Game Talk is a series of articles about many aspects off gaming meant to provoke discussions about the tabletop gaming hobby. Perhaps you agree, or maybe you don’t. Either way we want to start some talk here on Initiative : Tabletop and the articles will draw from all of our opinions and experience with the hobby.
The feeling of picking up a brand new game, taking it home, and peeling off the plastic wrapping is one of complete bliss. You’ve been reading up on this game for months. You’ve sat through all of the teasers, previews, and early reviews. Now the game is yours and you’re dying to play it. For this week’s game night you decide to bust it out to show your friends. The game hits the table and it’s a blast, so you play it multiple times.
Next week the same game gets played. The week after is the same thing. You’ve now played the game easily more than some others in your collection. The next week rolls around and something startling happens: a different game hits the table. In the blink of an eye a game that was so dear to you has succumbed to something awful: burnout. Before you can think, months have passed and the game is just collecting dust on your shelf. When someone suggests playing it you think of just about anything you can to avoid it. Does this mean the game is bad? No, but it is a stigma that can come with the hobby.
The question is, once a game has reached burnout status, can you bring it back to life? And what comes together to signal the burnout of a game?
Approaching Burnout Status
To me, a game reaches burnout status when I’d just about play anything other than the game in question. There are a lot of factors that go into a game reaching this point, but what are they exactly? I am sure that the reasons for burnout differ from player to player and by no means am I saying the following are the only ones. Here are just a few factors I believe contribute to a game reaching burnout:
Probably the most common reason for a game being burned out is due to it being overplayed. A game can be extremely fun, even the best game you’ve ever played, but if you play it all the time without getting some other outside stimuli can make it become dry and droll. This same situation can be applied to other things in life, such as work or other hobbies. Overplaying a game can suck the fun out of it and cause it to snag a permanent place on your shelf. As they say, everything in moderation makes for a happy life – it’s the same with board games!
While a bit less common, it is true that sometimes a game’s mechanics can drive it into the burnout zone. Depending on how the game is marketed, you could pick it up for one thing to find out it plays completely different. While some gamers can get around this, others will become more and more disgruntled with each play, forcing the game out of the limelight. It is possible, however, for a game to be fun, but have its mechanics either be too simple or complicated, which will also shovel it into the burnout pile.
This is probably the second-most common reason for a game’s burnout. If a game is too hard or too easy it can see more shelf life than table life. When I think of this reason Pandemic comes to mind. I hear a lot of gamers talk about how Pandemic has taken a seat on the back burner because it’s too easy with the full amount of players. The cooperative aspect of the game makes it too easy to get through, and players are left with no challenge.
Personally I’ve had a lot of fun with Pandemic. Playing with the full amount of players, there have been many times where we’ve been pushed to the brink and forced to think on our heels. It is true, however, that we’ve outsmarted the game each time we’ve been backed into this corner, coming out on the winning end.
Bringing A Game Back from Burnout
Once a game reaches burnout status is it possible to put it back in the arms of your players? Some players argue that once you’re burned out on a game it signals the end of playing that game for good. When you become burned out with a game it’s lost its flair and playability. It becomes much harder to find fun in the game again afterwards.
A handful of gamers say that a game can, in fact, be brought back from the brink, though it won’t ever be the same. After some time on the shelf a game can provide a nostalgic feeling once you play it again. It won’t ever be fully redeemed, but there’s a chance you’ll realize what made you enjoy the game in the beginning, reigniting its flame.
I believe that games can have the chance to shine again and come back from being burned out. Two examples of this are Straw and Card of the Dead from AEG. When I reviewed these games I played them nearly every day. I got the same group of guys together and played the games into the ground. After the review I shelved the games and each time they were suggested I avoided playing at all cost. This went on for months, until recently.
Last week a friend asked if I’d be interested in playing, and at first I turned it down. I sat through a game and watched them play, and something inside me told me to jump in. I played the next round and was taken back to when I first put the game to the table. It was a ton of fun, and when we switched to the other game the experience was even better. I found myself re-thinking strategies and trying to find new ways to stay ahead of the pack. I lost – quite horribly might I add – and ended up playing a handful of other rounds. So for me a game can come back from burnout status, and in this case with some positive results.
Can You Avoid Burnout?
With all this being said, is there a way to avoid burnout all together? I think so, and the way to do it is moderation. Most gamers have quite a selection filling their dwellings which offers many different options when choosing a game to play. If you have a game that you absolutely love, by all means play it to your heart’s content! In between game nights, however, try and get other games in. Play games from a different genre or change the theme – whatever you do, just play something different every once in a while! This will help keep your mind fresh and that game of yours sitting at the top of your list.
If it’s a game with strategic elements, try switching up your play style. Work on a different strategy. If the game is cooperative, try and let other players lead the charge. There are a lot of possibilities out there!
What are some of the factors that go into burning out a game for you, and how can you avoid it? Have you ever had a game come back from being scorched? What are some of your current burned-out games?