Sunday, March 03, 2013

Board Games Are Forever

A few weeks ago I played the published version of a board game that I'd played a prototype of a few years ago. I sent email to the designer saying I like how it had turned out and I looked forward to getting to play it. The designer, having released several games since then, replied with something along the lines of "oh, that old thing!" That made me think about how we as producers and consumers have very different perspectives. For the designer, that game's a project that's finished as he can't work on it any more; for the retailer it's an end-of-life product that should be dumped to make room for new ones; but for me, it's a new discovery.

I have several other games by the same designer, which are on list of "classic games to keep forever". Long after the games are forgotten by the cogs in the machinery which produced them, they'll remain treasures in my collection.

I tend to think of my collection as containing a variety of subcollections. The core is the treasures, that I want to play forever. These are mostly Euros, and they're mostly desperately underplayed. Then, there are the games I keep for particular purposes - children's games, party games - so although I have no emotional attachment to them they have to stick around. There are also the particular collections - the GIPF Project, the Gigamic series, Indian games, that I collect for collection reasons. (For playing purposes, I'd keep the GIPF project except YINSH and TAMSK, maybe, but for collection reasons I keep them all.) And then, there are the games that are just passing through - mostly new stuff I've acquired and not yet played enough to allocate them to any of the other categories. Often I'll play a game I paid good money for and realise "this is a maximum 5 plays game, I'd better think about how I'm going to get rid of it". Now that I realise that that happens and that not everything's a keeper, it makes it a bit easier to let go of things in a maths trade.

Anyway, with all of this thinking going on, I decided to do some research into the lifespan of games. I know from this picture (x-axis quarters of years, y-axis publication years of games played in that quarter):

that I tend to start playing games published in a year about halfway through that year, and continue doing so for 3 or 4 years. Then those games get pushed out by new stuff.

And is that new stuff really new? What's the lag between a game being published and me playing it? I only know game release dates to year resolution, so I made a histogram of the number of calendar years between a game's release and my first play of it. As you can see here (x-axis number of years, y-axis number of games):

I typically play a game the year after it's released. and 50% of the games I play were released 3 or fewer years ago. I've looked at the same graphs for my fellow gamers in the U.S. and Europe, and they seem to get new games about 6 months sooner. This agrees with my perceptions of how long it takes games to get to Australia. Other Australian fanatics seem to have about the same lag as I do.

And then, how long does a game get played for? This is a hard question to answer, because I've really only been in the hobby about 8 years, and I defined "forever" as being 10 years or more. I made a graph of how long there was between my first and last plays of a game (x-axis number of days, y-axis number of games). Note that this graph necessarily excludes games which I've played fewer than 2 times, which is a lot. Each horizontal line is a game, and the colouring corresponds to my rating for that game - green good red bad.

About 40% of games hang around longer than 2 years. I think I'm doing fairly well to stand against the incoming tide of new games, holding onto the good stuff (as shown by the bottom of the graph being greenish) and dumping the stuff I don't like (as show by the top of the graph being pinkish).

The factor that stops games being played for longer is, as always, the fact that I have way too many games and not enough time to play them all. This is not necessarily a sign of shopping addiction on my part though, it's more a case of drinking from a fire hose with only a port glass to hold water in. I think if I can identify great games and continue refining my collection, I'm doing the best I can. Also, if great designers would stop designing great games, that would help.