Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Video (screencast) FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) in the Rules? No!

This has been added to my extensive (and unique) "How to Write Clear Game Rules" course.  For more information see PulsipherGames.com

Below is the text of the slides.  There's more to the screencast than just this text, of course.

Short Answer: No
A series of questions and answers (which is what a FAQ is) makes sense for a diverse entity such as a website or company
It makes no sense for a rulebook
If these are important or even just relevant questions, they should be incorporated into the rules

I see people who expect a FAQ, but what they really seem to expect, and what I gladly supply, is to highlight rules often missed or misunderstood
But that’s not a FAQ, not even close

“Cheat Sheet”
I also customarily provide each player with a Player’s Aid (“Cheat sheet”) that describes the most important rules in one page
Often excerpted verbatim from the rules
Some players refer to these often
I’ve had playtest sessions where someone asked me a question, and I got it wrong, but someone looking at the cheatsheet corrected me
Or I couldn’t remember, and it was in the cheatsheet
Even I refer to it occasionally!
But the cheatsheet is not part of the rules, and is always overruled by the rules (usually I state this explicitly)

Do include “Rules often missed”.  Do provide a cheat sheet.  But don’t call it a FAQ, it’s not.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Video (screencast): The “Demise” of the Board Game?

Below is the text of the slides.  There's more than that in the video, of course.

The “Demise” of the Board Game?
Dr. Lewis Pulsipher

Well, it sounds good; but really, “severe diminishment” is more accurate
I’m talking about fewer traditional-style board games where the board records maneuver and geospatial relationships
Instead we have far more card games . . .
And lots more “board games” where the board is a status indicator-recorder, not a field for maneuver
Many of these games are essentially abstract despite having a “theme” tacked on

What are boards for in games?
Think of classic (pre-commercial) board games
The board is almost always used to record geospatial relationships
And the core of the game is maneuver (or occasionally, placement) of pieces in geospatial relationships
War is about maneuver and geospatial relationships, and classic games are essentially wargames
There’s placement rather than maneuver in Go, but the locations of the pieces in relation to one another is very important

It’s a strong tradition
Monopoly, oddly, provided a board and made movement (though not maneuver – you had no choice) and current location important in an industry where it isn't!
(It did provide a form of the real estate mantra: “the three most important things are location, location, location”)
Game of Life also provided location and movement unnecessarily

“Board” games that don’t need a board
In lots of so-called board games the board is a status recorder/indicator, where there is no maneuver, where geospatial relationships are not part of the game
In other words, games that are like card games with lots more record-keeping
The record-keeping could be done just as well in other ways
Player “layouts” are popular

Rise of Card Games
At our local university game club, we usually see far more card games than board games being played
Even if you don’t count Magic: the Gathering, which is one-third of the club
Card games rarely involve geospatial relationships, even less often maneuver
But cards are easier to transport than boards
Card games are (on average) simpler than board games
And offer the opportunity to put much of the rules on the cards, so players don’t need to read as much before playing

Short Games
It’s also much easier to design a short game using cards than using a board
And short games are “where it’s at” these days
What used to be a filler (one hour) is now a relatively big game; fillers are 15-20 minutes
“5 minute games” are popular, though inevitably shallow

By the Numbers
"ICv2's study of the hobby game market estimates that retail for 2013 is now $700 million. Broken down by category, that covers collectible games ($450M), miniatures ($125M), board games ($75M), card games ($35M), and RPGs ($15M). "  (Michael Tresca)
That “card game” category is odd, with best sellers I’ve never heard of
Look at the numbers.  Games that are usually cards are at $485M

Less than a tenth
“Board games” includes all those status-indicator-board-games, as well as the maneuver board games
I think it includes all the games that are card games but spoken of and sold as board games, such as Munchkin, Bang!, Lost Cities, many more
So what fraction is still occupied by maneuver/spatial relationship games?  Less than one tenth compared with card games?

The Future?
I have no expectation that these trends will change, in fact I think they’ll “get worse” (from a board game player’s point of view)
It’s the Age of Instant Gratification, which cards serve better
Also it’s the Age of Convenience, and card games are more convenient
Finally, it’s the Age of Short Attention Spans, and card games can be shorter

Another Aspect
I discuss this more in other screencasts, but will mention it here
The traditional boardgame was a game of Consequence.  You had to take responsibility for what happened.  You earned what you achieved
Modern games are moving toward a Reward basis.  You are rewarded for participation.  The game guides you.  If a player fails, he blames the game (especially true in video games)
In this respect, board games are also “going away”

You see why I said “the demise of the board game?”  Perhaps I should have said, “of new board games”, as the old ones are still going strong.