14 August 2007

Why we play filler games

In issue 110 of The Escapist (an online gaming magazine), there is an article about casual gaming. Although the author is talking about video games, I think that some of the same principles apply to board games. In our hobby, casual games are called filler games or beer-and-pretzel games, but the reasons why we play them is the same.

Toward the end of the article, the author lists some reasons that people have given for being attracted to casual games.

The first true generation of gamers, people who grew up with console systems and PCs in their bedrooms, is aging. Members of the MSN boards had this to say about why they play casual games:
"I still enjoy posting high scores, even if my days of spending hours online are over now that I've got two kids."
"The shooters I loved tend to get [me] wound up, and these days I can only play in the late evening in the hour or two before bedtime.
"I just want to chill after a long day. A game should be a game, not a job."
"The games take more skill than people realize. There's twitch and strategy, but I don't have to deal with a massive, complicated controller or spend four hours on a learning curve. I just settle in and play."
"My kids took over the Wii and the PS3 takes too much effort these days."
Nearly every anecdote was along those lines. Coincidence? Could it have been a measure of maturity, all along?

So, what reasons would my husband and I give for why we choose filler games?
--We play games about once every other month so we want to squeeze in as many games as we can.
--Since we don't game on a regular basis, we have to refresh our memories on game rules almost all the time. This is easier if we stick to simpler games.
--As someone said in the article, we don't want gaming to feel like work. If I want to play something challenging, I stick with a PC game. When I am playing with friends, I want to build memories of us laughing and drinking and playing games together.
Comments on Board Game Geek suggest that serious board gamers frown on filler games. The very name "filler game" means that it is something you play until all the players arrive for the "real" game. For our group, though, filler games satisfy our gaming hunger just fine.

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