Vive le difference- a sommelier showdown and open challenge
I not only agree that the Spiel forum can exist as its own entity rather than being absorbed by bigger fish, as you've occasionally mentioned on the show, but hope to see even more distinct voices emerging. I'll spare you what irritates me about some of those big fish- it's quite a list. I'm still itching to write that more acerbic piece somewhere, if only to find out whether I'm alone in my feelings about a few things, but Stephen and Dave's living room isn't the place to spray venom all over the padded walls. In editing this defanged version, though, I did filter out one of the many reasons I steer curious players here first (and increasingly away from some other places entirely, but again, I'm trying to play nice today.) The distinction for me is that while many of the fish seem to share the assumption- and at times insistence- that we, the game players of the world, all come from essentially the same experience. The Spiel seems to celebrate that we're all different in our own strange ways and is much more interesting and sophisticated for it.
According to R.C. Bell, only two human cultures throughout history left no evidence of table games. In contrast, the current stereotype of the "gamer" only began to calcify about three decades ago. The word "nongamer" is even younger and I'm still not sure I buy the idea; it's one of several buzzwords that eventually began to put my teeth on edge. "Gateway game" runs a close second because, from my experience, the barrier to recruiting new players hasn't been complexity, but the willingness of my audience to go with the experience. If I've lost willing players, it's either been a problem with the game itself or my lack of preparation for teaching it. If, on the other hand, my companions were reluctant if not flatly unwilling to play the particular game at hand, I've found myself, as the old saw has it, "teaching a pig to sing." (It wastes your time and annoys the pig.)
Take your sommelier list of good games with supposedly off-putting themes. To many of my friends, any of those would be more attractive than Descent, which was highlighted elsewhere in that episode. They hear "elves, orcs and wizards" and squirm uncomfortably behind strained smiles and patient but glazing eyes. Power Grid on the other hand attractively deals with a subject they all immediately understand, with a subtle environmental subtext to boot. (It might help that with its auctions, paper money and little wooden houses, it reminds some players of a familiar item frequently blamed in some cloistered quarters for turning people off boardgames forever, yet praised on Amazon with an 4.5 average rating out of a possible 5. From 127 reviews. 95 of which give it a 5. Like I said, we're all different.) Personally, I'm a bit of a tramp- it's rare that I meet a game I hate. (When I do, though, man it's grueling. "Chez Goth" staggers to mind, along with its many cousins. "Goth rave", by the way, is an oxymoron as anyone who ever really hung with either crowd could tell you.)
When I caught myself describing you to a friend as "the Siskel and Ebert of games," however, I realized that you two don't disagree as often as that. (Maybe more the Sifl and Olly of games?) But we are all different- right? Your challenge then is for each of you to secretly select a list of 5 games that you honestly enjoy playing but which you suspect will send the other bolting from the table. For a change, you'll each be hoping to hear "thumbs down". I hesitate to sow such dissent, but I think it'd be fun to hear those feathers fly and I'm curious about how your individual tastes will manifest. So here's how I'll make it a win/win scenario. If you fail, you learn that you can happily bring a new game to the table. For each time one of you successfully makes the other cringe, I'll donate 2.50 to the Spiel Foundation for games to the underprivileged. (If Mr. Weaver offered a fiver each for one sommelier, I figure that's fair for two.)
Sommelier Kombat! It has begun!