Space games have been around a long time. I think their numbers have waxed and waned with general public interest in science fiction movies. I've posted here a couple of times about my concept-in-progress called "Gold on Mars," as just one example. It seems a number of new games have come out based on a space theme lately, and I wonder whether it's part of a new trend or just a transitory fad.
If there is publisher interest in seeking designs based on certain themes - zombies, space, vampires - does that mean that people buy games based (at least in part) on theme? Or is it true that a good game is a good game, and the theme is immaterial to gameplay?
|(c) Dice Hate Me Games|
Used by permission
klin's first impression review of Perfect Stride (designers and artists Kay Darby and Jeff Timothy with T.K. Labus, publisher Fun League), which he describes as "meatier than Mille Bornes or Gamewright's Horse Show [but] lighter than Dominion or 7 Wonders ... an excellent family game." As I read his description of the solid gameplay, I kept thinking that it would be a game I would enjoy playing - except for the fact that the game art and theme are obviously tailored to appeal to girls who love horses. That's fine, and if I had a daughter, I'm sure I'd pick it up, but for some reason, in this case, I just can't get past the target audience. It would be like playing Mystery Date, which could have the best gameplay mechanics in the world, except that I'll never know because I'll never play it.
|(c) Z-man Games|
Used by permission
(My friend Grant G. recently called my attention to a new series of miniatures involving World War II German troops mounted on dinosaurs. Okay, whatever.)
So like box art, game theme serves as both an invitation and a filter to the potential buyer or player. Some people will buy a title based on the theme with no other knowledge of the game. On the other hand, there are some themes that I simply won't touch, no matter how good the game, for reasons that I can't entirely explain. But in the general case, once I'm playing a game, the theme can become secondary to the gameplay depending on the nature of the game.
In a subsequent post, I'll explore the question of gaming vs. simulation and the role of theme in each.