I’ve spent most of the day catching up on paperwork, though naturally my brain was trying to focus on games (as ever). Normally I’m able to make pretty much any subject into a game idea, given a few minutes consideration, and have notebooks filled with such lightly sketched ideas. However, accounts defeated me. It’s just too dull.
Now I’m sure that a few of you may disagree, but the fact that it is a staple of stand-up comedians as a synonym for tedium does rather bear me out. There may even be a game on the topic lurking somewhere among the 60,000+ games on BGG, but has anyone played it twice?
This led me to wondering what other subjects were game-proof. I’ve got a couple of ideas though there are far fewer than subjects that are fertile ground for a game. I thought I’d ask you guys: what subject do you think is absolutely ungameable?
Note that I’m not talking on grounds of taste, but purely on the grounds of so dull that nobody would play it.
Well I work as an Archaeologist and I can say that digitising context sheets (what we use to record the archaeology) has got to be the most mind numbing torture known to man. So I’m gonna go with that
Digitising them might be dull, but I’m sure I could do a game about working with context sheets in a broader sense 😉
Is there any game where you pretend to be a student in a 7th grade English class? Or the teacher?
And no, the “get out of jail free” card from Monopoly doesn’t count.
I don’t know of one. I’d expect there to be a few games about teaching though as there are quite a few games designed as teaching aids.
My son is currently in formation at a Catholic Seminary. I love him so, but when he starts talking about this 8 year process to become a priest.. it’s terribly boring. So a game where you are a budding follower and going through formation to become a priest.. probably wouldn’t do so hot ( if it was kept in a conservative tone).
But if you changed the tone you may have a good Munchkin style game going…
An overly conservative tone would stifle many a fertile subject. As James says, changing that sounds like it could be very entertaining 😉
Any game involving currency or resources is an exercise in accounting to one extent or another. And any game that offers choice in some form is essentially an exercise in risk analysis and/or optimisation so…. whilst as an accountant I agree accounting is incredibly dull, I’d strongly argue that most games involve key accounting skills so 😛
You’re right that elements of accounting and resource management turn up all over the place, but we’re not talking about cherry picking the interesting elements from a subject – that’s too easy and I don’t think you can count that in accountancy’s favour.
Any “cold, humorless” application of a subject. I mean, reading the comments above all those subjects could be made into a game with the proper application of tongue-in-cheekness… “Can you file all achaeology reports before dying of boredom? Find out with this game!” or “Priest, Rabbi or Imam, find out if you can achieve success in a harsh, rigorous 8-year training program”.
So it’s not the subject as much as the treatment. Same as humor I guess: you can laugh about everything, but not with everyone.
Yes and no. Whilst the style of treatment makes a huge difference there are some subjects where you have to swim very much against the tide to get anywhere. Those are the ones I’m talking about.
Exploring a dungeon full of fantastical monsters = easy.
End of year accounts = not easy.
One word: Agricola. 😉
I agree, I usually describe the game to new players as “it’s a game where you play german farmers in 17th century germany, there is not very much glamour … and yet it’s a very good game making you come back for more.”
I’ve not played it myself. I’m intrigued, but not enough to buy it myself. “Dry” seems to sum up the subject matter. Not without its many fans though.
What about a dungeon full of fantastical end of end of year, number crunching monsters l?! 😛
Actually, that’s given me an idea…
Giving debt advice,
Not much of a game in that.
Though its quite a satisfying job 🙂
Really? Sounds like fertile ground indeed, you just need to change its venue and add a little Hollywood style noir.
Supervising. On shifts where I am the most senior person in the store my job is to do nothing. Just sit there and be in charge. I’ve even been in trouble before because I got caught working. So how about a game where you do nothing… Man I need a better job.
A game where you do nothing? That would work nicely 🙂
A papal installment ceremony (in Latin 0f course)
Could be long. Though if you all had rude bits to sneak into the ceremony without anyone noticing that could be fun. First one to sneak them all in wins 😉
Well there is computing taxes if you could make a popular game out of that you would be a god.
Anything where you have to enter and categorize data seems like trouble although Yatzee continues even if I can’t understand why.
Doing the entering data is dull indeed. having a game about it doesn’t sound intrinsically harder to do well than a game about, say, farming in 17th century Germany 😉
And if you were allowed to inject a touch of something interesting then you could do all sorts with it. Money laundering is a sort of computing taxes…
This phenom may not be the UK, but in the US, aspiring business inspired home-makers will become the selling arm of a candle company with the aim of selling to their family and friends through ill-labeled “parties”.
of course…if you make the candles cursed, and you have the ability to “off” your home-maker competitors selling tupperware, it might make a great card game….
That was easy 😉
I think subjects like suicide, divorce and rape are totally unplayable regardless of any amount of humor applied to it. Even mental health issues are easier to fit into game than aforementioned.
Now see, you’ve not read the last sentence of the post. You’re talking taste here, not intrinsic dullness.
I’ve had to deal with a serious attempted suicide, have close friends who have been raped and have myself been divorced, so I’m pretty well acquainted with the lack of humour of all those subjects in real life. I don’t think any of them were dull though.
Would they be gameable? Yes in theory (which was my question). No in terms of public taste and convention.
Regression Testing: The Game. “Maybe This Time It’ll Be Different!”
oh god this.
Again, very dull to do, but abstracted as a game? I’d think this was perfectly possible.
This topic reminds me of a link I saw on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.
The D6 Generation linked to it, I don’t know the site myself, but these games looked amazing. 🙂
Leibowitz vs Newton: The Race for Calculus
2 player game where they roll dice and advance towards inventing calculus. But beware, you may be hit on the head by an apple and lose a turn!
See! You’ve already done it.
Intriguingly I think that many of these “ungameable” subjects actually sound quite workable. I think the trick is probably to not know too much about the subject. When I know only a couple of paragraphs about how regression testing works or how the 8 years training of a priest is done I can both see the overall pattern (without the tedious details) and invent some amusing details of my own to fill in any blanks.
magnolia paint drying watching!
Beard growing has to be a great subject for a game! You just need to set it in a period when people really cared about facial hair.
Paint drying? Well, like I said above, remove yourself from the details and you have decorating as a subject.
A serious game about funerals?
Maybe not unplayable but I think it won’t sell a lot…
Serious is more limiting. A light-hearted game about funerals sounds far more entertaining. As a subject I’m sure funerals is a goer.