Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Becoming "Polygamerous": The Dangers of Game Specialization

Fresh Coast Gaming:  Polygamerous Since 2011

One of the things that I appreciate the most about my brothers in Fresh Coast Gaming is who we are OUTSIDE the realm of our hobby.
We are all well educated professionals in our 30's (mostly) who are, especially by a wargamer's standard, socially well adjusted.  We all have jobs that put us in contact with the general public on a very consistent basis and, if we didn't let you know it, you would never mistake us for a typical "gamer".  When we get together, everyone speaks very clearly, displays a level of maturity in public one would expect from adults, and keeps offending body odor to a minimum.  Suffice it to say, these are guys anyone would be glad to call friends.

One additional thing to note about our group is that we all have incredibly wide interests that have nothing to do with our little plastic dudesmen.  Muggins is a member of a Civil War reenactment company that frequently does displays in the summer.  Maelstorm is an Iron-man Triathlete.  Dustin is OBSESSED with pinball machines.  I have been in and out of rock bands since high school.  The list goes on.

Muggins: tallest rebel in Texas!

Don't tell Maelstorm that he's one of the oldest members of FCG: He can definitely run you down!

My band playing an anniversary party in 2011.

We have a fairly diverse group of guys for whom gaming is a central connection.  However, none of us would be able to limit ourselves to being identified solely as a "Wargamer".  We wouldn't consider ourselves "specialized", as it were.  This brings me to the point of this article; if we don't limit ourselves to merely one type of activity in our complete lives, why would we limit ourselves to a single game system within our hobby?

If we were to draft a FCG Constitution, the first three amendments to it would read something like this:

1. Don't be a douche.  Fairly self explanatory, but a great topic for another article.
2. Play It Painted.  Again, another topic for another time.
3. Play More Games!

I know I'm ripping off Wil Wheaton with that one, but I don't think he'll mind.  Within our group, there are several reasons we enthusiastically embrace this idea.

1. Games are fun!  Simply stated, the more you play, the more fun you can have.  This seems like a no brainer, but you can't imagine how many people miss the point here.  Games should be fun for EVERYONE playing them, not just the winners.

2. Some games are better for some people.  It could be the aesthetics of the models, the nature or subject matter of the game, its availability, or the local meta.  Everyone has games they like more than others.  Warma/Hordes tends to favor the "go for the throat" mentality where Infinity players are much more subtle.  The stylistic differences between Victorian era Steam-Punk and an Anime inspired future also tend to attract different crowds.

3. Painting the same thing over and over again gets boring!  It is a great idea to refresh your palate with some different colors or a completely different line of models.  If I had to paint nothing but powered armor all day, I'd hate doing it.  Switching back and forth from my Tohaa to Oscar's Khador gave me a HUGE pick-up at a time when painting was the LAST thing I wanted or had time to do.  Finishing my Shaltari got me inspired to clean my desk off and get back to a regular rhythm with my painting.

4. PLAYING the same thing over and over again gets boring!  There are only so many times I want to debate the value of a Wraithknight vs an Imperial Knight before I am done.  Switching from my Eldar to my Space Marines is one thing, but sprinkling in a game of Infinity or Warmachine keeps me from getting "gamer burnout".  Learning to play Dropzone Commander is tops on my gamer resolution list for 2015.

5. You can actually LEARN something from playing other games!  Every game has something to offer the hobby.  Warhammer Fantasy teaches you the value of maneuvering and positioning.  Infinity and WMH make you think about each move carefully before executing your plan.  40k and the current WMH Steamroller format place a high value on objectives.  They all make you think critically and help develop problem solving skills at a very high level, part of the reason I believe in teaching wargaming to kids (yet another future blog post!).

6. You can learn something from other gamers!  By opening yourself up to multiple games, you have an opportunity to meet new people.  Those people might eventually take an interest in YOUR game and join your circle as well.  Game clubs can expand exponentially this way.

Mike's weekly order from Gamers Sanctuary.

Noted orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, has often said one of the biggest issues facing young athletes is over specialization in a single sport.  Since 2000, he has seen a dramatic increase in cases of overuse in young athletes, especially pitchers in baseball.  The rise in "Tommy John Surgery" among pitchers in their teens and twenties is disturbing.  However, it is easily preventable if players simply take time off from their sport, three to four months after their respective sport season is finished.  He recommends that athletes avoid playing a single sport year-round and instead develop their athleticism by engaging in MULTIPLE SPORTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR!  This will help them develop their all-around athletic ability and prevent them from getting over-used and injured playing the sport they love.  Sound familiar?

"I think the new Psychic Phase will stress gamers dice-rolling skills too much."

The similarities between being a multi-sport athlete and a "Polygamerous" gamer are evident.  Having several games in a regular rotation can develop someone into a more well-rounded gamer and keep them from selling off their Menoth army in a fit of frustration.  It keeps you mentally fresh, enhances your painting ability, and allows you to interact with a wider social group.  THAT, more than anything else, is what it is all about.  Wargaming is a SOCIAL activity; the more people you can get involved in your gaming experience, the more enjoyable YOUR hobby can become!


  1. Excellent article, and completely agree, I try to play a good variety of games and always willing to try something new - there's a handful of games I like to play regularly rather than just one or two