Monday, October 19, 2020

Mechanics Roundup: Acquisition (Cards)

 I use action categories to help me plug in mechanisms around my core idea in order to flesh out a game and make it functional. Most often, I have idea for what players will do with components once they acquire them. It's the acquisition of resources that trips me up. Recently, while yet again testing different ways to acquire cards, I started a list of every way I could think of to acquire cards. Maybe it will help someone else as well. 

Card Acquisition

  • Drafting: 
    • pick-and-pass (ex: LRL; snake draft)
    • from a pool, any card is free (flushable, sometimes)
    • from a pool, cards slide down, place resources to skip a card
    • I Cut; You Choose (hidden information, sometimes)
    • Coloretto-style draw-or-draft
  • Market:
    • random pool (flushable, usually)
    • from a pool, cards slide down to get cheaper
    • complete information, all cards used
    • complete information, market grows as cards are unlocked
  • Personal player cards
    • personal deck (pairs with a market for deck building; reset mechanism, sometimes)
    • personal hand (reset mechanism, frequently)
  • Drawing off a shared deck
    • dealing a hand, all players get same number of cards (pairs with most things)
    • draw n cards blind, into hand or otherwise 
    • discard to draw
    • pay to draw
    • draw from discard pile
  • Auctions/bidding (see BGG for types)
  • Exchange between players
    • trading
    • negotiation/bribery
  • Fulfill requirements
    • turn in resources to get a card
    • spend cards to get a card
    • fail to fulfill requirements (ex: having cards is bad)
  • Take an action
    • action selection list ("take a card")
    • worker placement/rondel (put a pawn on a card space)
    • move token a number of spaces (land on a card space)
    • forego an action to take a card instead
  • Mancala-style set collection to claim cards
  • Defeat other players in a contest
    • trick-taking
    • rock, paper, scissors
    • other conflict resolution mechanisms
  • Inherit cards from eliminated players
  • Take that (steal a card from another player; included for completeness)
Common traits to pair with card acquisition
  • flushing 
  • blind/open
  • reset/ reclaim discards
  • following (take the same action at a lower power)
  • real-time
  • race to complete/ "be the first"
  • push your luck
  • simultaneous
  • variable costs
Obviously, I'm bound to be missing some. But I find having a list to go over when I'm stuck is helpful. 

            


Monday, September 21, 2020

Board Game Titles: A completely unscientific overview

 It seems that every board game designer is on a quest for the perfect board game title. Design forums are filled with daily polls and requests for what title sounds best. Some days it feels like a good title is the holy grail of game design. In this post, I want to take a look at some common title formations and some tips for better title writing. NB: I'm largely ignoring anything subtitle related. 

Coming in at the top of the list is the well-beloved Adjective Noun. Seen in examples like Space Base, Star Realms, and Spirit Island, Adjective Noun titles are pithy and work well in conjunction with alliteration and/or rhyme.  This is my go-to title formation. Sometimes you can get away with adding an adjective or adverb, like Great Western Trail or Too Many Bones, but don't get carried away. Simple is better. 

A close second is Noun Preposition Object. This formation is for when Adjective Noun sounds too clunky. Examples include Sheriff of Nottingham, Mansions of Madness, and A Feast for Odin. The most common subtype here is "Character of/from Place." Garphill Games regularly combines this category with the first category to get "Noun Preposition Adjective Noun," such as in Paladins of the West Kingdom (or Chaos in the Old World by Eric Lang).  A reverse of the Garphill subtype would be A Few Acres of Snow or This War of Mine. Either can be a catchy formation, but I'd keep it pithy unless you're Shem Phillips. 

A similar formation is Verb Preposition Object. Examples include Roll For It!, Race for the Galaxy, Roll to the Top! There aren't a ton of these outside of "Roll..." titles, so there's room for innovation here. But I'd be careful to keep it pithy and tied to gameplay. 

Then there is the Noun and Noun formation. Popularized by Dungeons and Dragons, examples also include Tigris & EuphratesAxis & Allies, and Wits & Wagers. Another great place for alliteration or rhyme. However, if you use this formation there is an expectation that the nouns will be closely tied to the gameplay. 

Now we enter into more dangerous territory. The first couple of categories fell under "hard to go wrong." The rest are "try at your own risk." And yes, the first half dozen that follow are single word titles, because getting the one perfect word to describe a game is hard and should not be attempted lightly. 

A common but tricky formation is the Idea-Noun. Examples include Photosynthesis, Wingspan, and Pandemic. These titles are processes or concepts that are difficult to illustrate (i.e. not a person, place, or thing). In some cases (Wingspan) the title may only be tangentially related to the core gameplay. Done well, these titles leap off the box cover and into your memory. Done poorly, you will likely have to add a lengthy subtitle just so players know what the game is about. (I'm looking at you, Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy.

While we're on nouns, let's blitz through (Real) Place, Person, and Thing. Anyone reading this could probably list off a dozen Place titles of board games (but also, Village and Citadels are examples of generic place names). If you go this route, make sure your game does the location justice and that the title isn't going to be confused for another game. Same thing goes with Person titles. Examples of Person titles are Trajan, Shakespeare, and Lorenzo il Magnifico.  I'd avoid naming your game after an object unless it's super evocative, like Scythe. Trains is a terrible title. 

For a truly risky title formation, use a Verb. Examples include Unlock!Unearth, and Roam. While there is room for more Verb titles in the hobby, there is a reason most titles with verbs in them are parts of phrases. "Race" would be an extremely confusing title in this hobby. This is another formation to be avoided unless the verb is evocative and descriptive of gameplay. 

Honestly, the Adjective/Adverb formation is risky because of how tempting it is. Look at the examples: AzulImperial, Ingenious, Quantum, The Grizzled—don't they sound so pithy and fun? Well, not Ingenious, because that's setting expectations too high. And Imperial causes confusion with other games... Yeah, this is a hard sell. 

For the highest highs and lowest lows look to the Sentence Fragment formation. On the one hand, you have the common Prepositional Phrase, which usually works out. Examples include Through the Desert, For Sale, At the Gates of Loyang. On the other hand, Exclamations will make a game sound mass market. Examples include Just One, No Thanks!, and That's Pretty Clever! Sometimes, Exclamations don't always make sense, like with Camel Up or Sushi Go! Tread carefully here. Other subtypes can get trickier to pull off well, such as Conjunction Clause formations like ...and then, we held hands. Or the full sentence It's a Wonderful World.  Sentence fragments that start with a conjunction make poor titles in my opinion because they soften their approach (titles should grab customers) in addition to typically being too long. Longer definitely isn't better when it comes to board game titles. It's a Wonderful World only gets a pass because using a cliche allows us to store the title as a smaller chunk in our memory.  At the Gates of Loyang should be at least one word shorter. 

The following formations should be avoided because they make board gaming more opaque to anyone entering the hobby: Latin titles, like Ex Libris or Mare Nostrum; Fantasy Names like Valeria (this only works for established IPs); Compound Words like Zombicide, KeyForge, or RoboRally. These are very easy ways to make a bad game title even if you are an experienced titler. These types are in turn too obscure, too vague, and too weird. 

Of course the worst titles are the Nth Edition of a game like One Night Ultimate Werewolf Daybreak, a title so bad it is only rivaled by Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective in terms of being just a string of unnecessary, repetitive words. 

If you're very clever, you can twist a category into something new like how Above and Below and Near and Far turn Noun and Noun into Adverb and Adverb. Ryan Laukat deserves more credit for his consistently good titles. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Collaboration in the Arts

 In this mini-series on art, I've looked at where designers fit in as artists, the misconception that artists never finish their art, how craft relates to art, and the misconception that art primarily occurs as inspiration rather than skilled work. Finally, in this post I am looking at how collaboration works in the arts. 

Let's start with the misconception. When most people think "artist," they think of a person working alone on a project from start to finish. While many artists (especially visual artists) work this way, it is an extremely narrow vision of how artists make art. 

There are several types of artistic collaboration: collaboration between members of a group or collaboration between groups, but also immediate, back-and-forth, or pass-off styles of collaboration. (I'm just making up these terms to describe types of collaboration I have seen in the arts.) Collaboration between members of a group that is an immediate style can look like dancers practicing and refining a piece or like an improvised live performance; the feedback from collaborators occurs in real time. Collaboration between groups is the basis of most theatre productions. Lighting designers, scenic designers, directors, choreographers, etc. collaborate, usually in a back-and-forth style that involves a series of production meetings and emails, to create several designs (e.g. costume design) that all mesh together as a whole. Immediate style means the collaborators are in the same room while they work; back-and-forth means that collaborators meet to share progress. 

Pass-off collaboration is more linear. It looks like an artistic director selecting a play script and hiring a group of artists. Then the director (different role from artistic director) creates a concept for the show and sends it to the team. Then the set designer designs a set based on the script and the concept. Then the lighting designer takes the script, concept, and set design and designs the lighting. Many theaters use a more back-and-forth style, but I have seen linear style used as often if not more. In the case of linear style, usually someone on the back-end has collaborate using another style. In this case, the scenic artist and the assistant lighting designer might go back-and-forth about the exact colors to make sure that the realized production looks as good as possible. [Sometimes, these back-end collaborators aren't considered artists, like electricians or carpenters. This is where the arts vs. crafts debate results in the technical workers of theatre being devalued and underpaid even though they make artistic decisions all the time (usually small ones that promote cohesiveness of the production). I left this out of the last post, but wanted to clarify that artistic misconceptions do have real financial consequences.]

Why bring up collaboration? Two reasons. One, I want to point out the misconception of the solo artist. Even in the visual arts, many large works are produced by groups even if they are designed by one person. Often the collaborators are uncredited, as is the case in Renaissance art where a master painter had a number of apprentices working on a piece. We need to get over the solo genius myth. It applies to like two people in history. Everyone else had help. 

The second reason is that artistic collaboration looks a whole lot like how board games get made, even in the case of a solo designer. The designer passes the game off to the publisher, who sends it to the graphic artist and illustrator. This results in either linear or back-and-forth collaboration. 

The reason I wrote this mini-series on art is to argue that board game design is art. The only reason I can think of that would make designers believe otherwise is that they have a number of misconceptions about what art-making looks like, especially in a professional context. I believe that in order for the industry to continue to develop, we need to examine our place as entertainment (i.e. art) makers. We could learn a lot from our fellow artists, but we need to recognize them as peers first. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Art Versus Craft

This is shaping up to be a mini-series on what art is. Last post, I addressed if a game designer is an artist. This post, I will look at the concept of 'craft' as it relates to art. Next post, I will discuss artistic collaboration. The purpose of these posts is to shed light on what counts as art and who artists really are. 

The barriers between art and craft involve a lot of misconceptions and prejudice. In the last post, I discussed the misconception around artists who never let go of their creations. There are several more misconceptions around the lines that get drawn between art and craft.

There is a duality to the concept of craft. One aspect is the Western image of skilled workers (usually male) making high quality products by hand. The other aspect is the relegation of crafts made by women to chintzy decor that is neither art nor quality handiwork. I won't be delving into this duality, but as I continue to discuss craft it will mostly be in reference to the first image, emphasizing skill and reproducibility. However, I think it is important to point out that the idea of craft/crafts has been used to denigrate women and non-western cultures. 

When discussing the perceived dividing line between art and craft, it becomes apparent that the line exists to divide skill and inspiration. Craft is seen as skill, something you can learn and perfect and repeat. Largely, I agree with this definition; crafts do require specialized knowledge with a number of levels of ability thresholds, whether it's knitting or wood-working. However, I would list crafts as a sub-genre of art. 

So, let's talk about art. Art is viewed as inspiration striking the artist and then flowing from them through their brush or pen or chisel and resulting in an effortlessly created masterpiece. (Unless they are finicky artists who adjust details of that work for decades rather than selling it.) But in my experience, most people see art as existing within the inspiration, the ideas, or "creativity" of the artist. Thus we get the image of the dreamy artist who always has their head in the clouds. Here's the truth, a really great idea may be what makes a work famous, but ideas are less than 10% of the effort required to make art. The rest is skill and tedium. 

If I want to paint a painting, I may first have an idea. But then I will research similar images to help me get proportions correct, sketch several possible poses, prepare my canvas, put down some reference lines, mix the colors I want to use, and eventually "start" painting. Later, I will have to clean up so that my equipment (in this cases brushes) stays in good repair. When does the art start? If your answer is when I start painting, you should know that if I were to skip to that step, the painting would turn out much worse than if I properly prepare. Good art is the result of hard work and detailed, often boring, steps. Also, I may have a knack for painting, but I didn't get decent at it until I took drawing and painting classes. Because art is a skill. 

If you think art is in the ideas only, you should know that good execution is worth a lot more than good ideas. And I do mean worth in the financial sense. Ideas don't feed artists; turning quality work in on time does. In board games, we say that no one will steal your idea because how the game is realized is where the value is. 

Another point to consider: artists cheat professionally. Vanishingly little art is made whole cloth ex nihilo. Artists recycle ideas and methods. They trace, copy, borrow, and steal from other artists. Yes, it is unethical to do so in a way that is noticeable in the final product, but as long as the end result is unique to the artist, any shortcut is time and money saved. Most people don't think of artists this way, partially because if customers knew about all the shortcuts they might not want to pay as much for a piece of art. The downside to maintaining an air of artistic mastery is that the public has come to view art as an intangible process that occurs largely due to inspiration (also intangible). Art is a skill. Art is a craft. Crafts are a form of art. 

There is a small point to be made that the perception of art is that art-works are one-offs and reproducibility reduces the impact of art. However, Edvard Munch's The Scream exists as four paintings and is easily one of the most recognizable pieces of Western art. 

I think one of the reasons board game designers are resistant to being labeled artists is because they understand the skill and tedium involved in their craft. What they don't realize is that skill and tedium is present in every other form of art. Don't take my word for it. Ask any professional painter, musician, actor, photographer, dancer, or poet if their job requires skill or contains boring elements. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Are designers artists? A complaint in 3 parts

Recently, in a panel of established board game designers, these statements were made: "You're a game designer, not a game artist," and  "I don't think of myself as an artist; I think of myself as an experience designer." Obviously, these views are not espoused by this blog. But I would like to spend some time unpacking why. 

Who gets to be called an artist?

First, let's look at what practices fall under the heading of "fine arts:" painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, architecture, music, poetry, theatre, and dance. Art house cinema could also be included. I hope we can agree that all of these things listed are art. 

However, fine art or high-brow art implies the existence of low-brow art. In this case, I do not mean poor quality art, but rather art that is accessible to the masses, both thru its reproducibility and it appeal. Spoiler alert: low-brow art is more commonly referred to as entertainment, as in "Arts & Entertainment." People working in 'art' fields often have the same skills as people working in 'entertainment' fields. Frequently, they're the same people. Patrick Stewart is both a trained Shakespearean actor and a superhero movie actor. 

For what it's worth, I believe board games to fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, due to the limits of production, cost, and consumability (learning rules limits the number of games people can play in day). Neither fine art (except for certain games as art installations) nor low-brow art (except for mass market games).

Saying that only the people whose work is in museums and art history textbooks get to be counted as artists is gate-keeping. Rigidly defining what counts as art always leads to the arts losing funding. For the purposes of this blog, if the purpose of a work is creative expression then it is art. And yes, mechanics-driven designs are still creative expressions of a designer.

Are designers artists?

If you want to read my definition of design, go here. I hope we can all agree that graphic designers are artists. Architects are just building designers. Choreographers design dances. The use of 'design' as a term usually signals that functionality or practical concerns were a large part of the creation process. I fully admit that part of the confusion is that design means something different in STEM fields. But games are not feats of mechanical engineering; they are entertainment. And entertainment is art. And in the arts, designers are artists. Whether they want to call themselves that or not. 

Why does it matter what term we use?

In the examples at the top of the post, the designers were responding to a question about how to balance perfecting your game versus just handing it off to publishers/getting it finished. The implication of the question and the responses is that artists are ego-driven and don't know how to deliver product on time. Or, more charitably, that people who describe themselves as artists (instead of designers) are that way. Either way, this perpetuates stereotypes that result in disrespecting and harming professional artists. 

The word for an artist who never finishes a project is 'amateur.' I don't mean that to be derogatory, either. Professionals turn things in on time and get paid. Amateurs tweak and fiddle and don't get paid. Both are valid if your goals line up with your strategy. Assuming artists are all perfectionists is tantamount to calling artists amateurs. Which is pretty insulting to the illustrators and graphic designers who work on board games. It's also insulting to artists who design board games. The conflation of artist and amateur also feeds into the stereotype that we don't have real jobs and thus are not deserving of real benefits and protections. 

Board game designer is an exact term that is useful. Board game artist is a hazy term that could mean a number of things. But just because 'chemist' is more exact than 'scientist' doesn't mean both can't be true at the same time. 

In conclusion, by staunchly refusing to call designers artists, you are saying something about designers and about artists and how the two ideas need to be kept separate. I work in a field professionally that has a similar dynamic. In spite of having 'artist' in my job title, I may not be included as part of the creative team. I'll delve into this more in my next post on art vs. craft. However, the take away is that how members of creative teams are viewed affects how much they get paid. So I have a financial interest in educating people about harmful stereotypes in the arts. 

Artists aren't (necessarily) amateurs. Designers are artists. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Development Directions and Ways to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

 The saying goes that these days a game needs to be great not good in order to succeed. In this post, I'd like to look at some of the ways a game can stand out from the crowd and the possible downsides of different methods. 

Innovation is a surefire way to generate excitement about a game. Innovation in the board game sphere is generally seen as related to mechanics (or components that help implement mechanics). On the one hand, it is incredibly hard to develop completely new (or new feeling) ideas that work really well. Innovation is very hard. On the other hand, too much innovation in a game can be a bad thing. Too many novel mechanics can make a game hard to learn and hard to play because players don't have a foundation of similar elements as a jumping off point. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb (according to Geoff Engelstein and others) is one innovative element per game that players have to learn. Another downside to innovation is that often the first design using a certain mechanism will get improved upon by later games, so innovation does not guarantee an evergreen title. Keep in mind that innovation requires researching what is already out there so you know how your game is different. 

Many games are developed with niche audiences in mind. Having more complexity in a game is a strong draw to dedicated gamers. Combining lots of mechanisms can make a game feel innovative even when it isn't. These games are more likely to get in depth reviews (for good or ill) and common knowledge says that BoardGameGeek has a bias towards rating heavier games more highly. The downsides are that heavier games are harder to design, develop, and playtest. Adding complexity to games also adds cost more often than not. Because the audience is fairly narrow, any heavy game that doesn't stand out in other ways is unlikely to be picked up by a publisher. 

Increasingly, gamers are drawn to games that tell stories. Adding story elements to a game increases player investment by raising the stakes—instead of playing to beat your friend, you are playing to help your character triumph on the battlefield over their foes or save the world or build the best town or...  Story can alleviate some rules complexity by spacing it out and contextualizing it. Stories can keep more casual gamers engaged in a game they might otherwise 'check out' of. Story-based games tend to suffer from either too much writing or bad writing or both. Chapter breaks can feel disruptive to game play. Often the writing feels unnecessary to gameplay or worse, unrelated. Rule of thumb: hire good writers and show restraint. 

Integration of theme and mechanics is a relatively new area of focus. Games are praised when they feel like the theme. Integrated themes contextualized rules without adding lots of text. Strong theming can bolster the emotional arc of gameplay. Good integration will add some cost due to custom components (cubes rarely feel thematic). Thematic integration requires designers to understand both game systems and their emotional content to avoid ludonarrative dissonance. The biggest downside is the lack of design language in the hobby around theme and its implementation. This is an area ripe for exploration and a major focus of this blog. 

On the publishing side, higher production values have raised consumer standards for buying games. To stand out in this arena, games must have quality art, graphic design, formatting and editing, components, and packaging—boxes, inserts, and punch boards. Obviously, this can be expensive. However, consumers feel better about spending eighty dollars on a game if it looks and feels like a quality made product. High production values should not be confused with more components. The amount of components should be in support of the content of the game. More content that exists only to add more components is widely panned as 'bloat.' Finally, while table presence is important to a degree, games that feel gimmicky are eroding players' trust in flashy games put out by untested publishers. There may always be a market for an overproduced Kickstarter game, but I predict a bubble burst in the near future. 

Ideally, a good product would contain multiple of the above considerations. However, trying to be excellent at everything is a recipe for failure. Instead, focus on one area and incorporate that into your design vision. Work to avoid common pitfalls and weaknesses of similar games. If your game still isn't standing out, try refocusing by exploring other directions. (Maybe your story-based game works better as a thematic integration game.) Cut what doesn't work and focus on what does. Once you are sure of your focus, playtest to see if the experience is there. Don't just playtest mechanics; test your theme or story or components. 

There is no one formula to make a game that stands out from the crowd, but there are many paths to explore on your journey. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Design Practicum: Monopoly

 Yep. In this post we're diving into the design choices in Monopoly. Because while it's easy to dismiss it as "just so very, very bad," becoming a better designer means being able to think critically about design choices, good or bad. There is a lot to talk about with Monopoly, so I am going to break my critique into categories. If you have already read one too many reviews of Monopoly, skip down to my conclusion. 

Quality: This is one of the most mass-produced games. As a result, most of the components are middling-to-bad by hobby gamer standards. Notably, the best components, the tokens, are also the most iconic to the game. Additionally, the art and graphics really aren't up to hobby standards. 

Quantity: Monopoly is a price point most families can afford. The physical size of the game is about right for what it is, but the shape of the box is pretty bad. I'd wager most families are like mine and kept games in a hall closet with the winter jackets, as the only place they would fit in the house. The problem with that is accessibility- games that are hard to reach won't get played very often. This ends up reducing the prospective value of the game. The number of players works for most families, but playing at either 2 or six could make the game overly cutthroat although for different reasons. Finally, the game is too long for what it is. More on that in a bit. 

Composition: Let's get it out of the way and state that most players learn to play by oral tradition and that those 'house rules' actually make the game worse. That said, the intention of the game appears to be focused on auctions and trading of properties. The real estate theme fits the mechanics of auctions and trading, but the rest of the mechanics are not thematic. The mechanics are split between the highly random—roll and move, chance/community chest cards—and the highly economic—auctions and trades. To modern sensibilities, this mishmash of mechanics feels disjointed. While the auctions and trades bring a much needed dose of strategy to the game, the lack of structure around trades especially makes even the economic parts of the game feel random. Players can choose to simply not trade with someone if they are bent on having one player lose. The looseness of the rules around trading (and to a certain extent, auctions) also helps explain why so many play groups have 'forgotten' these rules. This is compounded in the second half of the game, after auctions have ended and trading is the only strategic recourse left for players to build monopolies. Returning to the idea that the game is too long, most players will know they have lost long before they go bankrupt. In Monopoly, it is possible to spend 30 minutes knowing you will lose, then another 30 after you have lost watching everyone else finish playing the game. Modern games have generally come to the consensus that playing the whole game with a hope of winning is the more fun way of playing. (Many of the bugbears of modern board game design—roll and move, player elimination, runaway leaders, high output randomness, king-making—are present in Monopoly.)

Dynamics: The arc of gameplay moves mainly through three emotions: boredom at the repetitive mechanics, frustration when landing on a bad spot, and anger that other players won't trade with you. This is punctuated by moments of joy when the dice finally go your way. Strategic players will tell you that the most skilled player will win every time, and they're right. But due to runaway leader mechanics, that means only one person playing (at most) will enjoy the game arc of seeing their strategy succeed. For fans of complex strategy games that may not be a defect, but Monopoly is marketed as a family game. Family games designed in the last decade are usually under an hour to play and lack the complex economic systems of Monopoly. This game is supposed to be for players age 8 and up. While some of the mechanics are child-friendly (roll and move), if you are playing to win or even to finish a game your child will likely experience the same boredom and frustration that many adults experience when playing. In my estimation, Monopoly fails as a family game. What about as a strategy game? Here, the design shows more promise. The freeform trading makes more sense in the context of competitive players used to similar mechanics in other games. The lack of art and good graphic design is also less out of place for a certain category of strategy game. The length of the game, 60-180 minutes, places Monopoly on the shorter, lighter end of the strategy game spectrum. Where Monopoly  falls apart as a strategy game is the high level of randomness. One could argue that Merchants of Venus, famous as a heavy-strategy roll and move game, has enough systems to balance out the randomness of the dice. Monopoly is too light to overcome its high level of randomness. Yes the most skilled player will always win, but the experience of doing so falls short compared to other games of similar complexity or mechanism. (The fact that Monopoly is rated as less complex than Azul on BGG is a rant for another day.)

Meta: The mixing of the theme of cutthroat real estate management and the presentation as a family game contributes to the muddy feeling that is the experience of playing Monopoly. I would argue that this disconnect is a large contributor to the 'house rules' phenomenon— families are attempting to make the game feel more friendly. This oral tradition makes the game even longer, preventing many players from ever discovering the strategy of gameplay. This in turn results in fewer board games getting played by families who 'bounce off' of Monopoly. After all, based on their experience board games are long and tedious. And after around 90 years on the market, many casual players are not able to distinguish 'familiar' from 'fun.' This is doubly true for players who haven't played a game published since 1990—they don't know how board games have evolved to be faster, easier to learn, and more accessible to families. 

Conclusion: Monopoly is a middling strategy game with mismatched mechanics and poor production quality masquerading as a pretty bad family game. However, there are plenty of people who love it and play competitively (including in tournaments). While I don't enjoy it, I do enjoy plenty of other games that are poorly designed. Enjoyment of 'low quality' entertainment is widespread in every form of media. Whether enjoyment of a piece of media renders discussions about its 'badness' moot is best left alone for now. The facts of the matter are that there are thousands of games better than Monopoly but people are still allowed to like what they like.