monastyr (5)

[this is guest post by Michal Oracz]


On one of the forums I’ve recently encountered a very curious thread, where gamers discussed how it’s often the case that the theme of the game repels them from even giving it a try. The discussion was dominated by hating all kinds of fantasy, horror or sf.

Many voices declared that they will never play a game in which there are zombies, space ships, vampires or elves. The only exception they allow is when such game reaches the top of all rankings, then and only then can these very serious people stain their gravity – to simply check out if under these silly clothes there is something noteworthy enough for them to participate in this child’s play.

Is it really the case that so many board game fans hate fantasy?

Something is not right here because when you look at the BGG’s ranking around half of the games in the first fifty are pure fantasy.

Why so many enemies than? Do they think of sci-fi as flippant?

I checked few threads ahead: the same people wondered why so many other people, who know nothing about the world of board games, think of it as childish, that such people look on board games having in mind the image of Snakes and Ladders. They wondered where all that ignorance and aversion comes from. Well isn’t that a similar situation?

Honestly sometimes I am flabbergasted when on a convention I hear my board games buddy doesn’t like fantasy. How could I have missed that? Do I assume that all board game people are also sci-fi people? I guess I do, completely unknowingly…

I partially understand the problem. For example a macho-guy want’s to play with his prettier half. If he doesn’t want to be seen as a nerd (nerd = a child with a beard – author’s annotation) taken directly from X-Files, he will think thrice before taking out a game with dragons or vampires in it. I am dangerously approaching the gender topic and I might get it in the neck but it is a fact that on conventions, forums and through my own eyes I see that: it is the fairer sex that hates sci-fi.

Fortunately there is a large percent of the notable exceptions (I salute you with the vulcan gesture, live long and prosper!) Luckily my second half included!

Coming back to our macho: it is a lot safer to put an economical game with some historic setting on your table. It’s serious as fit for adult people.

Maybe our potential co-players are a whole family, together with its mature members? Or we are playing with colleagues from work. The serious kind of work. We persuaded them for a weekend with board games. I think I’d hesitate myself thinking whether should I introduce them to this hobby through a gateway game with aliens and wizards in it.

You know how it is. Yes I play but only historical games. The serious ones. Logical. Optimization oriented. Space adventure games? No, never. I grew out of these a long time ago!

Don’t grow out of everything, too many people do. Sci-fi is an ability to look at yourself, your situation and your surroundings from a distance. And as you might know it’s easier to notice all that is hidden without a proper perspective. A useful tool, really it is.

It might be the case that I am under my own illusion. As Portal Games, from the very beginning and for many years, we created role-playing games, obviously sci-fi at that. Neuroshima (post-apocalypse), Monastyr (dark fantasy), De Profundis (horror), Frankenstein Faktoria (horror) etc. Only later did we enter the world of board games.

RPG and fantasy were always bound by an inseparable bond. It was so for many decades, right now it is starting to change. Still 99% of RPG games are sci-fi, space opera, horror, post-apocalyptic, gothic punk, fantasy, steampunk, primal punk etc. Something non fantasy? No way.

After so many years spent around fantasy role-playing games it’s not hard to forget yourself, to forget that we don’t design board games for the same people. That some PLAYER might hate fantasy. I will try to remember this in the future, it will save me the shocked expression on board games conventions.

I promise myself that, in the name of breaking with habitual behaviors, I will finally do something non sci-fi.

Meanwhile on my designer’s desk there is a new add-on for Theseus – Robots. Have you heard about Saturn 3? 2001: A Space Odyssey? Moontrap? Death Machine? Robots have quite a history in claustrophobic sf horrors.

And to celebrate it I’m going to the cinema tonight to watch Robocop, yet another remake of the 80s classic. Quite a few good ones lately, even though they lack all that red-violet reflectors and hectoliters of fog…