Saturday, January 31, 2015

Socializing (Continued)

This is a bit rambly, and I'm sorry.  My original somehow disappeared when posting last week's post, so it's re-written from notes and not as edited as I like to be.

Somehow, the stereotype of the under-socialized basement-dwelling gamer got started. I suspect it traces back to the roots of hobby gaming - historical miniature war games.  It's a section of the hobby that still exists.

But here's the thing with miniatures games: they require a great deal of solo effort to paint and assemble the pieces.  In my experience, there tend be a higher percentage of introverts among miniatures gamers than among the other segments of the gaming populace. In fact, I know people with sizable miniature armies who have never played a game. They love collecting and painting.

It's this solo part of the hobby that I suspect is responsible for the reputation that the rest of the hobby has been painted with. It applies less to boardgamers, but we are still colored by it, reputation-wise. It requires a great deal of focus and dedication - I know that when I'm doing detail work for one of my minis, I tend to tune out the rest of the world.

Something I don't want to overstate, here: Social aspects of tournament play.

I've participated in and run tournaments for a very long time. And much of "gaming as social activity" goes out the window for tournament play. Because those people are there to win. There are exceptions. And it varies widely, depending on the game and number of players. A 7 Wonders tournament will be more sociable than a Hordes tournament. It's because of the in-game interaction. In a Hordes game, you'll be in a series of one-on-one matches. The only people you'll interact with at the table are direct foes.  In a 7 Wonders tournament, while you're competing with up to six other players at a time, only the players to your left and right have the ability to directly effect your winning or not, so you're free to be friendly with the other players at the table. And most players have a difficult time being friendly to some strangers and not others.  But then, a 7 Wonders tournament with tables of three or four will be more cutthroat.

And then there are games for which the social is the point of the game, whether it be a negotiation game like Diplomacy (where your social skills are a significant and important part of the game) or a word-association game like Apples to Apples (where the "game" itself is pretty thin).

One last thought:  A lack of desire to be sociable does not necessarily indicate a lack of social skills. If left to my own devices, I am often (still) a chair-dwelling basement troll. But I apparently have reasonable social skills, because I keep going to conventions as a demo monkey. And being a demo monkey is 100% about your ability to convey the fun of a game to a prospective customer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Looks like this morning's post was cut in half (and half of it lost).

I'd been having some issues with blogger from one of the computers I use.

I'll fight with it and get that second half re-written and up as soon as I can.


This may come as a shock to those of you who know me only from GenCon (or other shows), but I'm an introvert.  Rather an extreme one, at that. Aside from interaction online and at conventions, I don't spend much of my own time dealing with people.

In fact, gaming is my social outlet.  It's one of those activities that really needs other people to be viable as a hobby.

And no, this is not going to be yet another "care and feeding of introverts" post. There are enough of those out there already. Not only that, but if an introvert is gaming, it usually means that they have already shored up their defenses enough to game with you. And, realistically, you shouldn't be treating them any differently than you do an extrovert.

Gaming has been very good for me on that front. Especially our regular Wednesday evening gathering. When I first hosted Game Night, it wasn't unusual for me to retreat to my room after an hour or two while others continued playing in the front room.  As time went by, I retreated later and later until I eventually stopped retreating altogether.

It's because of gaming that I have a social life with real face-to-face people instead of just faceless anonymous internet folks.

That is part of why gaming is so important to me - it's both the focus of and the root of my non-internet social life.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dealing With Errata

A few days ago, I received my copy of Infinity Code for the Double Cross RPG. Included in the package was a piece of cardstock.  On one side was printed, "INFINITY CODE ERRATA," with a few points of errata on the back. It really took me back.

Errata happens. I don't think I've ever seen a single game product without something wrong - a typo, images over text, White Wolf's infamous Page XX, a translation error, a poor word choice. These things happen.

Different publishers deal with errata in different ways. One publisher used to mail stickers of the "corrected" paragraphs that you stuck directly into your book (on top of the misprinted/erroneous paragraphs). Most publishers would have errata sheets available - just send them a self-addressed stamped envelope and a list of products you needed the errata for, and they'd get them on their way to you. Many will still do this, actually. But most publishers have put errata on their websites for download. Easier. Faster. Cheaper for all involved.  Steve Jackson Games, for example, has this wonderful page of errata. If you scroll down the page, they even have a form for reporting errata and a mailing list for folks who want to stay informed of errors.

If the product in question is a PDF product via DTRPG, it's a relatively simple matter to update the PDF.  Personally, I prefer it when publishers add a "Change log" to the tail end of the PDF so we know what errata was changed with the update. But that's a personal thing.

Board games have errata, too.  Sometimes game-changing errata. When Paladins and Dragons was translated, I misunderstood one terrain type and changed "any" to "each" for the Pentagram Room. It makes a dramatic change to the rules, and it was my fault.

My copy of Ghost Stories included a little slip of paper informing me that one of the cards had a description in the rulebook that said "to 1" when it should have been "by 1." This was corrected in later printings - but the errata was caught prior to shipment.

Claustrophobia had its infamous Red Text issue, where the French just said "once" - and the English translation tried to be clearer and said "once per game" when it should have been "once per round."  Another big difference, and one that has reportedly been corrected in later printings.

In both of these cases, the word got out on BoardGameGeek. And many publishers are using BGG's files section to host their errata and FAQs. Sometimes it's on the publisher's site and on BGG (which is the ideal, as there are gamers who have never been to BGG).

But how often do we think to look for errata with a board game?  I sure don't. Even though I know it exists. I know it's out there.

I'll grab RPG Errata as fast as I can and will file it into an errata folder I have stashed away somewhere. But - again - it rarely occurs to me to look for the board game stuff.

I should probably fix that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Off To A Good Start

We're now two weeks into 2015, and so far it's been amazing.

I ushered in 2015 at Phoenix Games with a good number of people.  I arrived late (as I always do), but I was just in time to help Brian haul in the sparkling cider.

From there, I got sucked into a game of Skull pretty quickly.  It's the same game as Skull and Roses with different art, and we had at least one game going all night.  I played for a couple of hours with people I hadn't seen in a while or who I want to see more often.  It's also one of my favorite games to just pick up and play.  When you combine it with Skull and Roses and Skull and Roses Red, you can theoretically have up to eighteen players (but the game is at its best in that 4-6 range).  One interesting thing for me about this game is just how much the dynamic of play changes depending on the number of players. And who they are.

I think I won one game.  Alex, to my left, won most of them.

After a bit, we switched to Concept - and didn't keep score. We started with six or seven players, and several players rotated through as we played as people jumped in from other games (and out to other games). My favorite thing with this game is that "lightbulb moment," when the person who is placing the tokens realizes what they're doing and how it works.

The highlight for me was guessing "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."  Some of those words are crazy hard.

Then, the following week at Game Night, I got to play more Skull.  I was also able to play Mascarade, which is one of my favorite hidden role bluffing games.  I actually managed to win a game (which never happens).  We even managed to break out the expansion!

I also got to try Star Realms. In short: I liked it.  I think the fact that you need two boxes for more than two players could stand to be made a bit clearer, and I think the replayability is surprisingly limited without expansions. I've been playing the app on my phone quite a bit, too and it's decent. I wish my phone had a larger screen for this, though (and I have a Nexus 6).

And, lastly, I was able to play 7 Wonders. Base game only.  I'm not sure how, but I managed to win. It wasn't science, and I had at least one of my blue chains broken by another player.

If the rest of 2015 is as strong as the first week was, then I'm in for an absolutely astounding year. And the joys of this year are in no way limited to that first week, either:

This weekend, we get to pick up our 4e D&D game again. The following weekend, I'm going to play Subbuteo with a friend (if he's able to get to the house early enough, that is) and then we have our 13th Age campaign that evening - it'll be the first game post-multiclassing for my character, and I'm looking forward to it.

Bring it on, 2015.  Bring. It. On.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Selling It Wrong

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of Professional Wrestling. Not the world's biggest fan, mind you, but I love the stuff. I'm not going to try to defend my love here, because that's not what I'm here about.

Early last year, the WWE launched a new product. The WWE Network. For $9.99 per month, you can live-stream a ton of original programming, and have access to a massive on-demand library. In fact, every program that they live stream is added to the on-demand library as soon as it ends. And that on-demand library includes every WWE PPV to date. And every WCW PPV. And every ECW PPV. And a ton of episodes of the various shows that they've had over the years.

And the current PPVs. I watched TLC live a few weeks ago. Late this month, I'm going to have some friends over and we're going to watch Royal Rumble.

It's an amazing deal if you like wrestling.  In fact, the only complaint I have with it is the fact that the current episodes of Raw and Smackdown won't be on the Network for 30 days. And there are a few gaps in the archives (odd weeks/months where archived episodes haven't been digitized, yet).

But - by far - the best thing on the network is NXT. It's the WWE's developmental division. It's a smaller roster of performers who are hungry for the big stage. Because the roster is smaller, they're telling deeper stories with longer payoffs.  And it's amazing.

The network is available in a number of ways:

  • It's part of the WWE Android App (the same app is in the Amazon Appstore for use on Kindle Fire devices). I suspect it's usable with the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, but I'm honestly not sure. I know there's a version of the app specifically for Fire TV.
  • It's available on Roku
  • It's on PS3 and XBox 360 (and may be on the new generation of devices, too ... )

When they launched the network, hardcore fans like myself bought in immediately.  I've had an account since the day it went live. $10 for every single PPV ever and a ton of history and other specials? Sign me up.

This network is the future in a lot of ways. With more and more "cord-cutters," people who advertise on television are having a harder time getting eyeballs on their product. People want online options that are on-demand. Hulu and Netflix are both doing booming business. Amazon Instant Video is awesome, too - and, if you're a Prime member, it's even better.

So how is the WWE promoting this awesome product during its shows?

By turning the price into a catchphrase.  They're not telling us what it contains. They're not pushing the content.  They're pushing the price. Relentlessly.  And this isn't the only time they did this, either. To the point where we started seeing it become a fan meme. Crowd signs showed the price.  Even the opposition took a swing at them over how stupid it was to spend five minutes chanting a price at us without telling us why we should buy.

Their target right now is (and should be) fence-sitters. People who watch the shows regularly and who might buy a pay-per-view or two per year, but who don't see the benefit of paying $9.99/month for additional content.

They're marketing it wrong, in other words.

Now, I'm not a marketing expert. I don't do advertising for a living. Hell, I'm not even a salesperson. But even I can see that their marketing isn't doing so well.  It's been a year and they have yet to break the million subscriber mark.

What should they do?

Let us know what we get for our $9.99. Bring in a couple of the NXT guys to have a match (which they've done a time or two), and then tell us we can watch these guys weekly or on demand on the WWE Network. When reviewing history for a PPV, remind us "You can watch all of these moments on-demand on the WWE Network." Show us snippets and previews of some of the specials and other programming - and tell us, "You can watch this and more on the WWE Network."

Don't push the price on us - tell us what we get.

So how is this relevant to gaming and the usual focus of this blog?

When you have a new game that you want to get to the table, how do you pitch it to your players? "Hey! Check out this new $33 game I got! Wanna play?"

- OR -

"Hey, check out this new RPG! You play as Samurai on motorcycles who were recently on the losing side of a war!"

That's ... pretty clear to me.

There's a reason why, when we're at GenCon, we don't tell prospective customers, "Come and check out this $30 game!"  That'd be silly, right? Yes, there are customers who want pricing up-front because they have a budget, but they're few and far between.