Chasing After the Hobby, Chasing After the Wind

You may have noticed lately that the Tabletop department has been cranking out several reviews, and little else. I love reviewing games—I’ve been doing it for six years now—and we’ve established great partnerships with various publishers. We’re especially busy during these summer months, with Origins followed by Gen Con and then Essen.
When I joined Geeks Under Grace, I was excited not only for the opportunity to reach a wider audience with my reviews, but to write other articles about Tabletop gaming—specifically how they relate to my faith. Unfortunately, we haven’t been doing that because we’ve been too busy with new games. And that’s not the publishers’ faults—we’ve been busy seeking out “The Next Big Things.”
A few weeks ago, fellow Tabletop writer Chris Hecox and I talked about feeling a bit of burnout. That same week, I did something that shouldn’t have seemed so weird: I pulled out an older game to play with friends, Lancaster. I hadn’t played it in 3 or 4 years! But it was familiar, comfortable, and awesome. It was great to revisit such a good game without the pressure of getting “The Next Big Things” played and reviewed. That doesn’t happen nearly enough.
Among board game geeks, there is a phrase, “cult of the future”—even worse than cult of the new. When games are finally released, players are already looking to the next big thing instead of looking at what they already have. Kickstarter hasn’t helped, and ironically enough, neither has the immense growth of the hobby the past few years (even though it is a good thing, very good, overall). Of course, this discontent is not unique to board games, or even to gaming in general, as Scripture shows us in Ecclesiastes 6:9 (NIV):
Better what the eye sees
    than the roving of the appetite.
This too is meaningless,
    a chasing after the wind.”
When I first got into JRPGs in elementary school, I explored every nook and cranny of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI. During the PSOne era, RPGs had become so frequent that I began to blaze through them just to get onto the next one. And I honestly don’t even want to talk about the money I sunk into keeping up competitively with Magic: the Gathering. Unfortunately with board games, it’s actually a bit worse since the obsession with “The Next Big Things” has the potential to become a burden for your friends, family, and playing partners who are quite happy to dive deeper into the games they already know and enjoy.
When I think of my favorite memories of gaming, board or otherwise, they were rarely the first crack at a shiny new box. They were crazy games with silly rules like: a 4-player game of Super Smash Bros. Melee with 99 lives on Hyrule Castle, a 5-player Commander game of Magic: the Gathering that literally took all night (my dad made us breakfast while we finished), or a game of Dixit using pictures of our friends who were recently engaged as the cards.
Inevitably, we compare ourselves to other sites and reviewers, quick to notice who gets what game review out first, or who was offered a review copy when we weren’t. It’s in those moments I’m reminded of what Ecclesiastes 4:4 says: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Hobbies are great, but when pursued for the wrong reasons, they can become sin.
When I began this article, I looked up verses about contentment. Surprisingly, those weren’t what I had in mind. It’s not simply that I am merely content to revisit older games with friends instead of chasing “The Next Big Things.” It’s that I thrive in those moments, where all players are excitedly invested in what they know and understand, and can spend the time focusing on friendships and laughter instead of new rules and frustrating moments of misunderstood concepts.
Don’t get me wrong—I love reviewing games and you will continue to see us Tabletop writers produce reviews frequently. Every year, there’s 5-10 excellent games that make it worth all the merely “okay” games we wade through. But next time I make plans to game with friends, I’m looking forward to seeing what they want to play.

Derek Thompson

I've been a board game reviewer since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.

1 Comment

  1. Stephan Van Der Merwe on February 7, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Hi Derek,
    Thanx for this, I enjoyed reading it. So true on many levels. I also have to constantly reign myself in to enjoy the many splendid games I have in stead of chasing the next big (windy :)) thing. I also agree that playing the ‘old’ games are so much more fun to my family and friends who don’t have to be rules lawyered the entire time.

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