Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Language Dependence

I'm very lucky in a lot of ways.  That's something I don't say often enough, actually. One of the ways in which I am extremely lucky is that my native language is - in many ways - the global trade language. This means that games I see online that look cool are either going to show up in English at some point or else there will be a fan translation on BoardGameGeek.

A few weeks ago, a gentleman showed up at Game Night who (indirectly) reminded me of how lucky I am.  His English was dramatically better than my Russian, because he was able to communicate. It's the first time we had a non-English-primary speaker around, and it forced me to think about which games to bring out.

His first week of gaming, he arrived as one table was getting started with Concept.  I love the game - and the game itself can be played independent of language. But the cards which contain the clues/goals/targets are  very language-dependent. Especially when this refers to the answers that are phrases or sayings.

He was a good sport, but didn't do very well because of that barrier.

We followed that with our first game of Cutthroat Caverns - which was easier, but still a stretch.

That night, I went home and decided that I was going to grab games that were not language-dependent in play. It's harder than you'd think.

I ended up dragging out Mexica (an old favorite that is apparently being reprinted by Iello later this year), Tokaido, and No Thanks (which is an all-time favorite of the group).

The following week, I had the chance to break out Nations: The Dice Game. It's 100% language-independent (other than the rulebook, of course). And it's simple enough that players won't need to reference the rulebook very often, either.

I went through my collection and looked at my preferences - there's no clear trend, there. I can't cleanly say, "I prefer language-dependent games" or its opposite.

But it's something I'd taken for granted until a few weeks ago. And it's definitely something to keep in mind as I work on games for Asmodee.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spiel des Jahres Nominees Have Been Announced!

There are three different awards given, and their nominees have been announced as of Monday.

Here is the link to the official homepage.

I've played ... um ... Machi Koro.  And Elysium will be in my hands later today.

The Spiel des Jahres is the German Game of the Year.  It's a very prestigious prize, and a lot of Americans are often disappointed by the winner, because they tend to favor family games over hardcore games - a division that was made more-or-less explicit a few years back when they created the Kennerspiel des Jahres for more hardcore games.

The Spiel des Jahres nominees are:
Colt Express is published by Ludonaute, and it is distributed by Asmodee in North America. I've heard it's really good, but I haven't had a chance to try it, yet.
Machi Koro is an engine-builder published by Kosmos games (there's no drawing, so it's not really a deck-builder). It's fun, but I find it a bit too light for my tastes. There are a couple of expansions out (or coming) that improve the game for me.
The Game is not (so far as I know) available in English.

The Kinderspiel des Jahres is the Children's Game of the Year.  I don't know any of these games, and it doesn't look like any of them are available in English. So, other than titles, I know nothing of these games.
Push a Monster

The Kennerspiel des Jahres is the more hardcore category.
Broom Service hasn't been released in English yet. Looks like it's expected later this year, though.  The audience for hobby games is small enough that this nomination (unlike many other awards) can really boost sales.
Elysium is one I worked on the English translation for. It looks fun, and maybe we can try it tonight.
Orleans isn't in English, yet, either.  Tasty Minstrel ran a Kickstarter for this one, and it's rumored to be due in September.

Because of my lack of familiarity with the nominees, I can't even make an educated guess as to who the winners will be.

There are also a number of recommended games that are (essentially) runners-up.  And - again - I don't know many of the games (even though I recognizes a number of the designers and publishers).

The Kinderspiel winner will be announced in about two weeks on June 8.  On July 6th, the Spiel and Kennerspiel will be awarded, so we won't be in suspense for too long.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So That Happened

Andy Warhol is credited with saying that in the future, everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. I've been writing this blog for ... a while, now.  And before this week, I could point at two spikes in my Google Analytics numbers and say, "That was when X happened." Those were my fifteen minutes of fame.

The first was when Wil Wheaton posted a link on Reddit to one of my posts. It was scary at the time, because - let's be honest, here - I'm not a big-time blogger. I'm just a guy who likes writing about games.

The second was when there was that kerfuffle over FFG's in-store iPad program a few years back. It also scared the crap out of me because - again - I'm just a guy who had an opinion. No-one of any major importance.

This is the part where my wife usually chimes in to remind me that I am important to her and to the kitties and to ... well, she's got a list of folks she can rattle off. Because she's good like that.

But it happened again.

Last week, I got a couple of comments at what (for me) was stupidly early in the morning. That's odd, I thought, I never get comments.  But it was enough for me to check my Google Analytics.

Hmm, I thought. My referral numbers are ... high.  As in "More referrals before 8am Pacific than I usually get hits in a full week."  Apparently I caught someone's attention.

It's funny - I write this blog every week assuming that people aren't reading what I have to say.  It makes it a lot easier for me to pretend that I'm essentially sending letters to myself. Because of this, a reminder that I have an audience - even a small or temporary one - is always a bit scary.  Especially because I know I'm not the best blogger on the internet. I know that not all of my posts are worth slogging through.

Confidence: A recurring issue, here in Eric-land.

But if you're tuning in because of the File 770 link to me (or due to some possible links back from folks quoting them): Welcome. I'm Eric. I like games and gamers, and I talk about that, here. I dabble in fandom culture a bit, but if you're tuning in to watch Hugo Drama, you're not going to catch much here.

I post weekly - every Wednesday - unless I'm attending a special event. Like GenCon or WorldCon or Norwescon. And - lack of confidence aside - I'm mostly proud of what I've posted here. Like any other personal blog on the internet, there are good posts and bad posts.

I've been playing games since I could walk, and I've been playing RPGs since I was ten. I'm a voracious reader and I also enjoy film photography.

If you stick around, you'll see bits of all of these from time to time.

And, if you don't stick around, well ... I've had my fifteen minutes. Three times over.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Awards and Geekdom

Every year at about this time, they announce the Origins awards.  And every year at about this time, I throw up a post complaining about the relevance of awards for a hobby industry that use retailers and distributors as gatekeepers.

And that's still a problem.

But this year, compared to the Hugos, the Origins awards look downright brilliant.

The way the Origins awards work (to my understanding, at least) is as follows:

Step 1: A panel of industry insiders and experts puts together a long list of potential nominees that they take to GAMA, which is a convention for retailers, publishers, and distributors.

Step 2: The folks at GAMA vote on this list, usually eliminating the small indie publishers who didn't hit distribution. The top five from each list are the official nominees.

Step 3: We vote.  And by "we," I mean "anyone who wants to sign up to vote."

The flaw with the system - for me, at least - is Step 2, as I mentioned before. Game Store owners (and I love you guys - I really do) and distributors aren't usually going to put forward a game that they can't get. Because in theory awards lead to sales.

This year's nominees are unusually strong, but it's been a very good year in gaming. Notice, however, that there aren't a lot of independent games in there.

And voting is live.

But the Hugos ...

So the process with the Hugos is as follows:

Step 1: People who are members of WorldCon nominate their favorite works for a Hugo.

Step 2: The five works in each category that are most-nominated make the final ballot.

Step 3: We vote. And by "we," I mean "members of WorldCon."

"Members" includes two groups.  "Supporting members," who pay about $40 to be able to vote, receive whatever packet is sent, and receive a program from the convention itself are the most numerous group. The other group is folks who are actually attending the show.

It's my understanding that supporting gives you more than one year of nomination/voting power, but it's very possible that I'm wrong there.  I'm sure someone will be along to correct me at some point.

The numbers of actual voters and nominators compared to the numbers eligible to do so is actually sad and depressing.

How sad?

Two authors - Vox Day and Brad Torgerson - got about 300 people to nominate from their specific lists of eligible works. And these works dominate the final ballot.

Here are some historical numbers on voters and folks involved in the nomination process.  The number involved this year is an even lower percentage.

It's caused a huge stir.  To the point where more than a few nominees have withdrawn, either because they don't want to be associated with the "Puppies" lists or because the winners of this year's Hugo awards may feel like there will always be an asterisk associated with that award.

And it's a shame, because there are some really good works on the list. For example, I really liked Ancillary Sword (which is the sequel to Ancillary Justice, which is well worth the read).

To make things worse, the folks involved with this are using the "We didn't break any rules," argument. And have co-opted GamerGate language, referring to their opponents as "SJWs."

As a gamer, I am well aware that "We didn't break the rules," is shorthand for, "I know I'm being an asshole."  Because I hear it at the table all too often.

There's kind of a lot I want to say here, but - quite frankly - I don't have time to write it and you probably don't have the time to read it.

Either way, File 770 has been doing an excellent job of keeping folks informed from a mostly-neutral position.

But why is this such a big deal? Why are people wailing and gnashing their teeth at the situations? Why are the Origins awards important? Who cares about the Hugos?

It's because we're fans.

Fan is short for fanatic, and I think we all forget that sometimes.

We are passionate about our hobbies, whether it's reading or gaming or painting or photography or stamp collecting. And we want our [thing] to be recognized as the best [thing.] I think it's because there is a perception that awards lead to sales - and they do, but not in a dramatic fashion.

I think Joe Peacock put it very well in this post:
Fandom isn’t about being more of a fan than anyone else. Fandom is about loving the stuff you love. When someone else decides to check it out, that doesn't LESSEN your love for it… It just multiplies it.