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Subject: Are Some Games Classier Than Others? rss

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Attention: This post was originally just a link to a short article I posted elsewhere (in my own discussion group). Due to objections to the link, I've cross-posted the whole article below. If you're especially sensitive to what you might think of as pretentiousness, faulty logic, subjective judgment, or oddball rambling, you might want to stop now and visit another thread instead.



Do some games seem classier than others to you? Do you care?

I do. I don't think I'm an elitist or anything (maybe I'm wrong about
that), but all my life I've put some games on pedestals while
dismissing many others as trash. And often I'll do that without
actually playing the games. That is, it doesn't matter how
entertaining or challenging or useful a game is to me personally; I'm
judging it on a perceived respectability factor.

Chess, for example, is a very classy game--one of the classiest in the
world. Why? I don't know. I guess because it has ancient roots;
because world-champion players make news headlines; because the
physical components are sometimes of such high quality; because it's
so challenging; because it has generated so much literature; because
so many players have made a "lifestyle" game of it, dedicating
themselves to just that one game. Maybe for other reasons too.

Go is another example--less well known in the West, but perhaps even
more time-honored and classy than chess.

I'm not sure there's any other game that can touch those two in terms
of respectability. In this day and age, they seem to rise above all
the rest.

There are other ancient games that afford deep strategic challenge--
e.g., the merels games (e.g., nine men's morris), the tafl games, the
checkers/draughts family, the mancala family, and so forth. But they
don't stand out in the modern world; they haven't generated as much
literature, so they're not as well known.

Stepping down a few levels, I find a lot of other semi-classy games:
backgammon, bridge, skat, pinochle . . . maybe poker, rummy, and mah-
jongg.

Then there are lots of new, packaged, proprietary games that
automatically strike me as classy too: e.g., the Gipf series,
Cathedral, Quarto, Quoridor, Pylos. But not all modern abstract board
games fit the bill. I shrug off most chess variants, for example, as
I tend to think less of a variant than what looks like an original
game. The game Chebache is another example of a game I can't think
very highly of--mainly because it's admittedly a hybrid of other
classic games.

A couple more levels down in classiness (to my mind) are many of the
games rated highly in BGG--Eurogames and such. Currently Agricola heads the list, but other highly acclaimed titles are Caylus, El Grande, Tigris & Euphrates, and Dominion. Somehow, even though these games are newer than the ancient classics, I get the impression they're superior to vast numbers of mass-market games.

Step down another level or two in classiness, and that's where I find
most wargames and some computer games (particularly turn-based
strategy games like Sid Meier's Civilization). Some of these are even
more sophisticated and challenging than the best Eurogames, but to my
mind wargames lose a measure of respectability just because they
appeal to a niche audience. Computer games lose a bit of class just
because they require an electronic contraption and are useless without
it. I guess role-playing games (RPGs) also fit this category (though
there was a time I'd have rated them lower).

The next level down in class (and again, this is all subjective)
includes most all the games we find in department stores: Monopoly,
Pictionary, Stratego, Clue(do), Careers, Mousetrap, Candyland,
Operation, Trivial Pursuit, and so on. Also rather mindless card
games like Crazy Eights, Authors, and Old Maid. I'd put a whole lot of computer/video games (especially real-time games) in this category too.

At the very bottom rung--the least classy games of all--are games that
are more package than substance. An old example is the Man from
U.N.C.L.E. Card Game, but many silly games based on popular TV shows
fit this category. Also all the Blank-opoly games (Monopoly dressed
up with one theme or another). Or repackaged traditional card games
like Skip-bo, Phase 10, and UNO. Maybe trivial games like tic-tac-toe
(naughts & crosses) and rock-scissors-paper as well.

So, what about it? Why do I bother rating games in terms of
classiness, and what does it do for me?

Well, I guess it's basically a reflection of how I feel about playing
these various games. Anytime I play a game in one of the bottom two
categories, I feel a little ashamed or disappointed--like I'm just
wasting time. Under certain conditions, I might have some fun; but if
I am, it's because of the social interaction and not due to the game
itself. It could be fun to play Candyland with a child, but playing
with the child is what's fun, and it'd be just as fun to play hide-and-
seek or peek-a-boo or anything else. The game choice is irrelevant.

At the other extreme, I always find myself wishing I could be a decent
player of chess or go. To me, that seems like a monumental
aspiration, and it always has. I'm really still a novice at both
games, and maybe I always will be, but I have great admiration for
those who do reasonably well at them. World-champion chess and go
players, to me, are on par with history's greatest statesmen,
scientists, and leaders in other fields.

I suppose I like to mentally rate myself in the "above average"
category--not classy enough for chess and go, but maybe worthy of the
somewhat-less-classy games. I usually have mixed feelings about
wargames due to my personal history with them: when I was a kid, I
considered them much more classy than they probably are, so I now see
them through two pairs of eyes--the military enthusiast in me still
loves them, but the stuffed shirt in me sees them as something
inferior.

I get the impression most people never stop to think about games this
way. Or if they do, they quickly shrug the thoughts off as irrelevant
and proceed to play whichever games they find fun. I'm odd in that I
have a nagging suspicion that classy games are actually better for me--
more worth my time--than games lacking in class. Hence, I find myself
tending to shun unclassy games, no matter how fun they might be; and I
also find myself drawn to classy games, no matter how boring they
might be. And the older I get, the stronger that pattern becomes
(probably because I have less and less time to waste).

I'd probably be more in the mainstream if I regarded games purely as
fun and entertainment. If I did, then a rousing session of Loopin'
Louie or Pitch Car might be the most satisfying experience of all.
Instead, I persist in believing that mental exercise is one of the
best and most compelling reasons for playing games--and fun doesn't
really have anything to do with that.

So much for my little self-reflection spiel for today. How 'bout
you? Do you see some games as classier than others? And does it
matter to you at all?

Cross-posted from:
http://tinyurl.com/dfvhvm

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True Blue Jon
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Here is what is not classy: not posting what you wrote in this thread.
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Jim Jackson
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I agree. I got your link right here.
 
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quozl wrote:
Here is what is not classy: not posting what you wrote in this thread.


Hm, that's interesting. Others have complained that I post too much and say it'd be better if I blogged my thoughts and just posted links here.

Oh, well. Edited my OP. Now you can read without having to go through the tremendous hassle of clicking a link.

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Nate Sandall
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I think these look really classy on my bookshelf.


This pic isn't mine, but I bought a bookshelf that had 36" of width just so I could display all 12 big box games together on it.meeple
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J.L. Robert
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Yeah, I'm never too sure about some games. They look all flashy and interesting, always promising a good time. But they're always standing around the same streetlights, day and night.

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Ralph T
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On a Myers Brigg test, Patrick, you must be 100% Judging, because you're constantly putting games in discrete categories. I'd say a couple games are classy (a few ancient games), the rest are all entertainment or kid's entertainment. I can see not being interested in dexterity games so much, which more or less describes me. You could play foosball, pool or a video game instead.
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Nick Warcholak wrote:
I've never thought of games this way. I'm more concerned about fun and depth of play.


Nevermind the post. I LOVE the Garth Marenghi avatar!!!
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What elitism! Busen Memo is every bit as classy as Chess..
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ralpher wrote:
On a Myers Brigg test, Patrick, you must be 100% Judging, because you're constantly putting games in discrete categories.


Interesting comment. Actually, personality typing is another hobby of mine--and your guess is right and wrong (but it turns out to be mostly right, IMO).

I'm an INFP. But it's a mistake to take codes like that at face value and say I'm a "P type." If you crack the four-letter code, it turns out my dominant function is "introverted Feeling (Fi)," which is a Judging function. (Specifically it means I have a strong tendency to make value judgments about everything--to subjectively weigh the relative importance of things.)

With extroverts, you can take the J/P thing at face value, but with introverts you have to reverse it.

So--good observation! Thanks for noticing.

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If you want modern classy try Qyshinshu

Abalone has a simple classiness to

Camelot for its era.

 
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My idea of classy is the drinking and sex games they sell at Spencer Gifts. This is another reason why I will never amount to anything.
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Nick Warcholak wrote:
J.L.Robert wrote:
Nevermind the post. I LOVE the Garth Marenghi avatar!!!


Thanks!

When I'm not wasting time playing Blue Moon, Arkham Horror, Conflict of Heroes and other non-classy titles, I enjoy rotting my brain with fine English comedy.

Patrick, I'm picking on you a little bit, but only because I care. I gather from your posts that you spend more time thinking and worrying about gaming than having fun with the hobby. I think you should add some alcohol.

I can sort of feel you on wanting your gaming to mean more, but I think games should primarily be about fun, not character building devices or mental exercises. It's not that gaming can't build character or exercise the brain, it's just that it seems like a very inefficient way to accomplish those things.





Heck, I go one step further than Nick.

For me, a game has 'meaning' the more of an escapist fantasy it is.

My favorite games are the ones where my position and role in the game is pretty clear- In Republic of Rome, for instance, I'm the head of a faction of Roman Senators, vyying for influense in the Senate. The decisions that are made are (abstracted yes) but similar to the types of decisions you'd make as a mover and shaker in Rome- do I bribe this Senator, do I prosecute that ally, OH CRAP, here comes Hannibal!!

The more that I get into the 'versimilitude' of the game- the more I feel 'lost' in its fantasy, the more I enjoy that game.

So, classy really doesn't matter. Its just pure enjoyment, getting 'into' the game, with my buddies, that is the real fun. I don't even mind that much if I lose, so long as I have a great story to tell about that game afterwards.

Darilian
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Tom Hancock
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Interesting post, but a little confusing.


You don't define what you mean by classy. From reading your spiel it sounds like it is totally subjective and based on your perception without any objective criteria whatsoever. That makes it difficult for the rest of us to discuss, unless your purpose was to get some discussion about what we think "classy" is.

For your definition of classy games, what are the important concepts? Age? Depth? Widespread appeal? You seem to contradict yourself a few times. For instance, Chess is classy because it has such widespread appeal, but repackaged monopoly games are at the bottom rung of classy, despite the fact that they have huge widespread appeal. That is why I think it is hard to figure out what you mean.

I do not think of games as classy or not classy. I suppose if all the pieces were wearing tuxedos, or served on white linen tablecloths I would apply that concept to games, but I have to say that the word/concept doesn't hold a lot of meaning for me where games are concerned.
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Nick Warcholak wrote:

Patrick, I'm picking on you a little bit, but only because I care.


No problem; I've been at this a long time, and I'm used to it. I'm finding the differences between my outlook and others' interesting.


Quote:
I gather from your posts that you spend more time thinking and worrying about gaming than having fun with the hobby.


Well, yes. But "worrying" only in the philosophical sense. (I used to have a philosophy teacher who'd introduce a query by saying, "Don't we have to worry about this? It seems odd, doesn't it?")


Quote:
I think you should add some alcohol.


'Fraid those days are long gone for me.


Quote:
I can sort of feel you on wanting your gaming to mean more, but I think games should primarily be about fun, not building character or providing mental exercise. It's not that gaming can't build character or exercise the brain, it's just that it seems like a very inefficient way to accomplish those things.


Well, I've never prided myself on efficiency or been known for that!

It's just that for me, anything I do has to mean something. As long as it at least seems to mean something (or "be classy" or whatever), I can rest assured that all is well--and then I relax and have fun with it. But if my mind tells me the thing I'm doing is just silly or wasteful or meaningless (i.e., "just for fun"), I automatically get anxious and uncomfortable--and then I can't relax or have fun with it!

So, I guess my mind just works differently than most people's or something. I think Ralpher was right in his post above, where he zeroed in on the Myers-Briggs thing. My INFP type is pretty uncommon, so it makes sense that most people would have a very different outlook and approach to gaming (or anything else) than I do.

To each his own, of course. I certainly don't ask anyone else to subscribe to my "classiness" scheme. It's just something that crossed my mind today--something I realized I've been doing, consciously and unconsciously, for a long time. So, I thought I'd see if it rang a bell with anyone else, that's all.

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Patrick, I thought you left last month after some train-wreck thread involving accusations of pretension, pseudo-intellectualism, and multiple people basically accusing you of trolling. Did you change your mind?
 
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hancock.tom wrote:
Interesting post, but a little confusing.

You don't define what you mean by classy. From reading your spiel it sounds like it is totally subjective and based on your perception without any objective criteria whatsoever. . . .


I'm not very good at so-called objectivity (I'm not even sure there's such a thing; sometimes I believe everything is subjective). But I did try to at least pay homage to it in this paragraph of my OP:
Quote:
Chess, for example, is a very classy game--one of the classiest in the world. Why? I don't know. I guess because it has ancient roots; because world-champion players make news headlines; because the physical components are sometimes of such high quality; because it's so challenging; because it has generated so much literature; because so many players have made a "lifestyle" game of it, dedicating themselves to just that one game. Maybe for other reasons too.


So you see--I did make an effort to outline some of the factors that might contribute to my sense of "classiness." Chess has all of them; Monopoly does not.

As to a crystal-clear definition of "class," I guess I'll have to leave that to someone with a more critical intellect than mine. To me, it's just a set of impressions. And yes, it's almost entirely subjective.

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I did a search and found that classy games tend to involve wedding games and girl dress up games such as this http://www.trendydressup.com/playgame/296/classy-joanna.html

I think I'll stick to games with true class such as this:




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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Do some games seem classier than others to you? Do you care?


No and no.

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dysjunct wrote:
Patrick, I thought you left last month after some train-wreck thread involving accusations of pretension, pseudo-intellectualism, and multiple people basically accusing you of trolling. Did you change your mind?


I've been avoiding the Wargames forum for the most part and limiting my activity to replies (and a couple polls) and GeekList entries. In this thread, I started out just posting a link to an article I had posted elsewhere--but the first couple responders kinda goaded me into cross-posting the whole article here. Thus the revised OP.

No, I haven't changed my mind. But I'm not kowtowing to detractors either. Yeah, some people dislike my style. Sometimes I dislike theirs too. That's life.

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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Do some games seem classier than others to you? Do you care?

I do. I don't think I'm an elitist or anything (maybe I'm wrong about that), but all my life I've put some games on pedestals while dismissing many others as trash. And often I'll do that without actually playing the games. That is, it doesn't matter how entertaining or challenging or useful a game is to me personally; I'm judging it on a perceived respectability factor.

In other words, you judge books by their covers.

Quite the philosophy there, Patrick.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Do some games seem classier than others to you? Do you care?


No. No.

We are talking about "games" right? Enjoy the games you like and spend less time pondering aspects of them and you will be a happier camper.

If games don't equal "fun" then they must not be games for you.
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" And often I'll do that without actually playing the games."

You post on the BGG, judge games, and don't play the games?

Forget the judgmental disorder - you are chronically dishonest.

You have been doing this since before the Internet, on Usenet, and all over the place.

What motivates you to do this?


--------------

"But I'm not kowtowing to detractors either"

That is not true - you caved, and left your detractors behind.

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Hungadunga wrote:

In other words, you judge books by their covers.


Not just their covers, but mainly what I read about them--what others say about them, and the impression all that makes on me.

IOW, I'm not one of those who brusquely dismisses BGG ratings (for example) as worthless; I like to follow them and see what John Q. Public thinks of all the games that are around--even those I haven't played and may never play.

I've come to have a great admiration for The Gamers' Civil War Brigade series, for instance, because I've read so many rave reviews. The fact that I've never seen one of those games is, to me, beside the point.

On the other hand, I've come to disparage Kriegspiel as a worthless little game, even though a friend and I used to have great fun with it and learned a lot from it. It's kind of a joke in the wargaming world, and I think rightly so. Thus, in this case, I give more weight to the opinions of others than to my own personal experience. I figure my own experience with the game was an anomaly--something from long ago that only worked in that particular time and place.

Another example is Diplomacy. I've had nothing but horrible experiences with that game, and on my personal rating list I give it a 2. But at the same time, I recognize it as a modern classic--one of the best games to be published in the last half century or so. What makes me think that? All I've read about the game over the years.

So, I'm not just judging books by their covers; I'm keeping a pulse on public opinion--or at least on the opinions of game reviewers and critics.

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Well, heck, you are on the wrong site:

Try

www.boargamereviewersgeek.com


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