Friday, August 28, 2009

General Rant - Piles of Games

I got into game reviews because I wanted to get free stuff. I don't try to hide that. I've said that from the start. And over the years, it has worked incredibly well. The trick is to write a ton of reviews, and get people to notice you, which I gotta tell you, is not as easy as it sounds. When I started writing reviews for, I had one company that would send me stuff, and I could occasionally scam stuff from small press guys. When I wrote for Knucklebones, I got more games, but they were only the games Knucklebones wanted to send me (I got lots of crap, but managed to miss Tide of Iron). And for the first few months that I wrote Drake's Flames, I got all excited when eight people read the site in a day.

Now I have a couple thousand people a week stop by and read my idiocracy, and I get plenty of games. In any given week, three to five games show up at my house, often completely surprising me. That sounds pretty awesome, until you consider two things:

1) I have to write about every single one, regardless of whether or not I want it, and

2) Many of these games suck ass like a street whore.

Over the last eight years, however, I have managed to put together a lot of really great games. I have Warhammer Quest, which is so much fun it makes me spend money like Donald Trump. I have Cosmic Encounter - the new one - which is one of the best games I have ever played, and I'll use nearly any excuse to get it to the table. Colosseum, Railroad Tycoon, Caladea, Formula D - I could go on, but the point here is that I have an amazing collection of games. If I never procured another game, I would have enough to play until I died, and every game would be awesome.

And that's the problem right there. I want to play those games again. I would love to play Dice Town once a month. I would break out Ghost Stories every time I could put four people in one place. But instead I get new games, and play those, and never actually get a chance to play many of my favorites more than a few times before they wind up gathering dust as I plod my way through another hack game that has all the grace and appeal of a rabid, overweight swamp rat.

Now, I know this plight does not generate much sympathy, and honestly, it shouldn't. Let's face it, in the long list of things to bitch about, getting too many games is a fairly pathetic complaint. It's like whining about having too much sex, only instead of toning my physique and allowing me to experience multiple orgasms, I get to spent a lot of time sitting around tables with people who wear t-shirts that announce their faction allegiance and debate whether Star Trek is better than Star Wars (it is not. Star Wars is better).

And I really shouldn't complain, because it is really fun opening up new games all the time, and playing new stuff just about never gets old. I've discovered hundreds of incredible games that I would never even have known existed. I've made some amazing friends. I play games every weekend with some really great people, and every now and then I even sell some spare games and scrape up a little coin. Really, life is good.

But every now and then, I look at my office and think, 'what the hell is wrong with me?!' Seriously, does anyone actually need 200 board games? What's the point of discovering new favorites if you never get to play them again? And how stupid is it that sometimes I can't find the game I want because it's under a huge pile of other games? If you have 47 different flavors of ice cream, but can't ever find the pralines n' cream because it's behind the rum raisin and mint pistachio, what's the damned point?

I happen to know that I am not the only person with my particular problem. In fact, game reviewers are not even the worst game hoarders. I may have a lot of games, but aside from recent review copies, I have maybe two I haven't played. I have friends who have dozens of games that are still in the shrink wrap. I know people who have thousands of games. I've seen photographs of game rooms where bookshelves line every wall, overflowing with games that have to be categorized by title and theme. And I know damned well they haven't played all those.

I have an excuse. I have to write about the games, and I sell, trade or donate 80% of everything I get. Heck, last year I gave about 50 games to the local church youth group, and another 50 to the Boys and Girls Club. But if you have more than five games that you've paid for and never opened - why? And if you're not going to play it, why not sell it? Or donate it? Or use it to prop up the corner of the table so that it quits rocking and spilling those meeples all over the middle of medieval France?

I'll tell you why - it's because we're stupid. We convince ourselves that we'll play them some day, and we like owning them for the sake of owning them. We like to be discussing a game and say, 'yeah, I have the first printing of that one', and we try not to mention that we've never bothered to remove the shrink wrap. We are convinced that one day, we won't have any obligations, and we can sit around playing games until our house looks like one of those sad homes where old people have been piling newspapers since before Jesus was born, only instead of a giant, inhabitable fire hazard, we'll just smother from the smell of all that plastic.

And you know what? Screw it. I like having these games. I like that I've found a way to feed my hobby without having to break the bank. I love having people over, and putting thirty games on the counter and saying, 'if none of these look good, I have more.' I love punching a new game, and reading a pretty rulebook filled with colorful examples, and just sitting in my office and saying, 'yeah, that's fun, and that's fun, and that's like a dog turd shoved into a cardboard box.' And most of all, I love writing this site. If nobody ever read it, I would still probably write it, but I wouldn't update as regularly, and I would probably end up writing about the abcess on my cat's ass because nobody sends review copies to a dork who has two readers (and one of them is his wife).

So the next time some athletic type with an animal embroidered on his shirt says, 'gawd, what do you do with all these games? Are they even any fun? I would so rather be playing golf,' just hit him over the head with a copy of Age of Conan, then push a giant pile of Magic the Gathering cards over his body. Strategically place the ships from Starcraft all over the room to mask the impending scent of decay, and enjoy the peace of knowing that you own more games than you'll ever play.

That's what I do, anyway.


Anonymous said...

To follow up to your second paragraph, I like having games too, and if you're ever looking to unload, I'm sure loads of readers would not mind picking some up too. Keep it up!

James Sitz said...

I think I enjoy reading these rants more than the reviews themselves sometimes. The reviews often convince me to go buy new games, and unlike some of the people you allude to, I hate buying new games that I never play.

I've even played Descent a bunch of times, but now my friends are sick of it. Sometimes I feel like trading it and the three expansions for something that doesn't take 5 hours to play. (And don't tell me to buy RtL- the mechanics themselves make it tedious)! I wish I lived closer to someone else who owned the dang boat.

I'm a bit different than a lot of board game owners: I prefer to have a few expandable games that I play obsessively. Right now, it's Heroscape, Dominion, and Race for the Galaxy. Summoner Wars looks like it might join that group.

You should review that when it comes out, Matt.

Wind Lane said...

You forgot one difference between us board gamers and the Old People and Maze of Newspapers folks - we're almost all habitual sorters, organizers, and filers.

EVERYTHING is supposed to be in some place or other. Even when our game collection looks like a FLGS threw up and tried to hide it in some back corner we at least have it in mind to get it sorted out and stored nice and neat. And maybe we'll even dream of large plastic containers and buying extra shelves and of finally printing out those tuck boxes onto some good card stock.

We may be headed towards mazes of games just like the newspaper folks, but dang it all, we want it to look pretty too!

Unknown said...

When I noticed I was heading in the path of having the problem of too many games, I got smart. I looked at my collection up and down and forced myself to honestly answer: am I going to play this game? And then I was able to select a bunch to trade/sell/give away. I believe I am much happier only having games that I get to play regularly (i.e. at least once a year).
But you've pointed out a few games I want to look at more closely to see if they match my taste. I'm sort of hoping they don't because I've got eight games on my shopping list and I bet it will take me at least half a year to play them all.

Tao - Starlit Citadel said...

I have a similar problem as you do about playing games. While I write a few reviews for the site, I just have to play the games too to understand the rules so I can explain them to customers!

Which means some of my favorite games are never touched more than twice because there's always something new to play.

But like you, I'd not trade my job for anything else either.

Parduz said...

eheh.... i'd like to have so much games and so much room to store them also :)

If the day when you get tired of all that carboard and plastic will come, there's an Italian who will be happy to say "See that? i'm the only italian owner of that game" :D

Matt Drake said...

Holy mackerel, that was a lot of spam. I just deleted four complete garbage posts. Seriously, why would anyone post spam in Chinese? That doesn't even make sense!

Thanks for all the comments, guys. Sorry for the trash. I've tried blocking anonymous posters, but the spammers get accounts, and the end result is that I still have to take out the trash, only now legitimate comments get shut out.

So thanks for putting up with the spam, and thanks for reading.

Sharon said...

I just moved in with my boyfriend, and found out that I had an entire box* full of games, and an entire box* full of DVD's that are duplicates. Donations will be to friends first, and to the local county library games club or our local game shop, "The Only Game In Town", for anything no one in our group wants to take (usually because they've already got it on THEIR shelf already).

*For reference, a box = one of those boxes you get office paper in