Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Sometimes, I grow hopeful that boardgaming is starting to gain more and more mainstream acceptance.

I see Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan on the XBox. I see Purple Pawn's regular "Game Pimping Roundups" which are lists of mainstream articles about hobby games. I see that my readership is up 40% over last year - mostly due to Google searches for specific games. This means that more people are using Google to look for some of these games.

Then I see articles like this. Purple Pawn linked to it on the 8th, and it's been picked up by several other hobby sites (including BGG) as well.

Purple Pawn summarized their reviews as follows:
•Loopit: Grade A. “Loopit is like Scrabble, only for people who don’t want to fight with their relatives over a word choice.”
•Clue: the Office: Grade A. “The weapons are all inside jokes for those who watch the show and kept us laughing.”
•WordQuest: Grade B. “Attractive, easy to learn and play.”
•Pandemic: Grade C. “Pandemic is too complicated. Just setting up the board took half an hour the first time, thanks to multiple sets of cards, cubes, tokens and pawns.”
•Pop the Pig: Grade D. “A few minutes of entertainment for smaller children.”
•Incan Gold: Grade F. “Our 16-year-old was writhing on the floor with frustration because after 25 minutes, we still couldn’t figure out how to start the game and play the first round.”
•Ticket to Ride: Grade F. “Unnecessarily complicated. There are no dice or “action” modes.”
When I read the summaries, I wanted so very badly to believe that the writers over at Purple Pawn were exaggerating. Sadly, they weren't. If anything, these summaries understate some of the original descriptions of the game.

I disagree with the vast majority of these grades. Well, on the games with which I am familiar. I don't know Loopit or Pop the Pig.

That said, however, the response from the gaming community has been exactly the sort of response that will keep us a niche hobby. Gamers have responded by attacking the writers, including attacks suggesting that the Goliath Games were rated highly because of writer bias. In fact, it has become the target of a great deal of "Nerd Rage." While some of the comments were genuinely calm and reasonable, many of them were not. And some of the calm posts contained subtle attacks.

Even people who I generally like and respect posted attacks on the reviewers. The most beautiful attack1: "There's a reasonable chance that this is the most misinformed review of anything ever." The rest of the comment is fine - but the attacking opening sentence means that the original writers are unlikely to ever see it.

To grow the hobby, we need to be seen as a welcoming group. Eight pages of (mostly) attack comments and mockery do not make us seem very welcoming.

1 There is a specific reason for this phrasing. If you don't get it, it's not aimed at you.


  1. Yes, but.

    Someone reading that article might think, "Wow, that Ticket to Ride game sounds terrible." But if they then click and see that the comments savage the article, they are more likely to disregard the article.

    No, they won't think "nerd rage!" because board games are not commonly thought of as a nerd activity, unlike, say, Star Trek.

  2. I disagree, Jim.

    Board games are lumped into the category of "things my kids do" by the general public. And the only adults who do kid things are geeks and nerds, as far as the general public is concerned.

    There are exceptions in the boardgaming world - Wargames. Wargamers are nerdy because wargames are nerdy, again according to the general public.

    There is a huge difference between trying to inform someone that you feel they are in error and flaming them for being morons. If there were more polite comments, even these negative reviews might grow the hobby in that area (which is very close to where BoardGameGeek's servers are, by the way).

    There are a few comments that are inviting and welcoming - one person invited the writers to their game store to try these (and other) games out. One person suggested a few games that they might like without sarcasm or attacking. But there aren't enough polite comments. There aren't enough nice gamers who had something to say.

    Most of the other comments are obvious and blatant attacks on the intelligence or integrity of the writers, which means that the writers (and probably their regular readers) will probably never give the games a fair shake, because - clearly - gamers can't handle a little criticism (another trait of nerds, by the way).

  3. O Falainothiras5:32 AM

    The general feeling of reading the article in question and the comments by its readers is that the reviewers are clueless when it comes to in-depth board gaming and that there's a bunch of infuriated people with the reviewers.
    What do I mean:
    The general "non-geek" public, as all geeks know, is certainly limited to games like Monopoly and other "light" boardgames that have been under heavy advertisement. If you ask someone, that is not a geek, the definition of a boardgame, my understanding is that his answer would be connected with a staple and generally recognized boardgame. What this review does is actually bad since it appeals exclusively and specifically to the general public who has no idea that other more complicated boardgames exist and what it actually does by its own (no comments) is to push people back to the simple, staple and over-advertised games that they are already aware of without need of this review. BUT. When someone, who is really interested in broadening his scope of boardgames and is not a geek to know about the specific market, reads the review with those horrible trollish comments, he actually pauses to think, mainly about the number of negative comments. That, in my opinion, adds to the objectivity overall of the article since it subtly provides a person two options:
    A. I like Monopoly so I'll stick to the reviewers' opinion since he seems to be more close to my experience in board gaming, I'm not really interested in spending much of my time in this kind of activity anyway.
    B. It seems those nerds are flaming the reviewers for being clueless. Seems that there is a community for this kind of thing. If I'm sufficiently interested in making boardgaming a part of my activities I'll search for other reviews. I'm playing with my friends anyways, **** those flaming nerds.