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The Inherent Moderation of Boardgames

Gavan Brown
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I am a videogamer. I've played more videogames in my life than any person probably ought to. Recently I played and finished Torchlight II. Being a multiplayer gamer, I rarely finish a single player videogame, so I was actually oddly proud of myself. Playing Torchlight is very convenient. First you download it, which took me about 20 minutes. Then I double click the icon and start playing.

One thing that others note is a flaw with boardgames is how "inconvenient" they are. You have to set them up, clean them up, go to someone's house, learn rules. So you are really limited in how often you can play them.

While I think videogames are overall very healthy for a person to participate in, they do come with their own set of baggage. With recent pushes for boardgames to be available in some kind of digital implementation, the future demands that games be more convenient, but convenience has it's own set of negative side effects.

1) Convenience & depth can lead to true player addiction.
I've played participated heavily in ranked ladder systems in Company of Heroes, Starcraft, Heroes of Newearth, Red Alert 2, Command and Conquer Generals, Battle For Middle Earth II, among others. Playing these games was addictive to me, because I was quite good at them. There was a point when I would spend at least 5 hours per night playing Company of Heroes. Playing 5 hours of an RTS per night is not like playing 12 hours of World of Warcraft... it's FAR more taxing on a person. You are constantly in a state of high intensity and constantly faced with important split second decisions. After these sessions my head would be pounding and I'd either be relieved that I had won the majority of my matches, or be extremely angry and disappointed when I didn't perform to the level I needed to advance.

I'd discovered all I could about the game, so why was I still playing? I then realized that I no longer really enjoyed CoH, but rather, I was just addicted to winning. Because the game was so convenient (I simply double clicked the icon on the desktop), I couldn't stop myself. Eventually it started taking a toll on my social life. I was grumpy a lot more if I played poorly, and I took it out on my parents and my GF.

2) Player addiction can destroy the product sustainability of a game
Or, the more addictive a game system is, the more likely people will grow to disdain it if it is convenient, because it is negatively effecting their lives. Players effected by this may not only quit playing, but also tell others to stay away from it. If you talk to an ex-wow player, or an ex-farmville player, they generally do not say "It was a very rewarding experience". Rather, they generally talk about how stupid the game is and how glad they are to be rid of it. They also may talk about how they "don't play videogames anymore". Crack might be fun, but people don't go around recommending it for a reason.

But even if the game is not on the same addiction level as World of Warcraft, games are generally interesting only until the player has learned all they can about it. The more convenient a game is, the faster the learning will be exhausted, and therefore the faster the player will lose interest in it and stop promoting it.

3) Convenience results in player skill developing at a much faster rate, destroying capability of real life social play, thereby promoting isolationism.
When I heard that was implementing A Few Acres of Snow, I was beside myself in excitement. I started playing it incessantly for a few weeks, doing little else. I became so good at the game that no one I know can beat me (even if I play the French). The game is now less interesting, UNLESS I play online, because my opponent's are not challenging. This means I PREFER playing online, against faceless opponents that I have so little connection with, they may as well be AI players. So now I prefer playing AFAoS in solitary isolation. Is that a good thing?

I play more board games than I do videogames, for a few reasons. First, I realized that the true innovations in gameplay were occuring in the boardgame world. Second, boardgames condemn isolationism. Finally, I have realized that because of boardgaming's inherent moderation, it is a healthier and more sustainable hobby.

When you feel unsatisfied with the number of games of Dominion you were able to get in, this is a GOOD THING. It means you are still going to enjoy Dominion when you sit down to play it again. And, while we might WANT to play 100 games of Dominion in a row (Just like we might want to eat an entire bucket of ice cream), it's not necessarily good for us. The "inconvience" of board games forces players to enjoy the hobby of gaming in moderation.

Just like not everyone who drinks alcohol is addicted to it, many people can enjoy videogames in moderation. The point is that videogames provide pleasure, and pleasure on-tap can be destructive force. Now excuse me while I go play Le Havre on my iPhone.
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Subscribe sub options Thu Oct 4, 2012 6:36 pm
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