Of Books and Board Games | What Determines Success?

In light of yesterday’s comparison of life to a game called Fluxx, I thought that a discussion of this article from NPR would be appropriate. Specifically, this part:

What accounts for the success and longevity of certain board games? “These cross-generational games typically are enjoyed by those who are young and old,” says Mary Pilon, author of the recently published The Monopolists — a book about the history of Monopoly. Popular board games “have an element of role-playing involved and give us a context to do things that we can’t typically do in real life. ”

She also cites the game-design mantra of technology pioneer Nolan Bushnell, “which I think applies to board games, as well. … Good games must be easy to play, but difficult to master.”

Though the article is specifically talking about the elements of successful board games, these are the same elements that go into successful fiction or well-written memoirs.

mr_moneybagsGood fiction and memoirs help us see the world through the eyes of the protagonist. We are able to lose ourselves in the role, able to take on the mannerisms and thought patterns.

Good books also allow us to do things that we can’t do in real life. Heaven help us if there were as many murderers, fiends, and hell-bent wizards running about in the real world as there are in books. Fiction gives us a means by which we can rise to each occasion with the right words, the right actions, and the right magic spells. In books, right usually prevails. In real life, less so.

By combining these two traits, we see the true power of good books. They give us someone we can relate to, and they inspire us that justice is a worthwhile pursuit.

The last element mentioned in the board game article is that successful games are easy to play, but difficult to master. Some authors make writing seem so easy. Read any beloved children’s book and you may be tempted to walk away thinking that you could have written it. But sit down with a blank paper staring at you, and you realize that simplicity is a tool for the masters.

That is the trick. Good writers make it look easy, like child’s play.

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