If you read my blog regularly, you know that today is challenge day. Every Friday I post about my endeavors with completing the “Gamer Challenge” for that week. These challenges come from the Board Game Calendar that was published this year, and this weeks challenge was to play a game that has been published in the last year.
For me playing a game that has been published in the last year is something I do every single week, as I have plenty of games that have been sent to me to be reviewed. Most of these games aren’t more than a few months old, let alone a whole year. Having plenty on my plate that needed reviewed I took this time to play a couple of them with my group. The games I chose to play were “Zombie Fried” and “Forces”. Both of these were by the same company (“I’m not wearing any pants” games, or INWAP for short). I don’t want to delve too heavily into my experiences with those games in particular as I have a full review coming of each. However, there are plenty of generalities to discuss on this topic of “new” games.
When I was originally picking a game to play, I noticed something… the underlying zeitgeist of the gaming community. For those not familiar with the term, zeitgeist is the underlying culture or thoughts of a community. This year we have seen large swings in the nations zeitgeist. We have seen the rise of the Occupy Wallstreet group. We have seen the populace rally against bills such as SOPA and PIPA. We have seen a migration away from desktop and even laptop computers towards the use of mobile technologies. The world is changing, as it always is, and as occupants of it, our thoughts on the matter affects the art that we produce, even when that art is designing board games.
One very stark look at this is in our measurement of success. It use to be that the captains of industry that people sought to emulate were the rail barons, or the owners of the three major car companies, or even as recently as the 1990’s, the creator of Microsoft. Now of days, the cloud is king. Your real estate in cyber space is the most important piece of your implied success in the public’s eye. Don’t believe me? When you think of success do you think about GMC, Coca-Cola, and Samsung? Or do you think about Facebook and Google? This clear preference towards the creation of web services as the new bench mark for success recently showed up in a game we reviewed, “Startup Fever“. Characters play as a company who is launching a “social networking” site among other tech services. Fifty years ago this game could have been designed, but with construction workers and business men vying for tenants in a high rise, rather than nerds and suits vying for users on their system.
Zombies, zombies, zombies. Everywhere we look now, zombies are not lurking too far behind. Not only are they in our theaters, and televisions, but they have also invaded our books, clothes, artwork, and board games. What does this say about our culture? I believe that it’s a statement that the nation is collectively holding its breath, mentally preparing, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Geeks often have more detailed plans in the event of the zombie apocalypse than they do about their fast approaching future. Although despite our ability to extend our disbelief into the fantastical, the idea that zombies could come from magic is antiquated and quaint. The zombies present in today’s art are typically the result of biological warfare, experiments gone wrong, or government cover ups. What does this say about us? It seems clear to me that this says that we do not trust our government, or sciences ability to regulate itself, and that the idea of them destroying us as a nation is a very real fear.
In the same cynical vein, snarky games showing bankers in a poor light were also popular this past year. “Black Friday” was a banking game that was a big hit last June at the Origins Game Fair in Ohio. It was a game that allowed you to take bailouts from the government which you never paid back, intentionally drive the price up of your stock only to bail on it, and just generally do a lot of the nasty things we have heard of bankers doing in the news. If there was one villain this year, it was the bankers.
Given the current political unrest we have seen in the past six months, I think the next years games may play heavily towards that theme. Protesters, dictators, rebel armies. I could see all of those as playing prominently in upcoming games. I think we’ll see more games about the banking industry as public dissatisfaction continues to boil. I could also see more escapism games hitting the market. With the economy still way down, games about being rich could be big business again, kinda like we saw with Monopoly during the great depression.
Did you manage to play a new game this week? And if so, did you notice any of the trends we talked about here?
Next weeks challenge is an interesting one: Play a game halfway through, then switch sides. I’ve done this before while learning to play chess, but I’ve never applied it to any other application. Should be interesting!
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