Space Biff just published a very interesting piece of thought about why reviews should never bother about a game board price.
Although I strongly disagree on some key points, I think the whole is very much worthy of consideration. Notably, I do agree that a reviewer does not have to care about the price of the game is reviewing, because the price fluctuates, while the review should ideally be relevant any time -even when the game can be found on sale anywhere, on the second-hand market for a bargain, or is out of print and reaches insane prices on ebay. But one could say that the "cultural space" in which the game is inscribed is also very much dependent on the time of the review and so it is illusory to think that a review is "timeless".
My biggest problem with it is the view of games like pieces of art. I don't want to enter into the philosophical discussion of "what is art?", even though it's interesting in its own right. But I see two problems with that. First, whenever something becomes "invaluable", you open the door to make the experience exclusive to the few who can afford it -because there is always a price of entry, ironically, and the higher something is invaluable, the higher monetary value it can be given.
Second, what exactly is a cultural object in a board game? The physical copy you've bought in retail? Yes and no, since you can smash it into pieces and the game still exists as a cultural product that enriches our cultural space. It's really the same as recorded music, or a book. The Earthsea cycle is very much a piece of art, but I can throw away my old worn-out copy without regret, and I won't ask someone to pay 67$ because it's really good and it's such a beautiful experience that truly it's worth even more than that and you won't ever be able to pay enough for it because it has a quality that just transcends money. No, it's just a copy of it.
Similarly, the game exists as a virtuality that can be realized in a physical copy that is just the way through which you individually access the experience. But whether this specific, individual copy exists or not is irrelevant with regard to whether the experience can be accessed as part of the culture (at least, to some extent). So, why should the physical copy be priced according to the experience of the game, if it's just an inter-changeable access point that could be produced again?
Well, I would have much more to tell on this subject, but I prefer to hear your thoughts on it!
I agree. I also believe that discussing the price of a game doesn't reduce its cultural and artistic value. Stating, for example, that 'this game offers a wonderful experience but it's very expensive' is a valid point to make when writing a review.
Even though he makes a lot of valid points, I disagree with the main argument. For me, games are commercial products and not works of art, even though their aesthetic aspect is very important. They are meant to be used, not exhibited and contemplated on (unless you are a non-gaming collector). When I decide to buy a new game, I first think with my pocket. So a reference to pricing and value-for-money, if the price is too high, is very relevant to me.
I always appreciate it when reviewers (I have Shut Up and Sit Down in mind) suggest cheaper alternatives and don't encourage blind consumerism. When it comes to such games as, for example, The Shores of Tripoli, which sells for 70 euro, of course my thoughts will be is it good enough, is it replayable enough, in other words: is it worth the price?
In any case, interesting discussion, thanks, Z.