Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

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Call people out on their shit

Bez Shahriari
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Sometimes we talk about booardgamers being good people. After all, you need to sit across the table from someone. If you were really a jerk, you'd know about it.

But note that social proximity (and the risk of being quickly punished, without the shield of anonymity) isn't unique to boardgaming.

Sports are similar. Partner dancing is even more intimate.

Sometimes someone is a jerk (or worse) and no-one wants to say anything. In RPG communities, this is often called the 'missing step problem'.

Ultimately, it's up to the good folk to call others out on their shit.

Otherwise, toxic behaviour can become accepted and even more prevalent.
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Sat Feb 29, 2020 11:10 pm
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Food and play.

Bez Shahriari
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Day 3 of Bastion.

Every game I've played has been enjoyable for one reason or more.

Most notable were the 2 food events.

Firstly, Y planned one of Jenn Sandercock's edible games. 'High Tea Assassins' is basically Win, Lose, Banana, where the cards are replaced with food. Whilst I'm never happy as such to see such similarity in rules, the food absolutely adds another level. Not only do you have to judge people's emotional reaction to learning the information (via hidden card, or hidden ingredients), but the reactions to the taste gives another thing to discuss. We played 4 rounds and everyone got into roleplaying the 'royal high tea' setting.

Food is just filled with emotional resonance and I think it's this that made this (and Y's edible game playtest last year) so wonderful to experience.

Later in the evening, we had the 'cheese+ party'. It became a tradition in 2018 and the idea was for everyone to bring something (chocolate, port, crackers, cheese, mead...) and enjoy tasting a whole bunch of delicious things.

After 3 games of 2 Rooms and a Boom, it was nice to be able to relax and just chat for half an hour.

UKGE, Airecon, and even my own BGDevCon all appreciate that good food is an important part of a con, so ensure that there are plenty of delicious, and relatively-healthy, options.

As we sit and navigate a framework of rules, trying to read each other's bluffs, knocking balls into holes, working out matchs, or whatever the game may encourage... Why not tantalise all our senses?

This is probably a big part of the reason why videogames are more popular - visual and aural spectacle - as well as the reason I adore every aroma/food-based boardgame I've played.
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Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:39 am
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Procrastination.

Bez Shahriari
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Have a thing to do.

I can do it later.

Problems arise. I don't do it.

Feel guilty. Put it off.

Don't do it. Make a game to avoid doing it. Productive procrastination.

Do it. Some damage is done. It would have been better to do this earlier.

Tell myself I'll do better next time.

There's always next time.

We're all learning. I can forgive myself.

I'll do better someday.
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Sun Jan 19, 2020 11:47 pm
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AQs: are there too many games?

Bez Shahriari
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I think that 'too many', or 'too few' need some clause.

Too many for what?!

Too many for all designers to be able to financially afford to do it full time? Yes.

Too many for shops to stock more that a tiny fraction? Yes.

Too many for the market to support another title? No.

Too many for there to be any possibility of further innovation? No.

=========

Ages ago, someone pointed out that when I say, "I need to get ready to go out," they could say, "no, you don't."

Do I need to even go out? Certainly not if my 'need' is a measure of 'what do I need in order to stay alive'. Now, this was an annoying thing to point out at the time, but it is useful to ponder WHY you are doing a thing.

Instead of saying, "I need to go out," you could say, "I need to go out... in order to have an enjoyable evening and bring some semblance of interest into my otherwise uneventful life."

Or maybe, "I need to go out in order to meet people that may be important to my business." Whatever. The point is that the phrases, "need", "too many" and "too few" are meaningless without some sort of qualifier.

=========

I used to believe that every game published should be an attempt at making an evergreen title. Each game should be completely new, or better, than other things before. To publish a game that you didn't believe would be an evergreen seemed like laziness.

Now, I realise that even the best games might never be reprinted. Maybe the publisher doesn't want the hassle of reprinting. Whatever.

There is value in having weird stuff around. Sadly, some of that stuff may not be as marketable.

==========

I guess that if a publisher/shop/distributor says, "there are too many games," they are probably meaning "there are too many games for us to have an easy life."

Sure, if there were 50 games release each year, I'm sure I'd have a lot more excitement over each game I release and I'd probably be better off, financially.

==========

Many years ago, I realised something astounding. On one website, each day there was more than 24 hrs of music uploaded. I could literally have a soundtrack of music, that people had spent real time and effort on, and never hear the same track twice.

Listening to everything is impossible.

Watching everything is impossible.

Reading everything is impossible.

Playing everything is impossible.

In today's world of abundance, we have to acquire new skills.

The skill of being selective. With so much around, it's no surprise that folk will abandon a game after one play, or just skim an article and skip most of it. That we might still find ourselves drawn to finishing a TV show even after it's not that good anymore is a thing I"ll leave you to ponder.

The other skill is that of being OK with not seeing stuff. This is difficult. FOMO is a real thing. We find ourselves driven to check out everything. Yearning the experiences that everyone else talks about so we can engage in that discussion. Craving to find new things so we can show our friends.

But at a certain point, in order to maximise our own happiness, we need to be OK with not experiencing everything.

If we are, then overabundance ceases to be a real problem.
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Thu Jan 9, 2020 12:58 am
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Things I have achieved last year / Things I want to do next year.

Bez Shahriari
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10+ things I'm proud of:

- Yogi being in 11+ languages.
- having performed burlesque
- written a couple of blog posts that folk seem to have generally enjoyed.
- gotten 1111 followers on Twitter.
- been hired by ACG and did some good work
- had an amazing stand with brilliant volunteers at UKGE
- been to 3 new (to me) conventions (Diceni, City of Kings, Uncon) and 10ish others, and I continue to engage with new folk.
- had a whole bunch of positive reviews for Wibbell++
- if I'm claiming some responsibility (as the instigator) for W++, I can say I'm proud of the quality of submissions. Honestly, I feel like the top 2 are both so amazing that one should be the core game this year and another next year. Or maybe I need to have more than 1 new core game. Anyway, I'm blown away and also proud of the reception that it's had.
- I 'finished' 4 good games for the W++ deck.
- I got Kitty Cataclysm to a good state mechanically. Even though there are problems (like every single game in the world) and the art will be hated by some, at least I can be somewhat proud that the balance and game experience was being enjoyed for the last few months of testing. Hopefully some folk will really like it when I finally get it mass-produced.
- I invented +, which I think is a good design.
- I've been on a good portion of the podcasts that I love, are active, and actually have guests on. That kinda blows my mind.
- doing the internet radio show, semi-regularly. I think more than half of them are OK.


I guess I'm not a shit person. As John Brieger said, that's nice to know.

I just want to do a bit more non-BG stuff.

Things I hope to do more of next year:

- exercise
- dancing
- painting
- reading (not on a screen)
- making musical noises
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Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:29 am
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Monday Musings 2 -

Bez Shahriari
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This is a weekly thing intended for me to be a public exposition and 'check-in' for myself.



Current mood:

- Sad that I didn't get all the stuff done last week. Worried about my general seeming inability to organise stuff and get shit done. Hopeful that I can get on track over the next month...


Last week, I wanted to:


Daily situps/leg raises.
4/7 - I missed a few. I'd like to try to do this more next week. I'd like this to become a habit.

Go to bed at reasonable hours and brush teeth. 5/7. Ditto (I'd like this to be a habit).

Remake Yogi 2.
Make feedback form.

No. I wanted to make a new copy and send it away for remote testing.

I did make a few changes to play on Thursday/Friday. But I would have liked to spend a focused couple of hours remaking it, and then doing feedback forms.

I was really pleased with how the latest couple of tests went. Also had a really important conversation about the responsibility of games and decided that there should be absolutely zero 'required' touching.

As I'll probably play it again this weekend during birthday celebrations, I think it makes sense to hold off on actually making an entirely new copy until next week.

Send off games.

Done. I sent off all the stuff (to reviewers, competition winners and purchasers).

Finish instruction manuals
Somewhat done. Honestly, I can't even remember which manuals I was thinking of. I did finish the manual for Mickell and did 3 other solo games well enough to upload to the Wibbell++ site.

Make PNP for +
Not at all done. I'm going to just apologise and skip this for the moment.

Remake Kitty Cataclysm deck
No. I was going to do this for BezDay shenanigans but it wasn't worth the time.

Send off updates for KSs.
Not done. This one I really should have done.

Honestly, given the lack of progress right now, I find it hard to work out what to type.

Record new show for Tuesday
Done

Do some ACG work on Tuesday
Done a bit.

Take a few hours off on Tuesday evening at Loading Bar.
Not done. By the time I'd done the show, it was late. Instead, I took the evening off to watch a film with housemates. For whatever reason, I was super-low on energy.

Focus on facilitating fun on Wednesday/Thursday.
Done. I think I did an OK job of this.


Go to Friday playtest and try out some of the W++ submissions.
Done. Because I had the opportunity to try Yogi 2, I did that in the morning. I did solo-test one thing in the morning and then stress-tested another thing with a few folk in the afternoon. It was an early submission from Paul Mansfield. As I said to Paul afterwards, I decided that it was a great game but there was enough complication and disconnect between components and rules that it shouldn't be the 8th core game.

I did try out 3 more things quite a bit tonight.

Do some painting.

Not done. My biggest regret, other than the KS updates. Can do this this week, I hope.

Do some 'art' for KC/W++v2.
Not done. I think that expecting me to do it this week might be a tad optimistic. Just getting back to doing brush work will be good.

Attend a birthday thing on Saturday.
Done. That was fab.

Take most of Sunday off.
Done. I spent 7 hrs with a housemate, simply having lunch, walking around an old house, exploring Hampstead Heath and talking to each other. That was glorious. I felt bad about some other stuff I didn't do, but didn't let it make me feel guilty about taking some time off.

I need to do this sometimes.

Record with Ambie!
Done. Super-fun and you can hear it soon if you want.

Overall


Maybe expecting myself to finish the + Pnp was a bit much. I'm disappointed about most of the other stuff. Maybe I'll at least do better this week.

Favourite moments last week:


The entire Sunday excursion.

Most of the interactions on Thursday. A brother and sister (I assume) who found Alphabetickell quite complicated (struggling with the strategy a bit) but were happy to actually play a game - something they wouldn't normally do. A pair of drunk girls who hated IAB but seemed to enjoy Wibbell and Grabbell quite a lot. A couple who were happy to be introduced to a whole bunch of things. A bunch of folk who came to buy Wibbell++ and learn stuff. Kate coming along to try new things and (I think) having a lot of fun with various games.

Playing Laura's game-like-activity on Saturday all about taking nice photos.

Friday playtest.

Plans for this week (things that will take effort):

Daily situps/leg raises
Brush teeth consistently
Composite BGWB
KS updates for KC/W++v2
Sort out housing benefit
Paint
Run a fun evening at Loading Bar
Make progress with W++v2 and/or Kitty Cataclysm
Tidy room somewhat
cleaning
?Do more testing/evaluating of W++ entries
swim
make some fun games/activities for the weekend
Enjoy myself this weekend
Record a new BGWB, maybe with someone who went to Gencon

A lot of these things are ostensibly nothing to do with making games, but tidying, cleaning, exercise and meaningful relaxation are so important to having a healthy mind - the sort of mind that will do better work/design.
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Tue Aug 7, 2018 1:23 am
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Sometimes, I need a break.

Bez Shahriari
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Sometimes I need to take some time off.

Not worry about writing a good blog post.

Even if I've had the thoughts, it is effort/energy to articulate it.

Part of me likes the fact that this blog is 'every day' and I want to keep going until 200 (since I said I will).

But I also said I'd get Wibbell++ v2 and Kitty Cataclysm and a + Pnp done by now and those are the more important things.

In the balance, I would rather spend a little less time writing and a little more time actually finishing games (and working for ACG).

I'm not sure exactly what my schedule should be, but 5 days a week (or maybe replacing some days with an image or some quick filler content) seems better.

Originally, the podcast reviews were meant to be the filler content, but they actually take as much effort as everything else.

Ideas/thoughts welcome.

Poll: What days should I post on? (pick 5)
What days should I post on? (Please pick 5)
 Choices Your Answer  Bars Vote Percent Vote Count
Monday
88.9 percent
88.9% 8
Tuesday
77.8 percent
77.8% 7
Wednesday
100.0 percent
100.0% 9
Thursday
77.8 percent
77.8% 7
Friday
88.9 percent
88.9% 8
Saturday
33.3 percent
33.3% 3
Sunday
33.3 percent
33.3% 3
Voters 9
This poll is now closed.   9 answers
Poll created by stuffbybez
Closes: Wed Dec 5, 2018 6:00 am
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Sat Aug 4, 2018 3:25 pm
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100 blog posts, reflection. Part 2. Plans for the 2nd 100 blog posts.

Bez Shahriari
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Wednesdays will be related to Wibbell++.

In the spirit of #FollowFridays, I'll talk about either a podcast I've listened to 100% of, someone else's creation I admire, or a person (or anything else) that I think you should check out.

If I'm at a convention, I'll do a quick report and schedule it for the next day.
So the stuff for UKGE would have gone live on Sat/Sun/Monday.

All my blog posts will hopefully be scheduled to go live at 1am BGG time, starting tomorrow. Some of them might be written just a few hours beforehand, but I want to move away from posting stuff 'just in time' and towards posting stuff at a time that everyone can generally rely upon.

I don't particularly enjoy the act of writing, but I think that my mood has been generally low recently so I'm not sure how much of that is just because of my general mood.

I actually quite like the small sense of achievement I get by having a thing lined up for each day.

I was notified by someone recently who couldn't access my BGG posts (specifically the Wibbell++ competition post) because she's under 16 and the BGG ToS don't allow folk of her age. I'd like to maybe start duplicating some of this content somewhere else at some point. Maybe on my own website, without the swears. Maybe a weekly repost (possible edit) of something from a month-ish ago. But that sounds like a lot of extra work. Not sure what to do about that.

For now, I think I just want to carry on until I get to 200 blog posts, then decide what I'll do then.
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Sat Jun 23, 2018 6:31 pm
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Trying to understand other people

Bez Shahriari
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For game designers (and a lot of other professions I guess) psychology and understanding of others is super-important.

I mean, whether you're working in retail, music or finance you probably have interactions with other humans. You need to work out what makes them happy. What do folk actually appreciate?

If I can change something easily and make a whole bunch of folk happier, that's worth pondering. Maybe there is a downside, but little things (in our behaviour or in a game we make) often make a big difference. And sometimes a thing you don't care about is so important to others. That's worth considering.

Conversely, sometimes a thing is stressing you out and seems like such hard work. I believe that some things are important in games, but what if they're not?!

Sometimes I read, or hear, people's excitement for a thing that I abhor. I try to work out why they love it.

Sometimes the things I see as problems may actually be advantages. Sometimes, they are simply problems that are less important to other folk.

I wish I could adopt someone else's views and perspectives for a short period. Understand how they think. Enjoy the dice games that I hate, be excited by miniatures and learn how much folk are actually impressed by fancy boards.

In the absence of that, at least we have communication.

I love checking out positive reviews of games I hate or vice versa. It helps me learn more about other folk out there. And whilst there will always be some crazy outliers, it all helps build up a bigger picture of understanding.
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Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:45 am
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100 blog posts, reflection. Part 1.

Bez Shahriari
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Why say anything? Why am I writing these blog posts?

Once in a while, it can be useful to ask: why am I doing this?

Why am I making this game? Why am I eating this unhealthy food? Why am I carrying this object through my life? Why am I writing these words?

By examining the answers, maybe we can work out how to live our lives a bit better. What should we stop doing? What are we doing out of habit rather than because of any positive benefit?

Conversely, maybe we should simply tweak something we're doing, shift our focus, or even try to maintain or even double down on.

As I approach 100 blog posts, I think it's important to think about why I'm writing these daily blog posts. How have I done? Could I be doing better? Is it worth continuing?

- sharing my knowledge.

Having focused mainly on making games for several years, I'd like to think that I've amassed some knowledge. I know a bit about how to pack for a con, how to critique games, how to make a good game and have experience with exhibiting - at cons, shops or pubs.

There are a few things that I'd like to have read 5 years ago.

A few of the things I've written have clearly resonated with folk given the responses here and on Twitter. I'd like to do more of this, so if you have a question you'd like answered, I'll try to answer as best I can. Some things like the diary about building a game for 2020 and the convention lessons will hopefully continue to improve as time goes on.

- promoting myself

Part of the reason I'm on social media or posting anything at all is for self-promotion.

Though I don't want it to become the focus of this blog, I do like being able to sometimes write about a thing I'm making, or ask for input. You helped me decide the name of my game for 1st August 2019. It will simply be called +. I announced my competition for Wibbell++. I'll tell you a little about other things I've made/am making. Hopefully, if you're reading this, you're interested.

I think that at least I've had a little engagement. I had a few votes on the poll for the name and even when I write about my own games, there are consistently a few folk reading.

And I'm thankful for that.

- provoking myself to ponder things

Sometimes, teaching is a great way to learn. Distilling my thoughts and typing them onto a screen helps them coalesce into something intelligible.

Occasionally, my opinion might change half-way through typing a blog. This has been useful on occasion.

- practising writing (but not editing)

Writing isn't as big a passion as game design or dancing. But I guess that by practising this, I might develop this skill.

Like game design, writing something that resonates with an audience might require a little empathy. My skill at selecting words and assembling those words into sentences continues to grow.

Whilst this isn't my primary focus, it is a side benefit.

- engaging with folk and having a discussion.


Inspired by Allen O'Connor, I decided early on that I would 'bribe' people to comment by paying them 0.1 GG per comment (unless I particularly love/dislike the comment in question).

Geekgold is such a silly thing. No-one will actually be tempted to comment by virtue of the fact that they would probably get some from me.

However, it does hopefully show appreciation. Sometimes I don't have much to say in response but I truly appreciate the comment. I love the fact that sometimes folk have pointed me towards relevant games or articles. Sometimes people have chimed in with their own related viewpoints and helped me understand things in a new way.

Recently, some folk were just recommending games and that's a nice thing to facilitate. :-)

In conclusion


Those are some quick thoughts on why I'm maybe doing this. I seem to be meeting all my objectives, at least somewhat. Am I getting enough benefit to continue? Should I make any big changes?

Your input, as always, is very welcome.
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Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:00 am
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