Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Games that fail the Value principle.

I've completely lost track of this hence why I've not done an updated post on the value assessment of my hobby.  Plus as I said in my last post there are some games which on the value scale just haven't earned their position to stay in my collection.

So there's a couple of options here.

  1. Play them.  Sounds easy enough doesn't it and in many respects it should be that easy.  After all these are games and I, y'know, play games so surely I can play them?
  2. "Sell them".  I've put quotes around that as there are limited options to how this can play out.  Sure eBay is an option but I always find eBay a bit of a pain. There are Facebook groups for selling stuff so maybe that's an option instead.  Of course I could donate them to charity shops or gift them in some way.
Before determining which option is the right one it's worth looking at the games on the list of those failing the Only Buy It If You're Going To Use It principle test.
  • X-Wing (plus 2 Y-Wings) - It's really a 2 player game and I have since learned to avoid 2 player games as they just don't get played.  At least not by me. Sure it's Star Wars and I am a huge Star Wars fan but it's a 2 player game and given that I've not played it for erm actually I can't remember the last time but it was more than a year ago it probably is time for it to move on.
  • Star Wars LCG (plus numerous expansions) - Again it's a 2 player game (ok so it can be more than that with one of the expansions) and again it's Star Wars.  There's probably a lesson in here around my weakness for games set in the Star Wars universe.  At least I can say that I play the Edge Of The Empire RPG though and I've (so far) not bought Age Of Rebellion or Force and Destiny (currently in Beta). I had high hopes for playing this (hence the expansions) but I just don't see me playing it.
  • Snake Oil - So this one isn't a 2 player game. It's a 3 to 10 player game.  Surely that means I'll play it, right?  Well actually no.  I suspect the game will never be played because whilst I find the concept and theme amusing and I'm sure it's a lot of fun it will just never reach the top of my "to play" list (not that I have a "to play" list but you take my point).
  • Catan Junior - So I bought this as an impulse purchase near the beginning of this 2nd Chapter because I'd been looking for it for a long time and I believed it would be a great family game to introduce my daughter (and wife) to board games. Unfortunately (for Catan Junior) other games took that slot instead.  Specifically games like Hey, That's My Fish! have taken that slot. Plus now that my collection has grown and I have more family orientated games that I think I will play it's probably time for Catan Junior to move on.
  • Panic Station - A game I bought when we went to London and at that time I think it was a gamble but I had been looking for a sci-fi themed co-operative game. The thing with Panic Station is that it feels too fiddly. Ok fiddly isn't a good descriptor. The approach of having essentially 2 characters per player to manage just feels like a hassle and whilst I can't really explain why it's always put me off.  Now out of the list so far this game might not actually go as my original reason for buying it remains - I still want a sci-fi themed co-operative game and as yet I haven't found an alternative one.
  • Stonehenge - I've talked about this before here.  I am still intrigued by it but as with Snake Oil I just don't see me playing it...
So there we have it.  It's a small selection of my overall collection but they fail the principle and so I need to make a decision on how to move them on.

It's probably not a one size fits all solution here for each of these as some will likely not be that easy to sell on eBay or elsewhere.

Of course there is the other option of just keeping them...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

So what's next?

It's been a month since Gen Con and since then I've been really busy at work leading to my limited time to write here.

I have however had some time to play games that I picked up at Gen Con including Dragon Slayer, Sentinel: Tactics, Abyss, Cash & Guns and Battletech: Alpha Strike (which I had a post about but the Blogger Android app wiped it...).  All of which I can happily report are great fun.  That's not all I've been playing though and the growing games library is certainly getting used at the moment.  There are a few games that might be close to being removed as they're just not getting played but that might be a post for future.

But considering the first 8 months of 2014 was largely dominated by my build up Gen Con I have to wonder what the remainder of 2014 really holds with respect to the blog and my hobby.

There's no grand announcement here as at the moment my immediate focus is on playing games on Friday nights at DWARF and specifically on trying to grow the community that is starting to form around East Neuk Tabletop Games in Anstruther, Fife.

So what is next for my hobby and indeed for this blog?  That's really 2 questions.

My Hobby - More time for gaming.  I've posted before about my hobby objectives and my challenge around available free time.  The position in the latter post has changed a little and there may be an option to some irregular gaming on a Tuesday night soon which would be great.  Just need to ensure I'm keeping a balance though as I'm already sustaining a 3 weeks in 4 attendances at DWARF and have the 2nd and 4th Sundays at ENT.  What neither of those is giving me though is time to play D&D and that's kind of important to me.

The Blog - No real change. I expect and intend to continue to post on the various topics that I've been covering. Not least of which are those that fall under my hobby and the hobby.  I'm equally passionate about both aspects and they are things I have more to write about, especially "the hobby" but right now it's about finding / making the time to write that's proving a challenge.

So yeah, that's what is next. More of the same but obviously with less / no Gen Con content at least until 2016 when I might look to going back (2015 isn't an option for a variety of reasons!).

Monday, 8 September 2014

Seminar : Using Games To Build Community

Sooo.....  This is the 2nd time I've posted this.  Thanks to the wonders of the Blogger Android app I managed to wipe the original post.  Fortunately I had the content of the post in an email I sent to Dustin.  Needless to say the Blogger Android app has been removed from my phone and tablet to avoid the same thing happening again...

I’ll be the first to admit that with hindsight I wasn’t the target audience for this seminar.

That actually disappoints me as I really wanted to be the target audience but I feel that Dustin (the organiser) had to tailor his pitch to a largely generic level to ensure he covered the variety of bases that the wide audience would need support in.
That said, I felt it was too light and not entirely sure what people took away from it other than "must do stuff" around choosing areas to organise events in and how to partner with FLGS' etc.
My view is that specific elements of community and choice of venue to enable that community to grow could have been expanded on.  Limited time to do that in many respects as it was a 1 hour seminar but I would have looked at things similar to previous topics in this blog.

Venue - Everything about choosing your venue needs to be based on engagement, this is both for the internals and the externals of that venue.
Externally the venue has to be -

  • Signposted : So people need to know that there is something inside the venue associated with games.  This can be posters and other signage but from a tabletop hobby market it has to be clear of the types of games that will be on offer whilst still remaining relatively neutral on the level of "geek" association.
  • Welcoming : Everything about the externals of the venue needs to enhance the likelihood of people wanting to enter. Avoid the stereotype of blacked out windows etc.  People need to see in to ensure that they can see it's a venue they want to go into.
  • Accessible : Can a wheelchair get in? Can a kids pram/buggy get in? These ideally shouldn't involve a need to invoke a secondary method such as an elevator.  Accessible also applies to things like security and "do I need a badge/pass" to get in? Ideally not although appreciate in certain environments that isn't an option.
  • Restrictions : Does the venue have any restrictions based on age or other elements? E.g. there was 1 gentleman who talked about his gaming community meeting up in a bar. I'm unclear on the laws in the US and indeed if they vary by state but in the UK under-18s aren't allowed to enter a bar without that bar having a food license or indeed some sort of family license (which is usually time bound),  I personally think that bars are a bad choice if you're trying to include the younger communities not just because of the licensing but also because parents may not be keen on having their kids attend a bar.
Internally the venue has to be -
  • Signposted : Again this is key.  Where does the community meet? In a FLGS/FLCS scenario that should be much clearer however in most other scenarios signposting internally may be required or at the very least there needs to be someone available throughout the session to direct people to the correct location.
  • Welcoming : Again the interior has to present the atmosphere that it is welcoming to the community.  Social elements like cliques can be perceived without actually existing plus the "politeness" element of not wanting to interrupt a group of people whilst they're engaged in games is something that needs to be addressed.  This could be managed through having "spotters" to handle that engagement with the new attendees.
  • Layout : Ideally the layout should be semi-flexible so that different combinations of tables/chairs can be used to accommodate different games and/or events.  If that's not an option, e.g. where the layout is fixed booth type tables/chairs then this can be a challenge to ensure the new attendees can see opportunity to join in.

Targeting your community - Knowing how to target and who to target is very difficult without knowing about existing play groups and understanding more about what sort of appetite exists within the wider community.
So how do you start that?

  • Format : If there is a pre-existing community, such as the one you may be in or one that you have had previous involvement in then that's as good a starting point as any. If there's a pre-existing board/card/war/roleplay gaming community then use that format as the starting point with the expectation and open mindedness to be able to support other formats.
  • Branding : Giving anything a name gives it identity and a brand that can use to refer to it. The easiest trap to fall into here is to brand it based on the format of the game being played. Naming the community as a roleplaying group may result in the silent exclusion of those who don't "do" roleplaying as they perceive the community as only playing that format of game. The flipside is that anything more generic may mean it slips under the radar of existing gamers who think you're something else.  E.g. when I opted for the name Kingdom Of Adventure it was obvious to me what that meant but when speaking to people who became customers some thought it was a soft play area for kids. So branding (for want of a better term) is key.
  • Frequency : This depends on a variety of things; your available time and the venue's available time probably being the greater influences on the frequency.  What's important is that you set a schedule, stick to it and promote the future dates in every piece of marketing you have. So if you meeting every 2nd and 4th Sunday then don't break that routine and ensure that everyone knows that's when things are.  For some events a more frequent schedule can be better but the key to promoting the frequency and schedule regularly is that this presents attendees an opportunity to "invest" in the community.  Without that community investment it is harder to build momentum and harder to grow overall.
  • Event Format : This is in many respects driven by the format of the event, however don't assume you have to go for formal tournament based play by default.  Competitive games work just as well in a casual format as they do in a tournament format.  It's true that tournaments will drive commitment to the community but at the same time it can be off putting to new players.  If it's CCG/TCGs that are being played then a tournament enables better community cohesion and integration as it's not just people playing in their own "sub-communities" and are simply sharing the location, not that there's anything wrong with that per se but it does dilute the identiy of the community a bit.
  • Promotion : Nothing beats word of mouth, ask everyone that you know if they are interested in trying the games out and if not ask them to ask their friends. Plenty of people are willing to give things a try and simply not everything is for everyone. Other promotion will depend on budget and time.  Social media promotion can work for you and be free too. I'm not talking about advertising on Facebook more the use of key phrases especially when it comes to your location / region.  Using hashtags on Twitter for your region can also draw people into the community but that the social media element really depends on how rural or urban your community is going to be based.  More rural is likely going to work better through word of mouth or posters. For ENT we've used posters to good effect thanks to Alan mostly. Having something recognisable to a gamer (current or lapsed) will perk their interest but at the same time if you're looking to target non-gamers then it needs to be more obvious what the community is about.

Each of these elements above come under the umbrella term of "barriers to entry".

Every barrier that is put in front of a potential attendee at an event is something that the event organiser needs to either remove or mitigate to give every opportunity for new attendees to participate in the hobby.

These are the things that every event organiser has to overcome to enable the greatest chance of success for their event.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Gen Con Seminar : The Psychology Of Gaming

So yeah I attended this seminar and it was very interesting although I think I was out of my depth at times...

The pitch for the event was - "Are you interested in psychology? Are you looking for some insight into what makes gamers tick? Come join a talk on some interesting connections between psychology and gaming." - and I think they pretty much (if not entirely) nailed it.

The presenter was Justin Laplante and he kind of ended up doing this seminar by mistake.

An amusing sequence of events from Gen Con 2013 had Justin and some other fellow attendees turn up for this seminar only to find out it had been cancelled but rather than move on to their next event they decided to hold a kind of "workshop" approach to this.  Indeed several of those attendees were in the audience with one of them shouting "Weren't you dressed up as a Wizard last year?" to several laughs.

So fair play to Justin for stepping up and this time being the host for the seminar.

It was a fairly academically heavy pitch (for me at least) and the audience seemed to contain a fair number of academics or pseudo-academics with a real interest in Psychology.  Something that very much made me (the layman who was intrigued) feel more than a little out of my depth.

What I did take from it though is that there haven't been specific psychological analysis and in turn papers on the tabletop hobby and so the "science" of the topic just isn't there.

What was covered though was that traditional approaches to this sort of research usually results in a very narrow band approach.  Essentially trying to distill the analysis down to as few conditional and environmental factors as possible.  This is primarily because of the need (or the perception thereof) for a proof to be defined.  After all, this is Science!

The audience participation throughout the seminar was fantastic to say the least.  It was particularly vibrant throughout the section where there was a discussion about "Geek Culture" and how it is defined.  Most of the supporting analysis for this was on the Video Games population but there are parallels.  Now this research was cited as an example on the definition of Geek and came up with 4 classifications that could be used.  Unfortunately I didn't note down who completed the research so apologies if this is your work...

The classifications were -
  • Misfit - Socially awkward
  • Genius - Technology Expert
  • Super Fan - Must Have Everything!
  • Geek Chic - I missed a part of this definition but what I picked up was that this is essentially the borderline point where Geek things become popular.  Usually via pop culture references and the discussion here tended to focus on the plethora of superhero movies that we've seen in recent years.
Now for each of these I can see elements in myself.  I can also label people I know within the wider community with 1 or more of each of these.  However I don't want to and I also don't think that is the point here either.  The ability to distill a community helps us to understand how to a) grow that community through targeting those stereotypes and b) segregate the overall community which I think is a bad thing as it leads to exclusivity of the hobby.

There was some debate around the "geek badge" and wearing it with pride and I entirely echo that statement.  I don't hide my hobby, it's pretty much front centre when I meet new people. Even at work I talk about my hobby openly with the team and with others too (once I've actually y'know done the work stuff).

This also touched on "taking back" the geek identity from the borderline pop culture and the abhorrent "fake geek (girl or otherwise)" element of the community. Kovalic explains thus here. Again I want to be known as a geek but I also don't want to be divisive in how that community is formed.

Whilst I believe retaining ownership of what constitutes the geek label is important I don't think it should be to the detriment of the growth of the hobby as a whole.

So all in all it was a worthwhile hour but I kinda wish it had been more about avoiding the distinctions that make us geeks (e.g. the 4 classifications above) to enable the growth of the community as a whole.  But that'd probably be a whole different workshop!