18th Apr2017

The Evolution of our Favourite Strategy Games

by James Smith


The development of new technology is often viewed as something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand consumers are able to benefit from a bevvy of new products and services; on the other, familiar, sometimes beloved merchandise is forced into an early retirement because it simply can’t compete with the speed at which things are changing. One industry where technology has been a major help, rather than hindrance, is the games industry. Indeed, rather than fading into the background some of our favourite strategy games have been able to evolve, and are now experiencing something of a revival.

So, why is this? The rise in popularity of mobile and online gaming has made the pastime more sociable, accessible, and enjoyable than ever, and has introduced strategy gaming to a completely new audience. Players don’t need to enter a bricks and mortar casino or social club in order to face a multitude of opponents, or to test their own skills; players can change the circumstances under which they play, without ever changing their surroundings. What’s more, the continuing success of the industry means that developers are always striving to better their merchandise, and to reach out in new ways. Many of our favourite strategy and board games are now available across platforms, meaning that a multitude of players can access, and enjoy content at any one time. What does this new technology mean for our favourite strategy and tabletop games?

A board and table game revival

During any discussion about strategy games it’s tempting to refer to the role-play and boards games we’ve come to embrace over the years; games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Risk, and Battleships. However, it’s important to remember the earliest forms of strategy game too, including chess, checkers, cards games, and, later, slots. Although digital screens have replaced dealers, and touch pads have replaced tabletops, the premises of such games remain the same; facing any given number of opponents players must navigate a board or table, calling into play numerous skills that will help them move pieces, acquire or lose cards, or reveal winning symbols. Technology may have adapted the ways in which plays are made, but the enduring love we feel for such pastimes means they’ve never gone out of fashion. ANd while developers continue to push the boundaries of the format’s ability to evolve, where these strategy games will go next is almost certainly in gamers’ hands.

The development of strategy games, as we know them

The rise in popularity of mobile and online gaming has had massive consequences for role-play and strategy gaming; adapted first for PC and laptop computer gaming, titles such as Dungeons and Dragons, Command and Conquer, and Age of Empires have since been translated across platforms, and are available to a worldwide network via the Internet. Using the same skills that are still employed during chess, poker, baccarat, and blackjack, these games allow players’ imaginations, and ability to strategize, to run wild, while adopting scenarios and gameplay that are universally familiar. Modern strategy games, including Warhammer, StarCraft, and even Call of Duty have been born from this evolution; the genre is experiencing a revival. Indeed, the popularity of mobile gaming in particular has led to a variety of simpler strategy titles and apps emerging, encouraging even casual gamers to get in on the strategy action.

An increasingly cultural experience

Video games and online strategy games, as well as the board and tabletop games that inspired them, are an integral part of our culture – no more so than now, as online and video games head up our favourite kinds of entertainment. That’s not to say they don’t take influence other cultural factors, though. Take casino-based strategy games, for example; while there are numerous incarnations that are instantly recognisable as the traditional games we used to play, there are also versions of chess, slots, poker, and cards that have been inspired by popular culture, films, television, and music. Players tend to be drawn to such games, as their themes engage mind and a sense of fun. What’s more, strategy games inspired by popular culture are great for developers keen to reach new audiences. The fantasy and science fiction genres work particularly well when it comes to strategy games; well, some facets of technology are out of this world, after all. Besides, nothing says escapism like a strategy game inspired by the imagination.

Far from forcing our favourite strategy games into the depths of our nostalgia, the increasing pace of the digital age and growth of mobile and online gaming has actually inspired a revolution of sorts among some of our most beloved titles. From slots, card games, and chess, to the tabletop role-play, and pen and paper games we all love to play, there’s something inherently magical about the evolution of the strategy concept. Our ability to embrace modern technology, while refusing to let go of our favourite hobbies has meant that such strategy games are now being played by an entirely new audience – and are showing no signs of disappearing from view.

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