Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm The Best Friend You've Got

Let's make no pretenses; board games are a business. Although most people involved do what they do out of passion for the hobby, most cannot do so for free, or worse, at a loss. And being a consumer business, the evaluation of the "quality" of the product is not up to "the professionals" to decide. It is up to the consumers.

The problem is that we are all different. We all have different requirements, different tastes, different degrees of tolerance for choices made by the publisher, the designer, the graphic designer, etc. Do these creative people really want us to "quit whining"? If they only sell half as many copies of XYZ as expected, don't they really want to know why? It's not just about the one game; it's about their future.

W Eric Martin did an excellent job listing many of the tough decisions that publishers must weigh when producing a game. But by what criteria are they to make these decisions? It should be based on customer feedback. If you lean towards higher quality bits, then, yes, some customers are going to complain about the cost. The only way to handle the situation is to take all feedback, and use it to make future choices. As long as customers know that the publishers are listening, they will understand. This does not mean they should "quit whining".

Let's put something in perspective. If player A doesn't like something about a board game, and player B doesn't mind, then player A is a whiner. If player A wants a clarification on an ambiguous rule, and player B "knows" what it means, then player A is a rules lawyer. Everyone is a "whiner" or a "rules lawyer" when put into the proper circumstances. Stop being hypocrites.

What about the common "vote with your wallet" attitude? I don't think anyone wants that, certainly not the publishers. There are games that are too awful for me to buy, and games that are within my tolerances. I assume the publisher would rather that I buy the game and give them feedback, than not buy it at all.

I want all publishers to succeed. When I make negative comments about their games, it is with the intention of helping them to improve (this time or next time).

So who the hell am I? I'm no one in particular. I am not a trend-setter. I am often in the minority in my opinions. But I am always honest, straight, and speak in good faith. I am not out to harm or even disrespect publishers, designers, or others. And, no, telling someone you don't like something they spent months working on is not disrespectful. Lying about how you feel--or equivocating--is.

Knizia said, "When playing a game, the goal is to win. But it is the goal that is important, not the winning." This is true of publishing as well. The goal is perfection. Is it important that you strive for perfection, not that you reach it. That's what I want to see more of.

So who the hell am I? I'm the best friend you've got.

I don't care who you are, I will always tell you what I think. I want you to succeed. I want your games to get better and better. And I want to buy them. If I stop caring about you, I will stop talking to you. Don't get too comfy with your fanboys; they will be the ones standing on your shoulders as you sink into the mud.