tl;dr tfw your five-second sight gag gets more than twice the pluses of the thing you literally spent all weekend on.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question of being taken seriously in game design. What a rabbit hole! Mostly because, IMO, what that looks like is different for everyone.
So first off? Social media cues are a terrible metric for success. Too many variables, and folks use plus/like to mean so many different things. I did roll my eyes a little at the disparity between plusses on my Anthony Hopkins image versus a rough game design. But that’s where it stopped and I got on with my life.
But it did get me thinking about the question of seriousness from the perspective of a reader, player, consumer and opinion-haver. Here are the signals I respond to:
* Is there something worth exploring here? “Worth exploring” means, for me, a novel new way to look at something. That something might be fictional or procedural. But it’s gotta push my “hmm, never seen that before!” button. Lots and lots of PbtA stuff, for example, doesn’t push that button because it’s samey.
* Is it something I could reasonably expect to get to a table? Unfortunately this is a brutal filter. My convention library and my home library are different things. But unless I’m just reading and commenting, my interest stops if I’m not sure I could get it played. Stuff that helps me get games to the table: a really strong thematic hook, interesting procedures that aren’t too unfamiliar, presentation, turnkey print-and-play.
* Am I helping someone I know? I like helping people I know with playtesting, feedback, ideas. I hope they’ll return the favor someday but it’s not a requirement!
* Is it from someone whose work I already like? Tragic but true. I don’t know how to get around this other than via the next bullet.
* Have other voices I respect spoken well of the thing? There’s just too fucking much stuff and it just keeps coming. I need gatekeepers. I may even be a gatekeeper, but not of the first order. I have a list of folks in my head whose tastes I understand and whose judgement I trust.
* Personal reputation, which means lots of different things. If they’re already a designer type of person and I know what they’ve done, that’s a signal. If they’ve expressed passion for the material in other ways, that’s very appealing to me. If they’re “difficult,” well…I’m terrible at separating people and their work, and so many not-difficult folks also need time and attention.
From that POV, duh, no wonder I didn’t get the feeling that Robot Park was taken seriously, right? I wouldn’t have taken it seriously either! Next draft tho: print-and-play, baby. Clearer explanation of the ideas. Probably hit up folks whose reputations I respect in the hopes of getting mentions (and applicable design advice I guess).
Oh oh, and stuff that does not play into whether I take a game seriously?
* Whether it’s for sale. I…kind of don’t care. If it’s in my hands, it’s in my hands.
* Length. I have a need/appetite for convention-friendly one-shots! So stuff like Keith Stetson’s Seco Creek Vigilance Committee makes it past my filters even though it’s like six pages long and not especially well presented. But it is print-and-play ready, it’s procedurally novel, it hits subject matter that interests me, and I have a good shot at getting it on a table.
* Art. Different than “presentation.” When I see expensive-looking art already attached to an early draft of something, I get spooked out. But yeah, please do present the play documents in a way that helps me learn and run the thing.
Anyway. This is just me thinking about what hurdles a game has to jump for my brain to linger on it and want to know more. It’s probably so narrow and specific that it’s not especially useful, other than making me your target demo.