COVID-19: Surge in demand for board games and jigsaws

Party-games were in hot demand from flats and families.
Party-games were in hot demand from flats and families. Photo credit: Getty Images

In these uncertain times, more and more grown-ups are finding solace in jigsaws, board games and even Lego.

Cerberus Games hobby store in downtown Wellington has seen a surge in demand under alert level 2 both in-store and online, as customers stock up on trading cards, board games, and Dungeons and Dragons paraphernalia.

Manager Keith Labad said the first lockdown came as a shock to many.

"There were a lot of people who didn't have access to the games at the time due to being locked down, and we didn't have our web store at that time so people weren't able to get them then. So they are preparing now.

"There's fewer people coming in, but those who do are coming in with the intent to buy more games."

Party-games were in hot demand from flats and families doing more home-based socialising.

One of the biggest-selling board games is called Pandemic.

"There's four different viruses breaking out at the same time, you're trying to contain all of them and find a vaccine for all of them.

"So you don't have to eradicate the virus to 'win the game' but you need to be able to find a solution for it, which I suppose is kind of what we're doing now, right?"

The long tables in the middle of the store where people regularly meet to play and trade are gone - at least for now.

"Technically we can have events with up to 100 people, but it makes it hard to kind of keep that social distancing if there are people in the middle of the room playing games while people are browsing and stuff.

"So we're just trying to be cautious and do everything we can to stop it happening again."

Under level 2 and 3 restrictions, many people were using Skype or Zoom for role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons.

Logical Toys in Auckland supplies puzzles and games to stores nationwide.

Director Heidi Heyman said demand for puzzles in particular has jumped 35 percent since Covid, with 1000-piece puzzles the most popular, although they sell some with more than 13,000 pieces.

"I myself wouldn't attempt one of those, but people do.

"Jigsaw puzzles seem to have really taken off and it doesn't seem to be a trend that's dying either.

"We've got another container landing in two weeks and it's nearly all sold out."

Logical Toys has even had SOS calls from suppliers across the Tasman who have run out of stock, she said.

The makers of Lego have been quick to capitalise on adult fans.

They have even brought out an "18+" series in sleek black packaging.

Wellington man Daniel Mulholland from the online community Between the Bricks rediscovered Lego in his mid-30s, catching it from his children.

The former military man and ambulance worker started posting online 18 months ago as a way of reconnecting with the world, while recovering from post traumatic stress disorder.

He has noticed a surge in interest post-lockdown, with people finding comfort in following instructions and snapping bricks together.

"Over the course of two hours of building you might start with six or seven bags of bricks and at the end of that you have a Ford Mustang.

"And you don't see that really while you're building it until it's finished, and then all of a sudden it's a Ford Mustang and you're like 'Oh my God'.

"And then you have that sense of achievement, you've achieved something. You've done all of that, and you weren't even thinking about what was happening in the rest of the world."

Victoria University psychology professor Marc Wilson said research and clinical practice showed that doing something - "in fact doing anything" - was the best thing you could do to manage depression and anxiety.

And there was evidence that as a result of Covid-19, New Zealanders were experiencing more anxiety and depression.

"So these sorts of things sound to me like distraction and that's actually a good thing - where you're not necessarily thinking or worrying about the problem, but you're also not actively trying to suppress it.

"And of course at the end of your puzzle, at the end of your baking, your Lego making , you have something to show for your efforts.

"That's a really good thing because in many parts of our lives, in spite of how much effort you might put in, you never know what comes out at the other end."