Saturday, June 2, 2012

Is anyone still playing real games?

Every year, board game designers from Germany and the countries around gather in Göttingen for two days to present their latest creations to publishing companies. Most of the new games go by unnoticed, some of them become big hits. Today, I witnessed - as a designer - this gaming fair which is supposed to bring together the most innovative ideas in board gaming. After almost ten hours, I got to the hotel disappointed and unwilling to return tomorrow for the second day.

Don't get me wrong, the event in perfectly organized, German quality all the way, and for most designers this represents a unique chance to be seen by trend makers in the industry. My amazement and disappointment come from the request of the public. I was talking today with a representative from one of the biggest publishers in Germany and I was shocked to find out that games like Settlers of Catan or Carcassone are considered today too complex! I am not kidding, he was looking for games that people can play without even reading the rules and they can finish in 20 minutes.

So, are there any people out there playing real games? Games that make you think, that can be played over and over again? Games that you can re-discover a few years later and still enjoy? Games that last a whole evening?

I am not saying that abstract games and children games are not important and they should be ignored, I am just asking are these the only games people play today? Some say I am obsessed with counting and they might be right. Today, in the main hall of the Göttingen fair, about 65% of the games were abstract and/or for kids and another 20+ % were simple worker placement games. Compared to them, Agricola and Puerto Rico seem super-complex, something that only a little genius would play.

I did not have a real goal or any expectations from this visit to the Göttingen fair. I am now returning with some questions in my mind regarding the future of board games. Will people play simpler and simpler and simpler games? The more board gaming moves from a niche hobby to mainstream, the quality and complexity of the games decreases, but to which point? 

Last year I played some very good new "gamers' games". In Spiel '12, we will see last year's designs. Based on what I have seen now, I am curious and a bit scared of what this market will look like in 2013.

I will end this with a question, how long are you willing to spend in front of a game board one evening? One hour? Two hours? 20 minutes or maybe the whole evening. A poll is coming soon to gather your opinions.

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  1. hrmm... that cant be good :/

    1. It's indeed a disturbing information! Are we close to extinction? :/

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Probably not. Many hours. Yes. Yes. Yes, either.

  3. I think you are confusing what the public plays with the space that manufacturers see as being able to sell more games. Let me try and say that again:

    Right now there are fantastic games that fill the same amount of space and complexity as Catan and Puerto Rico and Agricola. Those games are Catan and Puerto Rico and Agricola. I can't name any good 20 minute, super simple games and I suspect it's because the "Settlers of Catan" of 20 minute games isn't around yet.

    A game that fits the same complexity and time frame as Catan has to fight Catan, a 20 minute game won't have to do that. The best one will find an open field.

    1. I totally agree with you Tim. I help out at a pure game store, i.e. non-comic book and or hybrid games/something store. We sell a lot of euro/designer/German style board games. They aren't going away, the fact is some people don't have that kind of time. As generation game gets older and has longer work hours, children, and things in their life that take a lot more of their time they are looking for games that have the same feel as the lengthy deep games they love to play but with less time and attentiveness.