ROSEVILLE, Minn. - The Greenaway family could have gone to Disney World, New York or Hollywood.
Instead, the family of four from Bristol, England chose a galaxy far, far away—Roseville, Minnesota.
“So we decided not to spend the Disney dollars and come here instead,” said Richard Greenaway.
The trip is a pilgrimage to meet the designers of a game, father Richard says, that changed their lives.
“Try having a conversation with any British child while they are watching on their iPad. It's impossible,” said Richard.
Like so many kids, Richard’s boys Tim, 11, and Simon, 9, were chronic tablet users.
“I like them, but this is better,” said Tim while studying the board game pieces on the table.
Richard decided to get his boys a cool-looking Star Wars board game as a bonus-gift for Christmas last year.
“That's where it exploded,” he said.
It's called Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game.
For those unfamiliar, it’s like Risk meets Chess meets Chewbacca, and it's one of the biggest table top games in the world.
And it happens to be manufactured by Fantasy Flight Games in Roseville.
“We have the Star Wars line, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones,” said Kyle Dekker, general manager of the company’s game center. “I'm packed almost every night of the week in the game center as people all over the Twin Cities come here to play board games, miniature games and card games.”
FFG is a big part of the hobby game boom.
North American hobby game sales have grown eight consecutive years reaching $880 million in 2014, according to industry magazine Internal Correspondence.
Why the boom?
Many fans say these games offer more community, more interaction, and more learning opportunities than video games.
“There's the social aspect you get from it that you don't get with video games that people really enjoy,” said Dekker.
Richard says his kids have improved their math skills, reading ability, and social confidence since playing X-Wing.
“My youngest really wasn't interested in learning to read, because he couldn't see any joy in it. Now, this game and reading the rules of this game means he has a desire to learn new words and learn to comprehend them,” said Richard.