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Subject: Would you be offended if you were told a game was simple? rss

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J Young
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Have you ever called a game "simple"? Has anyone ever been offended when you called a game "simple"?

I attend a weekly public game meetup at a cafe and last week a new person showed up. Our group is rather welcoming to new players and tries to include new people so we introduced ourselves to the new person, but we did not invite the new person to play because we were in the middle of playing Money!. The new person said that was fine, went to order some food, and sat at a different table.

Our group finished playing Money, and I moved to a new table by myself and began setting up The Gallerist. Some other people were starting No Thanks! and explaining the rules. The person explaining the rules did not notice I was setting up The Gallerist and asked me if I wanted to play No Thanks. I said no, but I told the new person a new game was starting and that she could join them. The new person said she was fine, and then I told her the game was really simple. Then she said, "Oh! It's simple. It's so simple that even I can play..." She said this with a wry smile, and I could not really tell if she was offended by what I said. I did not say the game was simple enough for her to play; I just said the game was simple. As such, I tried to explain why I said the game was simple but I did a very poor job articulating why I said the game was simple. Calling a game "simple" is what my friends and I do when new people show up to play games, but I never really thought about why we would describe games as simple until last week when I may have offended someone.

After thinking about why I said the game was simple, I realized calling a game simple can be useful when introducing new people to games. New people can often be overwhelmed by the games my friends and I play, so when I tell someone that a game is simple I am not implying that she/he is unintelligent and incapable of learning a game with many rules. I am saying he/she will probably not be overwhelmed by the game and may likely have a better time. Additionally, simply because someone can do a task or an activity does not mean that person will enjoy it. I have read about people who are smart enough to be engineers, for example, but do not like heavy games like Terra Mystica because playing the game feels like work.
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George Buss
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Not offended at all.

Every person brings their own filters and experiences to conversation. Unfortunately we have all forgotten that, and now we scrub our language so as not to offend the unknown. Some experiences are wide enough to need this kind of approach, but others not so much.

A game is simple or complex.

You the player are not stupid or intelligent.

If she was offended, it was because of the filters she brought to your statement. On the other side, the question may be, what is the filter you bring that translates her response and wry smile as offended?

Human communication is so complicated.
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Kathleen Nugent
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I used to bring games to my square dance group. We'd play at a table in the back of the hall during the dance breaks. The games I chose were those that could be interrupted multiple times as we got up to dance, and those that could handle at least 4 players. Often, in explaining a game I'd use the word "easy." The word just slipped out of my mouth without me being careful of my language. But to those dancers, every one of my games was new, different, and HARD. No matter how I taught it, someone - often the same person - would tell me she had no idea what she was doing. Yet she'd often win.

The straw that broke the camel's back was when I couldn't definitively answer every question they had about Monopoly Deal Card Game (game weight 1.3). I told them the game had been designed by Parker Brothers, and that answers to Board Game Geek people's questions varied depending upon who from Parker Brothers was answering the question. I told them the game differed from Euro games because the designers and respondents weren't used to the strictly defined rules of Euro games. My session ended with one gamer shouting at me and another gamer throwing her cards across the table.

I don't bring games into dance sessions any more.
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It depends on whether or not "simple" is a good or bad thing for the group you're

The context also matters, as calling a game simple can be both good and bad (e.g. Race For The Galaxy or Dominion). For a game that's not supposed to be simple, it can be a bad thing.
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Simon
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I call pretty much every game I've ever played simple.
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Darian Tucker
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It's difficult to say without the context of the situation. From what you've written, I think the person in question may have overreacted. It's possible she thought you were making a point about the game being simple because she's a woman and "women can't play complex games". Since I don't know what the tone of your voice was, I'm not sure why she would come to that conclusion, but I'm sure your attempt to explain yourself only made things worse.

Some people walk through life looking for reasons to be offended and I'm reasonably sure that's what happened here. I don't think there's anything wrong with referring to games as simple. Many of my favorite games are quite simple but have reasonable depth to make them interesting.
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Shaun Morris
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I think saying something like, "It's a simple game so it's really quick and easy to learn."

And if they respond with a remark like "So simple even I can play..." I say, "Well it's simple compared to something like Shadows of Brimstone which has a 40 page rule book."

And you can use what ever complex game you want, just be sure to make a quick reference to the complexity. Everyone tends to just go, "Oh. Wow! That's a lot of rules." or something to that effect and then they typically go off and play whatever "simple" game I made reference to or they start up a conversation about gaming.

It tends to diffuse the situation completely because then they understand the context of the description. It's not so much that it's a "simple" game so much as it's just "simple" by comparison to a lot of other games.

Other times I might say something like, "They're starting up a game of X over there if you'd like to join. It's pretty fun and for such a simple game has a surprising amount of depth to it." Now you've taken any negative context away from your descriptor.
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Bastian Winkelhaus
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J Young wrote:
Have you ever called a game "simple"? Has anyone ever been offended when you called a game "simple"?

I attend a weekly public game meetup at a cafe and last week a new person showed up. Our group is rather welcoming to new players and tries to include new people so we introduced ourselves to the new person, but we did not invite the new person to play because we were in the middle of playing Money!. The new person said that was fine, went to order some food, and sat at a different table.

Our group finished playing Money, and I moved to a new table by myself and began setting up The Gallerist. Some other people were starting No Thanks! and explaining the rules. The person explaining the rules did not notice I was setting up The Gallerist and asked me if I wanted to play No Thanks. I said no, but I told the new person a new game was starting and that she could join them. The new person said she was fine, and then I told her the game was really simple. Then she said, "Oh! It's simple. It's so simple that even I can play..." She said this with a wry smile, and I could not really tell if she was offended by what I said. I did not say the game was simple enough for her to play; I just said the game was simple. As such, I tried to explain why I said the game was simple but I did a very poor job articulating why I said the game was simple. Calling a game "simple" is what my friends and I do when new people show up to play games, but I never really thought about why we would describe games as simple until last week when I may have offended someone.

After thinking about why I said the game was simple, I realized calling a game simple can be useful when introducing new people to games. New people can often be overwhelmed by the games my friends and I play, so when I tell someone that a game is simple I am not implying that she/he is unintelligent and incapable of learning a game with many rules. I am saying he/she will probably not be overwhelmed by the game and may likely have a better time. Additionally, simply because someone can do a task or an activity does not mean that person will enjoy it. I have read about people who are smart enough to be engineers, for example, but do not like heavy games like Terra Mystica because playing the game feels like work.


I like simple games as a filler or to end a gaming night. Not as a main game.

In your context i would probably ask a newcomer what kind of experience they have with playing boardgames. If it isn't much, i can see nothing wrong with advertising a game as simple.
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Pete Goch
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I tend to ask new people that show up at meetups what sorts of games they've played before pointing them in one direction or another.
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Sean Conroy
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I think non-gamers can construe the terms easy or simple to mean "even a filthy casual like you should be able to learn it".
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I would actually be glad in her position, because learning rules is still the most boring and exhausting part of our hobby.

Simple games are perfectly fine. "Easy to learn but hard to master" is also one of the highest praises a game can get in my opinion.

If we are talking about game elitism, the idea of "more complexity = better game" is absolute nonsense.

If a game is simple yet achieves to deliver the game experience that it aims for, the designer did a great job.

So, no, "it's simple" sounds to me like you wanted to lower the pressure for the upcoming rules learning process.

It probably was just a misunderstanding.
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L S
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zlorfik wrote:
In your context i would probably ask a newcomer what kind of experience they have with playing boardgames. If it isn't much, i can see nothing wrong with advertising a game as simple.

I'd like to underscore this. You assume that new players prefer lighter ("simple") games, which generally seems a fair assumption. However, your only indication for her being a newcomer is that she showed up to this particular meetup the first time... which isn't a very robust indicator, so it might be better to do what Bastian recommends. I mean, for all you know, she didn't show up the weeks before because she was busy defending her title as regional ASL champion in her hometown.
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Joshua Martin
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I had a very similar experience with a new gamer.

Instead of trying to figure out her intent I told her "Yeah, you might be able to figure it out with verbal prompts and simple hand gestures from the more helpful players."

If she had been offended it would have been a win. If she was joking we would hit it off and I would end up dating her. I will let you know how it ends up but so far it is a win.
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RL M
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J Young wrote:
Have you ever called a game "simple"? Has anyone ever been offended when you called a game "simple"?

Then she said, "Oh! It's simple. It's so simple that even I can play..." She said this with a wry smile, and I could not really tell if she was offended by what I said. I did not say the game was simple enough for her to play; I just said the game was simple. As such, I tried to explain why I said the game was simple but I did a very poor job articulating why I said the game was simple. Calling a game "simple" is what my friends and I do when new people show up to play games, but I never really thought about why we would describe games as simple until last week when I may have offended someone.


I've called games "simple" to newcomers many times, and none of them have been offended. I read what she said a few times out loud, and I'm not entirely sure she was offended. It almost sounds like she was just trying to be clever or poke fun of herself. Or maybe she wanted to play The Gallerist with you and didn't understand why you didn't ask her to play that?

How did she act after all this went down? Did she play No Thanks? Or something else?
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Tony Go
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As a designer, I definitely take simple as a compliment.
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Shaun Morris
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Horror Leader wrote:
As a designer, I definitely take simple as a compliment.


It's all about context really. I for one love a good complex game as much as I love a good simple game. That said, some games are overly simple to the point of being boring and some games are overly complex to the point of being obtuse.
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Larry L
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Did you offer both games? I wouldn't be offended but I would prefer to play The Gallerist.
 
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Russ Williams
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There's an ambiguity in saying a game is "really simple".

Do you mean the rules are quick and easy to learn (e.g. Othello)?

Do you mean it has easy obvious strategy (e.g. Tic-Tac-Toe)?

The latter might sound more like condescension. It seems less risky (in terms of misunderstanding rules simplicity vs gameplay simplicity) to say more specifically that a game "has short simple rules" if that's what you mean.

FWIW from your description of the event it sounds unclear whether she was genuinely offended or simply joking.

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Dave B.
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Horror Leader wrote:
As a designer, I definitely take simple as a compliment.


This. I find it a sign of good design when a game can be simple in mechanics, yet maintain a high level of depth and engagement.
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Julie (Juju) B.
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I want to know what she ended up playing and whether she enjoyed it. Those 2 games are definitely on 2 different ends of the spectrum.

Hopefully she cooled down and had a good time.
 
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Rich Keiser
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No.
 
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Simple is not the same as simplistic.
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Tony Go
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Just about every game can be broken down to nouns and verbs.

At some level, even the most complex games should have an element of simplicity in the way we come to understand how they are played.
 
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Geoffrey Burrell
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No! The more people that can understand a game means that the games would be more competitive.
 
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No. When I find a "simple" non-traditional game I figure I can teach it to my wife's friends when I get stuck having to be "social;" they think Euchre and Slip-Bo are complex and fun.
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