The Jaded Gamer

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Why Qwertymartin is dead right about game saturation.

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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Anyway, how's your sex life?
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"She said the same thing about waffles."
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Thanks to Qwertymartin for raising this: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/9113/five-years-the-jo...
It says, in a far more erudite way the things that really motivated me to attempt my silly arbitrary quest to play ten of my games 100 times. If anything, I am considerably more irritated than he is, but that’s probably because I am generally more irritable.
 
In his magnificent post (and very entertaining comments) he voices the same frustrations I have with there being far too much haystack out there to spot the needle, even when said needle is made of diamond. Rather than write an enormous comment underneath I thought I would respond in my own blog to a couple of the points he made.
 
With everything I say here, I am just voicing opinions. I have also come up with my own solution to this in a self imposed purchasing ban, so these issues hardly encroach on my world to the extent they used to, but if you can’t express yourself on your own blog then there is something fundamentally wrong with the internet.
 
First, the issue of “Too Damn Many Games”. I think it is no secret that there are far too many games coming out every year for any one person to play them all. That doesn’t necessarily mean that this is “too damn many” but in the context of the rest of this post it is crucial to separate the issues into chunks.
There are two major problems with there being too many games for people to play. First, we approach problems of marketing winning out over demonstration and rules releases. Many people bought Elder Sign, for example, because of theme and publisher first and gameplay second. We have all done this in some form or other but when the number of major new releases from each publisher has risen to a huge level the potential for wasting money and time panning for gaming gold is greatly increased. The problem of marketing budgets being the main way people learn about games is that the smaller companies don’t stand much of a chance of widespread approval. It was ever thus, but it needs saying occasionally.
Second problem of sheer number of releases is that each game gets less attention from the publisher. Output doesn’t necessarily rise only when staffing and production capacities do, so a lot of corners can get cut. An entire community making jokes about how you may as well leave the shrink wrap on a game until the first FAQ is released demonstrates this problem. Again, it was ever thus for the early adopter in all new technology or product – but I think it is exaggerated in this market by the high outlay, low playcounts we see frequently.
 
Secondly, just a subjective observation. I despise planned obsolescence. As quantity produced goes up, the only business model that works long term is a high wholesale cost, low playcount one. This means that companies are not only encouraged to maximise the price they can justify charging, they may actually become incentivised to make games that don’t last very long. I’m very mean to Tobago at this point usually, a game that is great fun for two plays before the only revelation turns out to be that that is it, there is no more depth to be had. Tobago is actually a pretty poor choice since it has no pretensions of depth really, but even if this hasn’t become an issue already it is a risk of an ongoing new product saturated market. This is especially if nobody actually wants to play a game more than five times before buying another. I should clarify, I don’t think the gaming industry is planning the obsolescence of their games – I’m not even sure this is possible, but there is no business incentive for them to avoid it becoming a problem for the consumer.
 
Thirdly, the “cult of the new” needs to ask itself a question. What, exactly, are you looking for?
It’s none of my business how you spend your money, buying every slight iteration and minor alteration or mix of systems you like, but have you ever actually asked yourself what will be enough? This whole 10:100 thing was born out of the realisation that my ideal game already exists (yes, LoBsters, it’s that one) so why do I keep trying new games rather than playing my favourites? Does every member of the cult believe that there is a game almost but not quite exactly like a cross between Agricola and Puerto Rico that will miraculously fit their preferences, Goldilocks style? Will that game be significantly more fun than what is already out there to justify the £300 and many hours or whatever you spent on the hunt in the meantime?
How many games are we prepared to go through before we give up the hunt for an ideal that may well never exist?
Perhaps this is a disposable income issue. I don’t have much so what appears expensive folly to me may well be nothing more than a drop in your ocean, so forgive me if this is the case.
 
Fourthly, collectors. I have nothing to criticise. Being obsessive compulsive I know what the drive is like, so I’m not about to preach to those with this particular cycle.
 
Fifthly, I think we generally assess the cost of games incorrectly. If something is fun one time, it may not be necessarily as fun the hundredth, but perhaps it should be? Either way, the important issue is play count, not price. It has been said many times that a game costs as much as two/three/four cinema tickets (this multiplier seems to increase with the price of games with little comment) and it seems instinctively like that’s a good return on investment. Sure, but we’re comparing apples and oranges when we do this. I personally balk at what people spend to get drunk on a night out, but that’s their choice. Should we compare the cost of three pints of beer with a cinema ticket? The time spent at the cinema is 2 hours, drinking a pint of beer is five-ten minutes, playing a game can be either.
 
No. Let’s keep the discussion to games and games alone. So – when you have a cash to play ratio of £1.50 per play (as with Cosmic Encounter or Puzzle Strike for me) it makes a big difference compared to the ratio of £15 per play that I have with, for example, Android. But of course, if you have more fun with one thing than another that needs taking into account.
 
Hence my old hat equation that VALUE = FUN x PLAYCOUNT. If you genuinely like a game, the more you play it should increase towards a plateau (and maybe subsequent fall) rather than starting high and dropping off. I don’t even take cash cost into account here, because it doesn’t really matter for the actual playing of the game.
 
And that is the reason for everything I am doing at the moment. The half an hour I spend being taught a new game is wasted time when I could be having much more fun playing. I have an attention span long enough to concentrate on the one game for enough time, and if the game is good enough then why not play that instead of sitting down to what is likely to be somewhere between my 500th and my 1000th game rules explanation?
 
Lastly (I promise), for the most part the cult of the new can exist without me being adversely affected. Usually, I don’t care much and certainly there’s no reason you should start questioning yourself just because I say so. I do still think this is a genuine issue and one that requires at least understanding by everyone in the hobby; just to make sure our decisions are rational.
 
It is, however, a real drag when you try and organise opponents for games with most people still stuck in that bubble. I realise this puts me in a minority on this website, where the new hotness is king and there is constant contact between gamers and those whose livelihoods depend on persuading them that the next game will be the one they’ve always wanted. The sad fact is that for most cultists it won’t be, because for so many the chase is so alluring that they may have forgotten what they seek.
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