The ‘Repeat Players’

Once a week, I go to a community board game night for several hours. There’s usually about 20 people in attendance with a healthy mix of ages, backgrounds, genders, and game tastes, and there are usually about 10 regulars that consistently show up every week.

One of the big challenges of this group has been that when people get new games, they tend to want to get them to the table. If someone receives an interesting new game for their birthday or for a holiday, for example, they want to bring it to the game night and play it with the other people in the group who are similarly enthusiastic about such games.

This creates an interesting problem of sorts. Often, people will bring new games to the group and see them played perhaps once or twice before someone else brings something new that edges out the previous game. It doesn’t even really matter if the previous game is really interesting and engaging or not.

The reason for that switch is that everyone wants to be polite and allow people to get to play their new games that they’re excited about, but there’s also a layer of simply being interested in trying a new game.

The bad part of this is twofold. One, it means that some really good games only get played a few times before it’s hard to get anyone to play them any more. Two, it means that there’s often a sense that the only time you’re going to get a game of your choosing to the table is if it’s new, which encourages buying and acquisition, which is pretty much in direct opposition to responsible personal finance practices.

While generally the board game nights really do encourage a frugal evening – you can go there and play games all night long for free and there are often snacks shared by people and sometimes even free food – it can also bring forth a trend where people feel like their games aren’t getting played or that they have to buy a new game all the time to “keep up.”

A while back, one of my closest friends from that group sat down with me and we tried to come up with a solution to the problem. Our solution was simple: We started a “repeat players club.”

Four of us simply entered into an agreement that each game night, we would take part in a series of five plays of the same game, once each week for five weeks. The game that would be played repeatedly would be chosen by each of us on a rotating basis, so we could each have a chance to really dig into a game that we really liked that didn’t seem to get to the table very much.

What this essentially does is that it creates more value for some of the better games we already have while also reducing our desire to buy new games. Older games that might have sat in the closet and eventually been traded or taken to Goodwill are now seeing lots of plays, at no additional cost to any of us. Often, that means we start to see interesting nuances in the game that we wouldn’t have picked up with a single play, and we’re all clearly getting better at them, too. At the same time, it cuts into that desire for acquiring new games. Since we’ve started this series, we’ve cut down on our time spent playing new games and that’s actually reduced our desire to bring new games all the time and that has thus reduced our desire to acquire new games all of the time.

We’ve sarcastically started referring to our little sub-group as the “Repeat Players” because it often seems like the same people are repeating the same game.

Here’s the thing, though: This same exact “Repeat Player” phenomenon works with an absolute ton of hobbies, and it offers similar benefits for those hobbies.

Enjoy reading books? Take out one of your favorite novels or favorite nonfiction books or favorite series and reread it again, from the beginning. See what you notice differently this time around. This costs you nothing because you likely already have the series on your shelf or on your Kindle and you know it’s going to be a good experience. You can even turn this into a “book club” where you get together with a few friends and each of you choose a book that’s one of your all-time favorites for a reread, with the others in the club checking out copies from the library.

Enjoy watching movies? Grab one of your all-time favorite films and watch it again. See how the story grabs you, the great performances, the humor, the emotions. Ride that wave again. Even better, have a movie night where you share this film with some of your friends. You might even have a series of movie nights with a circle of your friends where you re-watch favorite films chosen by each of you.

Enjoy watching great drama or comedy series, like Breaking Bad or House of Cards? Fire up one of those series from the beginning and get to binge-watching. See what foreshadowing you can notice or what other little details you overlooked the first time while you ride that tidal wave of excellent drama and storytelling.

Enjoy playing video games? Pull out some of your old classics and play through them from the start. You’ll find that the gameplay holds up in the truly classic games and that those great games offer a ton of nuance in their play that comes out the second time around (or third… or fourth…).

It works well with any hobby. Just invest some time in re-enjoying some of your peak moments from that hobby. Make some of your favorite meals again. Make your favorite home-brew recipe again. Go on your favorite bike trail again.

Not only will you appreciate the greatness of that thing again, you’ll also notice nuances that you didn’t see before. You’ll figure out a character’s motivation. You’ll see a beautiful view off to the right of a trail when you’ve always been looking to the left. You’ll discover a new clever and subtle strategy.

Not only that, the cost of doing this will be nonexistent (or at least very low). Most of the time, this just means pulling something off your shelf that you haven’t picked up in a while, or stopping by the library. You might need a few simple ingredients, but you’re still keeping the costs very low.

Not only that, this practice will somewhat quell your desire to spend more money on new items for that hobby. Your focus will be absorbed by doing things rather than buying things, which means that your money stays in your pocket.

Not only that, this gives you an opportunity to share the cream of your hobby with your friends, particularly those also in the hobby, and it opens their window to sharing their favorite items with you. You can watch your favorite movies together or play your favorite games together or form a book club around your favorite books.

Here’s how you get started.

If you’re going solo, just take a look at the items you already own for your primary hobby – or ones that you have easy access to – and find one of the all-time greats that you’re interested in enjoying again.

For example, as a reader of fantasy novels, I’m considering rereading Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series again this summer (and probably well into the fall). This will be an entirely solo read. However, I happen to own all of the books already, so there’s no cost involved, and when I’m that deep into a series, I have a reduced interest in acquiring new stuff.

If you’re interested in making this social, pitch the idea to a few close friends. Maybe you’ll just agree to have a weekly “game night” for a while where you play some of your old classics, maybe playing them a few times each. Maybe you’ll do the same with a movie night. Suggest starting up a book club where you each take turns choosing one of your favorite books and everyone reads it together (you’re rereading it, so you can lead conversations).

Remember, the goal in approaches like this is to have fun. If you’re not having fun doing this, then don’t do it. For me, the idea of revisiting a great book is a really enticing thought, as is the entire series of games I’m digging into with the “Repeat Players.”

However, I would suggest that if you’re not having fun with some of the “greatest hits” of your hobby, then perhaps your interest in that particular hobby is waning and you may want to consider whether you need to continue to own all of this hobby stuff. This type of repeat exposure can be a good way to see whether or not your passion for a hobby is on the downhill slide.

This strategy doesn’t mean that your hobby needs to become a string of repeats, however. It just means that the truly worthy experiences of your hobby deserve to be repeated a time or two, and in doing so, you’ll find that the cost of your hobby declines along with some of the initiative to spend money on it.

Good luck!

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