There is a trend among board gamers to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy denigrating “classic” games such as Monopoly, The Game of LIFE, Trivial Pursuit, Sorry and many others. Worse than hating on the games themselves, some gamers go so far as to insult those who like and play such games.
You see it all the time on BGG. Someone new joins the forums and says, “Hey, I’m super into Monopoly and LIFE and I want to join this site about board games!” (To be fair, sometimes these are trolls, but often they’re legitimate posters who simply Googled “board games” and thought, “Cool. I’ll visit that site.”) Everyone jumps on this poor new user, tells him how crappy his choice of games is, and even insults his very intelligence. The new poster is never seen again, and who can blame them? I say it’s time to stop this behavior. Why? Here are five good reasons:
1. Some people do not know that there is a deeper side to gaming.
As gamers we forget that not everyone knows about our hobby. If you were born in the U.S., Euro games are a fairly recent phenomenon and unless you have actually gone into a FLGS (and in some cities there aren’t any FLGS’s to go into), there’s a good chance you’ve never seen a designer board game. Most retail stores only sell the classic/party/movie-tie in games. So how can you blame someone for not knowing about something that they’ve never had the opportunity to see or try? They may believe that the only games available are those sold at Walmart.
2. Some people love those games.
There are plenty of people who genuinely love Monopoly, Risk, and LIFE, even after they’ve played some Euros or Ameritrashy goodness. Everyone has different tastes. If you’re slamming someone for loving Monopoly or any other mass market game, you’re saying that their taste is inferior. Well, you know what? There’s a good chance they’re thinking you’re a moron for liking Agricola. Who’s right? Oh, yeah. No one. As long as they aren’t forcing you to play Monopoly at gunpoint and you’re not forcing them to play Agricola, who cares what another person enjoys? Not all games are loved/hated by everyone and that’s fine. Or at least it should be
3. The classics are a starting point.
When I was a kid, there were no “designer games.” But, boy, did we have plenty of games. We had LIFE, Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble, Mouse Trap, and tons more (even some cheesy movie and TV tie-ins). My parents were always willing to play with me and whenever the cousins came over or it was raining outside, boardgames were the entertainment of choice. In college, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and something called Huggermugger were the games of choice. (The drinking element might have colored my memories of those just a bit.) My dorm-mates and I played at least once a week. I firmly believe that this constant availability of games is what made me a gamer. It wasn’t the games I was playing, per se, it was the fact that I was playing at all.
Playing board games as a kid and young adult primed me to be receptive when introduced to my first designer game. I was already used to sitting at a table and having a social experience over a game. I already thought games were fun. Finding designer games just made them more fun. Anything that gets someone to play a board game is a good thing. Just because someone doesn’t yet love Through The Ages doesn’t mean that they won’t someday see it as a great game if given a chance to work up to it.
4.The hobby needs new gamers.
No hobby can live forever if new people aren’t brought into the fold. We need to bring gamers on board, not throw them overboard because their choices don’t align with ours. Get them hooked with whatever they’ll play. If it’s LIFE, so be it. Once you’ve got them sitting at a table and playing something, once you’ve got them used to setting the cell phone or game controller aside for an hour, then you can gently lead them to the promised land. But you can’t do that if all you say is, “Only idiots and eight year olds like LIFE.” More gamers equals a larger market for games, designers, and publishers and that’s a good thing for all of us. Keep driving people away from the hobby and one day we won’t have anyone left who cares.
5. All hobbies offer different levels of participation and gaming should be no different.
Some people just don’t have the time/budget/willingness to go any deeper into board gaming than the games they can find at mass market stores, even though they know other games exist. They may not get any joy out of dropping $60 on the latest game, tracking the latest Essen releases, or chasing Kickstarter campaigns. The shelf at Walmart provides all the enjoyment they or their family needs.
All hobbies have different thresholds of participation. You may consider yourself a runner even if you never enter a race. You may consider yourself a model train enthusiast without owning a single train (you just like to go to shows and read magazines on the subject). Whatever hobby you enjoy, chances are that there are others who do it more often or better than you do, or are willing to splash out more money for the latest equipment. Does that mean you’re not a participant in your chosen hobby? Of course not. It just means that you choose to allocate your time and money to other hobbies or activities that you find more appealing. Just because someone never plays anything more than mass market games doesn’t mean they’re not part of this hobby. It simply means that, for whatever reason, they’ve chosen not to delve any deeper into this particular hobby. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t a gamer.
Just because you know and love a world beyond Monopoly doesn’t mean that everyone does (or wants to). Someone else’s taste in games does not affect you or diminish your enjoyment of the hobby in any way, so there’s no need to make negative remarks about it. Denigrating mass market/classic games doesn’t make you cool. It makes you an elitist game snob who turns people away from the hobby, rather than welcoming newcomers. Instead of slamming older games and the people who play them, try seeing those games as what they can be: An entry point into gaming for those who want to learn and grow in the hobby, or as a base level of participation in our hobby.
And if someone never advances past Monopoly and you feel compelled to call them out on it? Just be careful who you insult. That guy you make fun of for loving Monopoly might instead have spent his hobby money and time becoming a black belt in karate. He might proceed to kick your geeky butt for making fun of him. Remember, karma always comes back to bite you.