I was thinking about the different sorts of gaming that I do and their costs.
I have three measurements in mind: $$’s; physical time; mental commitment.
$$’s is obviously the dollar dollar bills to play a game. Physical time and mental commitment are two facets of the time commitment of gaming – physical time includes things like the time spent playing (I know, shocking), actively working on something (writing up adventures, actively researching, etc.) and other logistics like traveling to gaming events, while mental commitment is time spent thinking, planning, passively researching. Obviously, different people pump different amounts into these categories depending upon their interests, income, free time, and whatever.
So, it’s more of a personal measurement. But, there’s a reason I’ve been thinking about this.
I do three types of gaming on a regular basis – boardgames, CCGs, RPGs. Based on what I write about in this blog, it should be obvious that I care much less about boardgames. But, the hobby gaming industry doesn’t. While the CCG market has been in various states of oversaturation for the 21st Century and where the RPG industry looks to be heading to primarily electronic downloads, .pdfs currently but maybe something else in the future, boardgames look to be chugging along, gaining game store space at the expense of the other two.
Boardgames are relatively inexpensive. Sure, $40 or $50 for a game doesn’t enthrall me, but most of the boardgamers I know, including myself, play the same game many, many times. And, that investment is really shared across all of the players even if, in practice, one person does most of the buying. Boardgames are also low on the play time metric. There are the ridiculous Axis and Allies style boardgames and whatnot, but I see the industry being driven by 1-2 hour games.
But, what really sets apart boardgaming is the mental commitment. I’ve approached it from the other direction, explaining how I so much vastly preferred RPGs and CCGs to boardgames because you can bring your personality into the game, because you aren’t limited in your style of play. I’ve obsessed over how to play a boardgame optimally in the past, it’s the nature of my personality to analyze things to death. But, it wouldn’t take long to lose interest since there’s only so much a boardgame can offer in terms of variety of play.
Boardgames are “inside the box”. Admittedly, we make up house rules for boardgames that we find flawed in some way for our level of play, but the game lives in its box. You learn the rules, you learn the strategies, you can play it whenever you feel like playing or not. For all that I find this limiting – I rarely write about boardgaming even though I do it weekly, as a gaming activity, it’s just straightforward, not time-consuming, and not much of an investment unless you buy a bunch of games out of boredom.
In my mind, the ultimate form of competitive gaming because of essentially infinite variety that enables someone to bring their strategic style into the game.
The costs, though, are vast. It’s possible to not sink money into CCGs, but I don’t find it ever to be the case. There are tricks to game the system to keep costs down. A strong Magic player can, for example, draft and sell off the cards drafted, buy for a particular tournament and sell afterwards, borrow for events. But, I find that everyone who plays CCGs regularly puts in a good amount of money relative to what they could put in just to play.
Physical time varies. But, those who don’t spend much time playing probably aren’t getting their money’s worth out of the game. Same goes for mental commitment. I consider CCGs to be vast investments, not so much of money, but of thought. Deck construction from inception to sleeving and shuffling should be a time-intensive activity. It’s what CCGs are good for – thinking about how to do things the way you want to achieve whatever goals you may have. The sleeving part, of course, is just tedious.
Pretty much what got me to thinking so much about this topic at this moment was hearing someone yet again complain about lack of time to build decks. It’s why I’m stressing the difference between physical time, which can be long, very long when you are a V:TES player, versus mental commitment. I don’t think a lot of people realize that the biggest investment in CCGs should be mental commitment. If that’s not the sort of thing that floats your boat, maybe it isn’t the type of gaming you are best suited for.
It’s easy to say that RPGs have much less of a financial investment, unless you are more into collecting every book for some genre/system than you are just having the necessary tools to play with, and have an even greater time commitment in comparison to CCGing.
But, is that true?
I seem to play a lot of 3-4 hour sessions of RPGs when you factor out time spent eating, waiting for people to show up, and the like. Factor in that I play CCGs about weekly and each of my RPG campaigns more like monthly and that V:TES sessions tend to involve multiple 2 hour games and I spend far more time playing CCGs.
Well, okay, physical time seems more a matter of what you play; I actually don’t find that a lot of gamers play a balance of CCGs and RPGs, so for most, their schedules should be taken up by whichever they predominantly play. But, what about mental commitment? Certainly, for the GM where adventures aren’t written for you (as they are in Heroes of Rokugan), there’s no mental commitment quite like running a RPG campaign. Of course, there’s also no requirement to run a campaign – one-shots are possible. But, I find the standard to be campaigning. I know that nothing feels like more work to me than trying to run a campaign. As a player, it can be quite different. It depends upon the engagement level. Some campaigns, I’m hardly engaged at all to where I don’t really do anything outside of when we play. In other cases, I spend much more time outside of actual play with discussions with the GM, with works of fiction, etc.
I’m quite sure I put a lot more mental commitment into CCGing just because there’s a challenge to knowing as much as one can about a CCG. With RPGs, I do like being engaged and I do find doing research interesting, but I don’t need to know everything like I do with CCGs. For one thing, it isn’t possible to know everything, even in a game based off of the real world, nevermind games where you just make stuff up.
I pretty much got to the point in the CCG section. Hobby gaming is costly. I don’t consider it monetarily costly in the grand scheme of things – someone who goes to a movie every week certainly spends far more than I do on gaming. Nor does it need to be much of a physical time commitment. But, I’m surprised by how little mental commitment people seem to think gaming, in particular CCGing, entails. For all that it acts as a cost to gaming, in my view, the thinking about gaming part of gaming is the best value gaming offers.