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Gaming Gluttony

I Updated
Gaming Gluttony
There Will Be Games

I've been thinking lately, which is a change from my normal routine of staring at my shoes and falling asleep while I'm driving. It doesn't happen very often, but now and then I find it refreshing to mix it up and use my head for more than a paperweight (which is not that useful anyway, because my drool keeps smearing the ink). 

And my latest epiphany is that there are too many games. That may sound like heresy, especially when Drake's Flames survives because people send me lots of games, but I swear I'll try to make some sense before I go back to blowing bubbles in a glass of milk.

First off, unless you have a hell of a lot more free time than your average office drone, there's no way you can play every new game that comes out. There are hundreds of games coming out every year, and even if you had the budget to buy every single one without dipping deep into your budget for Vietnamese call-girls, the only way you could read all those rulebooks and play every single game is if you had absolutely nothing else to do. We don't need all those games because you can't actually play them.

"But wait!" I can hear you saying that, which is weird because I wrote this way before you were even able to read it. "I don't have to play them all! Just the ones I like!"

"Aha!" is my response, which is a little silly again, because you haven't actually said your part yet. I'm getting a little confused, actually. I'm going to need a Delorean and a British phone booth just to have this conversation. Anyway, my part continues like this:

"That's my point! You only need the fun games! We don't need the bad ones!"

In fact, people are buying so many games just to keep up with the insane number of releases every month that gaming clubs have changed how they work. It used to be that you showed up with your friends, all of you having read the rules to the game, and spent several hours playing one game. Now you show up, there are a dozen people all playing something different, and there's this crazed urgency where you want to try everything. Only the game owners read the rules, and then they teach everyone else, so nobody even completely grasps the thing. They decide whether they like it, give it a quick thumbs-up-or-down, and hustle off to the next one. They don't play anything twice, even if they liked it the first time, because they have to try a new one to justify buying another dozen games next month.

And that is stupid, because if you only play a game once, then your entertainment actually cost more than your Vietnamese hookers, on a per-hour basis. Seriously, if you pay sixty bucks for a game and only play it once, and you finish in 45 minutes, then you paid eighty dollars an hour for your entertainment. I'm flat-out opposed to paying that much for anything that doesn't result in an orgasm, or at least one hell of an adrenaline rush.

Let's pretend you can get past the problem of time and budget. Let's pretend you actually have the time and financial resources to buy all these games and play them, and you don't mind paying more for games than you would have to pay for oral sex. You are still hosed, because you can't have as much fun.

If you play a lot of games, then you know all about the comparison game. This is where you play a game and go, 'this is a lot like that other game,' and decide which is better. If the new game is better, then you are stuck with an old game that's not as much fun. If the old game is better, then you just got screwed by playing a clone of another game that is inferior. Either way, the world did not need both games. It needed just one of them.

Also, there's no way you had fun with every game you ever played. You may have enjoyed the company, but if you play a lot of games, then you know damned well that at some point, you couldn't wait for the game to end. Which means that you're paying more for games than you would for hookers, and having less fun than you would have had if you had just gone to the movies. Plus at the movies, you might have been able to score a handjob in the back of the theater (although it probably would have cost more than a board game).

I know those first two arguments have holes in them. There are generalizations and assumptions that may not apply to you. I don't care, because for one thing, they do apply to an awful lot of people, and for another thing, I have more points.

To really get the most out of a game, you need to play it several times. If a game reveals all its awesome factor after just one play, then it could not have much awesome factor. If you figure out how best to play on your first try, it's not going to get better. And that happens far too often, which is a damned shame. And it happens because the market supports so many games that crappy games get published and even sell, when a leaner market would dictate that those crappy games go where they belong - the recycle bin.

If publishers spent more time focusing on quality and less time focusing on quantity, the games that did make it out the door would be better. They would spend more time in development and playtesting, and actual professionals would be hired to see to things like marketing and graphic design and editing. As it is, too much of the production in many games is handled by blind mole rats and retarded dachsunds, with occasional help from the odd Vietnamese hooker. Look at Earth Reborn. This blockbuster miniatures game is an absolute blast to play, but visually, it's like someone grabbed your eyeballs and tied them together with razor wire. Cull the market, and Earth Reborn could have spent another six months in editing and design, resulting in a much better game.

It would be easy to just blame publishers for releasing bad games. It's far more comfortable to just waggle a finger at them and say, 'shame on you for wasting my whoring budget.' And you would be accurate in such an accusation, because we depend on them to come up with the awesome stuff we want to play. We don't make the games. We just play them, and we rely on the publishers to do their due diligence, and all we can do is complain when they don't.

But we're the ones who make this glut possible. We're the hapless morons who place $300 orders to save on shipping, and then wind up with a moving box full of games we haven't even unwrapped. We're the ones who show up at game day with twelve games, play each game once, and then put them all on a shelf so we can take pictures of our collections and show them off at BGG. We may not make all those crappy games, but we make them possible, and until we start exercising a little more discretion in our purchasing habits, publishers are going to keep feeding us their untested crap.

At this point, I'm pretty sure someone out there is getting upset. I figure the angry people fall into one of three camps. You're either the wasteful spender with all the self-control of a five-year-old in Toys R Us with a stolen credit card, or you're one of those overly prolific publishers blowing games out your ass like you had cardboard diarrhea, or you're just offended at the number of prostitute references I've made so far tonight. There may be sub-groups, too, like people who wonder why all these hookers have to be from Southeast Asia (I'm not really sure, but I think Norwegian whores are more expensive).

I can't help you if you're angry about the prostitutes. I mean, I suppose I could writer cleaner jokes, but bathroom humor is just a whole lot easier, so I'm sticking with what I know. And if you're testy because I called attention to your needless consumption, then you're welcome. Maybe I'll get you to reconsider all those games you buy, and get more enjoyment for less money.

On the other hand, if you're the publisher, your first rebuttal is going to be that if you don't publish more games, you can't survive. And frankly, I understand. But this cycle has to stop before we're all floating ass-deep in boring retread clones and horrible Knizia reprints. And consider this - the games that sell the best are the games that ARE the best. Make more of those, and fewer of the bad ones. Focus your attention on the quality games. You can make the same sales dollars, because we're going to buy games regardless. We're practically hooked on them. I saw one guy in the corner bobbing back and forth with an IV in his arm, being intravenously fed meeples and dice. We'll buy the games. We'll probably spend the same amount of money. But this way, we get to have more fun. And isn't that what games are for?

OK, so I don't really think publishers are buying that line. They know how to make money, and from where they're sitting, if it ain't broke, they're not planning on fixing it. So as is usually the case in a free market, the change has to come from the consumers. Do you want better games? Quit buying the bad ones. Play every game three times before you buy another one. Stop blazing through them like there was a prize at the bottom of the stack. If you know people who like to brag about the number of games they play, remind them that they are losers.

Play the games you like, and play them a bunch of times. Don't play games just because you want to sample everything once. You'll have more fun and save money. And when the bad games wind up in the landfills of mediocrity, publishers will be forced to make better games, which is an overall win for everyone.

Especially the Vietnamese hookers.

There Will Be Games

Matt Drake


Associate Board Game Reviewer

Author of the Drake's Flames blog, where I write crassly opinionated reviews of board games, card games, video games, comics, movies and whatever else crosses my mind. 

Articles by Matt

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