Scrabble, Monopoly and Cluedo: just the last stand of the Luddites?

Signs of a return to favour of analogue ‘real things’ won’t alter the fundamental shift in the way we experience the world and each other that digital has brought

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 1:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 9:29am

I used to give Game Boy electronic toys to my friends’ children for Christmas. More recently, it’s video games or iPads. Now, however, I find that more and more parents frown on electronic gadgets, and prefer non-digital gifts.

So I was intrigued when Toys ‘R’ Us said local Christmas shoppers are increasingly choosing traditional board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo over electronic gadgets as families seek more “quality time” together.

Among my friends now entering middle age, many have been collecting vinyl records; forget Spotify, Apple Music and streaming music apps. And while many people I know own a Kindle, quite a few have given up on it. I have yet to meet someone who has completely left the world of physical books behind. In many developed countries, schools are switching back to using pencil and paper rather than teaching and studying everything online.

Maybe it’s just the last hurrah of my analogue generation. The digital-savvy millennials will take over soon enough once we ageing Luddites die off.

Back to basics: Hong Kong’s Christmas shoppers opting for traditional board games over gadgets at Toys ‘R’ Us

Or maybe it’s what author David Sax has described in the title of his new book, The Revenge of Analogue: Real Things and Why They Matter. Sax argues analogue beats digital in many things. Physical books and print newspapers enable us to focus rather than being constantly distracted as we are when scanning the internet. At the turn of this century, no one was glued to their mobiles while walking down the street, or socialised on Facebook or posted pictures of their meals on Instagram. Now many people do.

Sax also points to instances where some millennials prefer analogue technology such as in music recording, as they take refuge from digital saturation.

I find Sax’s position attractive, though I think he is almost certainly wrong. For one, you can’t equate real things with all, and only, things analogue. Things digital – what you can’t touch – are pretty real too. His position is a bit like Samuel Johnson kicking a stone to prove that physical things exist.

The so-called Internet of Things is also blurring the line between analogue and digital.

Still, there is no denying there is a fundamental shift in the way we experience the world and each other by going from analogue to digital. And we are still tallying what is lost and what is gained from that.