It is quite easy to come up with a definition of overproduced that is clear, unambiguous… and perfectly useless.
Everybody agrees that an overproduced game is a game that offers too much, that offers things that are beyond what is needed by the game.
The problem is that not everybody agrees on what the game is.
In fact, the meaning of overproduced lies right on the border between different families of gamers. And any meaningful definition of the word is bound to annoy one side or the other.
There are of course the hardcore, inveterate wargamers—the true grognards, who are perfectly happy with minimal quality components, sometimes even sketchy usability-wise, as long as balance and quality research are present. They don’t mind a bit of chrome, but this is a different issue. Their natural distrust towards any component that’s a little too visible often leads them to quickly conclude that a game is overproduced.
At the other end of the spectrum are some collectors for whom nothing in a game can be too lavish, too expensive, too flashy. They thrive on Kickstarter board game projects that come with hundreds of outrageously produced components and fist-size miniatures that come in 25-pound boxes. Overproduced, to those kinds of collectors, is almost an empty word, since they derive more pleasure from the value attached to what’s rare and expensive, any Deluxe or Collector’s editions, or standard editions that have been deluxified, one-time offer extras, than from playing them.
But most gamers fall between these stereotypes. Even if the GNS theory has been developed around role playing games, it can still be useful to help identify more mainstream board gaming “schools”. Let’s have a quick look at the distinction it makes between what it calls “narrativists”, and “gamists”.
Narrativists are gamers who are fond of stories and atmosphere. They play a game to be transported to an imaginary world. This kind of gameplay taps into sensory perception, and relies significantly on a game’s aesthetics. Vivid and omnipresent artwork, numerous finely sculpted miniatures, down to the fonts and the texture of the paper used in the rulebook. Everything that’s on the table—and even around it, such as lighting and soundtrack—can stimulate the player’s imagination, strengthen the narrative and lead to the desired immersion. In this perspective nothing much is superfluous in a game having a strong table presence. Therefore, an overproduced game will often be, for them, a game that is too expensive rather than too elaborate.
On the other hand, gamists approach games in a more abstract way. They too are after immersion, but not as a sensory experience as much as an intellectual exercise that challenges their mastery. Aesthetic emotions instead come to them through the skillful arrangements of mechanics the designer has come up with. The physical components become purely functional. They aim less at stimulating the imagination than at relaying those patterns as faithfully as possible. Thus, clear and straightforward equipment that doesn’t interfere with their grasping of the game’s ideas is more than adequate. Anything further embellished is just a bonus. Indeed, Euro games are rarely known for their sumptuous graphic design.
At the end of the day, we realize that the best way for a game publisher to know if a game is overproduced is to know precisely for which audience it is intended.
So asking yourself when a board game becomes overproduced for you may be a good way of learning a little more about the kind of gamer you are.
References and Further Browsing
- The GNS Theory, on Wikipedia
- Overproduced vs. Underproduced, on Boardgamegeek
- What does “overproduced” mean?, on Reddit
- Thoughts on “Over-Produced” Games, on The Meeple Street
- Overproduced – the bad kind – games, on Reddit
- Kickstarter Study, on Boardgamegeek
- Is overproduction a thing and, if so, which games are the biggest culprits?, on Boardgamegeek
- On the “Overproduction” of Games, on Boardgamegeek
- The most overproduced board games out there?, on Boardgamegeek
- Over produced boardgames, on Boardgamegeek
- When does a board game become overproduced for you?, on Boardgamegeek
- The Most Overproduced Games Ever, on Boardgamegeek
- The Most Under Produced Games Ever!!!, on Boardgamegeek
- Terminology: Overproduced, on Boardgamegeek
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