Despite all the benefits of solitaire gaming, it’s certainly not without its problems. Problems that are unique to most solo gamers and especially those of us for which gaming alone is nearly 100% of the experience. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint in any way, shape, or form. Just an observation.
Inspired by this discussion on BGG, “Fighting the funk“, I decided to proceed with this post that I’d been “cooking” for some time.
First off, with respect the to the title. Gaming is social, games need not be. A lot of people malign the solo gamer because for them, games are “a social activity.” But they have this wrong. Gaming is the social activity, playing the actual game doesn’t have to be. It can be and certainly is for some party-type games that require a large number of people to even be played. But the game is just the catalyst to bring people together. The social interaction is the thing being sought after.
For the solo gamer, the social interaction is still there. We use BGG and other sites and social media platforms to establish a connection with other people, who, like us, normally play alone. This isn’t in most cases some pathetic “40 year old guy still living in his parent’s basement” stereotypical lifeline to humanity. It’s just a venue to share and discuss. Through forums, guilds, Twitter, Reddit and more, we can “test for echo” and see that there are other people out there with the same aligned interests. We can share our plays, our wins, our losses, our questions, our opinions. And let’s face it, for the most part all gamers use this same avenue for discussion. Game night is for playing not a Roman forum.
So while we will not or cannot get together with other people to play a game… most of the time it’s by choice or lifestyle situation.
And that’s fine.
But again, there are still problems that non-Solo gamers don’t have.
Sharing. To maintain that connection, we probably share a little more than others online. BGG monthly Solitaire Games on Your Table Geeklist where many share what they are currently playing along with mini reviews and results. It’s a dangerous list to follow as it makes you want to acquire more games.
Acquiring more games. In a regular game group, only one member needs to own a game. Jane buys a copy of this one, Dick buys a copy of that one, Spot runs away with the dice, etc… When together they can share their copies and experience the game. If a solo player wants to play it, they have to buy a copy (unless you live in one of those rare places you can borrow a game). Take note game publishers. You sell more copies with a solo game, just by improving the ratio of games to buyers. But we don’t stop at games designed to be played solo. We will play two player games (mainly wargames in this regard) and play both sides. We’ll also play co-op games, taking on multiple roles. And then unsated as we are, we seek out: solo variants (dum dum dah!) of which there are many great ones that keep to the spirit of the core game and some that take the components and make a whole new game — is Patience Solitaire REALLY a variant of Poker???
Regardless, this can lead to an overwhelming collection of games. And I literally mean overwhelming. Doesn’t matter the number of games, it can be small or large. But if it’s more than you can possibly hope to play in a reasonable amount of time, it can be a problem. Studies have been done that show too many choices lead to difficulty making decisions (Survey Choices – How Much is Too Much?). We see it in many games with analysis paralysis. Fewer choices make the decision process easier and less guilt ridden.
Guilt. Why do I own so many games? I’ll never play them all enough. I’m currently playing a great game called Stonewall’s Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain and I’m just about finished the last turn. It’s a chit-pull game, so while I am playing both sides, it’s not hard to manage as a solo player (Designers take note: Chit pulls are AWESOME). However, it’s going on two weeks now on my table. Three weekends. It’s fun, but as I’m surrounded by the many other games I want to play/try. I feel this pressure to finish this one, box it up, and get to something else. And then I feel I’m betraying the current experience. But my time is limited and I want to give proper attention to all the other stuff I like too.
And then I get so frustrated. Insert head explosion here.
Fortunately for the “Funk” post above, I realize it’s not just me. And it’s cyclical in nature. Again the social aspect of solitaire gaming has paid off.
I’m not alone.
Neither are you.
The end result of all this though, for me, is going to be a dedicated attempt to not acquire anything new (or used, close THAT loophole!) for awhile. Some preorders are still on the way, so it’s not like I won’t be getting anything “new” per se. But really, when is enough enough?