Variant: Cult of the Old?
Oftentimes, people will bemoan the so-called “Cult of the New.” The idea is that people seek out the new “hot” game, give it a few plays, and then abandon it in favor of whatever the next hotness is. The Cultists of the new sacrifice depth for breadth of play.
Surely, there is something to this. One of the great advantages of a board game is that, when played enough, the cost per play (and certainly the cost per man hour of entertainment) plummets. But, if you start buying games that get played only once or twice, that loses its effectiveness. Plus, it is certainly true that some games only reveal their unique genius after a couple of plays.
All of that is reasonable, but I think there has been an unnecessary reaction to the cult of the new: the Cult of the Old. There seems to be a growing sentiment that playing new games is folly and serious players should return to the same games repeatedly in order to fully explore them. And, put simply, that is balderdash. I’ve even seen people on the geek claim that 20 plays of a game means they are just beginning to understand it.
In truth, it is just as silly to claim that older games are better than newer games. Or that a game is only good if properly aged like a fine wine. Games are supposed to be entertainment. They are the activity we engage in to have a good time, talk with friends, stimulate our strategic thinking, and ultimately just enjoy ourselves. If I have to put myself through several bad plays of a game before I “appreciate” it, then it isn’t that great of a game to begin with. A great game should be fun the first time, and get better over the next several plays.
Plus, for those that have been in the hobby for an appreciable length of time, you start to realize that old isn’t necessarily better. A great example is Aquadukt. I really enjoyed that game. It is light, easy to manage, has a fun (though not overbearing) luck element, and a lot of tactical movements and strategic planning. It fills a great light game niche. Then, I played Takenoko. Takenoko fulfills the same niche. It’s light, it’s got strategy and tactical thinking, and it has fun (though not overbearing) luck elements. It was, in every meaningful way, superior. So Aquadukt was traded away.
And that shouldn’t be surprising. In order to sell new games, game companies have to improve on the current state of the art. If a game company thinks, “I want to make a new light game that is easy to teach and enjoyable” they should also think, “and it has to be better than Aquadukt (or now, Takenoko).” In a way, those that revile the Cult of the New (when not done out of a contrarian hipster impulse) are like those who refuse to give up their CDs for MP3s or who enjoy the “warmth” of standard definition television. Building on the old is progress, even in game design. And that means new games are often worth looking into for better experiences.