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Subject: Community creation features in non-video games? rss

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Lewis Pulsipher
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In video games we are seeing emphasis on games that enable community creation that in turn contributes to the enjoyment of the rest of the people who play the game. This has existed for a very long time in the form of mods and variants, but it is now "institutionalized" in games such as Spore and Little Big Planet; in fact, in the latter it appears to be much of the point of the game. The creators of these games have made it very easy for players to create additional "content" that can easily be used by others, even more than the scenario editor in Civilization games or the level editors in shooter games such as Unreal Tournament.

This is a form of "crowd-sourcing", using non-professionals to provide content sometimes as good, or nearly as good, as professionals can provide, but at no cost. Video game companies simply cannot afford to create the vast amount of content gamers now expect, yet gamers want it for no additional cost (complaints about the $60 standard price for video games are common). So they're finding ways to have the fans create the additional content.

My question is, how do we incorporate such "community creation" features like modding/creature creation into boardgames? Collectible card games have something like it except it's all publisher-created. RPGs have had it (all the D&D monsters, classes, adventures) since their beginning. Diplomacy has it in the hundreds of variant created over the years. Some wargames have it in additional scenarios created by fans. But is there a way to make it part and parcel of a game or of gaming?

How do we get something that supports the game and is created (and distributed free) by the fans, the players? BGG is as close as we get, generally, but how many players come to BGG on a regular basis? Not many, really.

Well, if I knew the answers, I wouldn't be asking the question.

Lew Pulsipher
 
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Chris Ferejohn
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1000 Blank White Cards comes to mind.
 
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Andrew Tullsen
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Free Print and Play games ?
 
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Jon G
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In card-based games, include a significant number (say, 8-10) of blank cards/tiles with standard backs. Then there are enough blanks that it's "okay" to make up some new cards. If I only get 1-2 blanks (I have in mind the single blank building that comes with Puerto Rico), I'll keep them as potential replacements. OTOH, the five or six Munchkin blanks now have clever stuff we made up. Still, my wife and I debated the content, rules, and art before we took sharpie to them. If I could order 20 more blanks, we'd have been more freely creative, and it would be a bigger part of the game's culture.

Ideally, people start posting their homemade expansion ideas, and you can support this by selling additional blanks, hopefully cheaply to support fan interest. Probably half the games I own could be enhanced in this manner. This is way better than print & play add-ons, which require a good printer and alignment to look decent, and never match the feel or appearance of the original card/tiles.
 
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Mike Collins
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Rakeman wrote:
Variants and House Rules


This is the obvious - if slightly vague - answer.

A specfic category that springs to mind is games which take place on a board which represents a geographic area - fan communities have shown themselves willing and able to generate variants which are played on different real or fantasy geographies, often with variant rules to model the situation in those locations.

Diplomacy is, of course, the classic example, with variants ranging from different historical scenarios to fictional worlds (or, in the case of Tolkein's Middle Earth, historical scenarios in fictional worlds ).

Another example close to my own heart is RoboRally - there are lots of fan-produced boards to play with, often with new hazards with their own rules, once the gamer is tired of the ones which come with the game.

Edit: Ansering your real question, "how", is more challenging. Computer games have it easier, since it is possible to build into the software a particular IP address which can be queried for "approved" expansions, especially with the current generation of consoles having onine capability and downloadable content.

Board games have no such automatic channelling of the user's attention to a given site. Players will therefore need to be encouraged to go to the places where new content is made available. On the one hand, any game with a critical mass of players will form their own communities online (as was the case with computer games before publishers wised up; I remember when BluesNews was still the first place to check for PC platform FPS mods, no matter what the game). On the other, the "casual" gamer will go only to the "official" website (be it the developer's or the publisher's - whichever is more heavily promoted in the game's documentation).

The real answer is for the developer and publisher to interact with the existing online community, and provide a seamless connection between the official website and those places where the community is actually creating content. This can be achieved either by encouraging the community to publish content on the official website, or else by making it obvious and non-threatening for the casual gamer to find their way from the official site to the unofficial sites where community content is being published.

This, of course, is made easier when the community is already consolidated at a particular site, and here boardgame publishers and gamers have an advantage. As far as I can see, BGG is overwhelmingly the dominant online community for boardgames, so much so that publishers can be fairly confident that they can focus their efforts on engaging those who contribute here. RPG and computer game manufacturers, OTOH, have to engage communities scattered over a much wider variety of sites.

An additional complication is that there is, necessarily, a physical component to boardames. A printout of a variant board will, to a large percentage of the players, always seem less satisfactory than a professionally published expansion, whereas with a computer game, it's much easier for fan content to appear indistinguishable from the original, given suitable tools and skill.

No matter what new board and pieces I invent for my favourite game, there's no way I can make professional-quality components available affordably to anyone who wants to play my variant. Meanwhile, the economics of boardgame publishing make it impossible for the publishers to provide cheap, professional-quality printings of community content.

How you overcome that, I don't know.

By the way, Lew, do I remember your name from Imagine magazine, many years ago?

Mike
 
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