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New York Times & Cranium

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nosissies
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Joined: 07/26/2008

Hey folks,
I'm not sure if this has been recorded here, but the New York Times had an interesting article recently covering conversations with the founders fo Cranium and Out of the box. Find the article here ... ( you may need to register to see it)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/magazine/28PHENOM.html

come back and discuss it... any thoughts on "shine" or "the soft win"?

peace,
Tom

HRPuffenstuf
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Joined: 12/31/1969
New York Times & Cranium

good article. Although they represent the biggie independents, it's still uplifting. I have Apples to Apples and find it hysterical. They might have a point on the soft win approach. To me a game should be fun meaning there should be laughter. Apples to apples suceeds on that one.

HR Puffenstuf

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
New York Times & Cranium

Huge caveat: I haven't played Cranium, and I haven't even read the rules, and I don't know all that much about it. Yet, something about it irritates me.

So now that that's out there, I can give my (obviously uninformed, and unfairly biased) opinion. Actually, there's one final caveat, and it's that I'm not that much of a party game player. I love Apples to Apples and a few other party games, but it's not the kind of game I actively seek to play.

The thing in this article that confirmed for me that Cranium was not going to be something I would like is the persistent practice of coining annoying jargon words like "Gnilleps" and then using them as if they were actual words. I have to tell you, if they used the word "gnilleps" even one more time than they did in the article, I was going to about lose it. I fully grant that I probably have a lousy sense of humor, but to me, insisting that players refer to "backwards spelling" as "gnilleps" isn't cute -- it's annoying. This is a word that would never, under any circumstances, leave my lips during the playing of the game. So in that sense, the article confirmed for me that my impression of Cranium as irritating was probably spot-on.

But let's move on to the point of actual interest here, the idea that "everyone gets to shine". I think that the article, as articles are wont to do, drew something of a false dilemma into which only Cranium could fit -- namely, the idea that competitive games are by definition combatitive, and so now we have Cranium to fill a void that these combatitive games have left. In my experience, nothing is further from the truth. I have gravitated to the German school of gaming not because I want to win, win, WIN!, but because it's fun to spend some time with some friends in a context in which I'm challenged to make interesting decisions. I try to win and I'm happy when I do, but for me, and for most of us, it's really all about the fun experience of exploring these interesting game systems. I recognize that the article was dealing more with the "traditional American school" of games, e.g. Monopoly, Risk, etc, and sure, Cranium is different from them, but then, Cranium is a party game. And this is a crucial point -- it's more appropriate to compare Cranium to something like Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit, and then you can say "hey, Cranium is different than these because it has multiple skills you must use". Sure, fair enough. But the idea of a "soft win" is silly for two reasons. First, because people who can't handle losing a game without their ego going into a tailspin probably aren't mature enough to handle playing games in the first place. And actually, there isn't a second reason.

Now, I'll grant that there's a certain audience that are abnormally competitive about games, and those, of course, are kids. But notice what the kids in the article, when questioned about the game, said: not "it's great that we all got to win" but rather, that "I got to win". It's not a "soft win" at all-- it's simply a larger set of winners. I don't think people need games like Cranium to let them feel ok about not winning, or to feel like "they, too, can be winners". Rather, I think they just need to play games with mature gamers; you quickly realize that to really enjoy playing games, you have to do your very best at the game, and you have to not really care whether you won or not when it's all over. That's a life lesson I think most of us learn pretty young -- it's just basic sportsmanship -- and certainly as gamers, I think we're all obligated to impart it to our kids.

I guess I just don't think that the article's portrayal of Cranium as a kinder, gentler game is really accurate -- any game can be a kind, gentle experience when played by mature people. And getting people to like your game on the grounds that "they can be winners, too" is a shallow sell. I like Puerto Rico, Apples to Apples, Scrabble, and any number of other games not because I'm good at them necessarily, but because the experience of playing them is enjoyable. I don't doubt that people enjoy Cranium, and my point is simply that that should be the reason people like the game, and that should be the one and only selling point -- because "it's fun to play", not because "hey, even if you stink at everything you do in your life, we've got a game that won't remind you about what a pathetic waste of human flesh you are -- yes, you, even you, World's Biggest Loser (TM) can win at Cranium!!!"

That said, it is good to see gaming getting some exposure in the NY Times. I wish Apples to Apples had gotten top billing in the article instead of Cranium, (or something like Carcassonne better still...) but it's still a good thing nonetheless.

-Jeff

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
Re: New York Times & Cranium

nosissies wrote:
Hey folks,
I'm not sure if this has been recorded here, but the New York Times had an interesting article recently covering conversations with the founders fo Cranium and Out of the box. Find the article here ... ( you may need to register to see it)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/magazine/28PHENOM.html

come back and discuss it... any thoughts on "shine" or "the soft win"?

peace,
Tom

Anyone care to cut and paste the article? I'd hate to have to register for a site I'll never visit again.

-Darke

Brykovian
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Joined: 07/21/2008
New York Times & Cranium

According to BugMeNot.com ...

User Name: ih8reges
Password: thatsright

It was still working as of a couple minutes ago ... ;)

-Bryk

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
New York Times & Cranium

I own Cranium and have played it. It’s low on my fun list. The idea of the soft win makes no sense in cranium because to really win in a game involves enjoying it. You may meet the games goal but you lose if you are not entertained getting there. This is of course a matter of opinion; my wife co-works who have played it thought it was great. As far as I am concerned craniums win is no less painful to the losers than any other game and since I don’t enjoy the game play much the only pleasure in it is the win. First it’s basically a race game where you have to perform a series of activities to advance. If your team sucks at sculpting things out of clay or humming a tune then you’re out of luck just as if you are not a good tactics you are not going to do well at chess. I suppose the idea is that the activities are so varied that any given person must be good at one of them so they can feel good about playing even if they don’t win. It seems that the only type of activity the left out was strategy.

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