Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Is It Just a Phase Or Do We Evolve?

When I first got into strategy games, I tried everything I could and liked them all to one degree or another. It was all exciting and new and my family was not yet tired of trying all the new games I bought. This seems perfectly logical for someone discovering something new. Phase 1.

With the experience of many different games behind us, I could discern a pattern to the types of games my family enjoyed. I looked for games that played well with 3 players, had simple rules while offering several meaningful choices, and conflict was not an issue, in fact, we like conflict. Phase 2.

Now my daughter has less time and inclination to play games so I am forced to look mainly for games that play well with 2. There are many good 2-player games to choose from and several multi-player games that work nicely with only two players. My husband is not a gamer so sitting down to a 3 hour game isn’t an option; it needs to be short and sweet. Phase 3.

I find myself now at a phase that is a little disconcerting to me—the 2-player abstract phase. This seems a natural progression to some but I have never been one to enjoy a pure abstract game. In the past they usually fell into 2 categories, neither of which I enjoyed or was good at.

Advance Planning. Games like Chess and Go where you must be able to project many, or at least several, moves into the future are difficult for me. I cannot hold the picture of my move in my mind, add the possible moves of my opponent, and my next move to counter that. Most often, my opponent’s move will leave me amazed as well as in a mess. This same problem transfers to the 2nd category.

Major Board Reconfiguration. Othello was a game we had long before I discovered BoardGameGeek and was totally pathetic at playing. I could never keep the picture of the board as it would be after my turn and still see the result of all my opponent’s possible moves. The portion of my brain allocated to that kind of thinking has never been activated—I think I lost the password.

With my entry into the world of BGG, I found many abstracts that aren’t in your local department stores and many do not fit firmly into these two categories. I think DVONN was the first one I tried and although advance planning is a good skill to have, it isn’t absolutely necessary. I can enjoy playing it without feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.

Blokus is another abstract that I like and I’m actually very good at it. YINSH, Hive, Santorini, Tsuro and my homemade copy of Easter Island are all pure abstracts that I can play with my limited brain capabilities. Now I find that I’m actually looking for simple abstract games to play with 2 players and that’s a little strange to me, the hater of abstract games.

I’ve discovered that I enjoy the head-to-head, luck-free environment of the abstract as long as it doesn’t fall into my hated categories. There’s a large dose of satisfaction to be felt when you win a game knowing that luck played absolutely no part in it.

So the question I have is this: is this just a phase I’ve been forced into or do our gaming preferences evolve? In the end, it really doesn’t matter as long as I can find someone to play with. Oh, there’s someone now. Hey, you! Yeah, you; come here, I want to show you this game.
A meeple in the hand is worth two on the floor.



Gerald McD said...

I don't know ------ sort of sounds like regression to me.

:-) Just kidding.

Coldfoot said...

Thanks. Does that mean I'm getting younger? :)

Fraser said...

I have found that the gaming you do and your current preferences are very much a product of your environment. The games that I tend to play have changed a lot of the years, sometimes it is because I don't want to play those games anymore, often it is because I don't have the time or opponents to play them anymore.

Major environmental factors affecting my gaming:
1) Job - Firstly was I care free student or employed, secondly was the job a nine-five Monday to Friday thing that you could walk away from, or does it involved overnight support, weekend work etc.
2) Children - The last time I played a seven player game of Civilization was when Daughter the Elder was about one. I am guessing it will be a few years yet before I can do so again.
3) Both of the above for your gaming friends. We started KiddieCon at the girl's Creche because so many of our gaming friends had young children and it was the only way for us to get gaming time together.

Combinations of the above are a real killer for long games or long gaming sessions. I used to regularly play all day or all night sessions, play seven hour board games and attend four day role-playing conventions. I don't see any of that happening again until the girls are quite a bit older or are interested in the same thing - although I not sure how I will get either of them interested in their future heirlooms of War in Europe or World in Flames. I will probably have a better chance with the EON Cosmic Encounters set :-)

Sometimes there are only a few people that you play particular games with and if they move away or become less available due to some of the above reasons then you may stop playing particular games.

There are other games that you may stop playing just because you have played it too much, or you no longer like that sort of game. That could be an evolution or possibly just a changing of tastes. I used to like sugar in coffee, now I don't. A phase or evolution? I don't know.

For me I would say that most of my gaming changes have been due to environmental causes like I mentioned above.

If somebody were to fund my early retirement I would hop back into those long games though :-)