You know, I really don’t like this term: shelf of shame. Not a fan. I really don’t feel like I have anything to be ashamed of. I like to buy games (within a budget, of course). I like to receive games on my doorstep. I like to open said games and punch out all the bits. I like to read the rule book and see how it all works together. I like organizing them and maybe make a foam core insert to help. I get enough joy out of these things that, even though a game might sit on the shelf for a while before it gets played, I don’t feel shameful about it. So for my purposes, I’ll treat the term more like, “It’s a shame that game hasn’t hit the table yet,” instead of “I’m ashamed that this game is still on my shelf”.

I’m treating the term more like, “It’s a shame the game hasn’t hit the table yet.”

Another thing, this is not a post about the games on my shelf that I have not played. No, it’s about the reasons I haven’t played them. As we were preparing to record episode two of our podcast (in which we discuss the shelf of shame) I tried to codify for myself the all import question of why; why don’t these games come out.

I was actually surprised by some of the answers I came up with and what they said about this time of my life. Before we dive into the reasons, let me briefly tell you the kinds of games I find on my shelf of shame.

  • Games that I purchased or received a while ago and still haven’t played yet. These are games I still have the desire to play but for some reason (see below) just haven’t hit the table.
  • Games I bought on a whim because I got caught up in the hype or found a great deal on but have come to realize that I’m just not interested in playing them. I call these Whim Games.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s head on over to the reasons why.

Time

Honestly, I feel like this isn’t a very good reason. We all deal with this. It’s like saying that money is the reason you don’t have that yacht. Well, duh!

But it is still a reason. We all have limited time and we have to decide what to fill that time with. Game time is just one of the things we have to fit into the 24 hours we have each day. I feel like I could have stopped here. This reason fits every game on my shelf of shame. But I wanted to press deeper which is where the following reasons came from.

Situation

There are some games sitting on my shelf collecting dust simply because the situation they address just doesn’t happen that often for me. Here are some of those:

Filler Games – it might seem odd that filler games don’t hit my table often. I found it odd, truth be told! But when I thought about it, it made sense. Most often these days when I make it to a game night I am there for the main event – the game I came to play. Then I leave. So I’m not sitting around waiting for the next game which is a perfect situation for a filler.

Casual Games – these are great games to get out at family gatherings. Currently, I spend most of my time at these events chasing my kids around or changing diapers. So by the time I think to say, “Hey, let’s play a game!”, the day is over and everyone is headed home.

Group Dependent Games – especially large group-dependent games. I really want to play Captain Sonar or Space Cadets Dice Duel but I almost never have the group size that it is made for.

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Game Style

These games don’t fit the style of game I really want to play these days. I was really excited about Nothing Personal when it hit Kickstarter. I was listening to the Dice Tower podcast at the time (still do) so I wanted to support Tom’s game. And after backing, I got into the community aspect of it. Then the game got here and I didn’t get it to the table. Sad, I know, but I realized that the back stabby-negotiation games just aren’t for me. I wasn’t motivated to play it.

Bad Rule Book

I was really excited for Impulse – a compact 4x game that I had heard was really good. I’m still excited about it. But that rule book! It was horrible! Now, I can usually hold my own with a bad rulebook, but this one takes the cake. I’m still excited to try it but I want someone who has already done the research to teach me. Ok, I’ll probably get around to learning someday and it will come off my shelf of shame. But until then that bad rule book is keeping it on the shelf.

Learning/Teaching Energy

This is the biggie – the one that keeps most of these games dusty. I used to love reading rule books. I would download PDF rulebooks just to read. This is how I would end up deciding to buy a game and it also benefitted the game designer inside of me. I used to love teaching games. It was fun for me. But as I looked at the games on my shelf of shame I realized that one of the biggest reasons they haven’t been played is that I just didn’t have the energy to learn them and then communicate the rules to other people.

As I looked at the games on my shelf of shame I realized that one of the biggest reasons they haven’t been played is that I just didn’t have the energy to learn them

I am a tired dad with four kids 4 and under. Most of my energy goes there. Believe it or not, board games are not my job so lots of energy goes to the job that pays the bills. The other factor in this is my involvement in board game media creation. I’ve really been pursuing this part of the hobby trying to build our web presence and that takes energy.

Between all of those things, I just don’t have a lot of energy left over to teach and learn games. This has been a great realization for me and has helped me refocus some of the energy I spend on my hobby back towards learning games and, hopefully soon, teaching and playing them. My shelf of shame should shrink this year.

Wrapping Up

Thinking through this has been very helpful for me. It helped me put my finger on why a game sits on my shelf. Ultimately, this will help me figure out better which games I should be buying. I view my games as more of a library than a collection. I want them to come off the shelf and be played – that’s what I bought them for.

What about you? Are there any additional reasons you have for why a game sits and collects dust on your shelf of shame? Please share in the comments!