Back in the ’90s there were these DVD subscription services where you would pay some monthly fee and get an ungodly amount of movies sent to you in the mail. You’d look through this catalog, check off any new release you had a vague interest in watching, and then it would arrive, part of your DVD collection from now until eternity. Bookshelves, cabinet drawers, entertainment systems would get clogged up with so many DVD cases full of movies that got watched maybe once and then discarded.
I have around 30 movies on my DVD shelf, and I love them all. I love them because I’ve watched them all many times, and they each serve their own purpose. When I want to watch things blow up, I can throw in Aliens or Predator. When I want to be happy about life, I can throw in My Neighbor Totoro. When I want to laugh, I can throw in some Monty Python.
Anyway, the point is that, even in the ’90s, this whole concept was sort of ridiculous and wasteful because you can just rent movies. If you’re interested in a movie, you rent it, watch it once and return it so that it doesn’t sit around and clutter up your life. And if you really liked it and think you’ll watch it a lot more, then you go out and buy it. Simple.
So, look, there are a lot ways to try out a board game before you buy it. Many are available to play online through BoardGameArena, Yucata, Brettspielwelt or even their own *cough* independent site *cough*. Every local board game store I can think of has open game nights where you can play anything in the store for free. Local gaming groups are full of members with wide-ranging collections of games they are happy to play with people.
I see all these challenges on BoardGameGeek about playing every game in your collection or playing 10 games 10 times in a year. These are definitely noble goals, as more board gaming in general is always a good thing, but they always seem to come from a mentality of, “Crap, I have so many games in my collection, and I need to play them more.” But I don’t think we should ever get to that place. The goal shouldn’t be, “Play all the games in your collection,” but rather, “Only add games to your collection that you will play.”
Board games are meant to be played. Just as all those grooves on that shiny DVD can tell an amazing story of love, loss and betrayal, the components in a board game box have the potential to fill their users with rivalry and joy.
Sure, the box looks pretty on shelf, but that is not it’s purpose. If it were, my job as a designer would be a whole lot easier.
And speaking of my job, it might seem a little weird that, as a publisher, I’m sitting here talking about buying less games. I never got into this business to sell as many games as possible and make a lot of money. I design games to share experiences with other people, so having someone buy my games just so that they sit on shelf collecting dust just doesn’t make much sense to me.
Sure, there are some games that get played more than others. A fast game that can be played by lots of people – something like King of Tokyo, Mascerade or Shadow Hunters – is going to get played more often at my Wednesday game group than a 2-hour Euro, but that 2-hour Euro is still going to get played occasionally if I want it to. I just keep putting it in my bag, and eventually the opportunity arises.
So I guess maybe that’s the point: “Buy games that you want to play.” Except maybe “want” is too weak of a word. I mean, I’m sure everyone has good intentions for every game they purchase while they are purchasing it, but I think it should be about more than a good intention. It should be about passion. A purchase should come from a place of, “This game is awesome, and I can’t imagine myself ever getting tired of playing it,” rather than, “Oh, I guess this game might be fun to try out.”
Because if you just want to try out a game, there are plenty of other ways to do so.