isn’t a board game company that specializes in cooperative games for teens and adults, there is still a wide range of options for cooperative games for those age categories. Many game designers (if not most) are dipping their toes into one form of cooperative game or another, so you’re likely to find one that fits your preferred play style.
Will cooperative games be the “Next Big Thing”?
Well, I think they’re already there. I see more families and adults leaning into cooperative games for their own game nights. These beloved games become gifts to other families and friends. Cooperative games can be easier to enjoy for a wider range of board game lovers, given that it removes some of the difficulties with getting others to engage, like learning rules around experienced players or difficulty gaps like the ones mentioned earlier. As well, there’s just something nice about a game that encourages you to work in tandem with your friends as opposed to against them. Especially now, during a time where we may not have had much time to be around friends and family as we would have liked, it can be comforting to have a game that only brings you closer.