The Jaded Gamer

Opinions, not always positive, on the gaming world.
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What makes us want to keep buying games? Part 1, My Excuse.

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
I continue in this vein at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, but people keep raising interesting questions. Take this one:

August222 wrote:
What are your thoughts on the origin(s) of the drive to create and withstand collections of unplayed games?
It is important to note that while I will extrapolate a lot from limited data to make my opinions clear, I will endeavour to do so logically and bear in mind the different points of view

Spoiler (click to reveal)
(you have to say that)

So, a little biography is probably helpful.
i was something of a Games Workshop type when I was in my early teens. My brothers and I played a lot of their boxed games (Blood Bowl (Second Edition);Blood Royale; The Fury of Dracula) as well as some very remedial games of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
The thing that made me give it all up in my mid teens?

So we can fast forward to university and my well played copy of Talisman and, slightly later, Knizia's The Lord of the Rings but at this time I was working in the Canterbury branch of Electronics Boutique (later, GAME) and therefore was spending most of my time with computer games.

And so it remained until I had a major breakdown in 2006. While it's important to know that this happened, don't worry - the focus of this article is not on my personal problems!

One Christmas I decided it would be quite fun to buy the family a game. That game turned out to be Carcassonne bought from Amazon for my family to play while I was at my in-laws and consequently not with mum, dad and my brothers. While I was searching I came across hundreds of games I had never encountered - I think one of the reviews on one of these games mentioned BGG, and it was because of this search that I picked up a copy of Settlers Of Catan from Hamleys (!) when they still stocked such things.

Anyway, as anyone who has ever been suicidal will probably tell you, other people are, as company and/or support, crucial to your eventual recovery. Computer games simply do not work in this regard. Even glorified chat rooms like World Of Warcraft (somewhere in their server is a copy of a level 73 tank called Algo...) do not substitute for actual people.

While talking to my therapist I mentioned these face to face games as an alternative to the lone gaming i was doing to fill my days in between chucking CVs into a big pit marked "recession". We agreed that it was healthier than computer gaming in my home like a hi tech hermit. I plucked up the courage to start going to a board game club called Swiggers just south of the river in London. At this club amongst other very kind and welcoming folks I met Paul, aka sorp222, who very kindly gave me a bit of work writing copy for his online shop and preparing orders etc, which was invaluable since i had been unemployed for a while at that point and needed the occupation of my mind. He also reimbursed me by giving me a copy of Cosmic Encounter and, later, Duel Of Ages - which are two of my favourite games in the universe. Cheers again, buddy!

Later I moved, knowing Paul was the organiser (who has since passed on the baton to Martin), to a different, slightly more casual club known as London On Board, which I am reliably informed is now the largest board gaming club in England - by membership numbers at least - though if they all turned up to one meeting we'd be in big trouble!

It is in contact with gamers in person and on BGG from 2006 that my spending on games started to increase exponentially. I started to learn about games I had never heard of, outlandish play "mechanics" and "systems". All the talk was about how you "need to own these and play them"; "introduce your friends to the hobby"; "if you like that, you'll love this"; "it won the spiel des jahres"; "you like spaceships"; "it's got a pretty box"; "you've only got a limited window to buy it in" etc etc etc.

Of course, I was really just chasing the transient thrill of purchase, replacing one form of dependence for another. I used to go to Playin' Games (now closed) up on Museum Street and pore over box backs - finding games that I really wanted to play, rarely thinking about whether I would actually find people willing to play them (usually deluding myself that I could persuade my wife if all else failed). Every time I entered the shop I bought something, until I finally left my job following a long signed off period in Early 2008 and couldn't afford to spend this money any more. From a Pirates Of The Spanish Main booster (£2.99) to a glass stones Go Set (£80.00), I just had to leave with something - the disappointment of being without the feeling of a purchase was too much.

So in my case the bulk purchasing of unwanted games was caused by a psychological need to feel something positive. I'm not particularly proud of the amount of money I spent at the time on unnecessary cardboard, but being honest with myself it was never really about the games or the little pirate ships. It was probably therefore more acute in me than in many large collection owners.

This has dulled over time with experience and the realisation/opinion being reached that the differences between games are far smaller than we like to pretend.

Obviously, even more so if you have read the rest of my blog, I have come to actively avoid purchasing games for myself and distrust the instinct to do so. I have come to the conclusion, even more firmly now than when I first proposed these restrictions, that 10 games you love are enough to fill your time for tens of plays, if not hundreds.

In the next post on this subject, i will try and assess several possible reasons why I think other people get caught in a cycle of purchasing.
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