The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Gamer's Game?

Ray Smith

November, 2002

Let's see if I can fan the flames within gamedom in a follow up to the semi-hoopla over the recent Spiel des Jahres. This prestigious award seems to draw the out the Mr. Hyde in all of us, and the recent selection has us double dipping into the metamorphic sauce.

The Spiel des Jahres has been reluctantly regarded as the pinnacle of game awards and acts as a major advertising motivator. The reluctance stems from the biased disdain that "gamers" have for some of the judges choices. When this year's choice of Villa Paletti (or the previous "dubious" choices of Torres, Elfenland, Mississippi Queen, etc.) was announced, gamers jumped on the sour grapes wagon of, "Oh, well. Their focus is with the more family oriented games." However, when the selection was Tikal, El Grande or Settlers of Catan, the rousing approval was punctuated with a resoundingly snooty "well done".

This controversy is totally a product of we gaming gurus, with the delineation of whether games are family oriented or a gamer's game, whatever that means. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my interpretation of a gamer's game is a game that requires more than a smattering of strategic decisions, has increased complexity, while incorporating more player interaction and planning. As usual, the measurable amount for each of these adjectives is entirely subjective to the individual gamer. So, what separates the above mentioned "dubious" choices from those given a "well done"?

Adrenaline. Some games just give me a rush beyond the sheer enjoyment of play. Although a great fan of Elfenland and Mississippi Queen, both which I will gladly play at the drop of a die, they just don't garner the "oooh boy" feelings I get for El Grande, Minos, Funkenschlag, 1849, or any of the others I deem to be great. So as a supplement to my previous article on rating games [GGA - Science of Subjectivity], where I prefer to rate games in the two six-point categories of Components and Play, I should have mentioned that there are several that I would give box cars to, such as Union Pacific or Aladdin's Dragons, but would still be reluctant to place in the realm of the greats.

I should add a third rating for adrenaline rush.

- Ray Smith

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