Shametember - aka The Creation of a Gaming Monster and Dealing With The Aftermath

by Monday, September 19, 2016

Orleans by Reiner Stockhausen

I am very lucky.

I have a partner who enjoys gaming. A partner who will delay eating dinner, put aside other interests and concerns, sit across a table with me, and play board games for hours. It took about 15 years to get here, and's a blessing and a curse because I created a monster!

I grew up with board games. When we got married I tried to get him into games. He played sometimes, and I thought I was winning him over, but he never latched onto it. I understood only recently that his idea of board games was party games; and honestly, I hadn't Eurogamed myself until a couple years back now, so I wasn't helping disavow him of this, not realizing where his head was at. Being a shy guy, he hated the requirement of bigger groups and especially hated feeling put on the spot. Being very social and outgoing, these are games that I got excited about, and I didn't realize how uncomfortable he was as he struggled to play them with me and even good friends.

So when we discovered Pandemic and the world of co-op board games (our preference is co-op play on every platform we share), it blew the top off of games immediately. Then we discovered Dominion and Carcassonne, and other mechanics of deck builder, tableau building, and worker-placement which didn't require 'take that!' tactics and attacking each other directly. Instead we discovered there was a world of games where we could focus on our individual strengths/personal best, and it literally changed our life. I personally like that, barring some rare and painful experiences (usually me! LOL), our scores in these competitive games tend to be really close--there are so many paths to victory and everyone focuses on what appeals to them, so no one gets utterly smashed or humiliated.

This slow-build to a fully participating gaming household has become an explosion of manic acquisition of ALL THE GAMES in 2016. Which brings us to our Wall of Shame. In gaming parlance, your Wall of Shame is the collection of games you have purchased but not yet played. It is not uncommon for casual gamers to have a few untouched titles, and for more avid players (and flush players), the Wall of Shame may include a...well...shameful number of games still in plastic from the factory. Why, you may ask?

Wall of Shame - An Explanation

Above & Below by Ryan Laukat, PAX 2016
In general, board gamers tend to revel in their senses, enchanted by piles of little plastic coins, the tinkling sound as they are poured into a bowl in preparation for a game, the weight and sound of tumbling dice on a tabletop, the sight of a colorful board and the unique shapes of player pieces. It’s not just the playing of the game that appeals; it is the having of a game that is also joyful. The boxes on display are like art on a wall to gamers, and they will spend almost as much time and money on finding the perfect shelving to display their games as they do on procuring the games themselves. There is a thrill in simply touching game components, or perusing well-designed rulebooks like a favorite novel...or maybe it’s more akin to a catalog of fun stories and worlds yet to be discovered.

A common simple pleasure among gamers is the delightful act of unboxing. Unboxing is the visceral experience of stripping off the shrink-wrap plastic seal and being the first to see, smell, touch, or otherwise experience a fresh board game. The unique bouquet of pristine cardboard, the little scritching-pop sound of punching out game pieces, opening the rule book for the first time...sooooo glossy... Opening new board games is like opening presents on Christmas morning! While the play(ing) is the thing, there is a certain exhilaration in the delayed gratification represented by a game still wrapped in plastic.

(Aside: Hell, we gamers even get excited about games that we don’t own yet! When new games are added to Kickstarter, or will soon be available for purchase online or in a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store), the hype train pulls out of the station. The hype train is just another word for “buzz”. It’s the exponentially expanding banter, online and around gaming tables, about the latest games: what the game mechanics are, the quality of the components, how balanced the gameplay is, who has created a video play-through in advance of the release. And the more people talk about it, the more people talk about it. The train picks up speed, and with it the sense of urgency in being one of the first to own the best new titles increases with every forum discussion or YouTube review. Pretty soon, some gamers are pretty sure they will simply die if they can’t snag one of the first copies of New Game X as soon as it is available! But I digress...)

Ahem. So about those games still in their plastic...

The Rise of The Wall

Burgle Bros. by Tim Fowers
Given the aforementioned flurry of acquisition in the last year, we already had a healthy Wall of Shame to contend with. We would occasionally take a stab at diminishing the volume of said WoS, but we have discovered some real gems among our collection, which make frequent appearances and take precedence over cracking a new game. Sometimes our choice of game is driven by simplicity--swiftness to set-up and tear-down, as well as length of gameplay, will determine if we can play on a given weeknight. Ease of teaching/learning is a motivator when we invite friends over to try something new to them. The desire to stage a comeback from a bad loss in a previous session may drive us back to a co-op to try to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat. And just the general mood of one or both of us will be the limitor on other cases. And so The Wall grew...

And here we find ourselves in fall of 2016. Since the gaming revolution has come to our home, September is a game-tastic month now. My birthday is near the beginning of the month, and has traditionally included at least some form of game gifted by my well-meaning husband as a nod to my love of them. Many years were console games for our PS3, but most include at least a card game or some light party game he found at Target. The past two years, however, have included an influx of co-op and Eurogames.<

That same weekend of my birthday happens to be PAX Prime (aka PAX West) in my hometown; which, while ostensibly a convention surrounding video games, has a strong showing of board games in the form of a whole booth dedicated to indie game designers, multiple prolific publishers and vendors of board games with wares for sale, and a large lending library with rooms of empty tables inviting all-comers to borrow any game of your choosing and play it at your leisure. Last year we were ill-prepared to make best use of this library, but this year...we came with a list! Over the year, yours truly cross-referenced my “want to own” list with the current list of available games in the lending library. Some games fell off the list over the year as we either played a game and decided it was not for us, or we ended up being gifted or purchasing said game in the intervening time. But when the weekend began, we had a list of about 10 games we hoped to get our hands on (at least some of them), and consider for purchase.

What was unexpected was the Barnes & Noble 40% off customer appreciation coupon...that same week. Oops, and we pre-ordered Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu earlier this summer from CoolStuffInc, and of course we HAD to buy enough to get free shipping, so tacked on three. other. games. And Chris and I had long ago backed some Kickstarter games, as long ago as last year, which are coincidentally slated to ship this month as well (which doesn’t take into account another six he has backed which all coincidentally due to ship in November?!). Thus, as a result of birthday acquisitions, coupon-drive purchases, the back-ordered games, Kickstarters, and the inevitable PAX The Wall of Shame is bigger than ever, lot. *hanging head* So we instituted Shametember!

Shametember In Shaytown

Dead of Winter in the heat of summer
We instituted the concept of Shametember to motivate us to tear into those as-of-yet-unplayed games and get them to the table. The goal is to play a new game every day of September, come hell or high water, preferably from our own collection, though not strictly required. It is our challenge to choose games we can play each day, even on “school nights”, to knock back the encroaching Wall of Shame. It doesn’t preclude playing favorites, but it has to be in addition to a new game in that 24 hour period, and significant expansions count. A “significant expansion” is defined as a measurable alteration of existing gameplay. So for instance, Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala counts because it includes entirely new tile types and tribe powers to the game, but Marvel Legendary: Paint the Town Red doesn’t count because it is essentially the same mechanics skinned with different heroes. Leave it to gamers to gameify gaming, amirite?!

We came up with this idea on September 2nd, so we started a day behind, but we are making up for it by making a gaming date with friends on October 1st, essentially adapting our goal to “30 New Games in 30 Days”. And full disclosure, we further gave ourselves a “pass” one day over this past weekend when a MMORPG game in which we have collectively clocked ~1500 game hours dropped a new update we have been waiting for since spring and we devoted most of the afternoon and evening to a deep dive together, nearly forgetting to eat or sleep let alone get to the table to try and wrap our brain around a new game. We did at least pinky-swear that one day this month we will play two new games in one day to make up for it, maintaining our adapted 30-in-30 goal. Hey, it’s our game, we get to decide how to play it.

At any rate, the moral of the story is that it has been going great! It’s been a lot of fun to finally get to some games which have been staring at us for a long time (I’m looking at you, The Swarm, the game that had been longest member of our unplayed list at 10 months--no more!), games which one of us has been wanting to play while the other continues demurring (no more excuses, Sherlock Holmes-Consulting Detective), as well as immediately crack some of the brand-spanking-new birthday/PAX week goodies (finally, Machi Koro is mine!). We have spent a significant portion of our free time together away from screens of any kind, exercising our minds and interacting with one another directly through the medium of game. Gaming has brought us closer than ever in 2016, and this challenge together continues to connect us joyfully as a couple. With a month as fun as the one we’re having now, I am excited to see what the rest of this gaming year brings.


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