The Culture of Immediacy in Tabletop Gaming

I’ve been playing tabletop role-playing games and board games since the late 70’s / early 80’s. Those were days of wonder. Back then your choices of tabletop games (role-playing and board games) were fairly restricted. For tabletop RPG’s you had the big hitter in the form of “D&D”, science-fiction with the likes of “Traveller” and “Space Opera” and a few other notable members of the elite in both genres.

vintage role-playing gamesTraveller, James Bond, Call of Cthulhu, AD&DVintage RPG’s a time of magic when you had to wait.

These days it seems there’s a tabletop role-playing game or board game for everything, be it setting, story or even licensed tie-ins with movies / TV shows. We see companies releasing a swathe of games every month. It’s great to have choice, but there was something to be said for the restrictions of yesteryear. When we bought a game we played it to death, both because we wanted our monies worth, but also because there may not be another game release on the horizon for months to come. In a way that made things more special, hard to grasp in the mass consumer culture we now find ourselves, where immediacy is everything, but that’s the truth of it, you grew to love a thing, deeply and at length, sometimes because that’s all you had.

Now sure some of this may be rose-colored nonsense, as a modern day gamer I love getting a new game and I do almost weekly when it comes to board games, but I’m rarely as involved in a game these days as I was back then. I’ve been playing a home-brew RPG for 18 or so years and that is the mainstay, with everything else flitting in and out of view on a regular basis.

There’s no lessons to pass on in this piece, I am as guilty as anyone else of wanting the latest thing, of wanting to play that game that is hot right now, but I am also mindful of those ‘good ole days’. It doesn’t hurt to wait, to play that game months (or years) after release, I’ve been late to the station on many a game and the joy of playing it has been great, even if the conversation around it has long since cooled.

The issue of the Legacy Game
There is one problem in the culture of immediacy that has occurred this last year in board gaming that puts a real kink in the it’s okay to wait scenario. That kink is the Legacy Game. There are people in this world who like nothing more than to spoil things for others and whilst this is a big problem in TV watching, it now too is becoming a problem in tabletop gaming.

Legacy games feature hidden aspects, only open to gamers as the game goes forth. Within a week of Pandemic Legacy releasing assholes people were posting clear images of legacy aspects to Instagram and other social media channels (you will never see that on ANY of our channels, we have a strict no spoiler policy). Viewing an image of particular aspects of the game would ruin major story arcs if you hadn’t played it yourself. This sort of puts pressure on gamers to get the game and play it before it’s spoiled (in much the same way people will watch certain highly spoilable TV series before going on their social media accounts the day it airs in the U.S.).

Knit Wit tabletop game Karuba board game Kodama Card Game Raptor two-player gameSome newish tabletop games because waiting sucks… right?

Not a lecture
This isn’t a lecture, as I say I love getting new games. I love getting new games that are still getting buzz, it’s fun to be a part of that conversation, but it isn’t the be all and end all, it’s not even a pittance.

Thinking back to those old game sessions in the early 80’s there was always a sense of excitement when someone brought in a new game or scenario, it would get passed around the table, with everyone chatting about it. These days of course with the internet everything is at your fingertips and we learn the minute detail of things months before they’re even released. It does take a little of the magic away and that is a shame.

Try and keep a little of that magic next time you buy a game, imagine this is the only game you are going to be able to buy in this 6 month period, because nothing else is being released in that time. Would it change the way you play it, your excitement for having it in your hot little hands?

Rose colored glasses out!