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Barnes on Games #9 - Marie Kondo Is Right About Your Game Collection

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16 Jan 2019 13:43 #290111 by Michael Barnes

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16 Jan 2019 14:29 #290112 by jur
Owning games is not just about playing, it's also about the desire to play, the ability to reach for it on a shelf, and to turn back to it for reference. It's the anti library, not a collection. Just like books or cds (anyone remember those?)

www.brainpickings.org/2015/03/24/umberto-eco-antilibrary/
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16 Jan 2019 15:34 #290117 by southernman

jur wrote: Owning games is not just about playing, it's also about the desire to play, the ability to reach for it on a shelf, and to turn back to it for reference. It's the anti library, not a collection. Just like books or cds (anyone remember those?)

www.brainpickings.org/2015/03/24/umberto-eco-antilibrary/


I have fun playing games from my collection, I get fun from playing different types of games, and I get fun from playing them with other people (I very rarely solo games, although I do have some fighting fantasy type books if that emergency ever arrives).
I sell when I no longer get fun from a game. I have more than I can play over a few months but that does not make me unhappy, it makes me look forward to when I do get them out.
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16 Jan 2019 16:53 #290120 by Michael Barnes
I’m not a game librarian or archivist. I’m a game player. I don’t have a responsibility or inclination to somehow represent my knowledge or experience with physical objects, and I think the Eco thing is fundamentally flawed. I don’t have unlimited space for any kind of privileged, bourgeois library. And the reality of it is that many personal collections and libraries exist not for “reference”, but as a totemic decoration that signifies commitment, authority, and experience to others with similar interests.

I believe one of the Konmari principals is that objects have only so much happiness they can give before they essentially “run out”. It’s a Shinto thing. This totally makes sense when it comes to games, just like what Tom says above- when the fun stops, let it go. I think determining what your threshold is here is the key. No doubt, I have more games than I will even be able to play in six months.

You know, when your game collection, and your ability to actually get the games you owned played has you thinking about -mortality- in that you realize that the time required to play everything outstrips your expected lifespan...something has gone wrong!
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16 Jan 2019 17:08 #290121 by DWTripp
Barnes - I'm with ya on this. Purging is purifying. I purged over 1,000 vinyl LP's a few decades back. The giant wad of cash and ease of moving in my house was a religious experience. I purged over 400 SPI, AH, and other assorted hex and counter abominations on rec.games back in the 90's - it was like vomiting dust and misaligned die cut counters. The resultant wad of cash was almost as Zen as my motorcycle.

I purged several thousand miniatures on Ebay when that site fired up and the experience removed more lead residue from my bloodstream than 50 ginger root enemas. The massive wad of cash was embarrassing. But I kept it anyway. Now I'm readying a purge of the ridiculous number of used games, motorcycle parts, Vans skate shoes and 80's band t shirts I've collected up since the Ebay purge.

It feels good and I still own many of the games I played in the 70's thru till this year. Good article. Play more, dust less.
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16 Jan 2019 17:47 - 16 Jan 2019 17:48 #290124 by Space Ghost
The annoying thing about Marie Kondo is the fact that everyone is now virtue signaling on social media about how much stuff they have purged from their house/closet/etc. All that shows me is they had too many things to begin with. As my wife says, the biggest beneficiaries are going to be the hoarders who find the cornucopia of purged items at Goodwill.

I have taken to giving most of my purged books and games to my brother and cousin -- and am finding that I like to keep the ones that are about the weirdest stuff (besides book -- when I think that it is important to keep works of great literature in the house). We just remodeled our kitchen and took out a couple of walls -- reducing our cabinet space; the purging was epic. And we still have much to jettison, some old AH wargames are upcoming.

Generally, I find this entire topic of purging interesting as it really runs into the underlying cultural wounds that we still carry around from the depression. Even though we have more and more access to things, we fear that we will be without again -- sometimes I think it is in our genetic makeup. That being said, most people wouldn't know how to repurpose items as it is....I have a friend in his 50s that didn't realize that you didn't need electricity to turn on his gas stove (my worry for inherent skills of the modern "citizen" is probably really just a harbinger of my transition to old age).
Last edit: 16 Jan 2019 17:48 by Space Ghost.
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16 Jan 2019 18:07 #290125 by DukeofChutney
i am a purger by nature. Periodically i just get the urge to clear out and do, so my collection drops down to around 15 odd games once every few years before having a slight rebound.

I'm view is sort of there are new experiences in life and so I don't need to always repeat old ones. Equally no game or experience is so great that I would really miss it that much.
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16 Jan 2019 18:12 #290126 by mc
Oh yeah, Space Ghost. There's a lot of baggage there. In thinking about this I keep thinking about my grandparents generation, who grew up during the depression and then the war. Waste not want not. That whole thing. Garages full of carefully saved items - just in case - for a rainy day, sitting there for years. If I chuck something out, I can't help but think of the waste. I like to repurpose stuff. Most of my games are bought secondhand, and I don't have a huge collection.... and once bought, they are already bought. I kind of think that the focus of this stuff should be on the buying in the first place. . On the abject consumerism that has become so prevalent, where things are constantly replaced when the old one isn't dead yet. Rather than culling or purging, I think we'd be happier if we culled and purged our want lists. And if we cull and purge, it would be awesome if we could be finding homes for the items where we know they are genuinely going to be loved (or provide joy).

I haven't read the book or watched the show. Does she say that buying things can provide joy? So then the joy runs out quickly, and you just get rid of it?
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16 Jan 2019 18:45 #290127 by Michael Barnes
DW, glad to see you in these parts brother!

MC, That's an excellent point about culling the wish list ahead of the collection. This has actually really impacted my reviewing...there is so little I actually "want" it's hard to even bring in a free copy of a game sometimes. We've had that big discussion about negative reviews in the forums here, part of the reason I don't really do many negative reviews is because if it comes into my house, I'm usually reasonably sure it's something I want to play and will like. If I don't review it, a lot of times it's because I don't want it.

Of course buying something new brings joy...but does that joy expire once you've opened it up, read the rules, maybe played it once, and then put it on the shelf?

I am a HUGE proponent of reselling and donating...certainly, don't just throw your games away. Someone out there wants them. You might sell a used game to someone that otherwise couldn't afford it, and it may bring them some happiness. Or you might part with a favorite title to someone else and it becomes their favorite title. These are good feelings.

The whole "rainy day" thing speaks to something else about buying games...there is SO MUCH "aspirational acquisition"...people will buy a game and aspire to play it one day. Or they will get a game that fits a certain niche, audience, timeframe, player count or whatever as a kind of "rainy day" investment. This makes no sense. I used to do this, but then I realized that aspirational acquisition is a TOTAL waste of time and space.

Doug, that is also a great point about these folks having too much to begin with. Access is an interesting thing here that you brought up. With the internet, access to games is virtually limited only by your spending power. If that rainy day situation comes up where you need a 7 player, 30 minute game with a fantasy setting...you can have a copy of Citadels overnighted to you or there is likely a FLGS where you can buy it nearby. Games are more available than ever before, and access to them is greater than ever before. So this notion of storing games as a "library" is almost irrelevant. Especially when you likely have several folks in your gaming circle with the same titles.
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16 Jan 2019 20:28 #290129 by Sevej
You can play with your 40k miniatures?!!

For me board game collecting is a game in itself. How to manage my various interests and keep it in size.

On the other hand, I have never intended to play 40k of any kind, even if I have a fully painted army (and more).

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16 Jan 2019 20:59 #290130 by Frohike
I enjoy certain aspects of Kondo's method but it does have some issues which its enthusiasts don't often discuss.

The positives: I actually appreciate what the quasi-animism brings into the process, both in relation to the objects themselves and to the living space that the owner is trying to reclaim.

Sitting in your living room or wherever and just having a silent moment where you "thank the space" feels odd and showy at first but it has a purpose beyond just ritualizing the upcoming task or lending an exoticized Shinto authenticity to the proceedings.

Part of our consumer culture has gone beyond fetishizing the consumer object and has invested the act of selecting & acquiring with a palliative, talismanic quality. The internet has imbued us with the power to be super-selectors & curators and our fluency with this process feels like a part of our identity now. The act of owning becomes more existentially charged & meaningful than what is owned.

I think Kondo's process is designed to externalize appreciation and attention and reinvest them back into those spaces and objects that we've unknowingly separated from our act of self-edification or from our own identity. We may think that we treasure our space and our things, but that's actually not quite right. We treasure the treasuring, the curating, the possession. The outcome is this unnerving pairing of what we feel to be ordered, expert self-validation with the crushing entropy & negativity of our own possessions and our own space. Kondo tries to rewire that toxic dynamic with a dash of animism, to pretty good effect.

Another positive of this "thank the space" or "thank the object" ritual is that it avoids a reverse process of abjection, where we look at the pile we're about to sort and 1) see it as a pile of indiscriminate shit and 2) berate ourselves as an extension of this pile of shit. This self-destructive quality just reignites the impulse to soothe ourselves again and I think it can discourage people to the point of giving up. Kondo definitely wants an initial shock effect but she also doesn't want that to turn into self-defeat or drudgery. Preventing this abjection also avoids reverting to an internalized, obsessively judgmental separateness from our own environment. When we're forced to think about each selected object and thank it, we can enjoy some of the dopamine remnants from our initial acquisition and maybe preserve some of its intent rather than externalizing everything as a "purge." There's some self-compassion at work here, which I think is important.

Anyway, one big limitation that isn't discussed much in the Kondo Zeitgeist is the class-specific appeal of this decluttering trend. It assumes that you have the power and means to toss things that aren't immediately relevant because you have the same power and means to reacquire. It's not necessarily there in the guidelines or the intent, but it does seem like the absence of such a safety net makes the process much more difficult & taxing. As @Ghostwoods on Twitter put it: "if I throw something away today that I then need next month, that's a flat out disaster. I can't even usually replace things that break."

Another negative that I may be misperceiving since I haven't fully bought into this is that it all seems to be primarily reactive. Decluttering becomes more important than clutter prevention, which I think is the more crucial (yet equally class-specific) skill that may be a bit more difficult and abstract to teach (and also probably less immediately satisfying): the curation impulse needs to meld with the skills of editing and discernment, the latter two going much more deeply against the consumerist grain than I think most people are ready to consider.

I think a lot of these positives & negatives map pretty strongly to board game collections, or any hobby where the consumer's growing selection expertise meets the realities of storage and available free time while also being fueled by an inflated sense of imminent scarcity. Kickstarter has certainly not been helpful in this regard.
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16 Jan 2019 21:05 #290131 by SaMoKo
I don’t think our collection has ever gone over 50 games; usually floats at around 40. About half of the shelf is two player games the wife and I enjoy, the other half group games. I could likely purge down to 30, but we are happy with everything in our collection and space isn’t an issue.

My group plays things in cycles. Ashleigh and I started another campaign of Claustrophobia after having not touched it for 3 years, and it is exciting again! Our group took renewed interest in Brass and set aside Age of Steam for a bit.

If a game doesn’t get requested after about five years, it’s time to trade or sell it off. Usually games go up in value by then anyways!

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16 Jan 2019 21:25 #290132 by san il defanso
Ditching games can be really therapeutic, and it's really good to ask the hard questions about the games you own. I've made my own collection a lot leaner because of all of the moves I've made over the last five years. But the rainy day fallacy is not a total fallacy in my experience. In each of the four environments I've lived in over the last few years, I've had different kinds of games that can get played, and others that suddenly don't happen anymore. If I was going by what "plays" now it would basically be short Euros and RPGs. I'm not reducing my collection to half-hour games and D&D books though.

I also question the ability for gaining joy from getting rid of things. If buying all the things didn't bring you joy, there's no guarantee that getting rid of them will do it either.

Of course, I haven't actually watched Tidying Up or anything else with Marie Kondo. Having just gone through a pretty intense purge of our possessions before moving overseas I am not in the mood to think about doing any more of that.
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17 Jan 2019 02:42 #290136 by jur
Thanks Mike, first time in my life I feel proud to be bourgeois. You're so fucking judgemental, I almost feel like retaliating. And then I think: does becoming Michael Barnes bring me joy?

I do my occassional book, game and lead purges and give most away to people who might actually read/play/paint it, I have hardly bought a new game in the last couple of years. Others have a higher turnover. Others collect. And yet others restrict themselves to a fixed number.

That's all fine. Okay, collectors and restricters can get obsessive. But some people are like that. I think we can all get along on the basis of enjoying playing games. We can differ in opinion on which games are worth playing and the amount of trash talk, but we can all see the fun in it.

We used to shake our heads over people on TOS judging people for playing Monopoly. Now we're judging people over the number of their games. Does becoming like *those* people bring you joy?
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17 Jan 2019 04:58 #290137 by Matt Thrower
Yeah, you're not going to get much argument about this in these parts but you express the sentiment, and the reasons behind it, well.

I'll defend collectors, providing they admit what they are. It can be a pleasurable thing in its own right and if that's your thing, more power to you. It's not my thing, though, and it's not what most boardgamers claim to be.

One thing I do struggle with, though, is the "playing, staying" concept. As a critic, I have to play a lot of games. That means the games on my table are almost always recent games. Only a handful of the absolute best of the best gets table time amidst the constant, exhausting throughput of the new.

Which leaves me with a problem: it's become really hard to identify which games really deserve to join that crowd. "Playing, Staying" can't work for me and, as a result, I get paralysed by indecision when it comes to which games I actually really want to keep and I keep more than I should,

Personally, I'm increasingly using practicality as a measure. Games that I can't comfortably teach my eldest kid and play to completion before bedtime don't really get played much at all. Those are the first on the block. It's something I might regret in years to come, but I doubt it.
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