The Jaded Gamer

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"There's no point owning games you are never going to play" - How to inoculate your collection against Shelf Fungus.

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
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Anyway, how's your sex life?
"She said the same thing about waffles."
Microbadge: Offline from The Geek for a while
NB: This refers in part to my last post. Because I haven't quite got the hang of the url tag yet, I'll just post the whole link

Hello again.

In my last blog post, on "How I live without buying games" I made a list of how my thought process has changed and what I believe. This post struck a chord with some, a nerve with others, so I wanted to expand on one of the points there. Here, for your convenience, is that point again.

an overopinionated egomaniac wrote:
3. There's no point in owning games if you're not going to play them.
This is both crucial and controversial. I make an exception therefore for serious collectors - especially if they are genuinely making investments. But for the rest of us, buying a game you loved the only time you played it when there's no real chance of realistically getting either enough people or enough time to play it again is insane. Likewise, if you bought a copy of a game and it sits on your shelf unplayed for years - you wasted your money plain and simple. The opportunity cost is a different game you may have enjoyed or even ( surprise ) something outside the hobby you could have done. The fact that you "may play it in the future" merely begs the question why you bought it now! And don't give me the "it may go out of print" thing - Cadbury's don't make Spiras* any more. I survived. You can too.
I can understand there are several reasons why people may have games in their collection that are not getting played. I fancy addressing a bunch of these in this post, to clarify my position on this subject by responding to as many possible counter arguments before they turn up in the comments and also to just check whether I actually do believe that there is no point to owning unplayed games.

Before I do so, I want to put the comment in context. My previous post was all about a useful mindset for stopping ourselves obtaining unplayed games at the purchasing stage, before we've dropped the cash on it and turned it into an esoteric choice of paperweight (or, as I know them, Shelf Fungus). I was not exhorting people to clear out their collections of dead wood. For many this is too much of a wrench (for me in the case of one game) but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

So, my original point in this context was that one should bear in mind that buying a game that you realise will sit unplayed on your shelf for years until you finally trade it or (shudder) bin it is an avoidable mistake. Avoidable by just taking a few minutes to think about your decision before hitting "buy it now" or handing over your debit card.

With this in mind, let's get a crucial response to this thought process out of the way before we get onto the difficult ones...

"I believe this game will get played. If it doesn't I will be surprised"

OK, good place to start is with the most excusable thing - an error. Things happen, friends move away, you fall out, you didn't realise that they have a phobia of Mediterranean Merchants etc etc. There is a difference between a delusion and an error. This is the latter and therefore of course you are excused. Always bear in mind that it is far easier to avoid shame by falsely justifying poor purchasing decisions in hindsight. Make sure you are being honest to yourself and if this is the tenth time you've made this error, you need to talk to your likely co-players more and actually, you know, find out something about them.

and now, onto the more difficult propositions...

"I really want to play this game and I believe I can persuade other people to try it"

Now we're approaching the danger zone. If your friends and gamers are nice people and you are enthusiastic, selling the game well, I am sure they will play any game you recommend once. However, if you purchase anything but a solo game with just yourself in mind, you are setting yourself up for ownership of many games that have been played once or twice that you may absolutely adore, but nobody will play again. Classic shelf fungus. In my case, btw, the main example is Supernova, but virtually every mistake I have made falls into this category. As I said in my last post, you need to think about the people you intend to play the game with, not just yourself.

"I really want to play this game. I don't know anyone who will want to play it now, but they may in the future"
Uh Oh. We're heading into irrational territory and some that I have trod from time to time. We're not quite there because it's totally possible that you will find others who want to play. Especially if you are in a gaming group of a large size, but why make the purchase now? Look at it this way, is there much else you buy, just in case they stop making them? My wife and I are not planning to have children soon, but if we see a cot we like should we buy it now on the off chance they stop making it? Of course not, that's ridiculous (and can't be a straw man since I'm arguing against myself!). FWIW, here is where my beloved, cobweb strewn copy of Twilight Imperium: Third Edition lives (it's still been played 4 times, but clearly that's not many for the investment).

"But what if it goes out of print? I'll feel dumb for not buying it when I had the chance."

Look, I get it - you're worried you'll never get the chance again, but look at Merchant Of Venus, or Up Front. These things do come back and, if you really want, you can almost certainly get it in a few months time even assuming that the company pressuring you with their limited editions and promos are on the level with the small print run promise. Even if they aren't and the game doesn't come out again - your life will not be significantly worse. I promise.
True, I can't get Warhammer Quest for a reasonable price any more and regret selling it to a friend a decade ago (for the painting work I did on the miniatures, mainly) but since trying Descent and Descent 2.0, I'm not of the mind that I will never have such thrills again! There is more to life than a copy of Extrablatt or Full Metal Planete. There are many games one could play instead and, shock horror, many of them are better. surprise

"The geek says this game is in the top ten. I should own the top ten games because they're obviously the best"

I'll quote myself again here:
"Remember the BGG top 100 is not a buyers guide. It is an aggregation of the top 100 outcomes of a weighted score representing separate subjectivities based on an ill defined pseudo-linear scale. It is almost useless as a guide to what your favourite game will be."

To expand - BGG is a site with many thousands of games and users. I am almost certain that not one user on this site has the same tastes as you. With that in mind, it's obvious that the weighted average rating of a few thousand (or hundred) users who don't like the same things as you is of limited use. Certainly the top ten contains games I admire and love, but up until recently included a Dominion set, when I despise Dominion. You'd be forgiven a couple of years ago for, on BBG's evidence alone, thinking Dominion was the greatest thing to happen to gaming ever. I picked up a copy for this reason and didn't like it, trading it almost immediately. A lesson that cost you £30 is not one you should ignore, and I would like to save you that £30. Do more research. Talk with the people with whom you are likely to play the game. Make a choice informed by more than chart position (cf: the 'music' of Cheryl Cole).

"I want this game because I only own two other games"

This is not a reason to buy anything. I only own one TV. There is no need to base my decision on buying a new TV on what I already have, but rather there is every reason to consider what I need. You should do the same. It is likely that you have been indoctrinated by other gamers you meet either in person or on site (unintentionally I might add) into the idea that to be a gamer you must also be a collector. Not true. Ask a Chess Grandmaster.

The implication is also that this advice is somehow an attempt to deny people the experiences that i have had. I do no such thing, all I want to do is sound a note of caution (and save you the roughly £500 I wasted making avoidable errors)

"I want this game because I am collecting games by this designer / with this mechanic / with cute imp models etc"

Collecting is a different hobby from gaming, so I am not going to make judgements on that one.

I think the question that arises is more importantly whether you understand the nature of your hobby. Gaming and collecting games are not the same hobby. You may do both, but they are not intrinsically linked.

For me, I'm a games player, not a game owner. I own games, but that's like owning climbing equipment - I need them to do the hobby, but I wouldn't describe myself as a "crampon collector" or an "ice pick collector". I own a lot of DVDs, but that doesn't make me a DVD collector. I hope this makes sense.
I like watching movies and playing games. I HAVE to wear clothes for, ahem, practical reasons. The obtaining of the materials for all of these things facilitates them - it is not necessarily a hobby.

Final word on this - BGG has many functions, one of which is mutual reassurance. I've read countless justifications of purchases on this site; people reinforcing how right you are to buy more and more games is one of the major themes here. While my dissenting voice is not particularly important I think it is worth pointing out this feedback loop.

10. You consider buying a game that appeals to you.
20. BGG user previews says you should own it, because of theme/designer/mechanics/rarity etc.
30. You buy it, gaining a lovely and fleeting thrill of purchase.
40. Buyers Remorse once expectations not met (hint: they rarely are in their entirety).
50. BGG users soothe the remorse by reinforcing the purchasers 'wisdom' in buying a new game, as users all have a stake in convincing each other they did not make a mistake.
60. Buyer gets craving for same purchasing thrill now long past.
70. BGG users laud large collections, recasting this feeling as "new hotness" and mutual hunt for perfection or constant rulebook wanderlust.
80. Goto 10

This is a perfectly normal purchasing cycle, but all I am trying to do is help you to see it happening. Groupthink doesn't just happen around the table.

"Everybody at the games group always wants to play new games"

I hear you and I've been there, believe me. Make the other folks buy the games if they want to play them. Play with them if they want opponents. Job done.

Only exception is if you think you'd rather play ANY game than no game. This is balls. It's a big world with too many options in it to waste your time playing crappy games in which you are completely disinterested. If I'm playing games the only time I will play a game I am not excited by is if my favourite opponents invite me. As I said in my last post - "people are more important than games".

"I'm a collector investing in games that will hold their value or even rise in value for resale/trade later providing me with an advantage for future collecting."

It's not my thing, but each to their own. Enjoy.

I'm sure there are many more objections, but if you are a player of games rather than a pseudo-collector, yet you have been sucked into being the latter through excitement or the warm embrace of the BGG community (fortunately we're all wearing deodorant today) I hope that maybe, in some small ways I am encouraging you to think it over before your next purchase.
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