Transcript of our podcast from 11 March 2008

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The One Game

by Moritz Eggert

Taking a cue from my theme "Boredom in Games" I want to talk about a strange bug that is possessing all of us pro-gamers. I want to talk about the search for the ONE GAME. And if anybody of you now recognizes this as the title of an obscure SF show on British Television you get 100 brownie points from me.

My mom has a saying that she always repeated when she saw me buying a new game. She said: "Why do you buy a new game? You already have one!"

In a way that's not a dumb thing to say. What we often forget is that most people are very happy knowing only a handful of games and pastimes in their lives. And I don't mean fanatical chess or ASL players, who play these games to the exclusion of anything else. And I also don't mean ignorants, who don't like games at all.

We all have friends who own only 1 or perhaps 2 games. They learned perhaps 1 or 2 card games in their whole life. And they're happy. They don't need new computer games because they're perfectly happy to play "Mineseeker" or the "Hearts" card game that comes with Windows. They might have bought one copy of a "Spiel des Jahres" on a whim, once in their lifetime. And when they have time to game, they are happy to play this game, most probably "Settlers", again and again, while being totally fulfilled. To them the idea of somebody owning hundreds, even thousands of games is totally outrageous. Sometimes you will actually be able to get these people to play a new game. And while playing the game they will constantly say things like "Oh, these hexes remind me of Settlers" or "This is very similar to Risk, isn't it?", even when playing "Puerto Rico" and "War of the Ring". And after they have played this new game, they will immediately return to their old game, missing nothing.

I repeat, these are not people who hate games, quite the opposite, they are simply lacking the strange obsession of the Tom's, Sam's and other boardgamegeeks, who will always choose the new game when offered a choice between a game they already know and a new game that sounds interesting to them. I'm the same. But why are we doing that? Are we not happy with the games we already own?

To give you an example: I personally think that Magic Realm is the most perfect fantasy adventure game ever created. It is complete, complex, and rich and one could play it for ages and always encounter new situations. But I have never time to play it enough, because I am already pining for the next new game which might or might not be better than "Magic Realm". Right now I am looking forward to the new "Middle Earth Adventure Game" coming up from Fantasy Flight, together with Sam. And when somebody announces a new Middle Earth Wargame I will be a sucker again and buy it, even though I think that "War of the Ring" is already pretty perfect. Why do I keep buying new games if I already own over a thousand? Why do I own games that I will probably either never play again, or never even play once? And if you now check my boardgamgeek account: my list of games there is not complete, ok? I'm too lazy to punch in my games into the database...

Why does Tom play nothing but "Duel of Ages", if it is the best game on the planet? Why does Sam not play "Lost Cities", his favourite glorified Racko game, until the end of time? Only joking. Why do we lie at night, thinking about the games that might exist one day or that are coming up through P500, and how happy we would be when they arrive, and when they arrive we are happy, but only for a couple of days until we read about this super new game that we are then longing for?

The answer to this might be very complex, or very simple. I believe it has to do with the fact that we all secretly understood one of the basic principles of Zen-Buddhism, namely that the way is the goal, not the goal itself. In fact we would be very unhappy if there was one perfect game, because we enjoy the curiosity and the adventures that we have while looking for it more than actually having the ONE GAME. Perfection would be death to our hobby, in a way, as the promise of a new expansion set or the new perfect game keeps us alive and gives us the enjoyment we need equally as actually playing the games themselves.

Some food for thought. Obscure metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon, reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain away that which cannot be explained. Call it parallel planes or just insanity. Whatever it is, you find it in the....GEEKLIGHT ZONE....

And rest in peace, Gary Gygax - You were the man. Your legacy will be remembered. Thank you so much for the dreams.

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2008, Westpark Gamers