Fighting The Hype
Hype surrounds us all in this hobby. Yet my most recent review covered The Castles of Burgundy, a game that came out ten years ago. While I was playing it and writing about it, I was forced to do something I don’t usually, and that was to consider the age of the game, and whether that had any bearing on whether I should recommend it.
Taken in isolation, that could sound really short-sighted, and not the sort of thing you’d expect from a real fan of board games. It doesn’t matter how old a game is, surely? A good game is a good game is a good game, right? If that’s the case though, why aren’t we all buying, playing and talking games released ten years ago? Or five? Heck, even two years ago?
One reason is the advancement of the hobby, but that’s a story for another blog entry. For now I’m going to look a five words that annoy me.
The Cult of the New
Cult of the New is a term that’s thrown around a lot in hobby spaces, particularly games. Not just in board games, but video games too. It refers to the hype when a new game launches, and is a relatively recent phenomenon. The buzz that’s generated when enough people start talking about something new can really snowball, and before you know it, you desperately want that hot, new game you hadn’t heard of a week ago.
Social media has a massive role to play in this hype. From the moment we wake up we’re looking at a screen of one kind or another, and voluntarily bathing in social media’s screen light for hours every day. Have a look at these figures, some of those statistics are shocking. Highlights for me (if highlight is the right word) are:
- As of March 2019, Snapchat reached 90% of all 13-24 year-olds and 75% of all 13-34-year-olds in the US.
- In 2019, the average amount of time spent on social media is 2 hours and 22 minutes per day.
- By 2020, Instagram is expected to reach 120.3 million monthly active users in the US.
- There are about 25 million business profiles on Instagram.
Take a look at those numbers, and bear in mind some of them are a couple of years old now too, Consider the sheer amount of money thrown at targeted advertising (adverts in your feed, chosen based on what they know you like), and indirect (businesses working with your favourite influencers/bloggers/whoever). Whether you like it or not, you’re going to be aware of the current hotness. You’ll probably find you start wanting it too.
What does this mean for board games?
It means that some truly great games are rarely going to scroll past your eyes. When you’ve got ten, twenty, thirty people all posting about how great Some New Game is, and one person singing the praises of the game they love from a couple of years ago, it gets lost in the noise. So much of the hype happens regardless of how good the actual game is too. There’s real FOMO (fear of missing out) or wanting to be seen fitting in with influencers, going all-in on massive Kickstarter pledges, so people get swept up in the hype without even trying to find out if they’ll like it.
If you want to see some proof of this, take a look at your favourite local Facebook board game buying and selling group. Kickstarters land in homes, tons of pictures go up with photos of Some New Game and how exciting and amazing it is. Then within a month or so the sales posts start. What I found shocking at first (I’m used to it now) is how many of these sales are of boxes still in their shrink. These are games which people have often dropped £100-200 on, waited a year or more for, and now they’re selling it without even having played it. Why?
You could argue that they found they found they suddenly need the money, but most of the time these games were paid for a loooong time ago. At one point, something convinced them they really wanted – even needed – this game, and now it’s being sold with either one or two plays, and often without even being opened. Board games aren’t alone in this, far from it, but I think it causes a problem.
Defining ‘a problem’
When I say ‘a problem’, I should probably qualify it. I’m coming at it from the viewpoint of a hobbyist, and a lover of tabletop games. I’m passionate about the hobby, I have strong opinions about the games I love and dislike, and I want to see more people enjoying the same games that I do. The global board game industry is expected to be worth more than $12B in a couple of years time, which means a lot more people playing these games.
The vast majority of the people spending all of that money will be buying something plastic, with a current hot franchise plastered all over it, and that’s okay. There’ll always be kids pulling boogers out of plastic noses, clearing up poop after a plastic dog, and people playing the millionth iteration of Monopoly.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. A great thing. I’m not an elitist who doesn’t want to see the masses getting into the hobby, for fear of them all just playing Monopoly. Play what you enjoy, that’s my ethos. My worry – for want of a better word – is that so many wonderful games will just fly under the radar and people will never discover that same joy as I have in them.
Big and small publishers alike will continue to use Kickstarter to drum up money for games they’ll publish anyway, and I’ll probably buy some of them. I just want to make sure great games aren’t missed.
Mission is maybe too strong a word, I’m not sure, but the intent is the same. I’ve decided that I want to use my site to make sure I’m not just following the trend of ‘look at this new hotness’. I will be covering new games – I did that plenty last year – but they’ll be games I want to play, not feel like I should play to bend to the will of the hype train. You’ll seldom see American-style mini-heavy games here, because I tend not to play them, and because I don’t have enough experience of them. I don’t think my opinion on them could, or should matter as much. But if there’s a new heavy Euro, you better believe I’ll be playing it, then telling you folk all about it. Just like I did in the last year with Bonfire, Praga, Merv and Viscounts.
What I really feel strongly about, however, is covering games that are older. Maybe just two or three years older, maybe more. My audience is growing, and I want to make sure I’m letting people know about games they should be playing if they share tastes with me, So, as well as new things, and as well as occasional different styles of game being reviewed here, I’m going to make sure I’m telling you all about the games that are still worth your attention, even if they don’t always get the love they deserve.
Play what you enjoy, and have fun everyone.