October 8, 2011

How My Playtime De-Evolved

A few years ago the entirety of my discretionary income was spent on games for my Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. The entirety of my free time was spent playing these games as well. The only games I played were digital. I sought Achievements and life was good.

Around this time I went on a trip to Australia with Beth and two friends. While shopping in Melbourne, I found a small, hole in the wall board game store. After hours of ogling clothes I didn't want, I escaped into the board game store like Peter leaping into the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' tale.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was looking at. The board games of my life to that point included Scrabble, Monopoly, a brief stint of Stratego in college (my roommate stopped playing me after 9 straight defeats), Risk, and Heroscape. Even in such a small store the walls were lined with hundreds of boxes. It was fascinating and overwhelming. Like a child in a candy store, I knew I couldn't leave empty handed. I sought my metaphorical lollipop.

I was limited by two things: price and luggage space. This quickly culled many of the choices from the store. My eye was drawn to the game Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games. Viking horns, sneakers, and a chainsaw in a fantasy setting? Go on. I'm listening.

The store clerk had mentally checked out, so she was no help. But, the box art, the description on the back, and the price all sold me and I departed from Narnia with my prize intact.

We played the game several times late at night in our hotel and a few times on the long flight home. I found the game immensely entertaining, not so much for the deep and robust strategy, but for the simplicity of the game, the back stabbing, and focus on player interaction. 

Within weeks I decided to start designing my own board games. My first attempt, Space Encounters, never quite became the game I wanted it to be, but Farmageddon did. Frontier Scoundrels will as well. And one day I'll return to Space Encounters and make it the game it deserves to become. 

(Note: If you click the Space Encounters link above you can read the full rules and content for the game as it existed when I last worked on it).

More than just shifting my focus to designing these games, I now spend my discretionary income on buying board and card games and my free time playing them. I rarely play games that aren't physical and require the presence of others. I enjoy the player interaction too much to spend time on a single player console game. It's fascinating that one silly game so fundamentally changed how I spend my free time.

My blog doesn't exactly have a huge audience, so writing a post that ends with a community question may be a bit cart before the horse. But I imagine there was a game, digital, card, or otherwise that led you into this obsession. I doubly imagine there was one that, if you spend time designing them, pushed you into that boat as well.

What was the game? Why? Is there a story behind it? I think such things are fascinating and I'd be curious to hear your tale.


DeadlyAccurate said...

It's actually been so long since I started gaming I'm really not sure. I do know I wore out a joystick playing Space Invaders on our old Apple IIe, and I'm pretty sure I used my siblings' Nintendo (note, that's the original, not the Super Nintendo) more than they did. Shortly after we got married, we convinced ourselves we needed a computer "for school." (read: for Doom and then Doom II and then Duke Nukem 3D). I would say I've been a serious gamer for 17 years now.

FarmerLenny said...

We never had a video game system growing up, so my playtime didn't really devolve. My first point of entry into hobby gaming was through several CCGs that ate all of my spending money through most of high school. The hobby board game that drew me in and has started an interest that keeps a stranglehold on my discretionary income is Acquire, a stock-trading game. My roommates and I would play this game over and over and keep a stats sheet to track winningest players over time. Acquire remains one of my very favorite games.

Benny Sperling said...

Munchkin was my entrance to euro games about 6 years ago. Board games all through childhood, Magic from 14 to 24. Brief stents with video games in between.

Designing and collecting have been great passions of mine. One day my designed games will outnumber my owned games: 50 to 180 currently.

Nolan said...

I think it was life changes more than it was a single game that shifted my interest from digital to board and card games. After getting married and settling into a "real" job, I found I didn't want to spend as much time in front of the computer playing games. Some co-workers were getting together to play Settlers of Catan one night; I had heard of it before, so I was interested in trying it out. It snowballed from there (largely thanks to BGG), and now board games are my primary hobby.

I studied at Georgia Tech with the intention of going into video game design. After an internship with Maxis, I was on track to do just that. However, the love of my life kept me in Indianapolis -- devoid of any video game industry. I learned quickly that it wasn't so much digital game design that I was interested in, but game design in general. As my interest in board games grew, I found that I could scratch my game design itch with more ease by avoiding the technical hurdles of digital games and focusing on board game design. I'm just getting started with it, but what I've done so far has been pretty fulfilling.