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board games, culture

Where’s Our Attention Span?

At the beginning of this year, I joined a challenge on BoardGameGeek (dot) com. The challenge is called The 100×1 Exploring Diversity Challenge and instructed users to play 100 different unique games throughout the year. Many users also included variants to this challenge, for example, they aspired to play one game with a name starting with each letter of the alphabet. The 100×1 challenge is designed to push gamers to explore games they might not necessarily buy or play under other circumstances. And in an ideal world, I completely agree with this idea. It’s a part of positive psychology: flow. Those who push themselves in activities they enjoy find even greater enjoyment! So I decided to join to push myself in my hobby and discover different board and card games. Currently in the challenge, I have played over 100 games – games that range from feeding poultry to cornering the steel market to sled racing with huskies to solving a murder with the help of a ghost. It’s been a whirlwind.

Through my experiences, I noticed one peculiar thing: I have not played many games multiple times. When I said whirlwind, I meant whirlwind. I would play a game one week at my Tuesday game night and never see the game again. Literally.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate my gaming group, who spend their money on new games I could never afford and let me play them. BUT never seeing much less playing a game more than once? It makes me question… where has our attention span gone? Why are we so obsessed with the new?

Many board game reviewers and podcasters have talked about the cult of the new and the cult of the future. First off, I do not particularly care for the word cult. Let’s call it what it is. We have a culture that needs to have the newest. We need to get in on the ground floor and we need to have what’s “hot.” We see our family, friends, peers, other folks in the hobby get the newest games… and WE need them too! What’s worse than that is what some folks are calling cult of the future. Again, let’s call it what it is. We have a culture that needs to have what is not even available yet. We do not just need what is new… right now, but we need what is coming out in a month from now, six months from now, a year from now. We drool over previews, prototype, and print and play releases. We consumed hours and hours of information about what is coming the next next year(s). Where does that leave us?

In my opinion, board games have two different “sub-hobbies.” The first is playing board games, which I guess is pretty straight forward. The second and less recognized is collecting board games. The collection aspect of the hobby directly contributes to the culture I have been talking about. Playing board games also contributes but not as much. Many folks want to play the newest games available. But once the game is played, it’s okay for it to go on the shelf and basically collect dust unless the game is absolutely amazing. I have enjoyed discovering new games. I have enjoyed playing new games that have filtered in and out of my game group. What I have not enjoyed is the fact I intentionally selected games I did not know in order to complete my challenge. I did not seek out playing games multiple times and if asked, I probably could not tell you if I liked a certain game… because who can really tell after one play?

My conclusions from being a part of this challenge:

  • I have found I love playing games multiple times to discover more depth and to have different experiences with different people.
  • I am also susceptible to the culture of the new and have to intentionally keep myself in check.
  • I like learning new games.
  • I discovered what types of games I really enjoy and which types I can pass on.
  • It is okay to dislike a game other people like.

2015-08-30 11.45.25I like these challenges. And I will probably be a part of a similar challenge in 2016. However, I also know I enjoy what board games I own and I love playing those games with the people in my life. Do I get excited at the next new game? Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with that. But let us reclaim our attention span and enjoy what we have. It’s the experience of gaming with others that is most important. Whether playing a game just released at Gen Con 2015 or a game you’ve had since the 90’s… Have fun out there gaming!

See my challenge here: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/183812/item/3660566#item3660566


One thought on “Where’s Our Attention Span?

  1. Ask any long term grade school teacher and she will confirm that children’s attention spans have noticeably shortened.


    Posted by Susan Gregory | September 2, 2015, 9:30 PM

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