“Is this a cool game or am I just a sucker for gimmicks?”: A story of poor impulse control and severe susceptibility to advertising.

By Robin


I’m currently spending my evening scouring Kickstarter for new games to overspend on. This is my ideal shopping strategy, as it costs nothing right now and is only a financial burden to Future Robin. Whatever, she can deal with it. She’s older and wiser and presumably richer than me. Besides, if the game isn’t funded then I get all the fun of purchasing something without having to follow through. The problem is that I am a sucker. I will play any game that strikes my fancy, and my fancy is easily struck. (Stricken?) Here are some games I have funded/purchased or am considering, and I honestly just need a grown up to tell me if I am making good choices.

1.) Polite Society: The Jane Austen board game

It is a truth universally acknowledged that as a mostly straight white woman of a certain age I will buy pretty much anything with Jane Austen’s name slapped on it. I funded this game without reading anything about it because I want nothing more in life than to invite Mary Bennett to a dinner party and tell her to lighten up a bit. And also Mr. Darcy is there, and I honestly don’t know how the game is played but I believe you get to GOSSIP and SHUN SOCIAL CLIMBERS and say SUBTLE YET BRUTALLY CUTTING THINGS in a Judi Dench kind of way, and that is enough for me. Take my money and let me befriend Colonel Brandon please and thank you ever so.

2.) Evolve: Lights of the Deep

Something something microbial evolution something something deep ocean, this seemed like a card based version of Flow, which is a video game I am terrible at but greatly enjoy. The game is from Australia, so the young man narrating the promotion video has an Australian accent. Ten seconds into him talking about being a tiny speck of life ascending in the depths of the vast ocean and I was sold.

3.) Bob Ross: The Art of Chill

This game is sold at Target and technically I did not buy it for myself, but I’m including it here anyway because this is the perfect storm of a. my hobbies, b. things I am nostalgic about, and c. things that control my severe anxiety, and it’s really unfair and predatory that this was advertised to me at all. Of all the games listed here today this is the only one I have actually received and played, and all I can say is if all my impulse game purchases are this good I’ll be just fine. You paint along with Bob Ross trying to see who can become the most chill, and it’s all happy little trees and pthallo blue and happy accidents. This is the game I was born to play.

4.) Arranged!- The Arranged Marriage Board Game

I struggled with whether or not it would be appropriate to get this game, because I honestly can’t foresee a setting in which I could play it and not have some problematic shit go down. But the woman who designed it is Pakistani and made it specifically to raise awareness of this aspect of her culture and the impact it has on women, and I think it’s stupendously important to support marginalized voices in board gaming. Plus I really like the idea of a game where one is solely trying to make oneself utterly unappealing to men. So, purchased. I’ll just be wary of who I invite to evade matchmaking Aunties with me.

5.) Mountaineers

I am debating this right now, and I genuinely cannot tell if this looks like a game I will enjoy or if I just think the 3D mountain that is the game board looks exceptionally cool. The video doesn’t show any game play, but I honestly think the fun of moving little climbers up and down a cardboard mountain might be worth $75 even if the game is wonky. (This is why I am not to be trusted. It’s literally just a full minute of “look, it’s 3D!” and “oooh, it’s pretty tall for a board game” and I’m nodding enthusiastically and reaching for my wallet.) Is this worth it? Do I just miss rock climbing? Should I just trust that everyone else who funded it well past its initial goal probably knows more about games and is more sensible in general than me?

6.) Ravine

Basically just the board game of that one episode of Grey’s Anatomy where the plane crashed and all the most annoying side characters died. One reviewer said that she drew a card that demanded she abruptly throw her cards at the other players, and I appreciate that kind of dedication to chaos.

7.) Side Effects

I’m desperately torn on this one. On one hand, the art is GORGEOUS (as someone who cannot draw I am easily and deeply impressed by such things) and it looks like it might actually be an interesting way to approach stigma against mental health issues? BUT I cannot for the life of me tell if this is positive or exploitive representation, and who wants to be that jerk who accidentally stigmatizes/dismisses the legitimate health issues of a friend at game night? I already have issues with “madness/insanity” being casually thrown around as a game mechanic, (although I realized after backing it that Ravine uses it, oops), and adding a possible layer of “you shouldn’t take psych meds because they make you crazier” seems irresponsible at best, but maybe it’s more subversive than I’m giving it credit for? It’s already fully funded, is it wrong to get a copy and then just quietly never play it if it’s too insensitive?

That’s all at the moment (but the night is young). Tell me how brilliant or terrible my choices are. Advise me. How do you justify impulsive game purchases to yourself? What excellent gimmicks have I missed? Do you have a more sensible approach to game purchasing? What Kickstarter are you debating throwing all of your hard earned money at? Is there a Magic Schoolbus board game? Because I would buy the crap out of that game.

One thought on ““Is this a cool game or am I just a sucker for gimmicks?”: A story of poor impulse control and severe susceptibility to advertising.”

  1. The overwhelming number of products available each year has certainly put a toll on my pocket book. Even after I promised myself that I would no longer spend money on games impulsively, I find myself throwing down $300 this past month for new games. Much disappoint.

    HOWEVER! I think I am learning from past mistakes where I’ve done the same to find myself buried deep in buyers remorse. Some sanity I’ve imposed on my buying habits has ultimately kept my collection from gathering games like a runaway Katamari ball.

    1) Research, Research, Research– subscribe to game review blogs; check out ratings and comments on BGG, etc. We can talk about the true validity of each of these, especially considering the film and video game market suffer from rating aggregates and paid-for reviews… but they also benefit from them, too. How much weight you decide to put into them is up to you, but they are potential resources, but ultimately looking for anything that tells you if the game is any fun for you.

    2) Do your own investigation– go to cons, stores, and events where games are demoed to play before buying. This is especially helpful for larger publishers, but you may find that smaller or indy publishers are only found at conventions which have a barrier of entry: travel, cost, selling out, etc. I’ve also found that smaller publishers are also super responsive to correspondence and are excited to engage new players. Notice here, I said players, not buyers. Yes they want to sell you their product, but more than that, they want you to enjoy it. Talk with them about it first before you make the plunge.

    3) Wait for the right price– games are products at the end of the day: purchasing access to a potentially fun experience. Not to say it’s uncommon that I’ll buy a game immediately at full price (or more for special editions) because I think it IS that good. But I do ask myself, is that experience worth the $20, $40, $80, yes even sometimes $240. Most times the answer is a surprising “no” despite my initial excitement. Then you can wait for the price to deprecate or find a sale.

    4) Ask yourself when you’re going to play it– Games are meant to be played and I would play every game I love all the time, if I could. Unfortunately, time is a limited resource that other life things take from and frequently. And if I’m playing games that have multiple players, they have time constraints as well. As much as would LOVE to buy TI:4e, I know I’ll never get to play it, or at least not regularly enough to warrant the cost and asking yourself…

    5) Where am I going to put it in my house?!– I have implemented a rule. I have one (large) game shelf. Games are not allowed to exist in the house outside of that shelf. If I want a new game, I need to get rid of the equivalent space of games from that shelf to make room. Why? Boardgames take up a lot of space, and space (like time) is a limited resource.

    Like

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