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.

0 thoughts on “Seriousnessism”

  1. .sub

    I think there’s a fair bit of overlap in your considerations and mine. However, I keep picking up games I know won’t hit the table soon if at all. Probably because I love reading about new systems and what makes them tick. But that’s a different consideration for a different list, I think.

  2. Commenting to remind myself to come back to this later, and to watch other people’s comments and maybe argue with them if I’m in the mood.

    I have views on most of this, and methods for some of this which work for me. I understand all of your concerns.

  3. Adam Day I’d put that under “novelty” myself, but I’m further down the “but how does it all work?” road.

    Mostly I suspect I’m going to be Salieri forever. (And only music history nerds know that Salieri wrote a shitton of really good stuff, but it all came out in Mozart’s shadow.)

  4. A sight-gag is more easily digestible, too. I had to spend time reading your Westworld game before I felt comfortable plussing (because I don’t want to plus things just because I think you’re cool; I figure that’s not helpful to you, if that makes sense).

    (Though I pretty much end up plussing everything you post, though.)

  5. My route to discovery is basically “luck into having friends who design and/or obsess about games.” Not very scalable? And even my friend who is highly obsessive doesn’t see everything; I felt really great when I told him about something sweet I saw on G+ and he wanted to run it. (He reads a lot more than he runs.)

  6. But he basically had to talk me into Masks, because we had done a long teen supers campaign in Champions in the 90s, with plenty of emotional intensity, and I felt like I had mined that vein, and wanted to play more adult supers “because they make different kinds of mistakes.” When he told me about the fluidity mechanic where other people can shift your stats, that was new and exciting enough to get me on board, and it fits perfectly into teenagers, and it just feels different enough to be interesting. (Which it has been.)

  7. Social media is a less-than-ideal place to share game drafts (I do it too!), because people can’t always read or bookmark a multi-page document during a bathroom break. And next time they check it’s way down in their feeds.

    That said, seems like the folks who read it are really into it. That doesn’t show up in numbers but it instantly jumped onto my “want to play/hack this soon” list.

  8. Honestly, I need to get some kind of website up and rolling at some point as an archive of the important stuff. Like WIP and maybe scraping out the best IGRC posts.

  9. I think a key point is convenience: it’s easy to see a funny pic post, take it in (about 2-3 seconds), and +1 it. But, as someone else points above, if you post a draft of a game, most people scrolling by aren’t going to have the time to click through and read the whole thing, so you’re effectively getting fewer “viewers”.

  10. Yeah, I definitely suffer from, “Reading someone’s draft requires a brain, maybe I shouldn’t do it on my phone while I’m standing in the kitchen making coffee,” thinking I will read it later, and then scrollolol. My criteria for reading in depth articles or drafts is heavily modified by what and how I’m doing when it touches my eyeballs.

  11. I’m trying to remember to comment on interesting things even if I don’t have mental bandwidth, so it will very likely end up in my notifications where I can park it until I have bandwidth, unless G+ is having an eat notification day. Why oh why can’t we star G+ posts? Sharing them to a bookmark circle is a terrible workaround.

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