I Am Spartax

This blog contains some musings on philosophy, games, and the philosophy of games. Feel free to comment; I'd like to provoke thoughtful discussion.
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On categorization

Sam C
United States
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Soli Deo Gloria!
Microbadge: "I'm givin' her all I can, Captain!" - Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Scotty)Microbadge: Fascinating!Microbadge: "I'm a doctor, not a . . ." - Dr. Leonard McCoyMicrobadge: "The name of the game is called, uh... fizzbin." - Captain James T. KirkMicrobadge: "Oh, but they do give us something, Mr. Spock. They give us love." - Lt. Nyota Uhura (in The Trouble with Tribbles)
Today, a new user of BGG asked what a Eurogame was. He got some helpful responses, including a link to the BGG wiki. One user offered concise definitions of the major game categories on the Geek, and another responded to that with the following:
settlers of catan, High luck, lots of dice rolling, little conflict= Eurogame. The catagory is meaningless.
Now, leaving aside the question of whether this is helpful to the new user who probably isn't interested in a discussion on categorization, let's consider whether his charges are true.

My previous blog post, long enough ago that I don't expect anyone remembers it, offered a definition for "wargames" as "games intended to simulate a specific military conflict: historical, hypothetical, or fictional." It generated some discussion, much of which centered on borderline cases. "Well, would you call it a wargame if such-and-such?" And the unspoken assumption was that if there are cases that don't fit neatly into your categories, then your categories don't work.

Now, I disagree with this assumption. Reality doesn't generally fall into neat categories. For example, the three classic states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) don't cover all cases: glass has some unusual characteristics, liquid crystals are odd, etc. However, the vast majority of matter we interact with falls into one of the three classical states, so those three categories are generally useful. If this was not true, we'd need to come up with new categories.

It's OK for there to be a continuum. Wargameness is not digital but analog. If a game group advertises as, "We Play Wargames!" you could bring The Russian Campaign (definitely a wargame) and have a reasonable expectation of getting it played. You might also try A Few Acres of Snow (kind of maybe a wargame), but the people in this group might or might not want to play it. If you bring Agricola (definitely not a wargame), don't be surprised if it gets ignored.

So, going back to Settlers, we find that it has most of the characteristics of the Eurogame: relatively short play-time, wooden bits, clever mechanisms, no player elimination, little theme, indirect player conflict, etc. It could not be called low-luck, but that's only one characteristic. Maybe that moves it a small distance away from the center of the Euro chart, but everyone I know still agrees that it's a Euro. Nor do I think that because it doesn't have exactly the same set of characteristics as every other Euro, the category "Eurogame" is useless.

Was Beethoven a classical or a romantic composer? Yes.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
For the record, I think he was more classical than the tradition tells us, largely because the performance practice of his music is heavily shaped by conductors steeped in the Romantic aesthetic. The metronome markings in his music have usually been ignored, because they are "clearly too fast. His metronome must not have been working right!" Many current scholars and conductors, however, are thinking that Beethoven actually meant for much of his music to be fast, and that's why he wrote fast metronome markings. But there's no denying that he's a transitional figure.
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