Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Why do we buy when we know we won't play?

I was going to put up my update on the Essen 2011 project, but that was before reading The Promise of Play by Matt Thrower at Fortress Ameritrash, who puts the finger on the sore spot: we gamers keep buying even if we know the chances of the game actually getting played are slim. Maybe this post helps explaining why we get into conundrums like project Essen 2011 at all.

I'm not sure I agree that there's a collecting instinct behind this urge to buy. I think it rather connects to the idea of the anti-library, first coined by Umberto Eco, and brought to my attention by my friend and librarian Nick. The anti-library is all the unread books on your shelves, the collection of knowledge or experience that we still aspire to.

It is as much the anticipation as the real urge to know. A world of possibilities opening up as you stroke the pages, browse through the table of contents and scan the tables and illustrations.

It easily translates to the unpainted miniatures and the unplayed games in your closets. In our minds they are already marching across the fields towards the enemy and our friends are already crouched over the board after a long night's gaming, watching as the dice slow down to reveal the verdict of fate.

The purchase is part of an illusionary experience. Probably even better than the real thing, because the figures never turn out as beautiful as we imagine, nor do we add as many laurels to our triumphant parade.

So, in the knowledge of the emptiness and hopelessness of our endeavour, we pursue regardless.

Always hoping, always dreaming.


  1. Jur, the word is Shinybloodyitus, we are all like a kid in a sweetshop, I want that one, and that one, and that one and...........

  2. LOL, that's also part of the problem. But not all games are shiny, and yet... If it were just eyecandy, we'd not be in this deep.

    What I notice sometimes that I like the guy who makes it or sells it and buy just to do him a favour. This is why small expansions are so difficult for me resist. Big box games I can deal with much better.

    Conventions and going to the FLGS are probably worse than just online shopping, because you get to look him in the eye and chat.

  3. I wonder how many people are buying eBooks to savour?

    From what I have read, the eBook retailers are noticing how people read. And they notice that people buy as they read because they know they can always get a book via a WiFi link. So I wonder if digital books will reduce the to-read list or the anti-library.

    Plus you will never have the satisfaction of gloating over your eBooks on the shelf.

    Now with games you do get that guilty pleasure, opening the box, stroking the pieces, putting them out and the box sits prettily on your shelves.

  4. Do you mean to say e-reading is more explorative and driven by the last book readd, rather than based on a search of books on the topic?

  5. Super post, Jur! I love the idea of an anti-collection of figures. Unplayed games and figures have given me a lot of pleasure over the years in that regard, although I do like at least trying to get them finished!


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