Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What am I to do with 68 aspects?

The last gaming session was the setting and character creation for a game of Diaspora. My group doesn't have much experience with FATE's aspects and that turned out to be the most difficult part of the evening. It'll come with practice, though.

Looking at the summary of the session I can see no less than sixty-eight aspects staring me in the face. Sixty-eight! Between five characters and six systems that's what I have for story seeds. One of the character has a spacecraft too and those aspects are yet to be added into the mix. The astute reader-and-Diaspora-fan will calculate that the total aspect count will soon be above seventy.

With rich pickings like these I expect that we will come nowhere near the depths of the characters and stories open to us. Our first play session is later this week and we are ready for launch.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Story Games at Swancon

If you can be at Swancon later this month you have the opportunity to hear me as part of a panel about story games. We'll be discussing particular games - though I've yet to choose which one I'll concentrate on - and the fiction they produce.

Keep your eye on the Swancon website for details of the exact time but it will be on Saturday. For most of the afternoon I'll be in the gaming room running demos for a few story games so that the curious non-gamers can get a taste of what story games are about.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Are girls allowed in the game shop?

On the weekend I made my regular pilgrimage to Tactics with one of my sons in tow. He's saving for a toy TARDIS and likes to go and see it whenever we're in the area. On the way there he asked, "Are girls allowed in the game shop?"

At first glance you might think he'd be conditioned to think that games are for boys only. It's true that most of the customers in Tactics are male, but certainly not all of them. As far as I can tell he was looking for an excuse to isolate me from the rest of the family just to have some exclusive time with me while chasing the elusive TARDIS.

But seizing the opportunity I told him that it's not just for boys. Gaming is something that both boys and girls can do. Games are for everyone. Like most toddlers he accepted what I said. Part of me deeply hopes that he'll take this sense of inclusivity with him throughout his life. He might develop an interest in games, fantasy, and science fiction. He might grow out of it. Wherever life takes him, I hope that he always remembers that conversation, or at least that lesson.

Or as Steve D would say, I hope he's got the MESSAGE and that he won't ever forget it.

In fact, you should go check out the MESSAGE. Gaming is for anyone.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Two levels of game enjoyment

The latest hot stuff in the lunchroom conversation these days is the show My Kitchen Rules. So I watched a bit of it to see what the fuss was. Have no fear, I did the same thing with the Harlem Shake and Rebecca Black. You can see the lengths to which I'll go in order to get my head around pop culture references.

I've no intention of continuing to watch the show but as I watched I saw an important lesson for game designers. It's possible to create a game that is unenjoyable as a participant and enjoyable as the audience.

In the episode I watched there were two contestants who hosted a dinner party for the other contestants and judges. At the end of meal all the guests gave scores for each course. Each episode the role of hosts moves to the next team.

From what I saw it was clear that almost none of the contestants enjoyed having scores come their way. Like most people they think they're more competent than they are so naturally they're disappointed with the scores. Secondly the scores come from the competition, all of whom want to win so naturally there's a tendency to score harshly. Being caught in this kind of game, where the competition determines your success and failure, would enrage me. It encourages spitefulness, vengefulness and bickering. It's unenjoyable.

At the same time this is one of the most popular shows on TV so there are plenty of viewers who enjoy it. I think they enjoy it for the same reason that bitchy soap operas are enjoyable. The show generates spitefulness, vengefulness and bickering: in other words, it creates conflict between people, and the audience likes to see conflict created and resolved.

To repeat the lesson: it's possible to create a game that is unenjoyable as a participant and enjoyable as the audience.

My Kitchen Rules is such a game and is a perfect example of what to avoid when designing a tabletop game. Remember to make the game fun as a participant and as an audience. Creating conflict is good for story games, but don't do it at the expense of player enjoyment.