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Links: Designers on Why They Design, Magic: The Movie, How to Pitch & Why Finish Games?

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game Designer
Board Game: Magic: The Gathering
Tap: Max's Game – a film inspired by and based on Magic: The Gathering – premiered in the Czech Republic on March 3, 2012. Director/producer Kamil Beer sends this invitation to potential viewers: "If anybody would like to have the film screened at their store/club/cinema, he can mail me at The screening is absolutely free and they, along with their player communities, will have the opportunity to see the film before the Internet release during summer."

Evan Derrick, designer of BSG Express, launched a Tumblr in March 2012 titled "Why I Design Games" that features designers offering their explanation of the topic above as well as classy images highlighting games created by those same designers. To date, Stephen Glenn and Fréderic Moyersoen have written on the topic.

Board Game Publisher: Le Scorpion Masqué
Christian Lemay, game designer and owner of Canadian publisher Le Scorpion Masqué, is one of 21 finalists for the 35th ARISTA Provincial Competition, which is meant to "recognize, encourage and promote success and excellence of young executives, professionals, entrepreneurs and independent workers, aged between 18 and 40, from all regions of Québec". (PDF of the award announcement)

• On Grant Rodiek's blog for his Hyperbole Games, designer Corey Young, who has sold three games to publishers and is still waiting for the first to see print, offers advice on how to pitch your prototypes to publishers at game conventions.

• Author Tim Parks has an interesting article in The New York Review of Books titled "Why Finish Books?" An excerpt:

One of the strangest responses I ever had to a novel of my own – my longest not surprisingly – came from a fellow author who wrote out of the blue to express his appreciation. Such letters of course are a massive pep to one's vanity and I was just about to stick this very welcome feather in my cap, when I reached the last lines of the message: he hadn't read the last fifty pages, he said, because he'd reached a point where the novel seemed satisfactorily over, for him.

Naturally I was disappointed, even a little angry. My leg had surely been pulled. Wasn't this damning criticism, that I'd gone on fifty pages too long? Only later did I appreciate his candor. My book was fine, for him, even without the ending. It wasn't too long, just that he was happy to stop where he did.
Then later:

There are some novels, and not just genre novels, where plot is indeed up front and very much the reason why one keeps turning the pages. We have to know what happens. These are rarely the most important books for me. Often one skims as heightened engagement with the plot reduces our attention to the writing as such; all the novel's intelligence is in the story and the writing the merest vehicle.

Yet even in these novels where plot is the central pleasure on offer, the end rarely gratifies, and if we like the book and recommend it to others, it is rarely for the end. What matters is the conundrum of the plot, the forces put in play and the tensions between them. The Italians have a nice word here. They call plot trama, a word whose primary meaning is weft, woof or weave. It is the pattern of the weave that we most savor in a plot – Hamlet's dilemma, perhaps, or the awesome unsustainability of Dorothea's marriage to Casaubon – but not its solution. Indeed, the best we can hope from the end of a good plot is that it not ruin what came before. I would not mind a Hamlet that stopped before the carnival of carnage in the last scene, leaving us instead to mull over all the intriguing possibilities posed by the young prince's return to Elsinore.
Board Game: Ora et Labora
Naturally when reading nearly anything, I think about the subject as it relates to games and gamers and gaming and gamification, and I've been thinking along the same lines as Parks when it comes to certain games. When my brother visited at the end of 2011 and taught me Ora et Labora, for example, I ended the first game thinking, "Okay, clearly I lost. My brother has played a few times, and I had several wasted turns in which I spun my wheels and I could have built better here and..." Yet we dutifully added up the scores to confirm that I had indeed lost by a fair amount.

We played again the next evening, and the game came together for me. I had a sense of the game's rhythm and planned better for what was possible in future turns. I felt that I was gaining an edge on my brother as the game progressed, as did he, but nothing was certain as the game includes no mid-game scoring and tallying points mid-game is meaningless. When the game ended, we both thought I had won, but we didn't leave it at that. Out came the scorepad, and we ticked off things to confirm that I had edged past him by a few points.

Board Game: 7 Wonders
So I had won, yes, but the feeling of victory came from the experience of playing and not from the tallying of points. The scoring was anticlimactic, a deflating of the balloon of tension that arose during play. I get the same experience with 7 Wonders; as much as I enjoy playing the game – hoping that a card will make it around the table, stuffing away cards an opponent desperately needs, pulling together every coin and resource bit by bit to build my land – I dread bringing out the scorepad at game's end to start the slog through each type of card. (Yes, with experienced players we all score our own holdings, but I keep playing with newcomers and it makes sense to tally everything openly to give them a better understanding of who scores for what and why someone won.)

With games like these, when I finish, I want to just say, "Wow, Jim, you really pulled it together this time" or "Yeah, I was hoping you wouldn't take that as I would have been stuffed, but I thought you'd need something else instead and I was right" and leave it that.

Naturally this brings to mind Reiner Knizia's apocryphal quote: "When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning." Having a goal and shooting toward that goal is what gives purpose to your actions; you and your opponents are all elbowing one another to end up in front of the pack, and the social experiences created by playing – both the external one of interacting with others and the internal one of feeling that you've played well – are more valuable and interesting than the snapshot image of someone raising his arms in victory, even when that someone happens to be you...
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