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Too many games is like not enough; Why continue making games?

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

This might be more currently applicables to Video Games than board games, but we could eventually reach the same situation in board games.

I wrote another thread on VGG about the fact that there are too many video games and platforms to handle them. As adults we get less time to play and games becomes longer with open world games. Which means we can play even less games, thus finding the right game to play is more important, but trying to find the best game to play consume all the time I have to play games. Indie game development and kickstarter also multiplied the amount of games available.

In board games, it is less a issue because there is a bit less games, there is only 1 platform (the table), and when playing in game groups, you play the games that people brought to the session, so you have an artificial restriction of choice.

Now besides the player being overwhelmed and not having proper tool to find his information, what I want to explore is the designer aspect of this information overflow.

If there are so many games out there, why should we continue designing games? By making games, we are simply flodding even more the market making it more difficult for the user. Since the user cannot play everything, by releasing a game, it reduce the number of copies that other games will be sold. So by NOT designing games, are we granting players a favor?

Now you might say that some rich guys could actually buy multiple games, but there is still one resources that is limited to everybody which is TIME. When I buy games, I do not only check if I have the money to buy it, but also if I have the time to play it. Unless you live in another dimension or are a wizard, we all have a restriction of time.

Of course, you'll say that there are various genres and that not all games are competing with each other. But the information overflow makes it harder for a game to reach it's proper target audiance. It has been proven that when people search, they look at the first 3 results only. The odds that our game ends up in the 3 first results is really thin.

Another aspect to reduce the game overflow is quality control, either done explicitly by the platform (like nintendo does it) or either democratically, like kickstarter and Steam Greenlight does it. The explicit method could be discriminating, while the democratic method encourage new ideas and creativity and demand a certain approval. But even then, if a huge load of games get kickstarted, people will still have a choice to make and we end up with the information overflow again.

It's not a matter of being able to make money out if it, it's a matter of making games being played. If I put years of work on a game, I would like some people in the world to actually enjoy playing my game. It's the same thing for anything else: Painting, music, movies, etc. If I craft something to be seen and used by others, I want others to actually see and use it.

There are things you could do for yourself, like a painting on your wall. If nobody see it, it's not bad because you designed it for your wall. But board games, are designed to be shared with other. If you do not have a chance to share it with others, then it's pointless to design it in the first place. Because the primary objective of games, which is giving fun to others, is not fullfilled.

Lately, I explored the possibility of making single player board games. Even if like a wall painting, I could be the target of the works. Once you have playtested the game intensively, you get much less fun for playing the game. Again, you want to share your experience with others even for a single player game. So sharing is innevitable.

I originally wanted to design games, because when I played games, I thought that I could do better. But with the information overflow, it dows not really matter if the game is good or bad since people might not play it again after all. There are so many games out there that playing each of them only once (cult of the new) is enough to satisfy their needs.

So do you have good reasons to design games and this society of information overflow that already has too many games?

Joined: 05/11/2012
Good question

I am currently designing a WW2 solitaire wargame, and have a contract with a game company. This is my first official game to be published.

I started out similar to you in that one of the games I bought was interesting, but didn't explore areas about the topic I wanted, so I designed several variants and posted them on BGG.

Like you, I am hoping my game get played, but I also enjoy the process of learning about the history behind the game, and then building a game that I would like to play. Although, I agree that I probably won't be too interested in playing it after it gets published due to all of the playtesting.

There are a lot of wargames out there, but I have particular interests in what type of games I want to play (mostly solitaire), so I focus on those. So I don't think having too much is a bad thing. Although, as you probably know, when designing a game there isn't much time to actually play other games. So I'm looking forward to getting it done and digging into my collection again.

Good post. Interesting topic.


Joined: 11/19/2012
Nobody in their right mind

Nobody in their right mind makes games. I'm telling you this as someone who has worked professionally on video games, a board game, and plenty of free games.

There is no good reason to do it. The money is lousy, the work is hard and many of your customers are heartless and don't appreciate that making games is actually working.
Last I knew in the video game industry the average career was only 5 years before burn out and leaving it.

Those of us that still make games do it because its part of who we are. Odds are, I'll never make it big and many of my games will continue to go unnoticed. The rare compliment is a fantastic feeling, but I'm used to being invisible by now.

This is who I am and this is what I do. There is no other reason that drives me.

Joined: 06/14/2014
I have heard this said in a

I have heard this said in a number of creative fields over the years, "Why design more typefaces?", "Why design a new chair?", "Why write more books?" and so on and so forth. I never understand it I'm afraid.

I can understand the dismay of a designer faced with the possibility that their creative output may never reach its intended market, and maybe I'm too much of a solipsist to really empathize with the feeling, but in my mind the creation of culture (which is what board games are essentially) is worthy in and of itself. I tend towards the view that the high tide lifts all boats, and that as more board games are designed, better board games will be designed, and so the commons and the user will benefit. Along the way a few boats with holes in may find themselves submerged, but that is no great shame. If we could reach a situation where the proliferation of new and better games sinks the popular monstrosities that are monopoly and cluedo then I for one would be happy.

I struggle with this argument, I do sympathize, but I can't ever bring myself to think "That's enough, creative field x is full", to do so seems immoral to me on some level. If I had to give you a good reason to design more games I would say to do it because you enjoy it, and to stop worrying whether or not it ever reached a larger market, but that's a pretty facile argument in itself (and is probably what distinguishes me as a hobbyist rather than a professional). I think a better reason is to do it because all culture dates. Eventually all of the games that are played today will disappear, it may happen sooner or later for each game, but culture dies off, and we need new culture to replace it.

You may think we have too much output at the moment, but all I see is better and better output reaching the market, board game design especially has never been more interesting and exciting, it has never made such rapid strides forward and it has never told more involving stories than it does today. I personally think this is due to precisely the thing you're concerned about.

schattentanz's picture
Joined: 02/18/2014
Two very good arguments

Two very good arguments in here:

"I do it, because that's who I am" - I agree with this one.
I don't do it for the Money - I'm a crafter. I feel good, when I craft things. If I can craft things, others enjoy: even better.

The other argument has been "development", and I agree with that one as well. Imagine a stone age man. For him there is no need to develop a device to create a camp fire. He could do it. He has got the tools as well as an idea. Does he NEED to do it? No. There are crunchy nutritious insects, fruits and leaves to eat. Flesh can be eaten raw (though it might taste strange). So basically there is no need.
Yet he does it anyway. Simply because he can. And then he shows and teaches the others of his clan to use his device, so the knowledge can be passed on.
Even today we are still using devices to light campfire. Amazing, isn't it? Far more advanced, but that's the way it works. Our boardgames we create today are our legacy for the future, so others can improve upon them.
Maybe you noticed that one guy around here claiming he has created the perfect game. I doubt he has. But someday some guy eventually will.
Of that I'm sure.

Kind regards,

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Quote: Although, I agree that

Although, I agree that I probably won't be too interested in playing it after it gets published due to all of the playtesting.

I often heard that people said that you should design games for yourself, or enjoy creating games. When I made the star craft solitaire variant, I think I actually enjoyed more myself in the process because I was playing the game while designing, but only needed to find a way to give myself challenge to play alone. I did not need to design the whole game

Still, if I were to develop a solitaire game from scratch, even if the final experience will be the same in sol otesting since it's a solitaire game, having to do a lot of mechanic shopping and playtesting will make sure that in the end, you'll be burned and have little interest to play the game. Because you will have played too much, so the only pleasure left is sharing which you cannot do.

When I started designing the Wizardry Legacy video game remake 10 years ago, I occasionally got and e-mail each 1-3 month saying that the project looks cool. With some encouragement and suggestions. It was not much, but it was enough to tell me that people appreciated what I did.

2 years ago, when I reopened the project to finish it once and for all, I think I got like 1 or 2 message. So maybe that people who like those kind of games were getting scarcer. But I think the real reason is why bother about an indie game in development when there are so many other working and complete games out there.

I think a better reason is to do it because all culture dates. Eventually all of the games that are played today will disappear, it may happen sooner or later for each game, but culture dies off, and we need new culture to replace it.

Still, not all games dies, I can really not see settlers of catan disappear in the next 10 years, some games will get less popular and disappear, but a lot stay. I still play video games that were some times released 20 years ago (currently playing ogre battle 64). So yes there is need for replacement and evolution while a part of the culture remains, but I think the amount of games currently released exceed what needs to be replaced.

So that in the end, those games will die, never get noticed and not have a chance to have the desired effect of making the "Science" evolve. A metaphor could be that planting trees to replace those we cuts/died is a good thing. If you plant trees too close to each other, they will lack of space for breath and all die. So your forest is not replace in the end.

Joined: 06/14/2014
Games like Settlers are

Games like Settlers are outliers in this equation, and ok, you may not see it disappearing in 10 years, but what about 20, 50, or 100 years... To follow your metaphor, you could think of settlers as a venerable old redwood at the centre of a forest of saplings. However, in your metaphor the forest wouldn't die; as with all things in nature the weaker specimens would get muscled out by the stronger. The system itself would find a balance.

It's debatable whether this happens with the wider economic market, some say it does, some say it doesn't, but I think we can see it happening with the board game design market at the moment. A huge number of games are developed just to the stage of viability, only to find that there's no space for them to occupy. Stronger games get picked up in greater numbers, weaker games do not. However, the market is currently growing, this means that the number of games that do make it can grow as well. This surely is a good thing for us?

Part of the foundation of the original question was that no one person could find the time or money to play all of the games that are currently being produced. I feel that this is a bit of a fallacy; the market doesn't consist of just one person, so our concern as designers should not be that our metaphorical User (with a capital U) gets to play everything, but instead that the many hundreds of thousands of people that do play board games each have something exciting to play.

As good as any individual game might be, it can still get stale with repetition. This is the reason we don't read the same half-a-dozen books again and again throughout our lives. Within our larger forest of the board game market we have little micro-ecologies in gaming groups, where one game will be flavour of the month and then be replaced by another. This is a faster sort of evolution, one that outpaces the market's ability to keep up. It's this sort of ecology that the small scale indie designer is perfect to supply.

I'm afraid I can't speak much to the situation in video-gaming, I tend not to play them anymore, so my knowledge is a little out of date. What I always found though, was that video games were a closer match to films and novels. A few sandbox games and multiplayers bare up to repeat play, but certainly a lot of the video game market seems more geared to story telling, and once the story has been told, the game has sort of played itself out. That's my personal view, and I understand it's probably not one shared by the majority of players, but for me video-games are more ephemeral, more disposable, so a higher turnover and less longevity is to be expected.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
The consumer is spoiled at

The consumer is spoiled at this point. They want everything, but notching is good.

So the only reason for me to design games is: to play them myself. Period.

Other people loose interest after a while. Since there is no money in it for me, why even bother bothering them?

Experimental Designs
Experimental Designs's picture
Joined: 04/20/2013
X3M wrote:The consumer is

X3M wrote:
The consumer is spoiled at this point. They want everything, but notching is good.

So the only reason for me to design games is: to play them myself. Period.

Other people loose interest after a while. Since there is no money in it for me, why even bother bothering them?

On the contrary the consumer is overwhelmed with choices but lack in variety. Instead of flooding the market with mediocrity, perhaps it helps to dedicate the time and resources on quality versus quantity. Just like several years ago the video game market was flooded with WWII games ranging from FPS and RTS. Eventually everyone was "oh-hum, another WWII game..." which flooded that market with so much mediocrity it took away from titles that actually did try to shine and most were sadly overshadowed.

pdyxs's picture
Joined: 02/06/2014
I'm in both the video game

I'm in both the video game and board game camps at the moment, and yeah, the sheer amount of stuff is a bit overwhelming.

I think that in the end, I'm doing it because a) I enjoy it; and b) I think I can contribute.

The second one is the one that actually matters here - there's other things I enjoy doing and making, so why games?

Games are about interaction, and as a field there's still vast quantities of unexplored territory. Sure, there's a lot of people in the space, but I've also found that a lot of people (even myself) make things that are only small departures from what we've seen before. The excitement for me is in finding new territory, and then finding ways to make it accessible and attractive to an audience.

The other thing to note that the way the internet works, it's true that it's super difficult to get a mega-hit. But it's also much easier to create a small community who strongly relate to your specific ideas - you can actually, more than any other time, make things for yourself. You won't get mega-rich doing that, but if you do it right, you can definitely carve out a living for yourself.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Perhaps you are right. When

Perhaps you are right. When minecraft came out, it was original and everyone started playing that game, despite the lower graphics.

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009

My favorite game is the game of designing games. Why does anyone play games, it's a "waste of time". Because they want to. Same for me with design.

I design games for other people, not myself. I don't play the published versions of my games (though I'll play a new edition solo 20+ times, as for the third edition of Britannia so far).

And I do make some money, but it was never my principle occupation. I make more now with my online classes about game design ( than I do from game design itself.

Yes, the market is oversaturated and it will only get worse. Yes, it's hard to get lots of people to play your game. Yes, you just plain have to get lucky, sometimes. On the other hand, don't you enjoy watching people play your prototype, and having fun doing it?

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