I often write about controlling game buying. I impose a quota on myself every year. The main reason being that owning too many games means you'll get to play each game less. When you do that, you appreciate each individual game less, because you don't play it enough to be good at it, to understand all the nuances and explore all the strategies.
Then one day I thought about viewing the boardgame hobbyist from a different perspective. In the boardgame hobby the comparison between Game Collector and Game Player occasionally comes up. I think most people tend to think of themselves as game players, or want to be categorised as game players. They want to be buying games to be played, and not to be collected. There seems to be something negative about collecting games - if you buy a game and don't play it, you defeat the purpose of the game existing in the first place. So people want to be game players.
But when you have a collection of a few hundred, or a few thousand games, do you really play every game even once in a year? If you don't play a game even once in a year, then aren't you really just collecting it? If I apply some minimal requirement for a person to qualify as a Player of a game, what should it be?
- Play at least once in a year? At least once every 3 months?
- Play at least 10 times in the lifetime of the game?
- Or maybe some combination of the two? E.g. play 10 times in first half year, and then at least twice a year thereafter.
- Know the game well enough to be able to teach it without referring to the rules? Or with minimal reference to rules / reference sheets?
- Being good at the game, and being able to fully appreciate the strategic wealth?
As you buy and own more and more games, it becomes harder and harder to meet such requirements. When you find that for more than half the games that you own you don't meet the Players requirements (whatever you think they should be), then maybe you're a Collecter afterall, not a Player. I did a quick check and found that out of my ~170 games owned (not counting expansions), there are 91 that I have not played for more than a year. Some of these I actually quite like. Some of these I don't really like and probably should sell or trade away, just that I'm a lazy bum when it comes to such things.
I too want to be more a Player than a Collector. I want to buy less and play more. However there are always interesting new games coming out all the time, and I can't help being tempted to buy or try them. If the idea is to play fewer games in total and to play each game many times, then the question is not really whether you buy a new game or not. If you have the opportunity to try a new game, you should decline, because that would "dilute" your gameplay "concentration". Well, of course, I won't ever be that hard on myself. But theoretically that's how a hardcore Player should behave. Imagine a Go or Chess or Bridge player enjoying his game so much that he has no need for and has no interest in other types of games.
What about some middle ground between Player and Collector? I thought of a term Game Taster. The analogy is wine enthusiasts who go for wine tasting sessions. They go for variety and not quantity. They don't get drunk. They try different things and appreciate the different types of wine. I don't drink wine, so maybe I'm totally off, but this is how I came up with this term. The Taster likes to try different things, new things. He likes variety. He gets a taste of many different games, but does not dwell too much on any one game. Maybe he will spend slightly more time on some good games, savouring them and enjoying them. But he will always seek out new games. He will look out for new ideas.
So what if I buy a game and only play it 3 or 4 times if I feel I have gained from it what I expected? For the cost of a game, I gain X number of hours of entertainment, and this is an activity I do together with friends, which means they gain too. Perhaps we shouldn't think of the cost of a game as being for the physical game, and instead think of it as being for the fun time that is gained. Another analogy is books. I rarely reread novels that I buy. I feel I've gained what I expected after reading them once. Of course I can reread them if I want to, but in most cases I probably won't. Games are made to be played more than once. But after you've played it enough times to fully appreciate its qualities, perhaps you don't need to play it anymore. You probably should sell / trade / donate / give away such games though. Pass the fun on. Save space at home. Make space for new games. It's okay to keep buying games if you think of yourself as a Game Taster.
One aspect of the Game Taster is the Game Learner. It is fun to learn a new game, to see how it works, to figure out the possible strategies. It's like puzzle solving. Once you've mastered a game though, you're done. You know the system in and out. You don't need to play more. You have overcome the intellectual challenge. Of course a game is just a setting or framework in which you compete with other players, so ultimately the challenge is in defeating your opponents. But then you can always pick another new game to play - fresh setting, fresh mechanisms, equally challenging opponents.
With this additional category of Game Taster defined (in addition to Game Player and Game Collector), I think I'm pretty much in the Game Taster category. I play many new games every year, and many games are played only a few times. I would like to move slightly towards the Game Player end of the spectrum. By defining the term Game Taster, I guess I'm saying that it's okay to be one. It's okay to treat games like Bata* - Buy-And-Throw-Away. It's okay to join the Cult of the New. Just proudly declare yourself a Game Taster.
I'm not making this all up just so that I can relax my self imposed game buying quota. I still think I need to spend more time on many of the games that I already own and like. I'm still interested in new games which are innovative and/or good, but I don't need to try everything. I would rather try fewer games so that I can spend more time getting more enjoyment out of games I already own. So I will still try to adhere to my quota. (keyword is "try", heh heh... )
Now who wants to play Die Macher with me?
* Bata is a well known shoe brand in Malaysia and their shoes are generally considered low-end and not very durable. I think most Malaysians think Bata is a Malaysian company. It is actually a company established in Czechoslovakia, in 1894. Most Malaysians don't realise it is actually a big international company.