Don't Make The Same Mistakes I Have!
I recently moved across the country from the state of New Mexico to the state of Georgia. A lot of things have changed in my life because of that move, as you'd expect. One major surprise that has come out of it has been an uptick in trying games that are new-to-me because of my new gaming group.
Before I moved out here, I was attending college at New Mexico State University (Go Aggies!) and while I had a regular gaming group there, I was the one that brought all the games. I didn't have a problem with that, because it usually meant that I was the one with the power of choice and got to play the games I wanted to play most of the time. However, I didn't realize how limiting that situation was in terms of opening me up to new games. I was usually on my own in discovering and bringing in new options for us to play.
Now, though, the people I play games with on a weekly basis are also avid board game purchasers, which means I've gotten to play SO MANY games that I probably would have never played otherwise. As someone who loves designing games myself (like this one and this one), getting to play a wider variety of game has definitely had a positive impact on my own design journey.
In addition, though, it's made me realize a critical flaw in my prior judgements of games that I think are worth trying vs games that I think are worth passing on... I tend to avoid games that have a particular kind of theme. I don't think this has always been a conscious choice on my part, but let me give an example of what I mean:
Eric Lang is a very well-accomplished and highly respected designer. Games like Blood Rage, Rising Sun, Ankh, Cthulu: Death May Die, Bloodborne, Marvel United... He is has been involved in a vast array of different games both as a designer and as a developer and I would be willing to argue that his is one of the top 10 greatest game designers of all time. If you want to be a good game designer, you need to play good games. If you want to be a great game designer, you need to play great games, which definitely includes a lot of the stuff that he has worked on.
It's funny to say that now when a few short years ago I had never played any of his games despite fully knowing how popular they are. It was when I finally played Blood Rage for the first time that I realized why... I just don't really connect that well with a lot of the themes in his games. I'm someone who is used to a game's theme being what draws me in and then good mechanics are what get me to keep playing. But Vikings? Cthulu? Feudal Japan? Game of Thrones? That's just not really my cup of tea. So despite knowing how well-loved his games have been, they were just never very high on the list of games I need to try.
But, then I (somewhat begrudgingly) played Blood Rage and while I still am not enamored with Vikings, the game blew me away! Since then, I've tried several of his other designs and each ones has led to a similar experience. The themes don't really draw me in at first, but the stellar and often times fascinating game design keeps me coming back for more regardless.
Theme is important, but I love playing games because of the interesting choices they present to me and the way they make me use my brain. It's hard for me go for a game that doesn't have the most thrilling of themes. It's still something I'm learning how to do. For example, I recently played Dune: Imperium for the first time and loved it, despite having never read the books or seen the movie. I also just decided to just go for it and purchase some of Final Girl: Season 1 from my FLGS and, despite not being a fan of the horror genre, I have loved playing it! I've loved it so much so that I went all-in on the Season 2 Kickstarter last month.
My point is, don't make the same mistakes I have. Don't miss out on great games just because you're not being a big zombie fan or you've never seen The Godfather... If you hear good things about a game or you have a friend that loves a game and wants to play it with you, just play it. You'll probably be happy that you did.
Have you ever put off trying a game that you later found out you love?