This is a long ramble about games, self definition, etc. Feel free to not waste your time reading it. :)
While reading through, but not completely finishing, a piece on Shut Up & Sit Down by Leigh Alexander and Quinns (http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/blog/post/test/
), I somehow found myself reflecting back a few years to a Wired article written by Patton Oswalt about how the things that geeks/nerds/otakus love are now mainstream and being taken over by people who didn't grow up with the same level of passion. This was an article that infuriated me at the time because Oswalt was stating a desire for a culture developed by outsiders to be an exclusive club. Others have to earn their way in by growing up as people who didn't belong and found a place via pure escapism. He didn't want the words geek, nerd, and otaku appropriated by people who didn't deserve it. He didn't want to share. Because of this, I stopped referring to myself by the words geek, nerd, and otaku. I didn't want to get caught up with people who held too much stock in those words. I didn't want to be in an exclusive club. After all, I used those words to find a place of acceptance. Even though I'm accepted (I say this while looking across the room at my prominently displayed collection of Transformers and my one Masterpiece Veritech Alpha), I don't want to be with people who won't allow others to try to find their place.
What was interesting about that article, though, was that the comments started discussing how geek's becoming mainstream means that geek needs to be redefined. What are the new interests outside of the mainstream? I've found that the spectrum hasn't shifted that much. Comic book and toy movies are huge these days, but that doesn't mean that it's translated into new collectors coming around. Someone who loves the Spider-Man films won't necessarily be impressed by my having every issue (so far) of The Superior Spider-Man, and it's unlikely that they remember the news stories about Peter Parker's "death" at the end of 2012. Science fiction and high fantasy films are films that gross more money these days, but it's not like they've moved people to frequenting the library more or start caring that a number of their local bookstores have closed.
But this Shut Up & Sit Down piece, a lovely tale about further discovering yourself through a complicated and addicting card game, brought the Wired article to mind because I realized that the spectrum of random enthusiasts has indeed shifted every so slightly. In the conversation about supposedly geeky hobbies, I've found that science fiction and comics and such come with either a, "Oh, yeah, I saw x thing," or a dismissive, "You're one of those..." (Which isn't delivered quite as derisively as it was in years gone by.) If you mention board games, you still get met with a, "Huh?" The board game resurgence happened years ago (we like to say around 95), but one could say that it has really exploded in the past few years. There are news articles about it, non-Hasbro games being sold in chain toy stores and bookstores, and references made on broadcast television shows...and people still go, "Huh?" The new geek people were looking for is the tabletop geek.
Hopefully, this breeds a more social and inclusive bunch. People who collect toys, read comics, play video games, etc. are wrapped up in mostly solitaire activities. People who play board games don't have that luxury. No, there's a fear of an empty table instead. There are definitely bad examples of tabletop gamers out there, but the rest want more
people sitting down to play games with them. You can get away with having only one friend for a game of Dominion
or The Duke
, but you need a mess of friends for intense games of The Resistance
or Blood Bound
. I'm sure it'll happen that someone will accuse someone else of being a board gaming poser, but what does that accomplish when I still need a third person for The Settlers of Catan
? I don't care if they bought the "Wood for Sheep" shirt just to fit in. They can still learn that you can't place a settlement immediately adjacent to one already in play. And they can learn that playing games isn't about winning and losing, being the smartest person at the table, having the biggest and most expensive collection, having demoed games with the designers, or even making it out to any and all of the conventions. Playing the game and playing with people is the entire point. Just as the entire point of being into things is to share them with others.