Monday, January 5, 2009

General Gaming Rant - Fool Me A Lot Of Times

I play a lot of games, and most of them, I only play once or twice before I move on. That's mostly because I average about three new games a week, which doesn't leave a lot of time to go back to my favorites. I do repeat some now and then, but a game has to really impress me to get a replay.

And what I've found is that, most of the time, I can tell in one game if I want to play it again. In fact, I can usually tell in the first hour of a game whether it's one I'll put on my repeat list. I can usually tell, right off the bat, whether or not I'm actually going to enjoy finishing a game, even if I just started. Not always, you understand - some games might actually require a little repeat study before I can render a verdict - but nine games out of ten require only one attempt for me to figure out that I'm not going to have fun playing them twice.

And yet I hear, over and over and over, that I didn't understand the game because I didn't play it more than once. So here's the deal - if you want to tell me I have to play a game a dozen times to appreciate it, you can shove your head right up your ass and break it off at the neck.

If I read a novel, and after two chapters I'm going, 'this book is stupid,' I don't finish it. It's that easy. You can tell me that it gets a lot better later, but this is entertainment, and I'm not planning on doing a bunch of work to get to the gooey Tootsie Roll center of the story. Right off the bat, I can say, 'hey, this book sucks!' And then I can put it down and walk away, because I'm reading the book to be entertained, and if I don't like it, I'm not going to keep doing it. Otherwise my entertainment becomes work, and frankly, if I'm going to work, I can do something that's actually useful.

If I watch a movie, and after twenty minutes I'm bored and irritated and angry that I paid for a ticket, I don't need to watch the rest to determine that I'm not entertained. Right off the bat, I can determine that I'm not digging this movie, and I could better spend my time drinking malt beverages and reading comic books (two activities that I know for certain I enjoy).

Let's take it one step further - if I actually finish that boring book, and I still think it was a waste of my time, under no circumstances should you tell me that I would like it better if I read it again. Here's the deal, you arrogant bastard - if I hated it once, I'll hate it twice.

Same thing goes for movies. If I watch a movie from opening scene to closing credits, and I hate it, what kind of asinine butt-monkey would tell me that I would like it if I watched it again? I tried the stupid movie, and I hated it. Tell me all about how I missed the parts that you thought were brilliant. Describe how the director really did a good job, and that wooden acting and horrible singing is actually supposed to make me appreciate the film. Talk all you want, but a crap movie is a crap movie, and I'm not apologizing for not liking it.

So let's apply that to games. I can almost always tell in the first hour of a game whether or not I like it. Most of the time, I'll still finish the game - but if everyone at the table is saying, 'what can we do to make this end so we can go do something better, like clean the patio furniture?', I know I've got a stinker on my hands. I don't need to keep playing, because right off the bat, the game sucked. I don't need to waste an entire evening being frustrated and pissed because I played a stinking turd of a game. That first hour is enough to know that I don't want to get that one out of the box again.

And let's say I do finish the game, and get to the end, and now I hate it. I do not need another 30 plays to determine that I don't ever want to see that game hit my table again. I can make that decision after one game. Also, if I stab myself in the thigh with a knitting needle, I do not need to stab myself five more times to figure out whether or not I like it. If you don't like something once, don't do it twice. It really is that easy.

We're talking games here. Entertainment. Stuff we do because we like it. Stuff we do to have fun. And if a game is not fun, it is not a good game. You don't eat a cookie that tastes like cow manure and somehow think four more will improve the flavor. If you don't like your dessert, you don't eat more, and if you don't like a game, you don't play it again.

If a game doesn't appeal to me, the blame lies with the game, not me. I don't have any responsibility to a game to play it a bunch of times just to see if I end up liking it better. It's supposed to be fun, and the burden of responsibility is on the game, not me. It's not my job to make myself like a game. If the game can't make me like it, the game gets put away and never played again, and anyone who wants to complain that I did something wrong can kiss my wrinkled white ass. I play games to have fun, and I'm not apologizing for it.

So the next time someone tells me to play a game again after I said I didn't like it, I'm going to punch them in the face. Then I'll say, 'yeah, that sucks the first time, but it gets better if I keep doing it.' They should completely understand.


Anonymous said...

This is beyond extreme. You can miss one simple rule that completely changes the game. You can misinterpret something. The blame can, sometimes, rest with you. You are not infallible.

Sharon said...

Amen brother. This is why I generally playtest games at conventions before I drop even a small bit of money on a game. If I hate it, I've saved cash. Of course, it sucks when I liked a game, but no one else in my gaming group does, and it ends up gathering dust on my shelf, just the same.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but using books and movies in your argument does not hold up. You read a book once and you have read the entire book. Unless you intentionally skipped some chapters or paragraphs, you have read the entire book. Maybe a sentence or two you may have misunderstood the meaning, or didn't catch some innuendo, but you read the entire book. There are no hidden chapters. There is nothing you overlooked. It is all there and you read everything.

Same with movies. Maybe you didn't see the "dead guy" standing in the background in that one scene of Three Men and a Baby, but you watched the entire movie. You absorbed everything. You could watch it again, but it doesn't change. Maybe you will see the "dead guy" the next time, but otherwise it is the exact same movie and you have already seen every minute of it.

Games have depth. Games change from session to session. A game session can be made or broken simply by the type of people you play it with. In most games of the euro variety, it is literally impossible to have experienced the complete nuances or strategy with one play. Yes, some games have clearly unenjoyable mechanics or instantly recognizable faults. However, "you only played it once" is a perfectly legitimate argument against someone with your stance.

If I used your ideology, I would have never played Amun-Re for the 30th time (and still love it). I would have quit after my second play and moved on. I wouldn't be loving my current weekly games of Titan, since my first play was absolute misery. I wouldn't have hated, then loved, and then hated Power Grid (but it was fun while it lasted).

Anonymous said...

There are games that need several plays in order to understand the mechanics and/or strategy, but good games should offer enough entertainment on the first play to encourage you to pursue further plays.

Also, a person with enough experience in playing a variety of games is in a good position to effectively evaluate the "suck quotient" of a game more readily than if he/she/them/we/us/our doesn't have a lot of gaming experience.

Finally, Matt's makes a great point that needs to be emphasized: Games should not be work.

Matt Drake said...

Beyond extreme! What a relief! I guess I can skip the skydiving-into-a-shark-tank column.

I did say 'usually.' I've played games before and said, 'I need to play that again before I know how it works.' But that's not often. I know I played Puerto Rico correctly, and I know I won't play it again. And when I do play a game wrong, I usually (but not always) go back to the rules to see if I missed something. But if I didn't miss something, and I didn't enjoy the game, then I do not need to play it again to make up my mind.

Also, there's a big difference between thinking, 'that was OK, and might be worth trying again,' and thinking, 'that was less fun than scrubbing my genitals with broken glass - but maybe it's better if I do it again.' I may not entirely get a game the first time, and need to spin through it again to determine if it was cool, but I can tell in one play if I had a good time. There's an easy litmus test - if I go, 'that was not fun at all,' then I know I don't want to do it twice.

It is not my job as a game-buying customer to make a game entertain me. It's the game's job to entertain me. It's my job to read the rules, and to give it a fair shake, but if I hold up my end and the game doesn't deliver, then the game has failed, and I do not need countless replays to determine that the game does, in fact, blow.

These things are supposed to be fun. If I do a thing to have fun, and it turns out to be not fun, then I do not do that thing twice. It seems a lot like common sense to me. But then, I also know that I do not like being stabbed with a fork, and it does not take repeated performances for me to come to a decision. If playing a boring game five times makes it less boring for you, then I have to wonder why you bothered. Do you not have any games that are fun? Are you trapped on a deserted island with only two boring Euro games and a stack of audiobooks translated into Dutch? If you have games that are fun, and you play one that is not fun, here's a hot tip - don't play the boring one again.

Anonymous said...

Loved the article, Matt, but had to read it twice to fully enjoy it! :D

At least you know people are reading your blog!


TyBannerman said...

I think this is a symptom of being a game reviewer.

Like you said, you literally don't have time to invest in multiple plays of *most* games, much less ones that you hate, and you also receive free review copies on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, don't have a chance to play games for free. I'm stuck doing my research on a title at BGG (or on review sites like this one) until I decide if a game is worth a $30-90 risk. If I get as far as actually buying the game, you better believe that I'll be giving it a number of chances before deciding it's not worth my time.

Matt Drake said...

You know, Fitzer, that's a good point. I don't value each individual game as much as I probably would if I bought them myself. However, when I get a game I really like, I probably value it more, because I know how rare that is.

I suppose if my gaming were limited to just a few games, I would probably try some of them more than once. But there are still lots of real dogs I wouldn't play twice if they sucked the first time.

snap said...

Did you like coffee/beer the first time you tried it?

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