Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The ekted effect

I have been an active member of BGG for about a year now. I assume if you are reading this blog that you are at least somewhat familiar with my posts and my style of discussion.

In high school, I had an English teacher who was very good at getting people engaged. He would say outrageous things in an attempt to get people to defend themselves. While not exactly the definition of the Socratic Method, its effect was the same.

Twenty years later, I am still a partial product of that experience. As a technical person, I am often involved in discussions that are very blunt. This is good. This is bad. This could be better. It's all very scientific. No one takes anything personally. Everyone learns.

Now, you'd think board gamers, being technical, intelligent, and logical, would be very similar. It seems this is not so. Making an off-handed observation about someone's favorite game is like insulting their mother.

I am obsessed about board games. I prowl around on BGG and other sites all the time looking for new games to buy. I read rules, look at images, read reviews and session reports, and (oh no!) ask questions. This is where the "fun" begins.

The highest compliment I can pay to a game that I do not own is to be on the forums asking questions about it. It means I already have the game on my watch list. Unless I find some fatal flaw, I am going to buy it. If you knew how picky I was, you would know that this is no small feat. Ultimately, I need to know if the game will be acceptible. This includes both rules and physical game quality.

I love reading game rules. This pasttime has kept me from normal reading for quite some time. I can pick up most board games in a single read, including Euphates & Tigris, Puerto Rico, and even Age of Renaissance. I'm not saying that I know every nuance of play, just that I understand how the game works, and can explain it to others.

If a rule book doesn't make sense to me after one time through, then it's either meatier than I expected (which is very uncommon) or not well written, period. Maybe I'll buy your game regardless, but I'm damn well going to say something about it. Why do people get all defensive when I do this? I don't really care that you can figure out how to play eventually. There's no excuse for bad writing from a major designer/publisher. Don't even get me started about spelling/grammar errors.

I despise hype. The publishers and designers can hype all they want. I am a customer, and it is not my job to sell games. If I like a game or like a ruleset, I will say so. When the Shadows Over Camelot hype began, I was very interested in the game. The traitor mechanism was very appealing to me. However, the forum was full of mindless fans hyping what they did not know. I couldn't resist. I threw in the ekted grenade: "DoW makes really nice-looking mediocre games." This was not some mean-spirited flame. I truly believe it, and I felt that some balance was necessary. Then all hell broke loose. Somehow I had insulted the gaming industry in general. All the trolls came out of the cracks to rally to the defense. Are we really that fragile? How sad.

Many people feel that we should all just be nice. We should only discuss the positive things in games. This is so wrong. It is a disservice to us all. Evolution demands that weakness be challenged. Without this we have fewer and fewer people buying more and more crap. If you hate a game, don't buy it. But if you like a game that has something wrong, let them know it! This is your one chance to give a little corrective push to a designer/publisher that is making something you like.

Consider the same situation without the evolutionary influences of enlightened gamers. Some company publishes a game. It's a hit, but it has a mediocre board. Everyone plays nice. To save a few bucks, the publisher uses a thinner board stock for their next game, etc. All of a sudden, no one is buying their games, so they stop making them. By your silence, you have killed the publisher of your favorite game.

So next time you see me with your game in my sights on BGG, don't start circling the wagons. It's on my watch/want list. I will likely be buying it. I am testing you. I am poking and proding to see where you are weak. I am helping you to be better. You can have my money; I just want your ear.

6 Comments:

At 6:55 PM, Blogger Rick said...

I agree with you in principle. The worst thing that can happen in the evolution of any product is for people to not call a piece of crap a piece of crap when they see it. However, this is ideally done in the development stage, and not post-publish when you can't do anything about it.

There's a hue and cry anytime a game is criticized, because people are unable to take criticism positively. (This does not excuse those who are unable to serve up criticism fairly and constructively - there's a right way to do this. "This game is crap" doesn't help anyone.) For example, there are real issues in War of the Ring, but practically everyone who defends the game on BGG is deaf and dumb and never address the issue head on (least of all the designers and playtesters). When I started getting Geekmail about my challenges to WotR's gameplay, I shut up. I like my gaming, and BGG is a place where I want to enjoy myself.

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I would love to be involved during the development of a game. However, the gaming industry seems to be more about who you know than about what skills you have.

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger fubar awol said...

Keep those Ekted Grenades coming!

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Steve Janecek said...

Ekted, I totally agree with you.

For many designers, their game is like a work of art. A personal piece of their soul, so they often take it personally. This happened when I was playtesting Wyatt Earp. The 5 of us playing this particular game thought it was terrible and we had a lengthy list of reasons and fixes. We put this list together, presented it to the designer himself.

Next day we were off playtesting traders of Genoa, never to see Wyatt Earp again.

Oh, and Wyatt Earp came out..just like we playtested it, no improvements

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger Greg Aleknevicus said...

It's painfully easy to deploy a "grenade" in a discussion. It's much harder to utilize well-reasoned arguments and logic to defend a position.

So why would you expect people to respond with the latter when you employ the former? It's hypocritical to expect people maintain a high standard when you yourself fail to live up to that same standard.

 
At 11:33 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Point taken. [swallows hard]

The grenade episode wasn't really a discussion I was involved in, per se. I do try to make reasoned, albeit blunt, comments.

 

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