Random Ruminations

It seems to be part of my nature to reflect on all my experiences--even the hobby experiences many people consider trivial. And I reflect best when I'm typing. So, here are some of my thoughts on games and gaming. Enjoy them if you can, comment if you like.

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Learn to Play Before You Review a Game

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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I was browsing through some reviews in Steam, and I came across a comment that rings true but makes me wonder. Apparently Endless Space got a lot of negative reviews, but then one reviewer pointed out that most of those were from people who hadn't taken time to learn the game. And he called that practice childish.
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Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:13 am
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Introversion, Extroversion, and Gaming

p55carroll
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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Are you an introvert or an extrovert? And what do you understand that question to mean?

It's not as simple as it looks. Even leaders in the field of psychology are still digging into it, trying to understand it better.

Many people go with the common idea that introverts are reserved and extroverts are gregarious. But that's only half of it, at best.

A currently popular notion (which has its roots in Carl Jung, IIRC) is that it depends on what energizes you: introverts "recharge" when alone, extroverts "recharge" when interacting with others. Personally, I can't relate to that at all; it doesn't work for me. But my wife swears by it.

An explanation that works much better for me is that there are two aspects to introversion and extroversion. IOW, two kinds of introverts and two kinds of extroverts. These types are uncovered by asking two questions: (1) How much affection/interaction do you want? and (2) How much affection/interaction do you ask for or actively try to get?

Thus, you might
(a) want a lot and go for a lot;
(b) want a lot but go for little;
(c) want little and go for little; or
(d) want little but go for a lot.

My wife is type (c), but she can shift to (d) when circumstances seem to call for it. I'm type (b), and if I make a shift it's usually to (c).

I suppose it's easier to understand types (a) and (c)--what you see is what you get. What they feel inside shows up in their behavior. Some might call (a) the pure extrovert and (c) the pure introvert.

Types (b) and (d) are more complicated; you have to get to know them before you see their true colors, and even then the colors are mixed.

So, why would anyone not simply ask for what they want? Because it doesn't feel right to them.

In my case, I'm a real people person, but gregarious behavior goes against my grain. I'm generally reserved; it's uncomfortable for me to spend much time actively socializing. Sometimes shyness (social anxiety) is a factor; other times I just feel that outgoing behavior is not me. I welcome interaction most of the time, but I prefer that others initiate it. I want them to come to me; I don't want to have to go to them.

The opposite type, (d), is not really a people person but often comes across as one. This person feels it's important to socialize, to network, to create and maintain a good circle of friends and acquaintances. So s/he's always out there, initiating conversations. But inside, s/he'd rather be alone much of the time.

Yet, that type of person is not a fake extrovert any more than I'm a fake introvert. Some people might see it that way, but really it's just that there are opposing currents within the psyche.

So, what has any of this to do with gaming?

Well, gaming can be solitary or social, or both. Single-player video gaming is usually considered solitary and best suited for introverts. Multiplayer video gaming seems to be much more outgoing, though interaction might be confined to the game rather than side chat. Then there are LAN/hotseat games. And there's VGG, and other venues like it, where people discuss games and gaming, as they do face-to-face in families and circles of friends.

For some reason, I've had a passion for games all my life, and yet I've always had mixed feelings about them. As a kid, I had problems with board games for three or more players; I might be able to talk one person into playing, but three or four? Not likely, and it'd be a lot of work in any case. I had no interest in putting myself out there that way, inviting people to play games. They'd have to come to me. If they didn't, I'd just wait or fool around with games on my own.

Eventually it got to where I believed my main interest was in the game's rules and components, or in the strategy and tactics. Those things I could study and practice and experience by myself. Yet I've never been entirely happy with solitaire board games or single-player video games. Something always feels missing in those--and what's missing, I have to admit, is other people.

Still, it wouldn't do for me to go sign up for multiplayer games or invite friends over for a board game. Reaching out in that way is something I pretty strongly resist. Having to do it would actually spoil the whole gaming experience for me. I'd probably end up thinking, OK, I got what I wanted, more or less, but I had to work too hard to get it. It's not worth it.

So, what I do instead is rely on VGG for the social, or pseudo-social, aspect of gaming. When I have free time and sit down with my computer, the first thing I do is check my email and visit discussion sites. Only after the online conversations have dried up do I sigh and resort to playing a game. Then, once I'm in the midst of a (single-player) game, I'm absorbed in what I'm doing, and I can stay that way for hours. But as soon as I come up for air, I want to tell somebody about it--preferably somebody who will listen and care, at least a little.

In reading other people's posts, I get the impression that many gamers are quite different in that respect--glad to be away from people for a while. My wife often says she has to "extrovert" a lot during the work day, so after work she wants to be by herself. If she's playing a game, she's very glad it's a single-player game so that she can be off in her own corner. It seems to me that many people are like that; they need some time alone, and gaming is a good way to get that and occupy themselves with something enjoyable.

But then there are the extroverts--both kinds of them. Some reject video gaming altogether and get into board games and card games precisely because they lend themselves to social interaction. Some reject gaming altogether on the grounds that it's not interactive enough--people focus on the game rather than the chat.

There's probably a lot more to it. I don't know enough to say. But my particular brand of introversion does seem to manifest in my gaming life.

What about your brand of introversion or extroversion? Do you think it's a factor?
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Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:52 pm
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It's the Gamer, Not the Game

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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I'm remembering a lesser-known Rolling Stones tune, "It's the Singer, Not the Song" (which, I just learned, was inspired by a bad old movie of the same title). But of course I'm thinking of it in connection with games, because games are the main thing we talk about around here, right?

Well, in my opinion, it's not actually. But you may disagree. Many evidently do.

Shortly after I joined BGG, almost ten years ago, I had a brief clash with a well-known user (Sphere). I'd been just minding my own business, posting the topics and questions I hoped would get some good discussions started, and he called me on it. He asked what I was doing and why.

The outcome was amicable, but he and I both learned something. Basically, he learned that some BGGeeks were there for the people. In contrast, he regarded BGG as just a database--a storage place for info on games. And when I learned that, I was dumbfounded. I wondered why anyone would want that or what use they could hope to get from it.

Lately, I've run across similar attitudes here in VGG. Someone will ask a question of the group, and someone else will ask, "What's that got to do with games?" Well, maybe nothing--but it has to do with gamers. We're a community, aren't we? We're all people who like playing games, and we're here to talk to each other. Do people who like fly fishing talk about nothing but fly fishing? Or do they also chat about their families and pets and beer and the weather and other stuff?

I suppose this is a decent place to learn about games you're not yet familiar with, or to discuss how to play the games you are familiar with. Or to blow off steam about a problem you're having with some game. Or even to find fellow players for a multiplayer game. But the trouble with that, to my mind, is that it further limits an already small group. You can only connect with somebody if you both happen to play the same game. And there are so many thousands of games around, you're probably out of luck unless you want to talk about one of the most popular ones.

But if instead you just want to talk about being a gamer--about your thoughts and feelings and opinions and even your work or family life or whatever--then you're reaching everybody here. You're discussing what we all have in common, not just what you and a few fans of such-and-such a game have in common.

The downside of that, I guess, is that it's half a step away from games themselves, and it's half a step toward day-to-day social life. So, you may not get to discuss your current favorite game, which is probably what's on your mind. And if you just wanted to chat with somebody, you'd turn to a family member or friend instead of doing the more awkward online thing. I'm guessing that's why so many people tend to be terse, or why they spend a lot more time reading than writing.

Swinging back to the plus side, though, online communication is very convenient. It enables you to reach more people more quickly; and if it's asynchronous, you're not intruding on anyone, but just dropping a note that can be read anytime. Also, you don't have to be spontaneous, coordinate your gestures and facial expression with your words, dress respectably, or smile and respond politely, as you'd have to do in a face-to-face conversation. You need only put your thoughts into words.

But maybe some people don't imagine their thoughts have much value. If opinions are best kept to oneself much of the time, maybe thoughts and feelings in general are often personal--unsuited for a public forum. Maybe it's best to stick to just the facts--to talking about specific games.

So, there's all that back and forth--confusion as to what to discuss and tension about expressing much of oneself at all online.

I feel I'm nearing the end of this blog post, but I wonder if I've said anything in it. I don't think I have a point I'm driving at; rather, I'm just reacting to phenomena I've noticed--vaguely questioning it or wondering about it.

One thing it does for me is confirm that I'm more of a "people person" than many others are. While I've had a passion for games all my life, I'm easily bored or overwhelmed by the technical discussion of games. The passion I have for my hobby makes me want to express my feelings and thoughts about it, but it doesn't make me want to discuss effective game play or get involved in multiplayer games.

Some people, I've come to realize, are almost the opposite. They can talk endlessly about games, in general or in detail, but they balk at expressing feelings and opinions or sharing what it's like to be a gamer. They might say, "Yeah, we're all people, but we're here to talk about games, so let's stick to that."

In contrast, I tend to feel games are just the common interest that happens to draw us together here; beyond that shared interest, we're human beings, so let's celebrate all the human stuff like feelings and opinions, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. IOW, let's talk about the gamer, not the game.

But that's just me. Different strokes, and all that.
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Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:37 pm
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But Which Great Game?

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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As I said in my last blog post, I've got some time now, and I can delve into a great game. But which one?

I've started calling November and December my rehearsals for retirement (a phrase I picked up from an old song by Phil Ochs). There's a major international seminar that has me working triple time (slight exaggeration) near the end of October, but once it's over I'm cruising again--right into the holiday season. I typically take a couple weeks off for a "staycation" at the end of the year, and I mostly play games then.
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 6:28 pm
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Time to Delve into a Great Game

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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Ah! It's almost November, thank goodness.

You might think that's an odd thing for a Minnesotan to say, given that winter is on its way. But so are the fall and winter holidays. My workload cranks up to max near the end of October each year (and again in spring), and last weekend was the big hump. Now I'm past it, and things are settling back to normal. I'm looking forward to some time off--time to just stay home, relax, and play some games.

But I'm no dabbler. Well, I am, but I'm not. I'm perpetually curious about games, so I end up sampling lots of them. But my heart is more attuned to depth than variety: I'd rather experience everything in one great game (and maybe get good at playing it) than just taste-test a hundred games.
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Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:48 pm
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Whoa--It's My Attitude! Who Knew?

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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This blog post was inspired by
Ian S.
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who said
TheWulffman wrote:
I don't really say that I play any game other than the game that I am currently involved in. I have some favorite games that haven't been played for years and years.

When I read that (and it's in this thread, if you want more context), it hit me like an unwelcome reality check. Of course! I thought. Other gamers aren't like me; they don't hang on to every game they play or confuse what they actually do with what they think or say they do.

Me, I never let go of anything that means something to me. If someone walked up to me today and asked, "Do you play _______ ?" my first instinct, if I had ever played the game, would be to say yes. I'd be inclined to say no only if the game was one I had played, hated, and vowed never to play again.
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Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:20 pm
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The AI Sucks, but I Love It

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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I hear all the time (or rather see, in online discussions) that the AI in this or that game is weak or worthless. And if I stop and think about it, I suppose there's usually some truth to it.

But I don't care.
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Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:38 pm
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Blind Eye to Reality?

p55carroll
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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I just got far enough out of myself to notice something I've been doing all my life, half consciously, in games and elsewhere. I go into situations with blinders on.

Basically, any new situation I encounter--such as a game that's pretty new to me--prompts a measure of fear. I don't know if I'll have what it takes to survive or succeed. I do know I have something to learn, and I worry about whether I'll be able to learn it--or, if there's time pressure, whether I can learn fast enough.
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Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:42 pm
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Can't Stop Shopping

p55carroll
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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Every time I turn around, another game I've "wishlisted" goes on sale. That always produces tension.

Yeah, it'd be cool to try that game, and now it's easily affordable. But if I buy, it'll sit on a virtual shelf with well over a hundred other games.
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Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:36 pm
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Where Do You Find the Time?

p55carroll
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Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
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"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
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I'm just wondering where other people find the time for gaming. I sure can't seem to do it--nearly enough of it, anyway. I squeeze in a couple hours in the evening and more hours on weekends, but in the process I'm always making myself late for something.


As usual, I grumbled as I got out of bed this morning. Another workday, so my alarm woke me up at 5:00 a.m., and I hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep yet, so I shut it off and finally forced myself to get up at 6:00.

So, what was I doing at 9:00 p.m. the night before, when I should have been crawling into bed for the eight hours' sleep I need? Playing a computer game, of course--as usual.
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Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:16 pm
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