Friday, 15 October 2010

saturation point

I found it quite amusing when I came up with the game taster concept, and was quite happy when this triggered some discussions among fellow gamers around the world. The game taster concept is something that allows us, as hardcore gamers, to understand and accept ourselves and our game buying/playing behaviour. Perhaps the saturation point concept can be helpful to us too, in a different way.

Saturation point: The number of games in your game collection past which you start having games that will be unplayed for longer than you are comfortable with.

The saturation point is an ideal. You have just the right number of games that whenever you want to play a game, you can always find something that you will enjoy playing. You can always find something suitable for the occasion and company, something of the right length and complexity. And yet you will never feel bad about any of the games not getting played frequently enough. The "frequently enough" criteria differs from game to game of course, and for different people too. E.g. I'm happy enough if I can play Civilization once every 2 years, but I hope to play Carcassonne at least 2 to 3 times a year.


One simple way to look at this is asking yourself whether you own any game that you wish you can play more frequently than you are doing now. Naturally the saturation point will vary greatly for different people. Some people have more opportunities to play games than others. Some people play shorter games than others. Some people buy games if they feel there is at least half a chance they will get played. Some people are determined buy only games that will get played. Some people buy a game even though the chance to get it played is low, e.g. "I don't have this type of game so it'll be good to have one in case I decide to try such games in future" or "it's a good game so better buy it before it becomes out-of-print". Some people are perfectly fine that some if their games may never get played. In such cases the saturation point concept does not apply.

My saturation point is probably around 120 games. And I own 200+. I once tried to imagine if I were to sell or give away some of my games, which would be the ones to go. I could only come up with about 10 that I was willing to part with. So, I will probably never be able to cut my collection down to my saturation point. Here are some things I have thought about, which can help to move towards the saturation point. I am not sure I am strong enough to do all of them, but maybe this can be useful to others.

To part with 80 games from here? It's like asking me to sell my daughter. Not exactly. But almost.

  1. Slow down buying - This is something I do with a little success, via my 20 new games per year quota (including gifts and self-made games). For 2010, I'm at 22 now, but one of the games was a review copy, and another was a free copy for helping with rules translation. Let's hope before end of the year I don't need to browse the list again and find other exceptions. I have found this self-imposed quota quite useful. It forces me to be selective. Still, I have quite a number of 2010 acquisitions that I have not played more than a handful of times, e.g. Factory Manager, In the Shadow of the Emperor, Funny Friends, Planet Steam. If I had bought more games, the list would probably be even longer.
  2. Trim your collection - Sell or give away games that you don't particularly like, or you are OK not to play any more. Don't trade, because you'd be getting other games back. Well, unless you are trading many-to-one. Do a health-check on your games. A "healthy" game is one that gets played often enough. If you don't really play it much, maybe you should let it go, even if it is a game you like.
  3. Freeze your collection size - Force yourself to sell or give away games before you buy new ones. Or trade games. Trading games is a good way to be able to try new games without letting your collection grow out of control. You also help the less-loved games in your collection find better homes.
  4. Play with others who buy games - E.g. joining groups or game clubs that also buy games. This can reduce your need to buy games. You can try-before-buy more.

At the Gates of Loyang. This is one 2010 purchase that got played a reasonable number of times.

Factory Manager. This is one 2010 purchase that I wish I can play more.

Nowadays gamers are very spoilt. There are too many good games out there, and from the internet we get so much information about all these games. Not that we should shut ourselves out from the outside world. Reading about games and looking at photos of games can be a joy in itself. A friend once introduced me to a book titled The Paradox of Choice. I never managed to finish the book, but I think the gist is too many choices is a bad thing. You spend too much time and energy trying to find that optimal choice, when you can probably make a reasonably good choice by spending just a fraction of the effort.

One good mantra is this - you can never play every good game. So just choose a subset of good games and be happy with it. Learn to play them well and get the most out of them. Many good games are worth much more than a handful of plays that they often get from hardcore gamers (or game tasters). When you feel that you have gained all that you want from a certain game, sell / give / trade it away and then get into something new in depth. Of course all this while you can still continue to be a game taster, exploring different new games. Who knows when you'll find another game that you'll decide to fall in love with.

What's your saturation point? And how does it compare with your collection size?


Cecrow said...

Personally all my thought occurs at the time of purchase: do I have a leisure budget that allows me to afford it, and measuring the immediate pleasure of that expense against other leisure activities. Leisure expense is rarely (if ever) a long term investment, no matter what I spend it on, so what happens later doesn't figure into it. Once it's in my collection, I stop worrying about it. I used to record my plays on BGG, when I first joined that web site. Lately I've decided it's a waste of time for me (beyond establishing whether I've played a game at all or not). I pared down my book collection once and I've had a lot of regrets since. Don't pare down your game collection if your heart isn't in it, and don't give any thought to your current collection when measuring whether or not you'd enjoy a new purchase; previously bought games no longer factors into the financial picture. My take, anyway.

Frank Conradie said...

I have recently had the same thoughts and would probably rate my "saturation point" as very close to yours (120).

However, with a collection of 160+ games, I have found it very difficult to let go of games, even if they don't currently get played. So I have adopted a similar attitude as you regarding new purchases: I am much more careful when buying new games, and definitely limit the number as well.

I just wish I had my current more rigorous evaluation criteria when I started the hobby!

Paul D. Owen said...

I just counted and am surprised to learn that we have 160 games in my house. Yipes. I would have guessed half that many. I remember a few years ago making a point of trying to cut my collection in half, just because I had so many games that I had to admit I'd never take the time to play again in favor of anything else. And I think I had a lot fewer games then than I have now. I think it's time to do some game "triage" again.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I still religiously record my game plays, because I enjoy looking at these stats. Yep, it's geeky. :-) If I really decide to trim my collection, it'll be mainly because I want to make space. What you said is right. I don't think I can bear parting with a game that I "still have feelings for".

jason said...

Great post. I have been thinking about this concept, but couldn't put it into to terms. You did an excellent job articulating some of what I was thinking. I do need to start thinking about trimming down or at least keeping my collection the same size as I am out of storage space and time. My problem is I want to keep some games around to play with my kids when they are older...

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Jason, I will be a devil and suggest Ikea shelving which can help to create more space for games. :-)

I too buy some games for my children (who are 5 and 3), both to be played now and to be played when they are older.