Have you ever noticed how often tabletop games are depicted on TV and in movies? The games are often used to show the characters relaxing, talking, and getting to know each other…the same reason we play games in the real world. Games in media can help us relate to the characters by seeing them enjoy a hobby similar to our own. Many shows even create their own fictional games that fans fall in love with and create real world examples. I was talking with a couple students in our Game Studies course about this topic, and it really got me to pondering: what are some of the best and worst depictions of tabletop games in media? I am sharing my compiled list so far in hope that you might have insights into ones that I have overlooked in my research.

Movies and TV positively depicting tabletop games: To me, these shows and movies show tabletop games in a good light, that they are fun, social and challenging.

  • Battlestar Galactica – Triad
  • Big Bang Theory – D&D, Jenga, Risk, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer – D&D
  • Community – D&D
  • E.T. – D&D
  • Farscape – Tadek
  • Firefly – Tall Card
  • Freaks and Geeks – D&D
  • Goldbergs, The – D&D
  • Harry Potter – Wizard’s Chess
  • IT Crowd – D&D/RPG
  • James Bond – Baccarat
  • M.A.S.H. – Double Cranko, Grin, Poker
  • Maverick – Poker
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer – Chess
  • Sneakers – Scrabble
  • Star Trek TOS – Tri-Dimensional Chess
  • Star Trek DS9 – Dabo, Tongo
  • Star Trek TNG – Poker
  • Star Trek Voyager – Kadis-kot, Kal-toh
  • Star Wars – Dejarik
  • That ’70s Show – D&D
  • Tombstone – Poker
  • X-Men – Chess
  • …even more shows than I can list here have snippets of Poker being played, especially Western movies and TV shows. I only listed a couple as the best examples but I am open to adding others if you feel they do a great job of it.

Movies and TV negatively depicting tabletop games: To me, these shows and movies mock tabletop games, depict them as evil, or show them having a negative impact on the players.

  • 30 Rock – Colonizers of Malaar
  • Jumanji – Jumanji
  • Knight Moves – Chess
  • Mazes and Monsters – D&D
  • Ouiji – Ouiji
  • Parks & Recreation – Cones of Dunshire
  • Robocop – Nuke’Em
  • Running Man – Running Man Board Game
  • Star Trek TOS – Fizzbin

Movies and TV based on tabletop games: These shows and movies do not depict games as much as they are thematically based on the games themselves. They vary in quality as to how well they depict their source material.

  • Battleship
  • Candyland (Coming Soon?)
  • Catan (Coming Soon?)
  • Clue
  • Digimon
  • Dungeons & Dragons (Cartoon)
  • Dungeons & Dragons (Movies)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Monopoly (Coming Soon?)
  • Pokemon
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
  • Zero Charisma

That is my list as I have compiled it so far. I am sure I have missed some obvious examples that quickly come to your mind. What other TV shows or Movies do you feel depict tabletop games the best or the worst? I could really use more depictions of roleplaying games and real world board games if you have suggestions. I would like to compile as thorough a list as possible and could use your help. I will post again about this list in the future once I feel it has expanded significantly.

Side Project: Tabletop Games In Media

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