Arkham Horror: Thought invoked through mythmaking genius at Fantasy Flight Games

Taking a break from the usual heavy subjects explored at this site I have to say more about a company I have highlighted often in America who I think is having a major impact on world culture.  This is not a movie company, a video game developer or even a traditional television broadcaster—it is Fantasy Flight Games who again appear to be at the absolute top of their field.  I was at my favorite game store—Nostalgic Ink, in Mason, Ohio buying my son-in-law some expansion ships for our X-Wing Miniatures game which is a Fantasy Flight creation which I have raved about often.  I had my grandson with me so he wanted to walk around the store looking at all the other products, which I of course allowed him to do.  While looking elsewhere in the store I ran across the Fantasy Flight Game Arkham Horror which looked fabulous and further impressed me with what Fantasy Flight has been doing in the realm of gaming.

These types of games are a participatory mythology—meaning they allow players to jump into a scenario and live the values of a mythology.  These games unlike everything else in society are all about recognizing value instead of evading it—so there isn’t any escape from the process of assessment.  I wasn’t a fan of these kinds of things until my nephews and son-in-law brought them back into my life last summer while on vacation.  While I don’t enjoy traditional board games like Monopoly and most of the games on the Target gaming shelf dealing with contemporary matters, I do love these mythology based games in that they are like novels lived in the field of time and space which have uncertain outcomes.

The Arkham Horror game attracted my attention because it deals with the Roaring Twenties and involves horror, monsters, and ancient secrets.  Of course it is this time period I love which featured near perfect capitalism and a wonderful President in Calvin Coolidge, so the time period itself is interesting as a backdrop for such a story.  At Nostalgic Ink we were in a time crunch so I didn’t buy the game as of yet, but I will at the next available moment.  It plays up to eight people in a cooperative play which would do well in my family.  We had a birthday party for that same son-in-law who is very skilled with these games.  It’s impressive to watch him.  At the party several groups broke off and played games, some in the house, some outside set up around the pool, some out under a shade tree.  One of the games was Magic the Gathering which I’ve seen quite a lot, the other was my son-in-law’s new Game of Thrones card game again by Fantasy Flight Games.  I watched a bit of that game and again it was another amazing creation by Fantasy Flight with the usual quality in game pieces and such detailed manuals, card design, and even box artwork.

I had been wondering if Fantasy Flight was just freakishly good at game design with their X-Wing series—because it’s Star Wars and thus sells well.   But after seeing what they did with the Game of Thrones card game I’m convinced that it is just the nature of the company.  Any doubts I had about buying The Arkham Horror game evaporated in that instant.  The gaming that night at our house went well into the night well past the time my wife and I went to bed—so my family would love Arkham Horror.

During a typical day when things sometimes seem overwhelmingly difficult—and impossible—I take a minute and visit the Fantasy Flight Games website to see what’s going on new—which every day appears to be something.  I enjoy reading the game forums for X-Wing and it actually relaxes my mind.  This is distinctively different from the typical escapism, evasion tactics of something like a baseball game, or Fantasy Football—which does similar things for a more mainstream audience.  For me, and my love of mythology, these games are just marvelous.

Walking the aisles at Nostalgic Ink the owner does a great job of displaying all his vast collection of games—most of them are like these Arkham Horror, and Game of Throne games.  These are different from traditional board games like Life, Candyland, or card games like Uno.  They have the added element of plot and story to accentuate the randomness of a dice role—and are quite intriguing.  If I had time, I’d like to play one of each kind of game in Nostalgic Ink.  My grandson not yet two years of age already understands that there is something special about the place, he enjoys the colors on the boxes displaying all the bizarre artwork and wanted to look at everything.  It’s a very stimulating atmosphere much like how book stores used to feel minus the references to popular culture—which is often distracting when you need a break from it.

It cannot be ignored that people who play these types of Fantasy Flight Games enjoy thinking.  My son-in-law certainly embodies that trait—he loves to think and in the realm of those games—is a maestro.  But what’s better is the plot and advancement of intrigue that makes the experience like a shared novel.  In a high-tech age such as what we live in now, it is just wonderful to see such a low tech—creative—and traditional format of storytelling that has emerged as powerfully as Fantasy Flight Games has done over these last few years.  I was already a fan because of their X-Wing Miniatures work, but their efforts don’t end there.  It is unlikely that I would have ever stepped into Nostalgic Ink if not to purchase my first B-Wing fighter in the September of 2013.  Since then, I have been there often and now find myself going there to primarily buy gifts for other people.  But for me X-Wing Miniatures has been a gateway to the rest of the Fantasy Flight Games product line.  It is what they are doing now that will still have meaning many years from now when I want to play the same games with my future grandchildren and other family members who will grow up to love those games.  I remember the kind of things I loved growing up and to a large extent, I still love those things.  Video games and tech related entertainment has a dated feel that cheapens those experiences over time as improvements come out in future years.   But these Fantasy Flight Games products will still have the magic of their appeal hundreds of years from now because the root of their effort is in the great presentation of their material– the invocation of thought as their mechanism into story telling.  And it is in the stories of our society that the truths we all seek reside—whether realistic, or fantasy based, it is the process of thought which the human race most seeks.  And Fantasy Flight Games has their pulse on the importance of thought—and that makes them for my money one of the best companies on earth creating one of the most important needs humans have aside from food and clothing—mythology.

Rich Hoffman