I love boardgaming. I always have, I always will. There’s a semi-newfangled thing called “hobby board gaming”, where people get together and play games that are challenging, creative, sometimes that are based around certain designers, etc. It’s not people just sitting down to play Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, or even Settlers of Catan, which is widely acknowledged as the beginning of the modern hobby board game revolution. I have absolutely nothing against any of those games, unlike some, I think they’re all still fun in the right settings, but there are some problems that I have with the hobby aspect, one right off the bat that I think is killing the whole thing for me.
My problem really is that it treats board games like consumables, you play a game a couple of times and then move on to get more and more and more games. Now there are hobbies that are based on consumables. Reading novels, comic books, things like that, it’s a constant push to buy new books and keep reading. Once you have consumed the content, there is little reason to go back and consume it again and again. Certainly, there are books that can be re-read, I know people who read their Tolkien collection regularly, who go back and revisit the Harry Potter books, etc., but that’s an exception, not a rule. Boardgaming, I don’t feel ought to be that kind of hobby.
For one thing, board games are typically not priced to be disposable. You’re looking at $30-60 or more per game, that’s really not something I’m likely to spend, just to dispose of it when the next “hot” game comes along. I detest the whole “cult of the new” attitude within hobby board gaming, that you have to buy game after game after game as fast as they come out, and they come out at near 1000 per year, so you never have time to play the ones you’ve already got more than a couple of times. Why not just get a couple of really good games and play those over and over? There aren’t that many original ideas or mechanics in board gaming anyhow. It’s just a waste of time and money having to constantly learn new games and punch out new pieces because you’ve got some bizarre attention deficit disorder. Find something you like and stick with it!
This really comes off, if you listen to the myriad of podcasts and videocasts out there, like shilling for the manufacturers. They have to keep putting out games so they need people to keep disposing of their old ones and buy into the new hot thing. And, of course, these games go out of print as quickly as they come into print because there’s no long-term commitment to them. Every game is a flash in the pan, gone before you know it because everyone is on to the next big thing.
There are plenty of games that I’ve played many, many times. Some I’ve played over 100 times. I know that’s hard to believe for the short attention span crowd, but I enjoy the games and moreover, I enjoy the people that I play them with. I know that doesn’t make the manufacturers happy, but I couldn’t care less. If they focused more on quality than quantity, if they produced games that people wanted to play for the long term, instead of disposable games that people played once or twice and they threw away, maybe their business models would be properly geared for long term sustainability. Eventually the bottom is going to fall out of the market and all of these hobby and designer games, the ones that were never designed to appeal to a long-term audience, are going to go the way of the dodo and most people will not only never have heard of them, nobody will want to play them anymore.
And when that happens, I’ll be laughing because I’ll still have my stash of games that I enjoy playing and the people I enjoy playing them with and I won’t be trying to come down from my new game addiction like a lot of people will. But as they say, those who do not learn from history, they are doomed to repeat it, and I see the hobby board game market doing just that.