Friday, August 22, 2008

My love-hate relationship with puzzles and games

I play a lot of board games, but have never been a huge puzzle person. The trouble is that I play word games and puzzles for the wrong reasons. I like crosswords because solving crosswords typically requires broad knowledge of a variety of cultural touchstones. Being well-read helps you solve the crossword, and therefore solving the crossword validates me as a well-read person, from which I derive a self-esteem boost. The puzzle is only the means to an end. At a certain point, puzzles are just organized mental fidgeting with no purpose or value.

Likewise, I've never seen the appeal of hard-core Scrabble. When I play Scrabble, it is for the purpose of creating interesting words. It validates your large vocabulary. However, at a certain point in Scrabble play you must engage in a rather mind-numbing, uncreative memorization of the two- and three-letter Scrabble-approved words and the placement of words on the board trumps the value of the words themselves. What is the point of putting down a cool word like pixelate or gherkin if your opponent plays some three-letter word straight out of See Spot Run that makes three other boring two- or three-letter words and gets more points?

My gameplaying habits have not won me fans at some gaming events. I enjoy games very much. However, like most people, I prefer to do things I am good at. If I already know how to play and game and that I like it, why would I (absent strong recommendations from a trusted source) set it aside to learn a new game, just of the sake of doing so?

1) It takes much longer to learn and play a new game. I have limited gaming time and want to fit in as many fun sessions as possible.

2) It is less fun to struggle through a new game than to play a game where all the participants already know the rules.

3) There is a chance the new game will suck.

At one local event I mentioned that I don't like to learn new games (if there is an option to instead play something I really like, of course). You'd have thought I killed a puppy before their very eyes. Of course, the same group kept records of the scores of every single player in every single game, even random matches with visitors like me. What is the point of tracking scores in dozens of different games? There is no way to convert the scores into a single metric or ranking, and the rankings would be adulterated anyway by the presence of random entrants and the constant introduction of new games.
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