The whole theory could be summarized like so: If two games are similar, only keep the better game.
Which has sparked Richard’s Postulate: If a game has not hit your table in a year it shouldn’t be in your collection.”
And was later sort of opposed by the eloquent simplicity of Norwood’s Theory: Keep the games you like. (Now that’s solid advice.)
With all these Theories, Postulates and Laws (such as Vasel’s Law), one can’t help but wonder, though; how could the small gaming world become such a prolific scientific research field?
A Few Catches
Well, it turns out there are a few catches with Jones’ Theory. Not the least among them is that it is not a theory at all — a theory is an attempt at explaining something. So Jones’ “theory” is more of a rule of conduct. That’s why sometimes you’ll find it (more appropriately) referred to as Jones’ Rule or Jones’ Principle. Come to think of it, Richard’s Postulate is no postulate either, since a postulate is supposed to be an obvious truth that everybody agrees to be correct. But that’s ok — that’s all in good fun, and we get the idea nonetheless.
Another catch, that makes Jones’ Theory even more tongue-in-cheek, is that it doesn’t define what a “game type” is. Just as the criteria used to determine if a game is redundant, the type can be anything: mechanisms, theme, author, game length, player count, components or even box size, why not.
No matter how you define a game type, the underlying goal of Jones’ Theory is to end up with a manageable, optimized collection, whose games are played much more often (because there are fewer of them) and more easily and rapidly (since they are played more often, everybody knows the rules better), thus yielding a better return on investment.
That said, the author himself confesses that he dislikes learning new games, which might help explaining where his idea came from.
He also insists that his “theory” is not for everyone and does not apply to two-player games, short games and kid games. That’s a lot of games.
Pros and Cons
Still, presented as such, and without a necessary grain of salt, the Jones Theory could seem like an absurdly restrictive way of going about building a game collection. Can you imagine a literature lover having only one book from each of their favorite authors on their shelves? Or a wardrobe containing no more than one piece of clothing for each type of garment? Seems to kind of defeat the purpose, doesn’t it.
Yet Cody Jones questions, not without merit, what could be the point, for example, of owning hundreds of movie masterpieces on DVDs: as there seems to be no way in which all those titles could be watched as many times as they deserve, if at all.
The fact remains that almost ten years since its initial promulgation the Jones Theory is still very much around. Why?
First, despite its clumsiness it’s not hard to imagine circumstances where it can be helpful.
- It can help some people to cull their game collection to accommodate limited shelf space or budgets.
- It might drive gamers to try different kinds of games, and build a collection that’s more diversified, with a game for every occasion.
- It can empower gamers who are trying to escape the often fatal grip of the Cult of the new, or who are bravely fighting an acquisition disorder.
Maybe there’s some truth behind it. Maybe the takeaway of Jones’ Theory is that any collection should have a purpose — any will do. Otherwise it is mere random accumulation.
In any case what it does achieve is forcing us gamers to look a little deeper into our games, and ask ourselves good questions about their nature, their content and their quality.
Nothing wrong with anything that makes us think and talk about games, right?
References and Further Browsing
- Game On! Podcast, Episode 16 audio file
- Game On! Podcast, Episode 32 audio file
- Jones Theory Violations, on Boardgamegeek
- Why the Jones Theory is valuable, on Boardgamegeek
- Do you ‘Jones Theory’ your collection?, on Reddit
- Jonesing for a Smaller Board Game Collection
- The State of Games, Episode 32 – The One About Culling and Critics, on Dice Hate Me
- The Norwood Theory, on Go Forth and Game