Thursday, 5 April 2007

Take your time, don't hurry... Loser!

Apparently American boardgame makers are making games faster to play, so people can cram them into their busy schedules. The article mentions a lot of examples, which I think can be split into two kinds of "speedplay".

First up, there's the games that have been designed or re-designed for the IMPATIENT. Like Monopoly/Scrabble express. I'm not vehemently anti-these, but they do seem to just "cash in" on the idea of playing a game. "Ooh, let's play Monopoly, only not." ish. I don't wish to be militant about it, I just think we should remember that playing a game in itself is something to do, not just a time-filler. Maybe the fact that we're still talking about Scrabble and Monopoly - classics though they are - just proves how "uninnovative" the US/Brit games industry is. Apparently the best way forward is to just churn out sponsored/tie-in versions of these, as seen with the move towards Visa [TM] cashcards instead of paper money, and a hundred bazillion versions of both Monopoly (including making your own, for endless enjoyment) and Risk (hi, PXC players ;)

Compare them to, say, Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne (of course) and it makes you wonder where all the new "classics" are - the ones that you really don't mind spending an hour or two with, because they're fun and novel.

Having said that, there are certainly some games out there that could benefit from some streamlining. Trivial Pursuit often drags on a bit (as does its "sibling", the Perplex City boardgame), and I've even played some games of Cranium that were getting a bit tedious by the end. Good game design is tricky to get spot on.

Second, there's the games that get their fun from the speed. The article mentions "grab scrabble", which I've played variations on, in which spotting things first is of the essence. Set is another example of how speed maketh the game, although Slam/Spit has to be the greatest.

These are a different breed though, and one of the attractions is that you can play a few games, and people have a greater chance of winning at least once. The race aspect gets the adrenaline going - something which merely replacing paper with plastic doesn't aim for.

Despite all this, I know it's always horses for courses (or courses for horses, I can never remember which way round it goes). I like to take an evening to play a game or two, relax into it like Poker. But do you find yourself playing more speedy games, and leaving the "big, proper" ones on the shelf? Do we need to make time to play games more these days? Or is it just the Americans? ;)

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