Pulsipher and the changes in the hobby

I finally got around reading Lewis Pulsipher’s (designer of Britannia) article on changes in the boardgame hobby. It’s a good read and has some pretty good points, too.

Many people who prefer complex games have moved to computer games is an obvious one in my opinion: I can’t see why I should waste time crunching numbers when there are computers to do that for me.

Rules had better be pretty simple, so that the one person who does read them can comprehend them, because they may not put much effort into it. That’s funny, how people don’t generally read rules. Most board games are going to be tough to learn if nobody has read the rules in advance. There was at least one game "review" where games were dismissed as too complicated, yet it was obvious that the people who tried the games hadn’t spent any effort to learn them. Playing Puerto Rico without having anyone read the rules in advance? Suicide, but that’s what people do. After all, I never read manuals for console games unless there’s some trouble (and boy, was I surprised when Sid Meier’s Pirates! came with a 100-page booklet! How old school!).

We are also seeing the effects of the "cult of the new". True. I’m driven by it and I know others who feel it even stronger. New games are better than the old ones. At the same you feel the guilt for not playing the good old games. Of course, many games are so shallow that they last for their time and then you need to move on to new challenges, but there are plenty of games that would improve if one played them more and that’s just not going to happen unless the flow of new games stops. I’ve been thinking about something that would make me stop getting new games (having a baby and thus less time for games might have that effect), and would that be a good thing, too, if I concentrated on playing older games more?

Much of what I’ve been talking about above can be seen when people describe differences between generations. Yeah, sure. I don’t recognise myself in Pulsipher’s Gen Y even though I fit the age bracket, but perhaps that’s the reason why I can’t feel the love for older, heavier games. Iain isn’t much older than I am, yet he’s way more enthralled by those long and heavy 80’s kind of games. Perhaps my Gen Y qualities come up in my taste of games, as I love nothing like quick and intense games. Keep it short and it’s fun.

(via Rozmiarek Games Page)

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7 thoughts on “Pulsipher and the changes in the hobby”

  1. I got stuck on the complex games > computer games issue so this is mostly about computers 🙂
    Hmm. I think my actual reason for starting my boardgame hobby is mostly that current computer games don’t offer so much of a challenge as they used to, but more of an experience that is not necessarily tied to your ‘skill’ in the game.
    Then again, this sort of shift in perspective within computer gaming has been getting more momentum all the time as gaming entered mainstream. Player wants to succeed fast, get rewards and enjoy instead of taking his time in learning the game and how to begin to succeed in it after some failures. I think I’m in the middle-ground there, I do understand the need for quick enjoyment, but I also feel many games today don’t give as much of an enjoyment for doing well since it’s pretty easy to do well. Games that make me work for the rewards and praise are ones that make me feel alot more happy about the overrall success.
    Paper Mario was an excellent game, but never actually getting close to dying in the game or having to fear defeat, the ending was pretty shallow and instead of liking the fact that I beat the game, I really didn’t have any particular feelings one way or the other about succeeding in it.

  2. Erm.. I’m 33, which makes me at least 10 years older than you, but thanks anyway!
    This article irritated me. I’ll do a blog post on it soon.

  3. Come on Iain, you’re not at least 10 years older than me. Only about eight or so.
    In war games, computer games offer far greater complexity than any games before. The amount of detail in games like Combat Mission is huge and something that can’t be achieved with cardboard counters. I think that’s what Pulsipher is talking about.
    In general I agree there’s a tendency towards simplicity in video games. That’s a must, too, if they are to breach the mainstream.

  4. I thought you were younger. You are lucky to have a youthful face. 🙂
    I take your point about video games being able to handle complexity. As a kid playing RPGs I always wished for the table-lookups and dicerolling to be removed, but the article *still* irritated me.
    Combat Mission is new to me. It looks great. I might play the demo.

  5. Oh come on, that article was crap. There was not a single actual fact or piece of data to back up his sweeping generalizations about the boardgame hobby, just some extremely suspect anecdotal evidence.
    That article has been written many times in the past by many people, and it basically boils down to “why can’t I find people to play my favorite old game with me?”. The explanation that gaming has moved on, and board games are vastly better than they used to be, is far more plausible than some massive societal change towards an inability to do math (people no longer recognize the sums on dice? Please). Lots more people are playing much better board games now than at any time in the last couple decades. Life is good. Just to pick one example, Britannia was a pretty weak game even when it came out — and now, who cares?
    Just to mock one particular paragraph:
    “It would help if we had more short wargames. However, marketing very short wargames is also a problem. I’ve designed a number of wargames that can be played in an hour, but I’m not sure they’re marketable. They are much “smaller” than the typical wargame, and less strongly historical. When people play them they like them, but who’s going to buy them?”
    I assume then that Memoir ’44 is some sort of bizzare collective hallucination.

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