The Jaded Gamer

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What makes us want to keep buying games? Part 2, Childhood Influence

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
Hi! This post got away from me a bit, so I am posting what I have done so far and will continue with the rest tomorrow...

Anyhoo, i received the following interesting response from a reader of an earlier post.

August222 wrote:
Your analysis does not address the childhood triggers that many of us have lodged in our brains. My non-gamer wife even has it--she gets a glow if you mention Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. I think our childhood fears and desires are a big part of the collection drive. What are your thoughts on the origin(s) of the drive to create and withstand collections of unplayed games?
I thought this would be an interesting thing to think and write about, so here you go:

Childhood is a time of extremes, both positive and negative. Everything seemed to me to be considerably more acute - possibly because many experiences are the first of their kind.

So anyway, let's look at some positive experiences and some negative ones, that we as adults may look to emulate or avoid when we play games, talk about games or expand our collections.

As always, these are not universal and hard and fast rules of why someone would buy a game, I am answering the above quoted question about what from our childhood influences boardgame purchases, particularly through the BGG prism.
These examples MAY apply in some cases. They DEFINITELY DO NOT apply in all cases.

Being accepted in a group.

Possibly the single most important drive of the young is to belong. You probably feel that you have all these unique and unusual priorities and feel a bit of an outcast from "ordinary" people (who almost certainly feel the same way, incidentally ). Therefore the embrace of a community of like minded people is intoxicating. This is why you get cliques of Goth kids, trendy kids, sporty kids etc - we're a tribal species at heart and defend our current loves with an enormous passion born out of the need for what is important to us to be considered worthy of our time.

As adults we tend to be a bit more sanguine.

I say tend, though, to because when your hobby is odd or seen as childish by others you tend to slip back into defensive ways. This can take the form of aggression outwards, or even suspicion of deviance (by yourself or others) inside the community in which you have taken refuge. Many online communities become homogenised in the face of internal policing. The word "troll" is used far more often than is justified when a dissenting voice is heard (often because dissenters themselves feel defensive and lash out rather than keeping calm).

There is no reason why variation within a group should be any less than between groups, in millions of ways. Nevertheless when the prevailing mood is one of collection expansion and "The Cult Of The New", it feels more natural to take the path of least resistance, at least openly.

Fear of Ridicule or Embarrassment

Oh dear. Being British this is pretty much our national pastime. Actually:

British (adj.):
1. Someone who says "sorry" twice as often as they say "thank you"
2. Someone from Great Britain
I am certain that everyone takes criticism more seriously than compliments - certainly in this country. It may be different in other nations, particularly one where everyone is told they can be president or a millionaire if they try hard enough (naming no names) - which must be upsetting as all but a fraction of those citizens must face the "fact" that they clearly didn't try hard enough, but I am digressing again. devil

Still, I believe I am pretty safe in saying we can remember our embarrassments easier than our achievements.
For example: I remember distinctly getting minus points at the end of a game of Ra. I can't remember how, but I remember the feeling of utter failure. However, I do not remember winning a game of Automobile, despite the fact that my played games list clearly says so - me winning a Wallace game is astonishing and very out of character, losing at an auction game is not, but you get the idea.

Of course, there are far more embarrassing moments in my history, but I'm not going to share them all with you!

Our hatred of feeling embarrassed can lead to a couple of outcomes - the avoidance of embarrassing situations or the rationalisation of them into excusable errors or worthy victories.

For example, your wife asks why you just spent £70 on a game about trading wooden cubes when you already have ten of them. Of course, you won't get into serious marital trouble (you're an adult and presumably your relationship is above such things), but the potential is there for embarrassment or (perceived) ridicule. Are you going to admit that you wanted it because of a tiny difference in the worker placement aspect and it has different shaped pieces, or that it is "totally different and she wouldn't understand"? After a while repeating such a mantra we can convince even ourselves of anything, even that Steam and Age Of Steam are different enough to warrant owning both. Having the supportive statements of your in-group helps to make this happen!

Stuff = Success

"My dad's bigger than your dad"
"well my dad drives a Mercedes"
"Is that it? My dad drives a Porsche"
etc etc.

Children seek approval. Either from parents, deities or peer groups. Thing is, there's not much you can wave in people's faces that will prove you're worthy of respect. You could live just on your rep or cred - but such things can be misinterpreted or discounted by subjective onlookers. No, you want some kind of objective measure of your worth.
This is where "stuff" comes in.
Nobody gives out accredited certifications in being a nice person. I wish they would, but they don't.
Instead you are judged by strangers on supposedly objective acquisitions - be it employment (honorary stuff for the purposes of this section), qualifications, possessions or money.
The intangible is inherently less noticeable than the tangible - so lets concentrate on the acquisition of the latter, shall we?
This is the sort of thinking that lets people get conned of course. Bernie Madoff, Enron etc all came down to trusting people with stuff, because they had stuff.

Of course, how much stuff you have is no measure of how good or trustworthy a person you are and most adults realise this but the niggling feeling remains that we have to prove our worth objectively - maybe we should - and can lead to acquisition for acquisition's sake.

I was hoping that i would escape such crass materialism with leaving the world of banking behind and playing games instead. While it is much better in the hobby than in that old life of mine, I still see people who feel their collection is "missing something" or they need to grab everything or one of every type of everything to get a "good collection". I see rare postings from people about the size of their collections, but these seem to be on an upward curve of pride versus collection size up to about the 1000 mark, where the curve tends downwards towards embarrassment.

To give you some context, to play every game in a collection of 1000 games would take almost a full year.
If you played three different games a day, every day.
If you've got time to do that, i'm not sure whether your life is great, or very very sad.
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