Reason 10 – Your tastes moved on
Let’s begin with the old staple of break ups – ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ . Sometimes people (and games) just drift apart. Nothing changed on the game’s part – it’s exactly as lively and vivacious as it always was. You just want something different out of the relationship. The person you were when you bought the game is gone.
Cards Against Humanity is maybe the best example of this from my recent cull. CAH now is exactly what CAH was then. I don’t viscerally hate CAH the way many gamers do. It surprises a lot of people when I say this. Many people assume I’m one of those joyless social justice vigilantes that make it their core mission to remove all the transgressive fun from life and to destroy those that enjoy it. I’m not though – I just believe context of comedy is important and that broader market appeal is based on being respectful of cultures, accommodating of disability and mindful of diversity. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy terrible, horrible jokes and the games that make them inevitable.
I don’t want to say though that I’ve grown out of this kind of comedy because that sounds more patronising than I would intend. More, I’ve ‘grown apart’ from it. I still believe ‘funny excuses everything’ and that there are no real topics that should be off-limits for a skilled comedian. I just don’t really think CAH is a good vehicle for actually letting people be funny as opposed to the cards. Games like Funemployed and Once Upon a Time are more effective, and as such I just don’t really want the experience CAH is offering any more.
Reason 9 – It Needs You to Git Gud
Actually, the full version of this reason should probably be – it needs you to git gud with time you can’t afford to spend.
Some games are fully complete and enjoyable out of the box – it contains everything you need and the rules are sufficient that you can grok it well enough within a play or two to get fun out of it. I think most games fall into this category. It’s a relatively small minority that actually get meaningfully better with deep experience.
Some though have a design that only really opens up with familiarity . These games encourage you to play often to get better, but some games are only fun when you’re good and don’t make it particularly easy to build up the necessary expertise. If you only have a few games you own you can really invest your time into extracting every iota of value from that experience. Many of us though are richer in money than we are in time. If you’re running a blog or channel, you also have to bear in mind the constant need to play new things. Sometimes a box on your shelf isn’t full of promise – it’s full of obligations.
Look at Game of Thrones: the Card Game. I loved that game. The core set was generous – I never felt like I needed to buy more to unlock the fun. It came with everything I needed to have an epic fantasy experience full of war, courtly intrigue and masterful moments of skull. But you just need to really delve into it to unlock the real fun of the game, and it needs someone that’s equally invested to play against. Some games aren’t just ‘take it down, have some fun’. Some games are hobbies if and of themselves. Chess isn’t just a game. It’s a lifestyle. It’s the same with things like Game of Thrones: the Card Game – you, and someone else, need to be willing to spend a lot of time unlocking the potential of what lies within and I’m not in the position to be able to do that.
Reason 8 – You’re Not Excited to Play It
You shouldn’t be looking for ways to kill time. You should be looking for ways to spend it. At the core of the concept of play is a kind of whimsical investment – that the sliver of your life you invest in a game will eventually grow into a cherished memory. Every decision you make in that respect comes with an opportunity cost – if you play Monopoly, you’re not playing Chinatown. A good group will make the game largely irrelevant to the fun, but a good game in a good group can be genuinely magical.
Some games are laudable from the perspective of their design, their clever systems, or their aesthetics. But if you’re not excited to play them what do they actually offer to you and your friends? A game can be fun, but not excite you. We’re in a golden age of gaming though. There’s no need to choose one or the other. You can have both.
Samurai is a victim of this. I think it’s a genuinely great game – well designed, well presented, full of interesting decisions and clever bluffs and counterplays. But never once have I looked at it on my shelves and thought ‘That is a game I’d like to play to the exclusion to all others’. The most effective pitch it gets in my mind is ‘I haven’t played it for a long time, so it should probably get a turn on the table’. And when it gets set up, I’ll enjoy it a lot. And then I’ll forget about it until the next time rolls around.
That’s not enough to justify a place on my shelves now, so into the cull it went.
Reason 7 – It’d be better if someone else owned it
We didn’t sell every game that we culled. We gave a lot away too. Sometimes that was because I felt it would be unethical to sell (review copies for example – I’ll talk more about that in a later blog post perhaps). Sometimes though you own a game and think ‘I know someone that would play this so much more than I do’.
Games that sit on my shelves are often suffering in a kind of dusty, reverential antiquity. They’re like books in an abandoned archive of a library. They’re there as reference tomes. Hauled out on specific occasions to check a fact or illustrate a point. That’s a sad way to treat a game though – it’s supposed to be joy in a box. I’m always happy to have someone else adopt a game if they’re going to give it a good life.
Rhino Hero Super Battle is maybe the perfect example of that. I love this game. I often say to people ‘this is the silliest game I own, and also one of the best’ and I stand by that. It’s joyful. And I almost never play it because the content mill needs to grind on and the act of running a blog means you sabotage your own fun in the process. Wouldn’t it be better if someone… a family with young kids, for example… owned it rather than me? Of course it would. The childhood memories I have of playing Hero Quest will become the childhood memories someone has of playing Rhino Hero Super Battle. That makes me happier than the possession of the game itself could ever do. When choosing between a ‘box on a shelf’ and ‘a box in the hands of people that will love it’, there’s no real competition.
Reason 6 – It Just Won’t Get Played
I mean, all of the reasons I’m going to outline in this special feature come down to this. They’re all basically restatements of this point. But… some games won’t get played harder than others. It’s the difference between not choosing to play a game and choosing not to play a game.
You may recall our review of Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr early on in 2019. It’s easily the hardest and most personal thing I’ve written. I admire Holding On a lot. I think it’s a marvellously brave and clever game. And I never want to play it again. I didn’t even really like having it on my shelves because it was like a constant hot little shard of sadness in my memory. I would never choose to play Holding On again. More importantly, I have chosen to not play Holding On again – not because it’s a bad game, but because it brings up things I’d prefer to confront in more controlled environments. Some games are emotionally tough, or create game experiences that are emotionally costly. In such circumstances, why torment yourself?