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I am what I play - 2012 in review

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
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I'm sure most of us have an image of the type of gamer we are (or want to be), be it Eurogamer, Ameritrasher, wargamer or 18XX nut. But that doesn't always match up with the games we actually play. So what to do the games I played in 2012 tell me about me as a gamer?

First of all, there was a lot of gaming. I logged 676 plays totalling an estimated play time of a little shy of 500 hours. This was significantly up on 2011's 524 plays, mainly due to three major gaming events. I attended both of London on Board's away weekends in Eastbourne and went to my first Essen.

I'm very lucky with my gaming setup. London on Board meets more times than I could possibly attend while remaining married, and essentially allows me to try any game I want without having to buy it. What's more, I've become good friends with a lot of the members and so there are many 'extra-curricular' gaming events too.

So what of breadth vs depth, something I wrote about a lot this year? Well, my plays comprised 218 distinct games, 117 of them new to me. That's certainly broad, though the 30 new-to-me games I tried at Essen explain most of the increase on last year's 80. There was some depth too though. I had 13 dimes (up from 6 last year) and 20 nickels, and maintained last year's average of a little over 3 plays per distinct game.

I'll look at the games that I did manage to play a lot, despite the many temptations, and see what they might tell me about the kind of gamer I am. Here are my top 20 played games in 2012, together with their playtime, BGG weight (FWIW) and subdomain.



Some observations:

* My top 5 of 2011 all remain in my top 10 of 2012. They each have a context that help them get played a lot.

Cribbage - go-to game for me and my wife
6 Nimmt/Category 5 - default closer at London on Board
Perudo - regular choice for the pub with friends
Innovation - ever-present in my sessions with my main 2p opponent
Kingdom Builder - fits in well in all contexts - with Sarah, with my 2p opponent, at LoB, with non-gamer friends and family...

The rest of my 2012 top 10 is made up of my favourite new-to-me games (Love Letter, Hanabi, Pax Porfiriana, Coup) and my all-time top game (Tigris) making a pleasing resurgence.

* These games are short! Only two crack the hour-barrier. Of course there is some selection bias, as it takes less time to play short games multiple times. But where I feel I differ from a lot of BGGers is that I'm totally happy with a games session made up of a series of short games and don't see them as 'fillers' around a main event.

* These games are light! More than half have a BGG weight of less than 2. To some extent this is a corollary of the above, but again I have more fun playing a bunch of 'light' games than one overcomplex one. They have to be the right kind of light though...

* BGG subdomains are pretty silly. My most common category is 'family games' but I have done almost no gaming with families this year. And when are we going to get a subdomain for card games? At least half of the games above would fit there better than they do in their current subdomain.

So based on that playlist, how would I describe myself as a gamer? I used to call myself a Eurogamer, but I don't think that's accurate any more. Partly it's me that's changed and partly the meaning of the term. Being a Eurogamer in 2012 meant you probably liked worker placement, resource conversion, fairly complex rules and two-hour+ play times. I've had plenty of chances to play all of the big new Euro releases of the year and I'm just not interested.

But I don't think 'family gamer' is a great epithet either. 'Fun for kids and adults' implies not just simplicity (which I crave) but also a lack of depth and a certain gentleness, where I prefer my games brutal and sweary.

Samo Gosaric had a great thread (go read it now) recently in which he tried to carve out a new niche for 'low overhead high interaction' games that are neither modern Euros nor theme-heavy Ameritrash. And wow, that's my taste to a tee. I already talked about the light rules burden, and many of the games above also share an element of psychology - bluffing and reading other players. I'm fortunate in that a lot of the friends I've made at LoB love this kind of game too, even if we don't have a name for it.

There were a few objections to his post and a few suggestions for suitable names. First of all, there was the 'why do we need labels anyway' crowd. Well, because they're useful both for finding games you might enjoy and gamers with similar tastes. It would be much easier for me to get recommendations for games to try if there was a concise, well-known term for these games and gamers.

Someone suggested 'social gamers' and the social aspect of these games is certainly important. But I think this term also comes with a certain connotation of not taking games seriously and just playing them to pass the time, much as a 'social drinker' probably isn't a wine connoisseur. Samo came up with 'people-first' but I feel that's too freighted with the idea that other types of gamers don't care about people. And then it quickly became apparent that people were using his new category to mean several different things anyway. So, I don't know, work in progress

Anyway, just a few thoughts about a fantastic year of gaming. Happy New Year to one and all!
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