I’ve become addicted to asynchronous Carcassonne.
One of the biggest downsides of board games is their bothersome habit to take time. It’s easy to squeeze in a few quick Pokémon battles on the bus or some Marvel vs Capcom battles in the space of 10 minutes (long DLC checks notwithstanding; I cannot believe they haven’t gotten around to fixing this yet!) but board games typically take much longer. Enter asynchronous online play.
The easiest analogy for asynchronous play is that chat is live and email is asynchronous; it’s the same game, just spread out. You don’t have to sit and wait for the other player’s turn, you can do something else. Watch TV. Study. It doesn’t actually matter, because asynchronous online games don’t require your input until after the other player, and ideally, there’s no time limit at all. Words With Friends (essentially Scrabble) is totally amazing because I can put down my word, and I’ll just see a little (1) on the Words With Friends icon when I have a game to play. I can have several on the go simultaneously. If me and my buddy are both on at the same time, great, we might throw down an entire game within the space of 20 minutes. If not, who cares if it takes him two days to put down his next word. I’ll just be notified when it’s my turn and I can take it at my leisure.
Of course, asynchronous gaming is nothing new. The most obvious asynchronous game prior to online gaming is chess by mail, but not a lot of people have experience with that. What about scoreboards? Back when arcades were popular, if I walked into an arcade and saw that someone had beaten by high score on DDR, I’d be compelled to beat their score myself. I’m not really competing with DDR or with the songs; I’m competing with A514Nd4NC3R, asynchronously. Any type of scoreboard competition is asynchronous, when you think about; even sports, where people are constantly trying to beat each other’s world records, even if they aren’t directly facing each other.
But the internet makes things a whole new ballgame. In a world where we’re increasingly connected to each other, asynchronous gaming becomes more than just an odd way to look at many sports, it represents a whole new way to play games and keep in touch with people. I love it, and I hope that we see tons of excellent asynchronous games in the future!
My favorite asynchronous games right now are Words With Friends (iTunes link) & Carcassonne (link to official website). Both are iOS apps where I can start or continue games on either my iPhone or my iPad, and both are games I’d like to play more in person, but just don’t always have the chance to. Now, I do!
Postscript: If you have no idea what Carcassonne is, I discuss it in my post about board games. You can also check out the Carcassonne link above.