Mnmlst Gmr

Just because I don't know what I'm talking about doesn't mean I have nothing to say.
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Stories, Real and Expected

Johannes cum Grano Salis
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Finger Lakes
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"It's not hard to design a game that works, the real challenge is making one that people want to play again and again."--Martin Wallace
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Microbadge: "The reward of a thing well done is to have done it." -- Ralph Waldo EmersonMicrobadge: Swimming fanMicrobadge: Parent of Two Girls and One BoyMicrobadge: Innovation fanMicrobadge: "Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify." -- Henry David Thoreau
One thing I've noticed over the course of my BGGing is that there doesn't seem to be much demand for microbadges that convey what a user's pant size is. Or one that says whether or not their hair is falling out. What kind of porn they have bookmarked. What percent of the bag of chips or carton of ice cream they eat in one sitting. Anyone take fiber supplements? Can I interest anyone in a Brutal Honesty series of microbadges? Hygiene Habit Overshares? No?

Microbadge lineups are a very carefully edited story, by and large. Presently, my five displayed badges are:

1.) Thoreau
2.) Train Gamer
3.) GCL Swedish Meatballs Division
4.) 18xx fan
5.) Parent of One Boy

This is a persona. It's not that it's an inaccurate persona, but it's not exactly who I am most of the time. I couldn't tell you the last time I sat down and read Thoreau. I like him, sure, but it's not like I read him all the time or have great swaths of his output committed to memory. And I certainly give off a train vibe, right? Two whole microbadges. 40% of my available real estate. But that mostly represents what games I think about the most, and not the games I play the most. I imagine I'm not the only one who chooses to display what I'd like to play rather than what I do play.

In the comments of my last blog post, Alex Brown shared something that floored me, and was phrased in a way I hadn't considered before. I'll quote the whole thing here, to save you a click:

Alex Brown wrote:
I've found this to be the quintessential dilemma of the hobbyist.

I've made a lot of compromises in my expectations because of this. I'd rather play something than nothing. However, the frustration of gamers is that there are all these great systems and experiences board games offer, but unlike books, films and music, it's so hard to share them with someone who wants to listen.

I'd rather play games with my wife, my family, my friends.

I also want to play games with intelligence, control and sometimes even narrative.

Doing both simultaneously is my dream.
Brilliant. There are two words in there that stood out to me the most: "compromise," and "dream."

One of the things that is abundantly clear to me at this point in my gaming journey is that this hobby, more than any other hobby I have done or still do, is inextricably linked to compromise. From your very first play of whatever Gateway Game got you here, you move inexorably toward compromise. Everyone in your gaming circle does. You play a game, you love it, you try and convince others to play it. They eventually yield (compromise on their part). If they enjoy it, then one day you are probably faced with their requests, their unplayed games, or their favorites in addition to yours (compromise on both of your parts). There may or may not be overlap between your preferences. If they do not like the game you have convinced them to play, then you have to expand your circle and seek out other people to play with (compromise on your part). You drive farther away. You go to a different FLGS. You try a different game. You send recruitment emails to different people. You game less frequently than you would prefer. You get a different group. Again, maybe.

The ebb and flow of gaming is often hard to take. I presently have to drive a fair distance to play 18xx. How much longer can I do that? I play with a private group once a month, and this is where I (theoretically) play my Winsomes. But we're moving away from Train Games there, and more into Euros I wasn't wild about when I first played them. How much do my socialization needs caused by working from home trump my intellectual preferences? I'm certainly not going to seek out new friends over this. I have also personally vowed to get away from the computer during lunch every day, and either read, or play something solitaire, or just sit and listen to music. What percentage of my gaming is this going to be? How bothered should I be that the collection I've spent time and money researching and assembling now looks like it will get played less and less in the immediate future?

One reason this ebb and flow is so difficult is because I have decided that the most important reason to game is the intellectual one. There's a continued failure of expectation there on my part. I have clearly decided that the way a game in a box creates a problem space is the most important thing: it's what gets me to log on to BGG and read, and think, and dream, and then dream about something else once that first dream becomes inconvenient. And this gets highlighted whenever a new compromise gets injected into my gaming hobby. Which happens frequently because that's the hobby. Most of my gaming consists of aborted attempts at replayability amid temporary social conditions.

It's Spring, and if my microbadge lineup were to reflect what my current circumstances are, then my Organic Gardening microbadge should probably get placed front and center for a little while. Right next to my flyfishing one. And maybe my Solitaire Gaming one. Or perhaps a "Forgets to Brush Teeth" one that I'll make (any takers?). But after losing quite a few opponents and opportunities over the last few weeks, the dream-reality divide has started to stand out a bit more than it has in the past.

This fall will mark the 4th anniversary of my first game of Carcassonne, which is the game that got me into this world of hobby and designer games. I'm not sharing this because I plan on celebrating this anniversary, just merely to point out that after 4 years, the people I played Carcassonne with back then still just want to play Carcassonne. There is an at times terribly lonely growth that comes from BGGing, and it's not the same with other hobbies: I don't require other people to eat the food I grow or cook, and I don't require listeners when I play music.

BGG is an intellectual accelerant, something that propels me forward at a much faster rate than all of my opponents combined, and that is totally incompatible with the momentum of my social gaming circumstances, on average. That it's taken me almost 4 years to accept that is really kind of embarrassing. Because there's a part of me that is getting quite tired of having gaming epiphanies every few months, in part because these epiphanies usually center around games I don't happen to own (I regret giving away a lot of my solo-optimization Euros, as my current collection doesn't solo very well; I built it up with an eye toward playing in circumstances that don't seem to exist any longer). I don't dislike jaw-dropping learning moments, but they do seem to happen at a rate neither my wallet nor my social life can keep up with.
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