Sunday, 10 November 2013

It's the people? It's the games?

I have read many "it's the people" opinions from boardgamers, that the best part of the boardgaming hobby is spending time with friends and family. I've always felt a little uneasy about that, because to me, the boardgaming hobby is primarily about the boardgames. Of course you need people to play boardgames with, but the focus is on all those interesting boardgames, their innovative mechanisms, how they bring out player interaction and the battles of wits, and how they create memorable experiences. If it is all about people, sitting around a dinner table chatting would work fine too, or having a few rounds of beer at the bar, etc.

The people...

... or the game?

I am becoming quite the jaded gamer nowadays. That has probably been happening for the past 3 or 4 years. I must admit I have an involuntary disdain (I know I shouldn't, but I think I do) towards the Cult of the New - fellow boardgamers who still keenly chase after the latest games. I certainly used to do that myself, but my enthusiasm has been waning for quite some time. There is not a single game from the recent 2013 Essen game fair that I am particularly interested in, not even the latest Vlaada Chvatil or Martin Wallace designs. The only game I ordered around this period was Roads & Boats, which is a reprint of an old Splotter title. Few new games pique my interest. I'm getting lazy to read up on new games. I often dismiss a game after hearing its name, or seeing its box cover (e.g. Francis Drake), or learning of its designer (sorry Mr Feld; but I do love In the Year of the Dragon, and I like Notre Dame too), or learning it is a Kickstarter game. It is my own jadedness that caused the disdain towards people who still have the enthusiasm and the passion. I know I shouldn't feel that way and I shouldn't judge others who are having fun in a way that I don't anymore.

I do think people should play more of games they already own though, and I do think many good games are not getting the number of plays they deserve, and it is at least partly (or even mostly) due to the number of new games distracting boardgamers.

I had a minor epiphany recently. I realise it is not about the people and maybe it isn't about the games either. It is about the act of playing itself. The people you play with need not be your best friends, or your close family. The games you play need not be your favourite games, or games which are elegant, strategic, rich in theme, have multiple paths to victory, have meaningful decisions, etc etc. They may not even need to be particularly good games. What makes boardgaming special and fun is the participation, the interaction and the sense of discovery when you are engaged in a game. I recently played a number of games that I wasn't particularly keen to try, and I had a lot of fun. The games being decent enough certainly helped. I have not decided to buy any of them, but them having enough depth provided that platform for fun. I didn't mind learning new games, and I didn't mind playing games with many recycled mechanisms. I didn't mind the lack of innovation.

The people you game with being boardgame enthusiasts too is certainly important. They share the same passion and they give you plenty of challenge during the games. They know the in-jokes in the hobby, and they speak the same language as you do. So, it's still about the people afterall? I guess what I'm saying is you don't need to try to convert your best friends or family members into gamers. If they can at most handle (or tolerate) simpler games, there is fun to be had with simpler games. Go out there and meet new friends and fellow enthusiasts.

I suddenly feel at peace. Don't worry too much about who you play with. Don't worry too much about which games you play. Just play.

2 comments:

Aik Yong said...

What's the conclusion, Hiew, is it Games or People! ChOoSe! I like how this simple question seems to be stressing you out.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

It's the play dude! It's the play!