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How Microsoft HoloLens will bring back tabletop gaming

Thanks to HoloLens, we’ll be doing what we did decades ago, but doing it through a headset.

Microsoft HoloLens

Tabletop gaming has meant different things over the years. Some might think of it as referring to old board games like Monopoly, Risk, or Life. Others might equate the term with a certain casino game, be it poker, roulette, or craps. And still others hear “tabletop” and think of card-based games like Dungeons and Dragons or Magic: The Gathering.

No matter what comes to mind when you think of tabletop gaming, however, you can probably agree on one thing: these games all feel a little bit old fashioned in the face of modern entertainment. It’s not necessarily that people don’t play them anymore, but mind-blowing video game experiences on everything from four-inch smartphone screens to $300 consoles have pretty much taken over in-home entertainment. It might sound a little bit counterintuitive, then, to suggest that one of the most cutting edge video game consoles on the planet might soon lead to a sort of revival for tabletop games.


The Microsoft HoloLens is the tech company’s entry into the budding virtual reality market, and though this recent article indicates that a release date is uncertain it figures to be one of the first major VR headsets to hit store shelves. Like its competitors (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive to name a few), it will be a pioneering console, and its current developmental phase has been focused largely on the creation of games that work well with the new format. And in the case of the HoloLens, some of those games have been surprisingly simple.

In fact, judging by this report, HoloLens game developers are hardly focusing on virtual reality at all. Rather, they’re concentrating on augmented reality. The difference is subtle but significant. VR means that when you put on the headset you “enter” an environment that’s entirely unlike the one your physical body is sitting in. Augmented reality, on the other hand, allows you to keep seeing the room you’re sitting in, with gaming elements entering the scene. So for instance, if you put on a VR headset to play a Mario game you might feel as if you’re in the middle of a level alongside characters. In augmented reality it would be more like there were suddenly Mario characters in your living room with you.

As of now, the HoloLens developers are using the concept of augmented reality to put together some pretty inventive experiences. However, the headset is still demonstrating that new, fascinating games can be designed without sensational environments or full-fledged VR worlds. And given the potential for VR headsets to incorporate online multiplayer elements as well, one can begin to see the potential for tabletop games to have something of a rebirth.

As a matter of fact, some such games have already been updated to fairly modern forms of entertainment. At this site players can enjoy a range of online casino games, but some of the biggest draws are the ones that simulate tabletop experiences. For instance, players can play roulette, craps, and various card games in live settings against other players. Naturally, it’s not quite the same as sitting down at a real table to play the same games, but it’s managed to help keep the concepts alive for a new generation that is more accustomed to digital gaming.

Minecraft Hololens

Somewhat similarly, a lot of (in fact, most of) the most popular board games have been adapted and updated to the point that they’ve become popular mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. You can now enjoy most any traditional board game on a touchscreen, and in some cases (think of this popular app) you can compete directly with friends or family through your device’s Internet connection. As with online casino rooms, these apps have helped to keep some old fashioned games alive.

So who’s to say games like these won’t wind up being the best fits for a new system like the HoloLens? Updates online and in app form have proven that old tabletop games are still very popular, and even the competitive aspects of them have been preserved through online gaming. With the HoloLens introducing augmented reality games using ordinary environments, it seems we’re on the cusp of being able to play similar tabletop games in a fashion that looks and feels like we’re actually sitting at tables with friends. In short, we’ll be doing what we did decades ago, but doing it through a headset.

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