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Hype in board games

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28 Jan 2019 10:26 #290835 by Vysetron
Hype in board games was created by Vysetron
The cure is worse than the disease.
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28 Jan 2019 22:15 #290836 by SuperflyPete
Replied by SuperflyPete on topic Hype in board games
You’ve misread the pathology.

Read my commentary pieces on this and why it is how it is at www.superflycircus.com . I think the four articles
That explore the reasons for hype and overconsumption are easily the best things ever written on the subject.

The short version is that it’s a feedback loop feeding a core set of desires: The desire to be right, the desire to be smart, the desire to be in the club, and the desire to be Alpha.
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28 Jan 2019 22:52 #290840 by Vysetron
Replied by Vysetron on topic Hype in board games

SuperflyTNT wrote: You’ve misread the pathology.

Read my commentary pieces on this and why it is how it is at www.superflycircus.com . I think the four articles
That explore the reasons for hype and overconsumption are easily the best things ever written on the subject.

The short version is that it’s a feedback loop feeding a core set of desires: The desire to be right, the desire to be smart, the desire to be in the club, and the desire to be Alpha.


I remember reading your piece about consumerism in board games some time ago. I'll need to refresh and read the others, they're a bit foggy in my head at the moment. Thanks for the reminder.

While I didn't put nearly as much work into this as you did into those, there is a 5 year gap and I think the issues I focused on are a more recent phenomenon. In addition, I don't see why all of them can't be true. Some of the current board game marketing is seriously, disgustingly predatory for people who look to these "friendly" sources for validation/interaction.

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29 Jan 2019 10:39 #290874 by SuperflyPete
Replied by SuperflyPete on topic Hype in board games
I disagree. It's the same stuff, just packaged differently. The social media aspect is still being pressed into the willing hands of people still consuming for the same reasons.

"Hey, like/subscribe!" is just a way of making sure that people are the first to get information - ie. "Did you hear that DIFWRIJIWRWQF is launching next week? No? Hmmm...." or in other words, being able to say to friends, "Yeah, when it comes to boardgaming, I'm kind of a big deal. I know stuff."

The whole "friending" of designers and publishers is the same. "I'm friends with so-and-so, we chat sometimes". Now, there's some guys that are just totally approachable and love people, like Buonocore - there's not a fake bone in the man.

But all of it comes back to the same shit:
People want to be right.
"I watched that Tom Vasel review and he agrees with me, so I should but it. Then when I bring it to the group I can say I discovered it and Tom agreed with my positions. Maybe I should start a YouTube channel?"

People want to feel smarter than their peers.
"I knew about that game way before anyone. I was going to sign up to playtest it, but I'm working on my own projects so I didn't."

People want to feel affirmed.
"I looked up the game, and since the reviews were positive, I was right to buy this. We should play this."

It's all psychological and it's consumer-pushed. Many, many gamers are intellectual wannabes, very condescending (internally or externally), and are naturally competitive. The hypewagon system of sales and marketing (read: unregulated "journalists") are a veritable layered onion of genius. The publishers have found willing interlocutors who act as honest brokers (and most are) but they are humans first, and humans know not to shit where you eat, nor do we like painful things, so the overwhelming OVERWHELMING number of reviews are positive because nobody wants to be in a position where you rail against someone who sent you a free game (and may never again), and furthermore, nobody wants to play a game they hate three times and then take time writing about something they hate just to get shit on (maybe) by a publisher who is mad that you shit on their game that they invested heavily in.

So, it's all geared towards affirmation, making people feel smarter, and is really quite the "meta marketing" system which has proven to be incredibly powerful. One might even argue that board games have become the best example of effective influencer marketing today outside of high fashion.
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29 Jan 2019 11:26 - 29 Jan 2019 11:27 #290882 by jpat
Replied by jpat on topic Hype in board games
I don't claim to have thought about this as long or as well as some here, but there are at least a couple of issues here: (1) the quality of board game review/criticism and (2) psychological and social factors behind consumership in board gaming. I think we've largely established that the quality of board game review/criticism is, in the main and with some notable exceptions, appallingly bad. The social and psychological dimensions of board game consumerism aren't unique to board gaming, but they may be particularly effective in the domain for reasons already indicated: the field is relatively small; the hobby is more social in nature than many media-based ones; many of us were "evangelized" into board gaming by personal influence, so we remain susceptible to such seemingly personal influencing by people we may not know but we seem to know because they have such a large place in this small pond, and so on.

Today's movies are pretty much 100% hype driven by studios, by (in many cases) franchise-ism (you've seen 22 of these, might as well see the 23rd), and by social media influencers, and movies, except at the margins, are largely immune from professional criticism. So board gaming isn't unique at all in the hype department. But the quality of criticism for board games is much weaker than that for film, and board games are more social (I would say) and more prone to triggering a collector impulse because of their "durability." (True, lots of people collected films at one time, but this has certainly dropped off in the age of streaming and was impossible before the advent of home video.)
Last edit: 29 Jan 2019 11:27 by jpat.
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29 Jan 2019 13:43 - 29 Jan 2019 13:48 #290893 by jpat
Replied by jpat on topic Hype in board games
And, after reading more of Pete's work, I see he has both preceded me in pretty much every salient point and far surpassed me in insight. Hats off.

For me, if anything's changed qualitatively, it's not KS or the general mechanism of hype (which Pete covers, even from the comparatively innocent distance of four-plus years ago), it's how BGG, clearly the reference point for any discussion of the hobby, has even more profoundly leaned in to the consumerist bent and the branding with its "hotness" list, its official content, and the like. Maybe this is really just a quantitative change, and BGG has always been less neutral and user controlled than it's seemed, but it just feels like the site pushed commodification more than it used to because that's what everyone seems to want.
Last edit: 29 Jan 2019 13:48 by jpat.
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29 Jan 2019 14:52 #290900 by DukeofChutney
Replied by DukeofChutney on topic Hype in board games
Important points are worth remaking and this is an erudite article.

I think the friendliness in boardgames is partly due to the heavy dominance of video in the criticism space. It is easier to write harsh words and say them to a camera. That in turn is a reflection of the era boardgames have grown up in. Video game critique developed in the 90s and early 00s in print magazines with a reputation to defend where the print was their product. In the late 2000s to present the internet is the medium and video the easiest way to convey games with physical components and complex rules. So everything has a face. I point this out because whilst I do agree friendliness has been commercialized i think this is a happy convenience for the benefactors rather than any specific design.
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29 Jan 2019 14:52 - 29 Jan 2019 15:22 #290901 by Vysetron
Replied by Vysetron on topic Hype in board games

jpat wrote: Maybe this is really just a quantitative change, and BGG has always been less neutral and user controlled than it's seemed, but it just feels like the site pushed commodification more than it used to because that's what everyone seems to want.


I think the last point is all that matters. BGG is moving with the times so they can get their cut, and the way they do that is facilitating the hype engine. Paid promotion, partnerships, etc.
Last edit: 29 Jan 2019 15:22 by Vysetron.

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30 Jan 2019 09:09 #291085 by Legomancer
Replied by Legomancer on topic Hype in board games
This is a perennial issue of mine, as everyone knows, so no need to go into it, but there's another angle I haven't seen brought up.

It used to be that in nerd hobbies, the way you showed your dick size was by either knowing things others didn't know about the thing or having things others didn't have about it. This allowed people to do gatekeeping and status checks and so forth.

But now we have the Internet, where you can find out the most minutest details about anything in moments, learn the entire history of something in an afternoon, and buy a Japanese-only import with the misprinted box sleeve at the click of a button. I no longer have to depend on the guru who has the fifth-generation copy of an episode from 1965, I can watch it on youtibe. How the hell do you gatekeep that?

Same way we've always done it: cold hard cash. Sure, you can buy a t-shirt about the show. But can you buy 20 of them? Sure, you can get your hands on this edition, but do you have a complete set? How does anyone know you like this character unless you have every possible toy version of it, more than others to prove your fealty.

Conspicuous consumption has worked for years to prove one's devotion and status. You can buy a $75,000 wristwatch that literally doesn't do ANYTHING better than a $5 one except tell people you can spend $75,000 on a wristwatch. How many people are right now driving around solo in giant behemoths that can hold 8 people, but which never have more than 2 in them. But they could afford the thing, so they must have the thing.

Boardgames are becoming mainstream and popular. When I first got into hobby games I read about Waldschattenspiel and was mesmerized at this arcane wonder. Now I can buy it at Target.

When a game reviewer wants to establish his (usually his) credibility, what does he do? Places himself in front of a wall of games. Owning 1000s of games means you have bona fides.
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30 Jan 2019 09:17 #291087 by SuperflyPete
Replied by SuperflyPete on topic Hype in board games
That's an incredible point, Dave. The truth of that is glaring.

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30 Jan 2019 09:28 #291088 by Vysetron
Replied by Vysetron on topic Hype in board games
I have seen it mentioned in offhand comments, but never laid out in detail. Contempt for the wall-o-games background is shockingly rare and I think you nailed why.

One of my favorite video reviewers (who has since moved on to podcasting) is Mark Bigney. When he did All The Games You Like Are Bad he filmed in front of a shelf that had absolutely zero games on it. A couple books, some dust collectors, that was it. That always comes to mind whenever I see someone who's taken forever finding the perfect staging angle for their "shelfie".
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30 Jan 2019 10:50 #291095 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Hype in board games
Which is hilarious because mark had said on his podcast he has a huge collection, like 700 games
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30 Jan 2019 11:28 - 30 Jan 2019 11:33 #291105 by Jexik
Replied by Jexik on topic Hype in board games
I don't know if it's my early Christian (Lutheran)* upbringing or what, but this does not jive with me at all. My family was middle to upper middle class (teachers), but I've never been about conspicuous consumption (or had the means for it).

*The likely poorly translated line, "It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god."

What I DID do during my youth was try to win games as much as possible, and if possible to do it on a budget, all the better. Nothing gave me more joy than putting MtG players with $1k decks on tilt with a plucky $80 red deck. Even when I was running a game shop, my commander decks had some pretty strict budget restrictions. There are some more collector oriented players that show their personal worth by trying to have as much dollar value on the board as possible.

I don't know if trying to win through my wits etc. is some weird perversion of the protestant work ethic. I also think the phenomenon of people playing freemium games and refusing to spend a cent is similar.

To the OP, I've made real friends with a bunch of plaid hat guys and Rob Daviau, which somehow had me end up playing a party game with Quinns and Matt from that one show. They were NOT the funniest people in the game though. (I was the least funny one though...)
Last edit: 30 Jan 2019 11:33 by Jexik.
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30 Jan 2019 11:32 - 30 Jan 2019 11:34 #291107 by SuperflyPete
Replied by SuperflyPete on topic Hype in board games
Nah, you’re just high functioning and Alpha AF when it comes to winning. You were always outclevering people at Heroscape.

Maybe there’s an underlying heirarchy in the hobby:

NERDFAME
Video Reviewers
Designers
Podcasters
Winners
Collectors
Well informed

Maybe not in that order
Last edit: 30 Jan 2019 11:34 by SuperflyPete.
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30 Jan 2019 11:34 - 30 Jan 2019 11:38 #291108 by Jexik
Replied by Jexik on topic Hype in board games
I was at best, a top 20 player in the country lol. They made a list that said I'm probably only top 100 all time. ;) D-list nerd celeb sounds about right for me at my prime. Then I had to go and do different things a little more.

Nowadays I like losing more than winning. It's a mix of the dopamine rush being less than it used to be and relishing the opportunity to learn something new. Stomping people does not create a learning experience... for either side really.
Last edit: 30 Jan 2019 11:38 by Jexik.

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