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What is Ameritrash?
From the BoardgameGeek Glossary:
Ameritrash is "a catchphrase for 'American style boardgames.' In general, this means games that emphasize a highly developed theme, characters, heroes, or factions with individually defined abilities, player to player conflict, and usually feature a moderate to high level of luck."
There is a great deal of dispute over what Ameritrash means, even when it is accepted as a meaningful term. Many gamers would never call the "old" Avalon Hill a producer of Ameritrash. Ameritrash means something to most hobby gamers, but what it means still varies somewhat across communities.
In sum, the concrete definition of "Ameritrash" is considered by some to be hazy.
What is not Ameritrash?
Examples of Eurogames
Ameritrash games also do not include traditional wargames. These tend to focus on history and detail to a level that would probably not appeal to the typical Ameritrash gamer.
Examples of Wargames
What About Hybrids?
What About Waros?
What About Mass-Market American Games?
Some mass-market American games can be considered Ameritrash, but many are not. The distinction is typically in the theme. A fantasy RPG style game such as TSR's Dungeon! is clearly Ameritrash because it has a highly developed fantasy theme. On the other hand, an abstract game such as Scrabble would not be considered Ameritrash.
Some people feel that the term "Ameritrash" is unnecessarily negative and prefer not to use it. Others feel that the reference to America is a problem because not all of these games are published in America. Suggested alternative terms include Amerigames, Amerigold, and Ameritreasure. To date none of these has gained traction. BoardGameGeek has recently created a category system for games, and named the category for these games "Thematic Games", argueably a more professional name for the category and less offensive to the game publishers themselves.
Detailed Analysis of Ameritrash
The following analysis of Ameritrash was authored by Jezztek in a thread discussing the subject. Many players agree that it does a good job of capturing the subject:
Although the etymology of the term "Ameritrash" hasn't been subjected to rigorous analysis, it was used on rec.games.board in January 2000 to mean games dominated by luck, or games where you move around a track "Parchesi" style as dictated by dice rolls. (Richard Hutnik talks about it here.) Another early use was by Greg Schloesser in a July 2000 article which may be viewed here: http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/FutureofAH.shtml
The term is presumably a sly repurposing of the term "eurotrash" used by Americans to refer to some aspects of European music and culture ("euro" is a commonly - although not universally - accepted term for games designed and developed in Europe, even though those games are overwhelmingly German).
Ameritrash, along with almost all the other terminology used to describe categories of games in this article, is gaming jargon. All are used by a small segment of online hobby gamers. Not only do they have no broadly accepted usage, their usage is frequently divisive even amongst people who do use the terms, as the meanings seem to confound simple explanation, and in addition evolve over time.
The nearly-complete globalization of games in recent years has made the terms such as Ameritrash and Eurogame confusing to some gamers. It should be noted that these names refer to a style of game's point of origin. Certainly it is not required for Ameritrash to be American, nor do all American game companies make Ameritrash, nor is it even easily identifiable which game companies are actually American. Fantasy Flight, a company frequently identified with Ameritash, is in large part a publisher of European game designs. Mayfair and Rio Grande, large publishers by the standards of American hobby game companies, produce European games almost exclusively.
GeekLists About Ameritrash
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