Every time I invent something new, some person on the internet has already made a classification of all the possible ways this could go.
- Thomas Edison, probably
We humans are astonishing collectors and explorers. Once we seize on a concept or an idea, we categorise until every last nook and cranny is catalogued.
Here are 10000 types of beetles.
Here are 1300 pages of plant species in their 96th edition, organised in such a ridiculous fashion it'll take you three hours to find the one you have in your handI had to endure this with a former girlfriend, and for some reason she just wouldn't listen to me trying to organise her plant taxonomy differently.. The book is so old you can read it on Gutenberg.org
Here are 11 different ways to list the stars in the sky, plus nine more specialised catalogues.
But we also do this to the things we make up ourselves. Here are catalogues of cars, of car parts and of car catalogues.
Here are databases for world facts, landmarks, foodstuffs, football, artwork and of course, databases, databases and databases.
Which is why it is exciting when someone tries to push the boundaries of some of these categories. I know I've tried with our boardgame. And, sure, it is easy to create new implementations of a story character, or car, or country, or board game mechanic. But to define a new category, a new mechanic itself, that is very, very hard.
I was so pleased when I found three entries in a discussion on games played by aliens: Notes on card games played by aliens, Rarely seen game mechanics and Notes on rarely-seen game mechanics. And while these articles are somewhat entertaining, they don't really contain "rare" or new, or alien mechanics or ideas. Sure, chopping off a finger to make the opponent take a move back is audacious and well worth a short story, it's not really a new game mechanic, just a more extreme version of Advantage Token, or possibly even really just a regular game economy, though spread out over the meta-gameI am however tempted to mention Hand Management and I Cut, You Choose. The other things they discuss are all just instances of well-known mechanics, all of which appear in a multitude of games. They are just "rare" if you're unfamiliar with board games in general.
All of this is just a long-winded way of saying this: if you have invented, or want to invent, or are about to invent a new game mechanic, please please please let me know!