Why I hate giving negative reviews

I want to love all games. I know this is not possible, but it is still true. Every time I sit down to play a new game, I want it to be my new favorite thing and immediately move it to the top of my wish list. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, my friends, a game is a real stinker.

To understand my dilemma, you must understand that I have a fairly high tolerance for tabletop games. Since really diving into gaming three and a half years ago, I have acquired over 100 games (currently at 117 I think). These include card games, strategy games, dexterity games, deduction games, abstract games, kids’ games and games from my childhood. I love games. One of my favorite experiences is to be completely immersed in a game session and suddenly realize – “Yep, I’m gonna have to buy this one.” I love that feeling. The only thing that can possibly rival it is when a game that I buy completely on a whim turns out to be amazing.

I say all that to say this: when I don’t enjoy a game – I feel guilty. It’s like I have let the game down. Was I sick? Did I not eat a good breakfast? Was my mind somewhere else? Was I playing it wrong? I can’t really explain it. I’m a librarian by trade and have no problem helping people decide what to read next. I don’t even really have that much of a problem telling my friends which games I think they’ll like. I’m certainly not going to recommend a heavy game like Arkham Horror or a marathon session of Fury of Dracula to my casual gaming friends. So why can I not do the same for myself?

Example:
About four or five months ago, my regular gaming group tried out Marvel Dice Masters. One of our regulars had picked it up and had been wanting to teach it to us. We sat down and started deciding which characters we wanted to play, me choosing all my favorites from my comic-buying days (except for Gambit – he didn’t have Gambit). I was okay with the game at first, but as I played longer I realized I wasn’t having any fun. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of my group enjoyed it, but I can honestly say I didn’t. Fast-forward to last week: I was in Books-a-Million and I saw a copy of the starter set for the X-men Dice Masters game on clearance. I almost bought it. Then I found the single blind packs at Walmart for 89 cents apiece. I had them in my cart the whole time I was in the store before finally putting them back. I want to like that game. I want to own that game and teach it to people and spread the love of gaming throughout the world. But I don’t. And somehow I feel guilty.

I cannot explain it. But I know that I am this way. I can rattle on for hours about different games to almost anyone. Most of my friends are probably sick of hearing the phrase “So…there’s this new game,” but they listen anyway, as does my fantastic long-suffering wife. But rarely do I talk about the ones that I don’t like. I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to post negative reviews. I feel guilty for talking about the games in a bad way. I just have to learn to differentiate between me not liking something and it being a bad game. Then I can manage to give honest opinions about games that make me feel guilty.

Except for Mother Sheep. That game sucked. And I don’t feel guilty about that at all.