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Subject: Why we need crappy games. rss

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Joseph
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Expanding on some of the thoughts presented in this thread:

I Absolutely Loathe Board Games

Back to Bunco night observations: As stated in the previous thread, my wife and I recently attended Bunco night at the church. It provided a chance to hang out with some mutual friends, and meet some new people. As the evening went on, I was surprised at the ability of this crappy game to engage it's players.

This was a senior's ministry event, so the average age of the participants leaned heavily toward the 60+ category. While the group included lots of people who were still healthy and working, I'd say that about 20% of them were nominally functional; struggling against significant health or cognitive challenges.

The dice were cheap, uneven, and biased. The tables were wobbly, and the Chinese food they served was one step above mystery meat.

We had a great time.

We met about 30 new people each, and carried on short conversations between the rounds of playing. Bunco is a boisterous game; with lots of laughter. The oldsters tossed things at each other, heckled their friends, and cheered whenever lucky rolls appeared. We saw very few serious faces in the crowd.

Some things my wife and I noticed

1. People with advanced arthritis were able to play. Some of them used gnarly, claw like hands, barely able to pick up the dice. Still, they participated. One fellow in particular, could accomplish little more than a simple "pick up and drop." Nonetheless, he enjoyed himself, and we were delighted to share a table with him.

2. People suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's, despite their cognitive challenges, participated. Some of them would go back into their usual fog after the event, but during those brief hours of play, they seemed alert and alive again.

3. Social misfits, loners, and the forgotten, bellied up to the table. Some of them rarely venture outside their homes, living in relative seclusion for most of their lives. They can't, or don't know how to reach out to other people. Thrust into the harum-scarum nature of the event, they eventually emerged from their cognitive self exile. One woman I met, in particular, didn't know what to make of the 100+ people milling around. They treated her like family, although just meeting her for the first time. She kept saying: "Not at all what I expected," throughout the night. Her mood lightened noticeably by the close of the evening.

Other musings
As you've probably guessed, I'm a social gamer. Although I love conflict heavy games, Ameritrash, and a wide variety of Euros, crappy games like Bunco have a special place in my heart. They serve as a type of bridge, over which I may engage others, normally outside my sphere of contact. This stupid game, exposed us to a wide swath of humanity, while providing social integration for otherwise marginalized individuals. I've met bomber pilots, athletes, a nuclear physicist, and a handful of doctors. I've also sat across the table from retired truck drivers, mechanics, and not a few restaurant workers.

Tending toward introspection, I never would have engaged some of these people on any level. Not only that, many of them would have faced a similar challenge in reverse — especially the people with limitations.

We need crappy games. They serve a purpose, and play a role in preserving a type of common ground between us. So, I'll play whatever facilitates that level of contact. This week, it's Bunco, with crappy dice, wobbly tables, and food of questionable origin. I'll remember the names and faces I encountered during play, and feel richer for the experience. The smiles I saw across the table, helped me smile.

The game provided an opportunity to exercise my heart, rather than my head. For that reason, if nothing else, I'm pleased to have played.

Joseph



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Betty Egan
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After reading your other thread I realized that I perhaps sometimes also "forced" my kids to play a game when they didn't really want to. I won't do that anymore.

I agree, "crappy" games have their place.
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Brook Gentlestream
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A friend and I used to have tons of fun playing Willow when we were kids. We had that and a starter set for 3e Warhammer 40,000, and those were the only games we knew or played. Eventually, we got into Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, then BattleTech, and later, when I got sick of doing all the work in RPGs, I found this wonderful site and got started into the board gaming hobby with Catan.

But I can't help but wonder how much of it started with the hours spent playing games like Willow and Trump: The Game, which I picked up cheap at yard sales.
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Robert (Bob) Miller Sr
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Without crappy games, we wouldn't know we have good games.

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A.J. Porfirio
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Nice post! Yeah we all have out favorites, but like bad movies, bad games have their place. And every once in a while one of these "bad" games is just so "bad" it is good.

For a movie example... I highly recommend Shaolin Soccer!
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Aaron Potter
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vanrydergames wrote:
Nice post! Yeah we all have out favorites, but like bad movies, bad games have their place. And every once in a while one of these "bad" games is just so "bad" it is good.

For a movie example... I highly recommend Shaolin Soccer!


My Gatekeeper orders me in revoltink faux east European ahkszent to add Atmosfear to setch a leest.

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Jason Sadler
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There are a lot of different levels of "forcing" kids to do things. Sometimes you get to do what you want and sometimes you are going to do what mom and dad want. My guess is the boardgame situation in the other story was a way for that person to talk about and encapsulate problems in his relationship with his father.
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Mike L.
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vanrydergames wrote:
For a movie example... I highly recommend Shaolin Soccer!


Shaolin soccer is just plain fantastic. It should never be binned as a bad movie or even so bad its good.
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Patrick C.
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Stefan Feld games are balanced and mathematically elegant while being obtuse, emotionally detached, and mechically inelegant. The most overrated designer of modern games. The King of JASE.
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BettyEgan wrote:
After reading your other thread I realized that I perhaps sometimes also "forced" my kids to play a game when they didn't really want to. I won't do that anymore.

I agree, "crappy" games have their place.


IME, if kids have their choice they'll eat junk food all day, play video games, watch TV, or get all worked up over silly baloney on Facebook.

Perhaps you're lucky . . . or I'm unlucky . . . but "forcing" kids to do something that engages their brain isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Btw, we went from limiting TV watching to a couple of hours a day to just a couple of hours a week . . . the improvement in their behavior was MASSIVE! And they continue to complain that they can't watch TV. Good behavior trumps their whining.
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Jim Jones
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Check the Great Big Table podcast (http://greatbigtable.com), a podcast about expanding the board game hobby.
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My wife and I have started a monthly game night at our church that styles itself as a community ministry just for some of the reasons that you mention. I wouldn't say that we play "crappy" games, but we take all comers; if you have a game you want to play, someone will play it with you. The point of the game night is to encourage social interactions between family members, foster connections in the congregation, and provide safe and fun entertainment and social opportunities to our community at large. If those interactions come through playing Euchre and Phase 10 or through playing Carcassonne and Pandemic, then so be it. Of the entire congregation, we are definitely the "gamers," so you can guess our general preference. But, in the service of fostering these social interactions, preferences be damned; I'll play Mexican train dominoes and enjoy the experience for what it is.

The group has started out slowly and I would say an association with "crappy" games and the idea that games are for kids is partially to blame. Luckily, we've kept at it and have introduced some of our entry level hobby board games to the group. To my mind, it still doesn't matter what we play, but I think changing perceptions helps break down barriers of participation. The novelty of these games has served the function of breaking down the perception of what exactly board games are and what playing them is all about. Some games that have gone over well include Liar's Dice, Wits & Wagers, PitchCar, Tsuro and The Resistance. We have more, but we're breaking them in slowly.

Over time, we've had players from age six to over sixty playing at the same game. I truly believe that this intergenerational play and communication is increasingly important in our culture. These interactions and experiences are also the core reason that the game group has gained a following and is growing in our church. This is not to say that we only play more hobby oriented games now (I'm still on the hook to learn Clabber from some of the card sharks in our group), but novelty is undeniably a draw.

In the future, we hope to be more explicit about these interactions. We hope to start mid week, midday gaming events that are more accessible to seniors in our community. The idea is to foster social opportunities among them. One thing that I have seen since my grandmother died is that
my grandfather has fewer opportunities for socializing. One activity that they used to engage in together was playing bridge and other card games that required a partner. Board games are nice in that while you generally play together, you don't often play in partnerships. You are able to engage in the social activity independently. That is a tremendous, and often overlooked, boon.

We also hope to start an after school game group at the elementary school that is across the street from our church. Here, we'll focus on games and game activities that are fun while working on core skills of sociability, critical thinking, verbal and written comprehension, and math ability. If successful, we'll take opportunities to blend these groups and foster intergenerational interactions, mentoring, and, most importantly, fun.

Our successes (and some of our missteps) are spurring my wife and I to become community game night evangelists. We see a lot of potential for game nights to serve very basic, but often overlooked, social needs within our communities. As you've experience, playing games shouldn't just be the realm of the intense hobbyist. There is a lot that the hobby of playing games (and the hobbyists that play them) have to offer their communities. We have big plans for our game nights, including spreading the idea and promoting the benefits for other churches and community organizations in our city.

We're also in the final stages of producing a podcast all about spreading the board game hobby and introducing its benefits to our communities. We'll talk about our experiments with using game nights with our families, our friends and our communities and we'll make sure to celebrate our successes (and failures) in this endeavor. If you are interested, follow our feed at Great Big Table or see what we're up to on Twitter, @GreatBigTable. Episode 0 should be recorded and posted soon.
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But do we need more than we have already?
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Joseph
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Today, we're all Spaniards!
BeatPosse wrote:
There are a lot of different levels of "forcing" kids to do things. Sometimes you get to do what you want and sometimes you are going to do what mom and dad want. My guess is the boardgame situation in the other story was a way for that person to talk about and encapsulate problems in his relationship with his father.


Uh, wow. Hadn't thought of it that way. Remembering Paul's facial expression as he imitated his dad, I think you're correct.

Good observation.
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I legally own hundreds of polyhedral assault dice!
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I've said for a long time that games are a social vehicle for the vast majority of people. They play not for the game itself but for the opportunity to be with each other. A lot BGGers are probably this way, too, but the most hard core are are likely to be the sort who meet with each other to play games and the social aspect is secondary at best.

For example: in your gaming group, if you weren't playing games, would you likely be doing _anything_ together? It's okay to say 'maybe', 'probably not', or even 'no'. It doesn't mean any of you are anti-social. It simply means that you are the sort of dedicated gamer for whom the game is the priority and reason for being together with your gaming group.

BTW, I don't think any game that brings people together and allows them to enjoy one another's company is in any way "crappy", "kiddie", or "gateway." If you are playing a game with your friends and everyone is having a good time, then an important criteria for all gaming is met: having fun sharing a pastime with friends.
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Ryken C

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I think your post tells less about how crappy games are necessary and more about how Bunco isn't a crappy game. If a game is social and fun for all sorts of people, I think that means it isn't crappy. A well balanced game with low luck and lots of strategy is generally considered "good" around here, but I have just as much fun playing Agricola with my wife as I do getting drunk and playing Apples to Apples with my in-laws. A game like Monopoly, however, sucks because it's never fun to play in any situation.
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Julia Ziobro
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BradyLS wrote:
I've said for a long time that games are a social vehicle for the vast majority of people. They play not for the game itself but for the opportunity to be with each other. A lot BGGers are probably this way, too, but the most hard core are are likely to be the sort who meet with each other to play games and the social aspect is secondary at best.

For example: in your gaming group, if you weren't playing games, would you likely be doing _anything_ together? It's okay to say 'maybe', 'probably not', or even 'no'. It doesn't mean any of you are anti-social. It simply means that you are the sort of dedicated gamer for whom the game is the priority and reason for being together with your gaming group.

BTW, I don't think any game that brings people together and allows them to enjoy one another's company is in any way "crappy", "kiddie", or "gateway." If you are playing a game with your friends and everyone is having a good time, then an important criteria for all gaming is met: having fun sharing a pastime with friends.

Agreed. Some of the best times in our "serious" gaming group -- and we can be QUITE serious, sometimes way too much so for me -- have been playing so-called "crappy" games.

We've had great times and lots of laughs with Apples to Apples, Strut!, all the variants of Fluxx, Sorry! Sliders, Cosmic Wimpout, Aquarius, and PitchCar, among others. Don't even bring up UNO Attack!!

I often bring these games out, along with "more serious" games like Cardcassonne when we have non-gamers over.

I am all about the fun sometimes. Brain-burning strategy is not always my thing. And I met and got to know my husband playing Scrabble. 600+ games into our collection, I'd say that worked out OK.
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P.S. Funny that someone mentioned Mexican Train. I actually bought a nice set of dominoes deliberately to learn this game, as I remember whiling away many hours with my grandpa playing domino games we made up. Nobody in my gaming group will 'fess up to knowing it, so I'm going to have to find some "less serious" friends. Silly!
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