Author Archives: Spencer Cohen

Pandemic Reflection

In week 2 I had the opportunity to play Pandemic. This being my first time in class, as I was sick with COVID the week before, I was hesitant to step into a new board game with a group of people I had never met before. When I entered the classroom I sat at an empty table as my friend I knew ahead of class was not there yet. The table I had sat at had already been set up for Pandemic and had a rulebook available. I began to read the rules and attempted to become accustomed to the mechanics ahead of gameplay. As I was joined by more and more members of the class, at my empty table, I found that the information I had gleaned from the rulebook gave me a palpable sense of leadership at the table. People would look to me during gameplay for answers, not only questions of rules but strategy. I would often mess small things up but the table’s confidence in my decision-making did not waver.

I found the most difficult part of the game strategizing how to divide and conquer the different viruses as a team. The process of deciphering the different abilities and their inherent strengths allowed for interesting and repeatable gameplay. I think this game can be enjoyed by anyone willing to look past all the pieces and complicated ruleset, the basic cooperation and strategy embued within the game appeal to just about anyone.

I enjoyed playing alongside people with that I had no personal ties more than I expected. I found my social anxiety peaking at the start of the game but as we all “entered the arena” (as to say began playing) I found that the centralized focus of the game allowed me to step back from my stress and dive into the game. This is one of my favorite parts about games, they have the ability to break down the barriers between people in ways that no other forms of media can. One reason multiplayer video games have taken a decline, in my personal opinion, as of late is the barriers that are put between players and social interaction. Many games that originally hooked their original fanbase with couch multiplayer split-screen have begun removing that option from their games. Historic franchises like Halo and Call of Duty have left couch multiplayer by the wayside in hopes of boosting sales and restricting their players’ social interactions to be on their platforms. I say all that and yet board games have begun a resurgence since the start of Covid so clearly the demand for in-person multiplayer is still there. That’s why I joined this class, to learn more about what games there are out there and what makes them successful. On top off that, I have struggled with self worth and advocating for years and to find out this class addresses those struggles through the light of games is extremely comforting to me.

Fiasco Pt:1

In the first week of play, Fiasco proved to me two things roleplaying games are basically improv with more structure and Fiasco has the least possible structure while still being a game. I found that its lack of structure and its lack of a GM led to very interesting situations where different leadership styles came to light.

This game is basically an improv performance that is thrown together by people that don’t necessarily know each other well. This led to instances where creative visions might be challenged but didn’t result in disputes. The levity that the game offers through the route of play allows the players to avoid direct confrontation in interest of smooth gameplay experiences.

I struggled at first with how broad the start of play is. “Establishing” is an intimidating task especially if you are the first to go. As play progressed this became easier and easier as the story seemed to form around itself. To tie this to my struggles with writing I have found the hardest part for me is starting and declaring a direction to head down. I will put off writing for weeks-months only to finally sit down and do the work and find it takes less time than expected. I learned through playing Fiasco that sometimes the hardest part is just starting.