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Links: Too Many Choices x2 & Kickstarter as a Roman Circus

W. Eric Martin
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• In The Rumpus Room blog, San Il Defanso discusses "horrible freedom":

[M]any gamers measure the quality of a game based on how much choice they are offered. They will often use the phrase "meaningful decisions", though many will not agree on what exactly that means. The consensus often revolves around the player being in control of what they do. If you make good decisions in a game, a game ought to reward you in measure for how good your decisions were. Any game that deprives you of that reward is considered to be "random" or "chaotic". Those words are used in some circles like swears, the most damning label you can apply to a game. If you can play an entire game to the best of your abilities, and your success or failure still depends at least partially on the roll of a die or the flip of a card, that can't be a very good game.

In some ways, I understand this sentiment...but I think there is something to be said for taking decisions out of the hand of the player...

I find myself drawn to games that force me to deal with bad luck. It's not merely the tension and excitement that comes from random elements. It's a bracing feeling when I'm actually able to overcome a bad hand of cards. There's a greater reward knowing that I conquered fate, than in merely learning how to think a little more efficiently. And even if I fail, who cares? It's just bad luck, and that's nobody's fault.
• Tying into that thought of "too many choices" being a bad thing comes this article by Maria Bustillos on The New Yorker, which is about books but doesn't have to be if you change a few words:

Ars longa, vita brevis, said Hippocrates – more or less: time's a-wastin'. The worst corollary of this aphorism, to my mind, is that we are not going to have time to read everything. In fact, we're going to be able to read only the tiniest little bit. Some thousands of books – that is it...

There's been a lot of handwringing lately about "curation" (the original meaning of the word has morphed into something else entirely; maybe we still lack a needed word). It has come to signify sifting through the ever-increasing avalanche of "content" in order to identify the things that are worthiest of our attention, and bringing those things to an interested audience. In fact, there should be no question about this at all; with our time and attention being limited as they are, it's crucial that we have skilled cultural guides.

Books come to us by many twisty channels: reviewers, editors, bloggers, anthologists. Who is to be trusted with the question of that precious spot, among only a few thousand, to which one will dedicate the next book? When you feel hammered down by the incessant blaring about the new new new new thing, it is salutary to return to authors long dead.
• Online gaming site has added both Kamisado (online game) and Khet: The Laser Game (online game) to its offerings.

• Play or design train games? Jason Begy wants to hear from you for research related to a Ph.D. dissertation he's working on.

• Ian Bogost at Fast Company reveals the true nature of Kickstarter:

Kickstarters are dreams, and that's their strength rather than their weakness. People back projects on Kickstarter to fund the development of a new creative work or a consumer product that might never see the light of day via traditional financing. But what if Kickstarter is more about the experience of kickstarting than it is about the finished products? When you fund something like OUYA [a new type of video game console that has topped $5 million in backing on KS], you're not pre-ordering a new console that will be made and marketed, you're buying a ticket on the ride, reserving a front-row seat to the process and endorsing an idea. It's a Like button attached to your wallet...

When faced with the reality of these products, disappointment is inevitable – not just because they're too little too late (if at all) but for even weirder reasons. We don't really want the stuff. We're paying for the sensation of a hypothetical idea, not the experience of a realized product. For the pleasure of desiring it. For the experience of watching it succeed beyond expectations or to fail dramatically. Kickstarter is just another form of entertainment. It's QVC for the Net set. And just like QVC, the products are usually less appealing than the excitement of learning about them for the first time and getting in early on the sale.
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