Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thinking about classification

I had an OCD moment this week. (Some would say, one of many)

I was sorting the girls' toys to tidy them away, and I realised why I always have a pile of them on the floor that don't get put away: I don't have a classification system for them. Or, to be more specific, the taxonomy that I have for toys doesn't allow for those particular toys - and to create a 'miscellaneous' category would be to concede defeat.

We have classification systems for everything, whether we realise it or not. At the slightly scary OCD end, there was my friend who alphabetised the contents of his kitchen cupboards (well, the food - plates were not found between pistachios and potatoes, thank goodness) - most of us have some sort of system but it tends to be rather more informal than that. Another friend physically moves clothes to an "out of season wardrobe" (I just tend to dig underneath the off-season clothes, I confess).

Someone once told me that the secret to a tidy home was to think like a kindergarten - where everything has a place - usually a labelled shelf and plastic tub. I'm not sure that would work for the whole house, but it certainly works for the toys - once I find a way to sort them.

Oddly, and to bring this back on topic, we don't have a well-developed classification system for storing our games - and what we do have is very much a hybrid. They're mostly stored by size (and manufacturer, although - heresy - we don't even have all our alea games together), with a nod to target audience (kids or adults). The ones we play most frequently, or that we want to play more, tend to be in the dining room; the others, including Fraser's old wargames, are all in the spare room. This is a very flexible categorisation, because we tend to move items from one room to another fairly often. Card games are stored in a plastic tub, and game accessories including the store of ziplock baggies are in an empty game box.

Then there are the games that live in bags or boxes, because we take them to gaming events - and the ones that live at Fraser's work, or in my handbag.

I'd like to have a more formal system, but I'm at a loss to find one - letting desire to play rule which room the games go in seems very logical, and sorting by box size lets us get the most games on the shelves in the neatest looking way.

What's your system? I hope it's better than mine!


Jeremy said...

System? Well, I have one sort of, but nothing formal or even informal. I admit that size tends to play a big part in it. Also note that I only have 60 something games to organize. I try to put ones that are similar in style (strategy, length, depth) together. That way I can pull a bunch of games from one section for a particular occasion.

Anonymous said...

I'm a professor in library science and one of the things we do is teach students to explicitly think about classification and organization. A big part of doing this well is developing a system that allows items to live in a place and to be found again through some system.

In a print library, this is done through two systems - Each book has a call number, which is a unique place on a shelf. In many cases, this call number is based on a combination of the primary subject and the author's last name.

In addition, books have a number of subjects assigned to them. The primary one makes up part of the call number, with the result being that books on the same topic are collocated (the fancy word for shelved in the same area). The others are useful when you are searching in the catalog by subject heading.

I do something similar with my games. When I go to get a game, I usually have a group of people in mind. So (in theory) I have my games shelved in areas so that I can just go to one area and scan for a particular game. I have Party games, Family games, Eurogames, Long games, Sci-fi & Fantasy games, and Two-player games as my major sections. Within a section, they are shelved for convenient retrieval.

If you like thinking about organization and classification, come over to library school! We can use more gaming librarians!

Melissa said...

Jeremy: I find that similar in style often comes from 'same publisher' (and hence, same box size) - Days of Wonder have a lot of my gateway/light games, Alea have the gamers' games, etc.

Scott: I work (in part) as an information architect for large websites - so yeah, explicit classification systems are part of what I do as well. It works really well for the toys! I have a longer article in progress (but probably not for Gone Gaming, lol) about how I have them organised, because I think it works very well as a one-to-three-tier system. And you're right - once something is classified properly, it's easy to find again and to file again (thus helping with my tidy home issue as well)

I'm interested in your system for your games because it is structured like the one I have for my (oops, I mean, the kids') toys, as a sort of hybrid.

You have something like a functional classification (party games, family games, two-player games) as well as a subject-based classification (sci-fi and fantasy) and what I would call a 'type' or 'format' (Euros). We discourage clients from using these hybrid structures, but somehow they tend to be the easiest systems to develop and the ones that come into being most organically.

Gerald McD said...

Melissa -- I like your system, which is pretty much what we do. Our games are stored on the shelves in the game closet, based on their popularity with the family. The ones we play almost every week are front-and-center, easy to grab. Next to those are the ones we play maybe once a month or so; then, those that we might get out a couple of times a year; and finally, the collectibles, those with family history attached to them, and those I just can't make myself part with. I call it the "Utility Classification System."

Pawnstar said...

I'd like to have a system like Scott's, but it's more like DW's and likely to stay that way!

Most of the time my decision as to what goes where is down to space available and the size of the item - but this is always influenced overall by my Better Half's dominance of the household and desire for the home aesthetic.

At least I have my Alea's altogether (apart from Adel Verpflichtet which sits in the middle of them but is the FX Schmidt version).

Anonymous said...

Yeah, i don't have OCD as is shown:

As for storage, I try and keep the box sizes with likewise:

Anonymous said...

Melissa --

One key thing to consider when thinking about systems is the user base. The organization system used in the open stacks section of a library is very different than the organization for a closed stacks in special collections where 3 people ever access the collection.

If you have a system for public access (like you would have for a Web site), then you need to create a logical resource that can be used by mutliple users coming to the resource from different contexts. (one area of research in information science is Information Seeking in Context, which is based upon the idea that you can't understand someone's use of an information system without knowing the information seeking context they have.)

Whoo - too much! (sorry - lecture Scott came out there..).

Anyway, my point is that if you have a resource used by many people, you need a system based upon a main concept (genre, author, etc.).

My game collection is accessed by one person, so the organization is based upon the idiosyncratic nature of my play group; for example, I know I have a big part of my group that hates sci/fi & fantasy, so to avoid picking those out, I pull them apart from the others. If I had a game store, then I would have to do a very different organization that can be accessed by many people. So, when I set this up, my goal was to avoid moving from area to area looking for a game when I had a group of people upstairs ready to play. (with 500+ games, I have to be careful about analysis paralysis in game choices.) This is probably why it's similar to the system for your kids; the "play context" is important when retrieving something they want to play with.

Where my system breaks down is when I don't know the people I'm picking games for - I have to move from section to section, grabbing a few games from each area to attempt to have something to please everyone.

Coldfoot said...

My "system" pretty much mirrors yours though if I had more room, I'd love to arrange them the way Scott does. Luckily, or is that unluckily, my collection is still relatively small so I can find what I want pretty easily.

Anonymous said...

The German Game Archive in Marbach has developed a very thorough (though somewhat ecclectic) classification system for their games. It is explained in detail on their website:

(unfortunately in German). Most of the games that lack other distinguishing features (e.g. dice, tile laying, abstract, dexterity elements) seem to be classed as "role games", which are then further subdivided by theme.

Friendless said...

Melissa, I'm with you. I have the main game stash in the study, the basket of card games in the lounge, the gaming table containing mostly kids games in the lounge, a box of party games in the car, a couple in the bed room, the rejected ugly games downstairs, and kids' games in the kid's room. It's only because I have a good memory that I can ever find anything.