Hello and welcome to what I hope will be a regular blog on the subject of tabletop games.
I don’t intend for this site to be reviewing new games necessarily (but I expect something may creep into it at some point), but I want to explore the concept as a whole. I would like it to be a discussion about what I look for in a game; mechanics; games I enjoy and games I dislike. However, this is not to claim that I am any sort of authority on the topic – just someone with a computer and some time on my hands to waffle on a bit …
First a caveat – there are no bad games. People who know me well will be amazed at this statement, as I can certainly be forceful in my opinions about something I dislike. But just because I dislike it, it does not mean that another individual will not be entertained by it. One of my least favourite games of all time, Zombies!!! (a game I will undoubtedly discuss at some point in my blog), is well liked amongst my friends. Just because I don’t want to play it, it does not make their experience any less valid.
So, what is it about games that I feel is important? I could argue that they are a form of artistry – certainly if you follow the description of art that I found many years ago in the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (a book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the subject). In which he defined art as anything that does not emerge from our basic human needs – to procreate and to survive. And I do not believe it is wrong to claim that certain games are works of art, in the quality of their design, components or mechanics. But what is it that appeals to me?
I would claim to myself it is three things – for entertainment; to encourage creativity and to socialise.
Entertainment is clear. We play games to pass the time and to enjoy ourselves. As a result, we consciously avoid games and concepts that hold no interest for us, because we want to enjoy the experience. For example, I will avoid any game that is 100% based upon luck, as I like to think I have some control over the outcome of a game we play (unless my kids are begging to play Snakes and Ladders – there is no escaping that one). I know I will gain no pleasure from the occasion or even the outcome.
Creativity may be controversial – but hear me out. Admittedly there are games like Dixit and even Charades whereby creativity is a key component. But this can exist in many games. I like to craft a story as we play a game, even if it is in my own mind. It provide me with interest, fills in the spaces that the game leaves in the narrative and moreover, allows me to feel more engaged with the meeple or cards I am pushing around the table. In other occasions, it inspires me to maybe tinker with the game mechanics where I find them laborious or less fun. House rules can extend a game’s life span or improve the experience for other players. In my teens, I was a voracious creator of my own games, none of which were particularly good and some of which were blatant rip offs of other games. I would be utterly embarrassed to have unleased any of these games on the wider world. The medieval crime gang game I came up with was an absolute mess of tables and boards that would melt the mind of your average player.
Finally the social element of games is undoubtedly the main reason I play them. I play them to spend time with my family. I use them as a reason to meet with friends. For my birthday last year we had beer, a barbeque and played games all day – it was great. Games are a shared social experience, even a two person duel style game. During my time miniature wargaming, I have met people that are still my friends today, because we bonded over the common hobby we hold. I play games because I want to be around people I like and hold the same interest as me. And that is the ultimate reason they matter to me.
Well, that is enough of my first discussion/lecture/rant. I don’t have an agreed schedule for my updates here – I’m hoping at least once a week, but it is the festive season. Please feel free to comment on my articles and tell me what you like and dislike about what I am doing.
Until next time …