A Glimpse into the Mind of a Slow Player
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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Every so often, a thread pops up here on BGG in which certain types of game players are reviled for having a tendency to take "too long" on their turns. The term "analysis paralysis" gets tossed around rather glibly, with the slow player being accused of being disrespectful and possibly immature or mentally deficient. And one thing that seems to particularly annoy people is that there often isn't any indication that the extra time taken results in any better play.

I was inspired to make this Geeklist by a comment in the latest thread on the subject. Ted Swalwell (savant) said: "...the advice from the Neuroshima Hex rules spring to mind - point out that it's probably more fun to play four quick but imperfect games in two hours trying out different tactics and options, than one perfect game lasting the full time."

What struck me about this is that, speaking for myself, I have no illusions of being able to play a "perfect game." That's not why I am a slow player. Rather, I find resonance with something mjtuell wrote in a previous thread on the subject: "More often, he is just trying to make a move he understands. He almost seems incapable of just making a move to see what happens. It can be very frustrating to deal with, but that's just how his brain works. We like to assume that everyone is capable of enjoy games the same way we do, but it's simply not true. For a lot of these guys, games spent making 'impulsive' and 'ill-considered' moves are every bit as tedious as the interminable turns we spend waiting on them."

The reality is, some people are just different...

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1. Board Game: MindTrap [Average Rating:4.70 Overall Rank:11119]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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I have a terribly difficult time shutting my mind off, or even putting it in low gear. I am constantly analyzing and evaluating, which can get in the way of many types of experiences. Of course, it means there are some things I'm rather good at too, and it certainly serves me well in my engineering career. But sometimes it gets rather wearing.

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2. Board Game: Crazy Dancing [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:8523]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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I discovered dance in graduate school. I found that experiencing a good dance performance granted me the rare opportunity to enter a more associative observational state and let the "right side" of my brain take precedence. Then I started taking dance classes and...well, I could never seem to get past the beginner level. I got to where my basic technique was reasonably solid, but when it came to the part of class where we were supposed to learn combinations, I ran into problems. Where other students seemed able to hear something like "chassé, chassé, pas de bourée" and handle it as "two of those and one of these," to me it was always a complicated progression of individual limb movements and postural changes that had to be consciously coordinated in parallel.

I attributed my difficulty to the fact that I spent most of my childhood sitting around reading, and consequently never developed the requisite foundation of mind-body connections.

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3. Board Game: Cows Can't Dance (but they like to be asked) [Average Rating:4.88 Overall Rank:9793]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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It was at a week-long dance intensive that I had my epiphany. After a week taking the beginner-level classes with a bunch of teenage girls who often had rather poor form, the progression which had been extended from one day to the next finally became too much for me, and I had to drop out. I stood at the side and watched the girls careen from one side of the room to the other, sometimes in a rather peculiar parody of the actual choreography. It was clear that some of them didn't have any clearer understanding of what they were supposed to be doing than I did, and yet somehow they were able to keep doing something that connected one movement to another, well enough that they didn't appear to be endangering the students around them.

Whereas if I didn't consciously control each component of my movement, and understand exactly what I was supposed to do next, and remember it in time to connect it with what I was currently doing, I was sunk. I would just stumble to a halt.

I'd been taking classes longer than they had, and my technique was better. So why couldn't I do what they could do?

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4. Board Game: Magic Mirror Game [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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That's when it hit me: if I had been taught to play the piano like I was being taught to dance, I wouldn't be able to play the piano today. It wasn't that I was incapable of dancing; it was that I was incapable of learning in the way that dance was traditionally taught.

Despite all of the careful pointers regarding technique which we were given at the barre, fundamentally what we were expected to do was watch and imitate. These girls weren't even trying to understand all the intricacies of the movements. As far as they were concerned, if they got from point A to point B with the right number of steps and facing in the right direction, that was good enough! They'd fix it up later, if they happened to notice they were doing something wrong, or if the teacher made a correction.

Meanwhile I was fixated on a reductionistic understanding of everything my body was supposed to be doing, and if I didn't have that, I couldn't even get started. That approach got me more quickly to a strong technical base, but it was simply not workable for learning progressions at the rate demanded by the class.

I had learned music in a fashion that catered to my strengths, because I had instructors who could teach me in that manner. But if I wanted to progress in dance, I realized that I would mostly have to find my own way.

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5. Board Game: Looping [Average Rating:4.25 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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So what happens when I sit down to play a game? Hint: it's not "analysis paralysis." To me, that term implies a mental running-around-in-circles, and if I get to that point I can take it as a sign that I've given sufficient consideration to the situation and need to act upon what I've already worked out.

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6. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:225]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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For me, it is not sufficient just to pick one option out of several which seem equally good (according to my current understanding of the game). I also have to have some idea of what I expect to learn from it.

When I have to make a decision in a game situation, what I am primarily after is an understanding of that situation. I try to work out the ramifications of my options to a sufficient degree that I will have a basis to evaluate not just the effectiveness of my actions in this particular instance, but also the accuracy of my "game model." I care very little about whether I win or lose a game, but I do care about whether I am getting better at it - indeed, whether I am learning from each player's actions. A large part of my pleasure in playing a game comes from the growth in my comprehension of the game itself, and in effect, I am building a kind of AI for myself.

And I'm doing all this consciously.

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7. Board Game: Beyond Chess [Average Rating:7.77 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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As I progress in my perceived understanding of the game, some decisions do become quicker and easier, where I think I already know how to deal with particular situations. (Although even there I tend to check and re-check whether my previously developed "AI" still makes sense, given my presumably deeper current understanding.) However, as I discover additional facets and layers of strategy and tactics, the amount of evaluation required also goes up, which means that familiarity with a game doesn't necessarily speed up my play.

I suspect that many if not most players take a more intuitive approach to their game-playing. And there's no denying that intuition works much faster than the kind of analysis I engage in. Recall the battle between human chess masters and chess-playing computers, where human intuition had the edge until ever-increasing processor speeds finally enabled vastly less efficient computer analysis to win. Alas, I have to accept that I'm never going to get a processor upgrade for my brain, so either I have to change how I play or I have to accept that I'm always going to be slower than some people find reasonable.

I've learned to trust my intuition, but I've also learned that it only "speaks up" within rather narrow parameters - or perhaps it actually is operative at other times, but my incessant analytical noise drowns it out. Either way, as much as I would like to try playing according to my "gut" instead of just my brain, I don't have a clue how to do it. I would be reduced to semi-random actions which sucked all the pleasure out of my game-playing experience.

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8. Board Game: Rush [Average Rating:4.33 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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I do try to push my comfort level on the time I take, and resist the temptation to make an even more thorough analysis than I feel I need to in order to believe I can learn something from my move. There are certainly times when, immediately after moving (and before any opposing player has responded) I see why I should have done something differently, because I failed to take the time to double-check first. However, this happens infrequently enough that I am still willing to forego time-consuming double-checks out of respect for everyone else's time.

I still play more slowly than average.

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9. Board Game: Grow2Learn [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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But how effective is my approach? Well, I have discovered that the first time or two that I play a new game - and since I'm generally the one who supplies the games I play, what's new to me is usually new to the other player(s) as well - I almost invariably lose, and lose badly. But then I seem to get better more quickly than my opponents (who are admittedly not hardcore gamers). Unfortunately, I don't have enough experience to extrapolate into the territory of deep familiarity with a game. Would a more intuitive player overtake me as my model of the game expanded into something I could no longer manage with my limited mental faculties? Or would I myself develop an intuition for the game, rooted in my understanding? (That sort of thing has happened to me before.)

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10. Board Game: Turn Turtle [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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I have largely avoided gaming groups and conventions, in large part because the vitriol directed toward slow players here on BGG has led me to suspect that the majority of attendees would not enjoy playing with me (and also in part because I am really not comfortable playing a game without the chance to read and absorb the rules). The idea of playing live online is even more off-putting, since I am under the impression that an even more accelerated timetable is expected. I've never dared to try it, except for a few MMORPG computer games.

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11. Board Game: Frenzy [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:6941]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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My MMORPG experiences have been telling. I like to thoroughly explore, looking around at everything. (No surprise there, I'll bet.) However, there are areas you just can't go without joining a group, and the one consistency in my experiences doing that is - everyone rushes around. I spent most of my time thinking "where did they go?" and running after the group to do my part in the fighting or healing, so that when we finished the quest I had only vague and muddled recollections of where we'd been. I got a certain amount of satisfaction for doing a good job in my appointed role, but I still felt that I had missed out on what I was personally most interested in.

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12. Board Game: Exploration [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:8716]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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So when it comes right down to it, I have concluded that what most people seem to want out of games is not the same thing as what I want out of them. I'm interested in exploring games, along with the similarities and differences between them. and I enjoy social situations in which I can do that. I accept that many people want to push through them quickly, but I don't quite understand why, especially since in my experience, playing a slower pace is more conducive to social interaction.

I can appreciate how deadlines like closure of a venue would change the picture. But for me personally, I would rather knock off early than deal with the time pressure of trying to squeeze in another game. And if there just isn't time to finish a game...well, that's disappointing, but I'd rather leave it unfinished than try to rush it to a half-assed conclusion.

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13. Board Game: SoloQuest [Average Rating:5.46 Unranked]
Brent Johnson
United States
Cleveland Heights
Ohio
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Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
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Fortunately, I enjoy playing solo. Since I am more interested in exploring options than I am in winning, the multiple personalities required when switching seats isn't much of a problem. The game experience is actually "denser" in many cases.

My only problem with solitaire play is that I wish my opponent was smarter, so I could learn more from him.

Oh, and I wish that he wasn't quite so slow...

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14. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:398]
Greame Johnston
United Kingdom
East Grinstead
West Sussex
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A glimpse into the mind of the victim of a slow player

After the fouth or fifth game of this I began to feel weary and found myself wishing for the end (in more ways than one) well before it came. As my regular brother in gaming failed to rouse himself from the perpetual AP that frustrates us all, I toyed with a plastic spoon, wondering if he would make his move before I had finished scooping my heart out with it.
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