[Musings of a Game Store Owner] Intelligent Design: Emotional Connection

That thrill. That incredible rush. That incredible sensation all over – my shin tightening, and my breath catching. all just from looking – I was terrified to touch, but couldn’t wait to get my hands all over —

My first RPG and my true love
While CB has made them all fancy, I adore Napoleonics something fierce

I love “Planes on Sticks”, also known as Blue Max 

The emotional connection a game sparks in us almost always has the single-most important impact in decision making we face as consumers. If a game has any hold on you at all emotionally, be ready to cry a lot as your wallet opens almost involuntarily to purchase the newest edition, latest release or even worse, the “collector’s edition”.

I’m not the only one that feels this way. All of us, at some level, have a game that hits us “below the belt” and makes us feel quivery and somewhat intoxicated. I talked to a lot of folks, and all of them had a memory of “that love”.

Here are some comments from people around the web:

I have 20+ years invested into the 40k Lore and I believe it to be the best Lore for any sci-fi wargame out there; nothing compares in my opinion. [snip]

The 40k setting is so has so much depth and an expansive galaxy you can create your own factions, worlds, campaigns, stories and characters without impacting the actual cannon of the Lore.


Pitmann found his Iron Warriors and has not budged since. Seriously. In all this time, he has only ever played that one army, and I believe this makes him a rather unique (or at least tremendously rare) specimen in our hobby. I jumped into the deep end with IG, but not long after that dramatic beginning, the Daemonhunters codex came out. I was utterly compelled. I loved the idea of small operative teams working as agents, double agents, and all that against the broad universe of conflict and strife. I read (consumed more like) the Eisenhorn novels and, as mentioned before, was completely taken by the universe GW has stitched together from here and there.

One note on that: I have yet to find a game system set in such a wild and interesting universe.

Dave G

As a kid, I was captivated by the style and mystery the Eldar had. Not only were they sleek and beautiful, but they were ALIEN. This is a sci-fi setting after all, who wants to play modern military or fantastical orcs? I didn’t want to play something familiar – though obviously there are many who do.


The Mechanicus were my first real exposure to dudes replacing their organs and limbs with bionics and servo-arms. At least with any depth anyway. I’ve always been a fan of robots of any kind, though. There’s definitely some inspiration from my years of robot fondness within the book.

Deane: The first game that I can truly remember playing, and loving was probably Stratego. I think I discovered it in my 3rd grade class (how old are third graders?) and was instantly hooked on the idea of games that required a bit of forethought and planning. (Or as much forethought and planning that a 3rd grader can give to a game) The bright red and blue game pieces with the shiny gold and silver images and the map board appealed to that affinity towards things military that was just beginning to emerge in me. And while I did not realize it then, but I can certainly see it in hindsight, I loved that this game brought more than just myself and another person together over a game-board . It was a game that attracted at least half a dozen other players, (including one girl!) who all seemed to have a part in deciding where to place pieces, what and where to move them in the game, and they all seemed to share in the victory or defeat of the main player. We were the beginning of a gaming group. On those days when we were not sent outside for recess or free time, there we were. Huddled over the game, with the game box set up between the players while we set the pieces, and then during the game, the discussion and debate of how to play. It was not long before I began to look more closely at those games presented ever so appealingly in the Sears or JP Penny’s catalogs. Soon I had (and still have) my own copy of Stratego, followed shortly by Sub Search, Carrier Strike, Chopper Strike, RISK (of course) and one of my personal favorites, Tank Battle. So board games were, and probably still are, my first love in gaming. Dungeons and Dragons came later on, when I was about 12 or 13 and it blew out the other games for play time for at least a good 5 years, but I have always come back to my board games, of which sadly, I have more than I have available time to play.

Phil: The summer of my 10th birthday (1981) my best friend came back from camp with the Basic Set. We all sat around his basement and learned the game, badly. We didn’t really understand what the dice were for and we probably rolled them at the wrong times. I don’t remember much about those first few sessions except that we all decided a Pole Arm was the best weapon because we had used one to beat a giant.

In visiting these memories and discussing these ‘first loves’; we discover something important. Whether we are tacticians or roleplayers, hobbyists or strategists; we share a commonality in that “first love”. We all have a moment of wistful remembrance, a soft place to fall in terms of games, and a way to relate to each other in social settings. It’s our emotional connection to games that binds us together as a group and gives us an ability to function as a group.

It’s the emotional connection – the faces lighting up, the laughter, the gonzo; over-the-top stories, the genuine feelings that make us work as a group of weirdos, geeks, nerds, dorks and outcasts. It’s also what designers intend for when designing- they want their customers to love their product as much as they do, so that they can all “light up” together. Every game has something that’s intended to pull at your emotions, and some are far more successful than others. For a bunch of geeks, we all know that you “gotta like it” for it to matter. I’ll give you that.  I might not agree on the system or the style, but I understand why you love “X” so much, and I give you that as grace and understand- we’re the same.

We all need that, and the connection we share with games and each other is far more important than the figures or the mechanics or the probabilities or the locus of control or any other factor- to me. What about to you?

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