Monday, January 15, 2007

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ What's good?

With all the recent turmoil on BGG regarding the rating/moderation system I have begun to question the perception of what is and isn't good and why some games are viewed poorly.

Take Monopoly as an example - what's so bad about this game? We've all played it. And, if you think about it, we've all enjoyed it at some point in our lives. The same is true for Risk, Scrabble and any of a couple of hundred other poorly rated games.

I am one of the proponents of a purely positive rating system. It's hard for me to explain why except to say that I feel a more clear sense of what is and isn't considered good when I can see how many people respond positively to a game, an article, a review or some other contribution to a site like BGG.

Perhaps the board gaming "elite" (I guess that's what we consider ourselves to be) have progressed so far from our gaming roots that we've forgotten them? Didn't most of us start out playing simple games and having an inner sense that our leisure time would be served well by playing as many games as time, money and convenience allows? I recall looking forward eagerly to the Friday night Risk game... or cheerfully setting up Scrabble and rubbing my hands in anticipation. Everything from Feudal to Pente to the long hours spent playing titles like USAC Auto Racing, Regatta and Speed Circuit... all of those games played a role in honing my appreciation for game design and the joy of sitting down with a group of like-minded souls and rolling dice, shuffling cards or attempting to outwit my friends.

The same gut feeling I have about what is positive about this hobby holds true with interacting with people FTF or via the internet and sites like BGG. I'm eternally curious as to what people think. It's often suprising to me how critical some people can be about games that played such a pivotal role in their own evolution as a gamer.

I'm not suggesting that all board games, no matter how crude, lousy or rudimentary they are, somehow rate a high feedback or a overly positive review. It's just that when people who are game lovers assemble it's annoying to me that there is a sense that some games - and those who enjoy them - need to be put down. That some viewpoints must be negated. It doesn't deeply bother me really... human nature being what it is... but it points up one of the things about human nature that is fallible - that being the ease with which so many people forget their own history and how they came to arrive where they are at this moment.

The people who are collectors tend to rise above this a bit, at least I think so. The collector loves board games so much they are willing to commit time, space and money to the acquisition and care of large numbers of games... and ( I suppose) see the worthiness and place every title has in the gaming world.

I'm not a collector nor am I particularly critical of any board games. Yes, yes, there are some which I just won't play and many that I poke fun at... but getting right down to it - if I was stuck with nothing but a Monopoly set to play and no means to create make-shift copies of better games - I'd be gleefully playing Monopoly and trying to coax you into the game.

I guess it's like the guy in the Armani suit who sneers at you on the elevator... because he knows you shop at Macy's. Wasn't there a point in that joker's life where he didn't have the money, knowledge or even need to buy a $1500 suit? Is an Armani the right suit of clothes for every setting? Just because he has the money and read magazines telling him what is good, does that mean he automatically has better taste? And that anyone who doesn't buy and wear what he does is somehow less than? And, of course, deserving of a negative strike against them.

* Yes, I have actually experienced Armani discrimination while wearing a suit purchased at Macy's, so I'm not making this up.

I don't know about you, but for me I really do tend to enjoy most board games and given that we have so many choices I have gravitated to those that suit me. My brain works the way it does so I am better at some genres of games than I am at others... but that doesn't mean to me that the others aren't as good. They just don't satisfy. I don't really have a point today, just some idle thoughts about board gaming and how critical some people can be regarding not only certain titles, but also about the people who like those games and their quality as people.

For me, when I decide to poke fun at people who I associate and identify with I like to keep it fun... as opposed to an actual value judgement. Whaddya think? Are we too critical of the choices others make? Or not critical enough?

9 comments:

sodaklady said...

I think that any given topic is going to find some people who are more than ready to pull out their soap box and start preaching.

I like most games to one degree or another with only a few exceptions, one of them being Monopoly. Given no other game to play or way to fabricate one, I'd rather spend my free time counting my teeth with my tongue.

I've always enjoyed Risk and just bought The Star Wars: Original Trilogy version. I've played it twice (2 & 3 players) and really enjoyed it. I love hunting down those nasty Rebels and blowing up their planets with my Death Star! :)

MWChapel said...

I remember when i was 12, I watched Buck Rogers. By far I was a huge fan boy and loved every aspect of the show, all the way down to the bee dee bee dee bee dee buck. Pure Awesomeness... Today I love the new Battlestar Galactica. What a great show, high quality acting, story, plot, everything.

I rewatched some of the old Buck Rogers recently and felt nostalgic but also came too another conclusion. OMG this show is pure trash, pure cheesy crap! But I used to love it so? How can I think that today, who knows?

I rate BSG a 10, and Buck Roger a 4. Am I an elitist for doing so, I don't think so. I have just experienced "better" that's all. Better is better.

I used to love Monopoly, Risk, and Talisman, but I found better. I just can't in good conscience rate those games high anymore, they have been superseded and can never return. Nor do I want them too.

johnnybravoh said...

We actually have a purely positive rating system at the geek. A game can be rated anywhere from a 0 to a 10. Nothing negative there...

I agree with your notion that people shouldn't actively heckle and deride people that think that Monopoly is the be all and end all of gaming as long as they haven't tried anything else beyond the standard Milton Bradley fare. If they've had a good legitimate exposure to quality Euro or wargames and still consider Monopoly (or Life or whatever) superior, then yes, I will make jokes about them, ridicule them both in front (as long as they're not a lot bigger than me) of and behind their backs and generally consider them an inferior life form for holding that opinion. Call me a Eurosnoot if you must.

As for your experience with the Armani discrimination...
There's no clear parallel here. There is a major financial barrier to owning an Armani suit that just isn't there for boardgames (as long as you're willing to be a cheap screw and buy at one of the deep discount e-tailers online....).

And yes, one of the best parts of gaming is getting together with other gamers, slinging barbs left and right and enjoying the camaraderie of gaming.

DWTripp said...

Good points. But oddly enough, I played Monopoly a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. Admittedly it was the Lord of the Rings Monopoly, but still, I think I liked it.

I understand that some things are best left as fond memories, ex-wives are at the top of my list, but old movies, TV series and some games qualify as well.

I dunno though Mary, I'd probably choose Monopoly over counting my teeth with my tongue... of course, if Carmen Electra wanted me to count her teeth with my tongue I might be persuaded to help her out before we sat down to play.

Friendless said...

Huh? A positive article? No mention of motorbikes, ex-wives, Eurosnoots or whining liberal sissies? No sign of Jumbo or Ro-bee? This is not the real Tripp!

Sifu said...

I appreciate the sentiments you expressed here, especially your hints towards a distinction between picking on people vs. picking on games and how the former is a sad reality.

I really don't like Monopoly. But my brother loves it. He also loves Union Pacific, which I love. So he's been exposed to a wider array of games, and still likes Monopoly (gasp!). I don't think any less of him. Why should I? Because he likes a game I do not? I also understand why he likes it. He loves financial games, all of them. The process of wealth accumulation is very appealing to him.

I bring up this example because your article points at the old argument as to whether beauty is completely in the eye of the beholder or whether most/all of beauty is a matter of fact - independent of whether it is recognized. I believe the truth is somewhere in between - and that this also applies to games. The shame is that, because a person loves Monopoly, many jump to the conclusion that such a person has no ability to recognize that which is inherently beautiful/excellent/good. They then proceed to ridicule. Yet even if my brother possessed no barometer of the beautiful, he is still deserving of my respect (respectful disagreement as well, perhaps). Aren't all people?

And isn't it possible that he recognizes excellence in games even better than I, yet *still* loves Monopoly for some other reason than design quality - all in spite of its flaws? Then I'd be doubly wrong to think less of him or his tastes.

DWTripp said...

And isn't it possible that he recognizes excellence in games even better than I, yet *still* loves Monopoly for some other reason than design quality - all in spite of its flaws?

Yes indeed, you summed it up nicely.

And to my buddy Down Under... I'll soon be back to my normal grumpy self... when the cold weather and gray skies go away and a little warmth creeps back into my bones.

Peer said...

MWchapel is right about monopoly: I used to love my Hanimax Game system (with graphics a whole level better than Pong!) but I really wouldnt play it now. Unless perhaps a couple of minutes for nostalgic reasons.
I would play Monopoly now, but id rather play many other games.
For Scrabble: Its interesting that this game has such low ratings. After all: Its a competetive game like Chess (Read the book "Word Freak" and you know what I mean) and the community seems to like that. But Ive got a hint they dont like Scrabble, because its an old game, and a game everyone knows....

Fellonmyhead said...

Well I'm not going to present a counterpoint here; I just think that Mr Chapel has it when he says he found better.

I would still play Monopoly (and I recently have in another medium other than boardgames); but most of the sets I buy now are something to look at rather than use.

For me the game is about the whole experience - the art, the feel, the social contact, the design, the model, the challenge and an army of other facets to gaming for which the desire in me surfaces from time to time. That's why I still keep copies of games I tend not to play.

I think you may have been experiencing Armani paranoia rather than snobbery - perhaps he was really looking down at you for your facial hair, or something your digestive tract secreted in the confines of the elevator? Either way, the analogy means more if, say, you were trying to be a miniatures gamer using oblong pieces of cereal packets instead of minis.