Solitary Soundings

Musings of a solitary gamer. "The advantage of conversation is such that, for want of company, a man had better talk to a post than let his thoughts lie smoking and smothering." (Jeremy Collier) Comments welcome.
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Stuck in the Middle

p55carroll
United States
Minnesota
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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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Huh ... I'm back over here on the board-game side of things again. Why? How'd I get here?

For many months at least, I've been spending almost all my time over in VGG, since I finally faced the facts and realized 99 percent of my game playing is on an electronic device.

But for the past three or four evenings in a row, I've searched in vain for a video game I really want to play. I own over a hundred of them, and most are excellent games. But when I look over the list and ask myself what I'm in the mood for, nothing jumps out at me. Some are too long, some are too new (and I don't want to struggle with the learning process), many are too fiddly (require micromanagement), and a few are story based or action oriented (almost never what I look for in a game).

So what do I do? Sometimes I resort to Master of Orion. It's a familiar old game that plays a bit like Risk, and it's simple and fast enough that I can handle it. Even MoO often runs too long, though, and I resolve combat on automatic to speed things up.

Much more frequently, I turn to electronic versions of board games: backgammon, go, chess, dominoes, cribbage, Race for the Galaxy, Blue Moon, or something else. During the day I play traditional games on my phone; in the evening I play them on my PC. I haven't warmed up to RftG or BM yet; I'm still waiting to see if they click for me. But the classic games--I can't get enough of those.

Lately, much to my surprise, The Many Faces of Go has been the most satisfying game of all. I bought the original version of it back in 1988 or so, and used it to teach myself the game. I've owned some version of it ever since, though there have been long stretches of time when I did nothing with it. Right now I have a demo of version 12, and I'm half tempted to buy the full version (though it costs $80).

In my online conversations with video-game geeks, it becomes clear that my tastes are way out on the fringes. I only like turn-based strategy games and tactical games; most VGGeeks are into story-based or action games. I'm content with a few old games; VGGeeks are impressed with the improved features of new games.

In truth, I'm not a video gamer; I'm a gamer who plays mostly by himself on electronic devices.

So, am I a board gamer, then? Not a mainstream board gamer. Most BGGeeks are far more socially active than I am (it'd be hard to be less so). I have almost no desire to ever play a game against a human opponent. Yet my favorite games include traditional games, some of which I named above. And I still like board wargames and some other board games too.

Today, I believe I could make a complete, satisfying hobby out of The Many Faces of Go alone (along with some go-related books and websites and such). But I might never play a game--online or face-to-face--with another person. I have in the past, a couple times, and I might be talked into it in the future, but it's not something I'd pursue.

So, I'm stuck in the middle: I've loved games all my life, but I've never wanted to compete with people; I've been mostly indifferent toward video games, but I'm enthusiastic about playing games on electronic devices.

For years, I also enjoyed playing board wargames solo--just playing both sides against each other. I might still be able to get back into that and enjoy it. But for some reason, I've never liked playing against a "manual AI," like the robot in Race for the Galaxy or Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. I'd only play a game like that against an electronic AI.

I don't know if any of this means much, but it's an interesting thing to discover about myself. I guess I'm an avid gamer but also a gaming misfit; I don't fit neatly into any mainstream group I know of.

Yet, I suppose I'm the same as everybody else in that I like what I like and do what I do. Even there, I'm some kind of odd bird, though, because I can't just accept my own idiosyncrasies. For example, I feel that if I'm going to be a Go player, I ought to play against other people, because that's how the game is designed and how the Go culture works. Or if I'm going to get back into wargaming, I ought to join a wargaming club and do it right; it's weird to just play the games solo.

So, I'm stuck in the middle there too--torn between sociability and solitude.

And now these thoughts remind me of a song:

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