W. Eric Martin
• Hobby news site ICv2 interviews retailers, manufacturers and distributors to compile lists of the best-selling board games and card games (among other things) in the U.S. hobby market on a regular basis, and for Q4 2011 the top-selling board games are the unsurprising The Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, while spots #3-5 are held by newcomers A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition), Mage Knight, and Eclipse. Since those latter two titles are sold out at the publisher level, don't expect a repeat performance on the next quarterly report. As for card games, the top spots are occupied by Dominion, Munchkin, 7 Wonders, Ascension and Bang!
• ICv2 also has two items on The Avengers: Mighty Battle movie tie-in game coming from Jakks Pacific and how game components in such tie-ins can give away plot points in the movies to those who know what they're looking at.
• Cranio Creations has released six new maps for Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space: four being user-generated maps submitted to the publisher and the other two coming from the game's designers.
• As a counterpoint to "[n]early 100 years of questionable games in the pages of PopSci", which I linked to in a previous links round-up, here's a piece from Popular Science that explores the still-very-new-to-some-people "German-Style Board Game Revolution". (HT: Karim Chakroun)
• While not specifically game-related, Piotr Czerski's essay "We, the Web Kids" struck a note with me, partly due to this section–
To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds.
–which is true of the oldsters among us nearly as much as the young. I can't recall anyone's phone number if they've acquired a new one in the past ten years. I've automated payment processes online so that I don't have to think about bills coming due, and the web provides instant access to calendars, calculators, maps and more, eliminating the need for me to keep lots of stuff in my head and while providing access to those items near instantly. (Whether that means I have more "space" for thoughts or whether I'm stupider because I don't "exercise" my brain, I've yet to determine.)
Then this section, which mirrors my thinking about games and so much else in the world:
Participating in cultural life is not something out of ordinary to us: global culture is the fundamental building block of our identity, more important for defining ourselves than traditions, historical narratives, social status, ancestry, or even the language that we use. From the ocean of cultural events we pick the ones that suit us the most; we interact with them, we review them, we save our reviews on websites created for that purpose, which also give us suggestions of other albums, films or games that we might like. Some films, series or videos we watch together with colleagues or with friends from around the world; our appreciation of some is only shared by a small group of people that perhaps we will never meet face to face. This is why we feel that culture is becoming simultaneously global and individual. This is why we need free access to it.
Just as the explosion of channels on television gave viewers both more (in terms of content) and less (in terms of shared experiences), the easy access to games from designers and publishers anywhere in the world gives everyone everywhere access to more gaming possibilities, which fragments the paths of play that most of us have followed in our lives. Whether we like the games or not, we've likely all played a fair amount of Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk and other such titles. My son is unlikely to have that same experience because of what I'm teaching him to play now and what's available to him in my game collection.
This isn't bad, of course – merely different than what's come before. When I was my son's age (and admittedly even into my teens), I had no experience of the world at large. My family didn't travel, we never ate "ethnic" foods, we didn't watch non-American movies, and I knew nothing about other countries beyond a bunch of names and their residents' crazy-sounding jabbertalk. My son, on the other hand, can already identify a handful of countries on the globe and name the languages they speak; he's watched kabuki shows and karate demonstrations and much more online; he's met and spoken with multiple people from outside the U.S. thanks to student exchange programs; and yes, he plays games from designers who live far, far away. That web essence of connection, of reaching out to find exactly the things that you want to experience, has transformed my ability to see the world and my place in it – and naturally that experience is transforming him as well, just at a much earlier age.
And what will he be marveling at when he thinks about what his offspring are experiencing? I can't even fathom...