About two months ago I tried to sum up the past year of tabletop gaming during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
It was mainly bullshit.
Bullshit in the sense that I was trying to maintain a sense of normality, a façade of “everything’s ok” here at the DWP–when in fact neither is true. Here is a more honest take on the state of things:
From the very beginning in 2014, we’ve been trying to carve out a niche in tabletop that wasn’t just about the latest releases. Sure, we liked to give our takes on new releases, but we also wanted to write about other things: problematic themes, boardgames and mental health, the industry response to BLM, and colonialism in boardgames. There aren’t a lot of other sites that tackle these subjects; I’m proud we’ve tried. I’m proud to be associated with these writers.
As a rule we also avoid doing Kickstarter previews, which have become the bread-and-butter of much tabletop content creation–and frankly, we aren’t interested in doing that. There are plenty others who are…but that whole conversation on the state of boardgame “journalism” is for another day.
In terms of my own writing, when I finished what I optimistically called Season One of the Game Changers podcast, I said I needed some time to recharge. And though I have continued to think about the underpinnings of tabletop gaming (and write about it in February and March) and I have some ideas about how to continue in Some future Season Two, I find myself less and less interested in churning out Cult-of-the-New reviews. Frankly, with some precious exceptions, not many games coming out these days intrigue or excite me. Many seem like joyless exercises in mechanic-stacking (looking at you Bonfire), even when the bits are gorgeous (Ruins of Arnak).
But then a game like The Initiative comes along to restore my faith that there are indeed designers out there who are interested in staking out new territory in terms of the stories games can tell and how to tell them. But I’m still only a third of the way through the campaign (playing solo of course, because COVID) and I want to wait til I finish it to write it up.
All of my personal ennui and angst would be fine if we had other articles to post in their stead. But article submissions have dried up. Mostly that’s because, without ftf gaming, people are just not playing nearly as much, nor can they afford to buy as many new games. And we just don’t have the high profile to get review copies from big publishers–although we are lucky to have great partnerships with Ravensburger and Pandasaurus (which is why, if you’ve noticed, many of our writeups over the last few months have been their games).
And in the end we’re all just so effing tired. And recruiting new writers in an age of lockdowns and shelter-in-place is practically impossible–especially trying to live up to our promise last year to increase the diversity of voices in our writers. Trying to spark relationships digitally feels forced, impersonal, and worst of all, tokenistic.
So over the last few months things have basically evolved to where me and Jon-Paul D. are doing 90% of the writing–I don’t know how he has the energy, especially with two young’uns to look after. Plus he has his own show to run with Little Big Thumbs. He’s a bloody Energizer Rabbit, JP is, God bless’im.
All of which is to say that this week there’s simply nothing in the pipeline, and I can’t bear the thought of squeezing off a turd of a review or listicle just to fill the space. So I’m just going to make lemonade out of lemons and call this week a Reading Week or late Spring Break or whatever and we’ll see how things are next week.
I’ll leave you with one thought that’s been rattling around in my head for the last day or so. Maybe next week I’ll have the energy to elaborate on it. “Like to hear it? Here it goes:”
A game is a machine that produces stories that end with someone winning or losing.
Ciao for now.