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Michael Barnes
August 18, 2022
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Godtear Beats the Odds - Review

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Scout Board Game Review

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The Split - Review

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July 21, 2022
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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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The Question of Consumption

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03 Feb 2022 00:00 #330479 by Jackwraith
In our increasingly polluted and overheated world, there's a valid...

Bouncing off Iain's initiative to be more aware of sustainability in the board game industry, I began thinking about that and some associated questions.

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05 Feb 2022 22:27 - 05 Feb 2022 23:05 #330480 by Sagrilarus
So, this is a tough article to write. I don’t now if you (Marc) found it hard to write personally, but I’ve churned a lot of thoughts on the subject and couldn’t come up with an approach. As a journalist professional or otherwise you kind of need to set a stake in the ground regarding your opinion and then defend it in the text that follows whether it’s popular or not. But this is such an amorphous issue that it’s simply hard to come to your own opinion let alone argue it with vigor.

You did a great job of it. There’s a fair amount of ymmv in what you wrote, but in this case I think you need the indemnity. This isn’t a preachable issue.

I’m not in a position to publish here anymore because my ISP more or less blocks the site from all but an iPad going through a vpn, so responses of this size are challenge aplenty just technically, let alone content-wise. Getting an entire article up with editing and images requires a trip to Starbucks, and that’s not on my short list at the moment. And writing on an iPad has about the same charm as dental work for me, truly an outbound tool.

And here’s what I’ve come to personally, a category that I don’t think you covered. I’m kind of in Marie Kondo’s camp — is this bringing me joy? But it’s not about getting rid of the bulk physically. It’s more about unloading the emotional weight of having games unplayed, games I internalize as items on my to-do list. There’s no reason to feel this way, but I do. God help the stamp collector that decides he needs to mail all of them, but collectors don’t think that way. I do. They’re additional obligations when I already have plenty, most of which aren’t negotiable. So the games on the unplayed list linger, perhaps for years, things to keep track of in the back of my mind at all times.

And when games no longer suit me, I need to undertake the work to sell them. Trading is easier and I like you prefer that. But as it stands now my tradable stuff is gone, what remains is buckets of parts and models and bags and bands and boxes and unorganized collectibles that I can’t figure out how to trim up or move on. For sale — Star Wars Destiny, a shitload of arbitrary bits and pieces, $20 obo. The rest of the world sees that and thinks “I already got me one of those.”

So yeah, this doesn’t speak to the consumption aspect from an environmental point of view and I am on board with that. Jaws of the Lion was something like 30 shipping containers across the Pacific. Might be a great game, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking “how the hell am I going to ship the damn thing to its next owner when I’m done with it? And how long is it going to take me to play it enough to strike it off my to-do list?”

Am I the only one feeling this way?
Last edit: 05 Feb 2022 23:05 by Sagrilarus.
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05 Feb 2022 23:21 #330481 by Jackwraith
Well, first off: Thanks. This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for and I'm glad it was worthwhile for you to take the time to read because you're right: There are no easy answers. That's why I left it without a definitive take on the subject: 1. Because I don't have one. 2. Because no one answer will suit everyone. 3. Because even those answers won't necessarily be the "right" ones. But that's OK.

It wasn't difficult for me to write because I spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. When I was younger and much more cocksure of my opinions, I spent a lot of time telling people what was right and wrong about what they consumed and what was "good." But I eventually realized that there's no way to tell people how to have fun. If they're into Camp Grizzly and I'm not, that's just the way it is. Similarly, one can't tell people that they're "wrong" for enjoying big boxes of cardboard and plastic. You can suggest, as Iain helpfully did, that there are ways to try to make those big boxes a bit more acceptable in an environmental sense, but I don't find much use in telling people that their "giant piles of CMON trash are what's killing the hobby" to paraphrase a compatriot of ours. It's not true for a large chunk of said hobby's enthusiasts (witness the $9 million put down on Marvel Zombicide) and it's not really effective in encouraging people to adjust their approach, if you want to do that at all.

I'm right there with you on the pile of stuff that's not really tradeable. I still have a literal pile of both finished and unfinished models from my 40K and Fantasy days that I can't really trade. They'll have to be sold and I probably won't get that much for them. I don't really care about the money. After all, I sold 20,000 comics for a grand total of $800. But I'm just not sure it's worth the effort to try to move them. In the Marie Kondo sense, proper use of my time brings me joy and I'm not sure that that's one of them.

And I totally get the emotional weight of them, too. I have games on my shelf that I haven't gotten around to playing more than once and a few more that I haven't played at all. The last couple years of COVID have been difficult. I know that I'm probably going to end up trading them or otherwise moving them on without ever having tried them. So... did I waste my time by bringing them into the house in the first place? Maybe. Could I have spent that time and attention doing something else? Probably. I can turn my head from where I'm sitting typing this and look wistfully at both shelves full of games that aren't coming off said shelves more than once a week these days. Yeah, the emotional weight is there, especially when I think about how old I am and how many years are left to do those things.

So, I'm right there with you. This is what Thoreau meant when he wrote about simplicity: "A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." I have a hard time doing that but the Stoic in me says that I should try. In some respects, that's what life is about. (I think.)
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06 Feb 2022 10:28 #330488 by jason10mm
It is a privilege to live in an era where we can get a new plastic-fantastic crate of gaming goodness every week and still not scratch the surface of all that is available. There is a reason that virtually every game made prior to the 1930's or so could be played with a common deck of cards, a handful of dice, or a few different shapes of stone, wood, or bone. Technological innovation has advanced the quality of components immeasurably and the increase in audience and wealth of said audience has led to an explosion of product.

But a lack of resources breeds ingenuity, limitations foster creativity, and a plethora of options dilutes quality both on the supply and demand sides. The barrier to making a game and getting it out there are lower than ever (no more VHS boxes stuffed with home printed components sold at wargame conventions) and the need to make the most of the games you got is all but gone. Cult of the new means you play a game once, maybe just skim the rules or watch a streamer video, and then move to the next before FOMO gets you.

I don't think boardgaming as a whole has a meaningful negative impact on the planet. In fact, I think the energy consumption/pollution of most board games is purely in the creation portion; playing the games costs no electricity, produces no greenhouse gasses (well, methane production does go up after a few bean burritos), and if it brings humans into actual face to face contact that is a HUGE plus over almost every other form of interaction we get in the Western world these days.

So I'd say that being a board game player, collector, enthusiast, or whatever already gives you a moral credit far above a lot of other hobbies.
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06 Feb 2022 10:56 #330490 by Jackwraith
That's a fair point about the overload of options potentially negatively impacting innovation. But I think it's equally fair to say that the emergence of interesting games really hasn't slowed in the past decade, either. Take The Crew, for example. All it really does is turn the concept of trick-taking on its head but that simple twist is all that was necessary to make a really great game. A game like Ankh, which some would regard as emblematic of the excess of a company like CMON, is an excellent game. Could it be produced with lesser components that wouldn't demand so much in terms of resources? Of course. But, again, part of the experience of playing Ankh is the visual appeal. There is, of course, just as much room to argue that the classic simplicity of things like chess or Hnefatafl or Go have a visual appeal all their own.

You're also right that the act of playing games doesn't impact the environment as a whole and is a social experience that I feel is well above many others of the day and age, which has its own positive contribution to society. I can barely play solo board games because my version of the hobby almost demands other people. But I think the environmental impact of production still has to be taken into account. Is it prominent in the big picture? No. But a lot of little things make up that big picture and that production and distribution is one of them. If we're going to effect meaningful change, we have to start somewhere. If it becomes a trend in board gaming, maybe it becomes a trend elsewhere until those items that have a much larger impact are also produced by companies concerned about sustainability.
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11 Feb 2022 05:11 #330672 by thegiantbrain
Glad to have been the inspiration for such a thoughtful piece. Lovely work.
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11 Feb 2022 06:45 - 11 Feb 2022 08:31 #330673 by Dschanni
Within the pursuit of ideals - buy specific stuff, minimalism, paleo diet, the next how-to-live-right movement – there is the idea to overcome “what is” or to improve things. This puts oneself in conflict, builds images of fear and creates insecurities – “I am like this, but I should be like that.” - One should ask if this is a healthy thing to think and feel.

For example, if you say “I like to be greedy and I like all the consequences of this” that’s all right. Then you are through with it. But if you are greedy and you say “I must not be greedy” you put yourself in conflict and you gradually become unhappy. And if you say “I am greedy” who is the “I” in this moment? Is it not an image, an idea, a certain picture, developed by experiences and stored into memory? And should it be nurtured?

Understanding the significance of our images, the stories we tell ourselves, the various identifications (family, religion, gender, job, nation, hobby and so on) seems to be most significant to me. We think that all of this means safety, but it doesn’t.

In particular, commercialism and consumerism are teaching us that that money and pursuit of pleasure are the greatest things in life. The daily routine of success, power, competition and possession is widely accepted and it makes human beings more and more self-centered and indifferent.

Imagine a worthwhile life, safe, with food and shelter, and with energy and compassion. Instead, the world is about expressing individual desires, about seeking pleasures, and it’s full of competition. Of course, this includes the way board games are often discussed and appreciated. And that’s called “freedom” or “progress”.

Finally, I just want to say thank you. I find all your articles helpful, full of insight and well written. Your series on CitOW stands out. Thank you for this.
Last edit: 11 Feb 2022 08:31 by Dschanni.
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11 Feb 2022 09:01 - 11 Feb 2022 09:40 #330675 by Jackwraith

Dschanni wrote: This puts oneself in conflict, builds images of fear and creates insecurities – “I am like this, but I should be like that.” - One should ask if this is a healthy thing to think and feel.


Absolutely right. I find the idea of shaming people into behavior patterns to often be counterproductive, no matter how tempting it might be. I was hoping that I wasn't too glib ("Knock yourself out.") in suggesting that there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to either collect games for the sake of collecting or collect fancy, big games (see: Marvel Zombicide) but simply to be conscious of the side effects of what those items are.

Dschanni wrote: In particular, commercialism and consumerism are teaching us that that money and pursuit of pleasure are the greatest things in life. The daily routine of success, power, competition and possession is widely accepted and it makes human beings more and more self-centered and indifferent.


Right. And it's even more problematic in the US, where the Reaganite/Randian philosophy still dominates so much of the cultural outlook and it's often seen as a personal flaw to be concerned about the safety and security of others (mask-wearing during a pandemic, etc.) if it in any way inhibits personal desires or convenience. Again, I don't want to say that games like Ankh are "wrong." I own Ankh. I love Ankh. It's one of my current favorites and I'm glad to pull it out every time my current group meets. But I also want to be conscious of just what those choices mean.

Dschanni wrote: Finally, I just want to say thank you. I find all your articles helpful, full of insight and well written. Your series on CitOW stands out. Thank you for this.


You are very welcome. And thank you. It's the best feedback I can get for someone to state that something I've written made them think or was helpful in some way. Much appreciated.
Last edit: 11 Feb 2022 09:40 by Jackwraith.
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11 Feb 2022 15:10 #330701 by ubarose
Replied by ubarose on topic The Question of Consumption
It’s a board game, not a super yacht.

By all means, reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose, but don’t fool yourself into thinking we have any real power.
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11 Feb 2022 15:18 #330702 by Jackwraith

ubarose wrote: By all means, reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose, but don’t fool yourself into thinking we have any real power.


That, too, is part of the problem.
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11 Feb 2022 16:08 #330703 by Sagrilarus

ubarose wrote: It’s a board game, not a super yacht.

By all means, reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose, but don’t fool yourself into thinking we have any real power.


Jeeze, then make that a DOUBLE margarita please.
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12 Feb 2022 09:52 #330713 by jason10mm

ubarose wrote: It’s a board game, not a super yacht.

By all means, reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose, but don’t fool yourself into thinking we have any real power.


I dunno, I suspect there are some folks here with board game collections so large you would have to disassemble a bridge in order to float them down the river as well :P

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12 Feb 2022 12:30 - 12 Feb 2022 17:09 #330716 by ubarose
Replied by ubarose on topic The Question of Consumption

jason10mm wrote:

ubarose wrote: It’s a board game, not a super yacht.

By all means, reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose, but don’t fool yourself into thinking we have any real power.


I dunno, I suspect there are some folks here with board game collections so large you would have to disassemble a bridge in order to float them down the river as well :P


I know this a joke, and it is funny. But it also obscures the magnitudes of difference in the power and ability that we have to minimize our impact on the environment vs the ability that those with greater wealth and/or power have.

As Jackwraith wrote, we have a collective responsibility. My original comment was an expression of disgust at the irresponsibility of those who have real power to effect change, and the shifting of blame and guilt to us average people. Like we are angsting over whether or not it’s safe to wash and reuse a ziplock bag that held food, and if it is environmentally irresponsible to purchase new shrink wrapped board game or deck of cards in a clam shell pack, while wearing layers in our homes so we can turn the heat down a couple of degrees, meanwhile others are building super yachts and private jets. All of us here could forgo every small luxury and convenience we have for the rest of our lives and not offset the environmental impact of that one super yacht. And that disgusts me.
Last edit: 12 Feb 2022 17:09 by ubarose.
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12 Feb 2022 17:07 #330720 by n815e
Replied by n815e on topic The Question of Consumption
Even moreso is the idea that responsibility is on us to make these concessions in our lives, because the manufacturers of the products we buy refuse to spend more on creating products that are better for the environment. They have the technology to do it, but won’t. And plastics companies actively promote the idea that it is the consumer’s responsibility to be better, not the corporation’s.
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14 Feb 2022 10:19 #330750 by Virabhadra
Someone should sponsor a contest for repurposing the components of Kickstarter cruft with completely original rulesets.
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