In this article, we take a long, hard look at a board game disease known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and how it can be turned into a healthier FONYO (Fear of Neglecting Your Own).
A Confession… and Solution
I must confess…. I have contracted FOMO, formally known as Fear of Missing Out. Ever since it dawned on me that the wealth of titles on Board Game Geek was a cornucopia of interesting ideas, exciting experiences, and endless opportunities, I became an explorer of the industry. I’ve browsed YouTube for reviews, perused forums for opinions, and flocked to stores for the next exciting possession.
Like many before me, I quickly found that my hunger for the next thing outpaced my ability to consume them. In moments of clarity and perspective, I could see that I was in an unsustainable cycle. Some games wait weeks or months to be opened, others become quickly forgotten after the first or second session. All the while, the next batch of games is on the way or waiting to pounce when my wallet’s defenses are weakest. The collector’s guilt becomes even easier for someone like me (a board game designer) to suppress, as I can look at these frequent new games as research and development 😉
While I feel that this FOMO has caused me to cross the line at times, I’ve been fortunate to keep it in check enough to preserve a healthy lifestyle and relationships. That said, I find myself and others tiptoeing along a cliff’s edge, only a bad slip away from plummeting into the dangerous depths below.
Like any great passion, it is critical to maintain balance and moderation. That is easier said than done, especially when the number of exciting new releases each year is exponentially increasing all while I continue to find more compelling classics that demand a spot on my game shelf. As a relative newcomer to the hobby, I’m playing catch-up in both directions of the space-time continuum of must-own games. Just this past week, I had the opportunity to try a friend’s copy of Age of Steam, and OH BABY it was good. SOOOO GOOOOOOOD! That right there is the kind of game I want to play again and again. And the latest version is sheer luxury. I gotta get in on that before it sells ou—See, there I go again.
So with Age of Steam and plenty of other games continually tempting me to dive into their “Add to Cart” buttons, how does one resist the FOMO? Honestly, I’m still fighting it. I don’t think it’s possible to completely escape its pull, but it is possible to manage it. One of the most effective techniques that has worked for me is transforming my FOMO into FONYO.
That’s right, FONYO, or Fear of Neglecting Your Own. So what does this really mean, and what makes it an effective treatment to FOMO? It’s easy to be swept up in the next big thing when you aren’t considering the opportunity costs associated with it. When I realized that I was acquiring too many games too quickly, the first thing I did was give myself a wakeup call by evaluating how many times I’ve actually played each game in my collection.
Statistical Mind Tricks
BoardGameGeek.com or Board Game Stats (a mobile app) offer great options for tracking the number of plays for each game. These stats offer you the chance to feel both pride and shame at the same time. Pride when you’ve hit double digits with a favorite title. Shame when you sort by least number of plays and rediscover all the unloved boxes on your shelf. It’s those zeros, ones, and twos, especially. Those are the ones that really rub me wrong.
I’ll find a game that I absolutely LOVE. Just rave about to anyone who will listen. And how many times have I played it? Just two. Wait… REALLY?!? Put this dang game at the top of my to-play list, STAT!
Another game, I’ll notice, has only one play, and that was ages ago. It’s just been hanging out there in limbo. Too unattractive for me to play it again, yet too solid for me to get rid of it so soon. Over time, I either have to force it back to the table (with considerable effort), or let it go and accept that it just wasn’t for me. But at the very least, I can rest assured that the money or trade that comes from that dust-collector will more than likely be put to good use in the next acquisition. Furthermore, it has become easier for me to spot and avoid future temptresses as I become more conscious of a one-night stand style of game. I wouldn’t learn from my purchase mistakes without constant statistical reminders of those mistakes.
And those zeroes. Those dang zeroes. If I keep forcing my nose into this pile, I’ll at least keep them at the front of my mind as I wait for the right moment to present itself. Best of all, I can get myself re-psyched to explore these untouched frontiers and forget about the next big thing that is lurking on the preorder page.
Fighting Fire with Fire
Beyond the benefits of statistical influence, keeping an up-to-date list of my owned games has helped me to fight fire with fire. I’ve found that the easiest way to suppress wishlist cravings is by focusing on my wishlist cravings. Makes sense, right?
I’m speaking of two different kinds of wishlists. The first is the kind you are likely thinking of: games that I wish to own. The second kind of wishlist is the antidote to the FOMO-inducing first: games that I already own and wish to play. This kind of wishlist can easily be made by going through each and every game in your possession and jotting down every one that you are hungry to play. This kind of exercise generates the same type of cravings as FOMO and even replaces them. If you’re like me, you’ll quickly have a massive list of games that you are dying to play as soon as possible, and the best part about it is that you already own them! Instead of focusing your efforts and wallet and how to obtain the next pretty possession, you’ll be focusing your planning and thoughts on how to get these games from your shelf to the table.
Tastes are a Double-Edged Sword
The second thing that has helped me to combat FOMO is rating and critiquing each game I play. These days, I’ll always jot down my thoughts on a game on BGG while it is still fresh on the mind. And as I get more sessions in with a title, I’ll update my thoughts and rating when I notice drastic changes in my feelings towards the game.
Doing this consistently has helped me to discover the patterns within my gaming tastes and preferences. I’ve even gone so far as to list and define those tabletop tastes. So does being a self-designated board game critic help one to overcome FOMO? Well… not really. But also… yes, definitely! But then again… nope, it actually does the opposite. But on the other hand…
You see, writing about games and the experiences, feelings, and thoughts they stimulate is a cathartic experience. When I find myself stuck in an hours-long torture chamber of messy mechanisms or hollow experiences, I can at least look forward to teeing up the design later and blasting it to kingdom-come. More commonly, I’ll find myself in a game that I don’t love but want to, and so I have to ask myself why. By defining the elements that aren’t clicking for me, I often learn more about game design than from elements that work well in games I love. So for me, Fear of Missing Out on fun can also be Fear of Missing Out on a hot take or an insightful design lesson. I may pull the trigger on a game, knowing full well that it won’t last long in my collection, but it’ll probably be really fun to dissect.
Meanwhile, I won’t forget when I’m burned by a particular designer, publisher, or type of game. What I mean by that is: all designers, publishers, and genres tend to be fairly predictable and consistent. Splotter is probably going to make a punishing game. Cole Wehrle’s designs are probably going to have plenty of king-making potential. Roll & Writes are usually going to have minimal player interaction. I’m not saying any of these things are bad (I even like some of them). But if these elements don’t jive with me, and I’m able to recognize them, then it’s much easier to avoid similar options in the future.
The problem with recognizing consistency in the board game industry is that it makes blind purchases from my favorite creators all the easier! An acclaimed Knizia title, an upcoming Capstone publication, a teased Wehrle design… These kinds of things transform my FOMO into FONOF—Fear of Not Owning First!
And here is where we reach my weakest point… I don’t care. I don’t care if I own way too many Knizia games, he’s my favorite designer so GET OFF MY BACK. Ok, so maybe Capstone’s next Iron Rails game would be the… *counts on fingers*… sixth—no, wait—SEVENTH train game in my collection, but that’s not gonna stop me from buying it! And of course John Company 2e is far too niche for 95% of the people I game with, but that’s not gonna stop me from backing Cole’s next game! THE MAN IS A GENIUS!
Phew, well I’m sorry about that. As you can see, FOMO has many side-effects including iron-clad, passionate justifications. In my opinion, you gotta pick and choose your battles. I look at the paragraph of nonsense above and see some battles with my subconscious that I simply can’t win. Best I can do is compensate for those losses in other areas.
The YO in FONYO is not just “Your Own” Games
When I find myself in a year that contains the most enticing release lineup that Capstone has ever produced AND Cole Wehrle’s most ambitious kickstarter campaign yet AND the resurgence of the legendary Dr Knizia, etc., etc., I find myself scrambling to pull every piece of loose change out of every imaginable furniture crack in our budget. I’ll do what it takes to ensure that I can obtain my most anticipated games while keeping the budget from self-imploding. I have a family to support, an emergency fund to stock, and a retirement fund to nourish, after all.
Weighing these feelings of FOMO against the necessities of life helps me to trim down my unreasonable appetite while creatively expanding my stomach (the games budget). I can harness Fear of Missing Out on a game I KNOW I’ll LOVE and use it to pass on the FOMO from games that I THINK I’ll LIKE. Furthermore, I can force myself to wait for a great deal on a wishlist game, and if it eventually doesn’t make the cut for a permanent spot in my collection, I can resell it in the used market without taking a huge blow to my wallet. A $5 or $10 rental fee for a game experience is much more palatable to me than $40 or $50 down the drain for a box that I’m unlikely to revisit any time soon.
FONYO isn’t just limited to your budget. It’s a motivating feeling that can extend to other hobbies, interests, and priorities. I’m constantly seeking out, planning, and giving myself things to look forward to. Instead of spending far too much time researching more board games, I try to give myself something else to anticipate: designing a game prototype for an idea that has been bouncing around in my head, planning an activity with friends or family, focusing on a person who could use a day-brightener, etc.
I’d hate to look back on a whole week/month/year (or my entire life, heaven forbid) and only be able to say, “Well…. I was really good at researching and buying board games.” This FONYO regarding my dreams and priorities has been a fantastic method for keeping me busy, focused, and balanced.
Replacing FOMO with FONYO
In a FOMO-flooded hobby where too many of us have shelves of shame ranging from a minor handful of still shrink-wrapped boxes to entire towers of terror, we could all use a little more FONYO. FONYO for the treasured games already in our collections. FONYO for the priceless people and relationships in our lives. And FONYO for the many other priorities that deserve our anticipation.
A hero of mine once told me that the things which are the most important are the things that last the longest. The new hotness of the board game industry will come and go with the blink of an eye. Let’s not allow a fleeting flash of lightning to distract us from the essential rays of daily sunshine.
This concludes my article on Turning FOMO into FONYO (Fear of Neglecting Your Own). Of course, there are many healthy solutions for combatting and controlling FOMO. We’d love to hear your ideas for how you’ve kept your board gaming passions in check. Please feel free to comment below!
Article written by Nick Murray. To learn more about his tabletop gaming tastes and preferences, check out his blog series: Tabletop Tastes: My Favorite Flavors in Board Games. To follow his designs as they come to fruition, subscribe to our newsletter and follow Bitewing Games on social media!