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Subject: Confession--I hate teaching games rss

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Gunky Gamer
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There, I said it. I like buying games. I like learning new games. I like playing games.

But, I freakin' hate being the one to teach people how to play.

I don't like teaching my friends, my wife, my kids, other gamers, or anyone else how to play. I don't enjoy being the person who has to maintain oversight over a table of new players.

Teaching just doesn't come naturally for me. I've been told that I'm a wee bit impatient, so perhaps that is part of my problem.

I'm not proud of this confession. I so wish things were different. It has a serious impact on the amount of gaming I get to enjoy. During the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, for example, I had a captive audience of house guests who would have been happy to try anything I brought to the table. Instead I took the easy route, playing simple games that anyone could figure out after just a few minutes of play.

So, any suggestions about how to get my mind right? Anyone else stress over teaching games want to share words of encouragement, wisdom, or commiseration? I've read plenty of posts suggestions various teaching methods, but is there any one else of an agitated (or formerly agitated) mindset who can help me to see the light?

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Rob Steward
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As someone who has done quite a lot of teaching of many kinds over the years--and who didn't start out particularly good at it, I can offer two observations:

1. Do not focus on teaching, focus on other people learning.

2. Like almost any skill, you'll get better with practice.
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Gunky Gamer
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DigitalMan wrote:

1. Do not focus on teaching, focus on other people learning.


Sounds like a fortune cookie laugh ...but, seriously, can you elaborate on this idea bit?
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Patrick C.
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Oooooh, oooooh, a chance for me to rant about one of my board gaming peeves!

Teaching games would be soooo much easier if publishers had better written instructions!

The first thing they all need to do is to go back to school and learn the basics. "This is what I'm going to say, this is what I'm saying, that's what I said."

The last one isn't that important - summarizing what was already said, but the first one is and it's the one they all seem to miss most of the time.

This is one of the reasons I visit BGG so regularly - all those "rules summarization" reviews that some people hate - are where it's at.

For some reason, many BGGers can succinctly describe a game in a single paragraph that just nails it - better than what's written in most board game published rules. It's the very thing required to teach a game well. Give the big picture in a way that makes sense, then get into the details. Instead, most rules offer a poorly written thematic summary (which doesn't help you learn how to play the game) and then they jump into the details.

Teaching games wouldn't be so hard if we didn't have to do the work of the publisher/designer by coming up with this one description paragraph.
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Rob Steward
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esirof wrote:
DigitalMan wrote:

1. Do not focus on teaching, focus on other people learning.


Sounds like a fortune cookie laugh ...but, seriously, can you elaborate on this idea bit?


I'm suggesting to just get out of yourself a bit. Who is your audience? What is their current level of understanding? What do they relate to? Are they old, young, hip, stodgy, technophobic, fun-starved, not easily amused? If you know your students and tailor your teaching to where they're currently at, they'll learn better.

When I first started "teaching", I was almost solely focussed on myself and all the information I wanted to convey. I was also almost solely unsuccessful.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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As I own 90% of the games my group plays, I teach 90% of the games. It is tedious. I agree that the focus should not be on making sure everyone has the game drilled into their heads 100%. That's their responsibility.

Think of the first session of any new game as a practice game. So all you are responsible for is making sure everyone can get through the practice game, not that everyone knows the game backwards and forwards.

I like to read through the rules twice myself before game night and then jump in with everyone else. Then I don't have to babysit everyone because "I'm just learning the game too." A lot of the time the best teacher is playing through a few practice turns of a medium weight game and then starting over once everyone has a feel for it.

I think your primary stressor is that you feel responsible for the game and everyone's errors. Once I'm done with my overview, I sometimes let other players can dazzle me with their literacy and look up rule questions themselves.
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Gunky Gamer
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travvller wrote:
Oooooh, oooooh, a chance for me to rant about one of my board gaming peeves!


I agree with quite a bit of what you say. I wonder if publishers/designers don't always take the time to road test their instructions. By that I mean hand the rules to people who are true 'blank slates' and see how they make out learning the game and teaching it to their buddies to play.

But, that doesn't change the fact that we need to play with the hand that is dealt. Rulebooks may suck, but the games still need to be learned and taught. I can get through some crappy rules on my own. I just get really tense when it comes to sharing that with others and getting them to play.
 
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Linda Baldwin
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First, congratulations for recognizing the situation. I know a lot of intelligent, gregarious people who have seriously problems (some occasionally, some all the time) teaching games who don't recognize there's a problem, and therefore do nothing to fix it.

I have to teach games, and I enjoy it, but if I don't organize myself, I really suck at it. It's mostly a problem when I teach something I don't know well, or didn't expect to be teaching, so I try to have a plan when I teach.

I found this article very helpful when I started teaching a lot of games; I try to reread it from time to time, along with the comments. (Hmm, now might be a good time, come to think of it.)

Remember that the players are hearing this stuff for the first time. Their ability to retain the information will differ, and will depend on your presentation. I like to start with a description of what the game is about, what their role is in the game, and what their goal is. (If it's "to collect points", I try to add "by building a diverse farm" or "collecting these cards" or "spreading your species across the world, and making them adapted to the environment."

Then I may introduce key concepts, if I'm going to refer to them a lot: definitions for terms that they're going to be hearing a lot. Show as you tell. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself, especially if a point is really important. For instance, if the goal is collecting a certain type of card, mention it at the beginning, and again when you talk about acquiring cards.

Only after you talk about the basic concepts should you discuss what you do in a turn. Take it slow, take your time. If they want to interrupt, say "I'll get to that; remind me at the end if I don't." Don't let the players throw you off. Have a plan, make sure you stick to it. Take questions at the end.

It's not easy for most of us, but it can be really rewarding. Just be prepared. Before you teach a game, make sure you understand it. Even if you've played it dozens of times, reread the rules. (Make sure the way you play is actually what's there; you'd be surprised how many times you'll find things you've been doing incorrectly.) If the game is new to you, play out at least a few turns by yourself.

I also rehearse teaching a game in my head. I'm not the only one, either. The more times you do it, the easier it gets.

Good luck, and don't worry, you're not alone.
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Gunky Gamer
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kaziam wrote:

I think your primary stressor is that you feel responsible for the game and everyone's errors.


Yep...you hit the nail on the head.
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Gunky Gamer
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Carmilla wrote:

I found this article very helpful when I started teaching a lot of games;


Thanks for the link, the suggestions and the support!
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Malcolm Corney
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Teaching people is a chore, especially when they play games and won't invest a little time learning rules. One of my gaming friends is a teacher and when i give him rules to look over during the week, before we play at the weekend, he complains about me giving him homework.

I think that perhaps you should try an relax a little and approach it from the angle that investing the extra time and effort to teach more complex games will reward you with playing more complex and deeper games. There is also the element of playing (forgive the pun) to your audience, some people just don't get games no matter how hard you try.

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Jean Gagnier
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I teach games as a job. It can be very, very rewarding when people appreciate what you do, when they thank you for teaching a game they didn't know but that they now want to purchase.

The downside is the socially awkward yet rowdy person who likes to belittle you for forgetting to mention a rule (which most of the time I certainly did mention, though to be far I do sometimes forget a rule in a complex game). I don't mind that much if it's done to poke fun among friends (who acknowledge that teaching games is a bit thankless for the effort put in), but seriously, who does that in a social function, with a near-stranger? I don't know if this lack of class is a trait more frequently found in gamers as I have little teaching experience in other domains, but it gets annoying.

That said, I love my job, and I'm very happy to teach people games they might not have heard of. I love figuring out how to present information, how to stress particular points, how to get people to understand their upcoming experiences. However, I do see why it isn't for everyone. Like slow players, it's something to be aware of and work with rather than to scorn.
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Greg Austin
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I'm the one amongst my family and friends at this point who has gotten the gaming bug so I do all of the teaching.

Most of my stress is due to really wanting them to like what I've picked and being afraid of rejection due to my shortcomings in the explanation. If they don't like it just because it's not their type of game, that's disappointing but not my fault.

It's work and you have to be prepared and also able to improvise and move on when you see people's interest flagging or sparking.

Try to find the excitement and joy in the act of teaching--the enthusiasm will come through in your voice and body language and will help sell the game even to people who might not be so interested, or help confused souls want to try harder to understand.
In my own experience so far, I think I try to control too much after I've introduced things, and need to let the players find their way and only help when there's a rule or procedure that needs following.
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Gunky Gamer
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jgag wrote:
I teach games as a job.


Really? How cool. Where do you do this? Please tell more!
 
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Justin Case
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Just the title of this thread hooked me in....

I am one of those rare individuals blessed with the ability to teach anything to anyone, and to teach it well. To my thinking, there are two keys to success in this.

First, you must know your material. As a man far wiser than I once stated, "You can't give what you don't have".

Second, as has also been observed previously in the thread, you have to know your audience. For me, that means having some idea of their intelligence, education, and personality, and quickly zeroing in on their familiarity with the specific topic at hand so that we can work at their level.

Having said those things, and in spite of my ability to teach, I will confess that what really twists my loincloth is when I'm trying to teach something to someone who isn't expending the same amount of effort in trying to learn. My patience dwindles pretty quickly when the thought of "Why should I be the only one working at this?" creeps in.

But for pure intellectual pleasure, it's hard to beat that moment when a student "gets it".


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Jack Bennett
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Another thing is just to stop teaching games. If you don't enjoy it, and aren't succeeding, why keep it up? It's a fun hobby, so be sure you're having fun with it.

My game group picks a game a week or more in advance and then e-mails links to the rules (and any basic strategy articles) and everyone is responsible for showing up with at least a basic knowledge of how the game works.

Cuts down on a lot of teaching and gives us time for more gaming.
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One of the key teaching tools I've found is to start with giving a broad picture of the game and its general mechanics, while making sure to avoid getting side-tracked by those little rules or exceptions. I've seen many gamer's eyes glaze over after being bombarded by an onslaught of rules that may or may not occur within the game.

Better to give them what they need to know for the first turn and move from there.
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Jean Gagnier
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esirof wrote:
jgag wrote:
I teach games as a job.


Really? How cool. Where do you do this? Please tell more!


Well, part-time job. I run my own graphic and web design business, but a few friends of mine decided to open a board game pub, the Randolph Gaming Pub. I wanted to be associated with that project in some way, and since they put much emphasis on teaching games and catering to customers' desired experiences, we are a few people that spend evenings teaching games to patrons. I do it part time, and I find myself wanting to do it more and more, it's incredibly fun.

If you're ever in the Montréal area, give us a try. We have good beer, good food, good coffee, a good game selection and, of course, good teachers . Here's how the first of our two floors looks like.
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Matt Kruczek
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esirof wrote:
DigitalMan wrote:

1. Do not focus on teaching, focus on other people learning.


Sounds like a fortune cookie laugh ...but, seriously, can you elaborate on this idea bit?


I'll provide a real-life example from when I was at school.

I was top of my class in maths at 'O' level, taking the exam a year earlier than most when I was 15. I liked playing around with equations and taking questions apart. My exercise books were full of notes and examples. There is something about the physical act of writing things down that gets them into my head, and then playing around with them that makes them stick.

At 17, I started 'A' Level Further Maths, which was a disaster. The teacher actually forbade us from taking notes and asking questions because "at this level you should be able to remember this first time." I would see the equations and examples go up on the board, I would be halfway through working them out then they'd be erased and the problems would go up, which I didn't have the information to solve. If we got something wrong, we weren't told why or how to correct it.

Unfortunately for me and another pupil who was struggling with this, the other students in the class were "clever" enough to learn that way, so after our first couple of protests were smacked down quite hard (and we were labelled trouble makers) I just came to believe that I wasn't as good at maths as I thought. Eventually we dropped out of the Further Maths group and did regular maths. Being allowed to learn in the way that suits me meant I excelled again, ultimately getting a grade A.

Nowadays I know that we just had a different learning style to the rest of the FM group (who'd actually been in that teacher's class up to 'O' level, so had got used to his methods) and that the failure was the teacher's, not ours. Had he been focussed on our learning we would have been able to do what we needed to do get a grasp of the subject, as it was, because we couldn't cope with his methods, that was our fault for not being able to be taught "properly".

The wisest thing I ever heard on learning and training is this: You've always assumed that everybody else learns in the same way you do, so you've always taught as though you're teaching yourself; so to teach effectively, you need to discover how your students learn.
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Matthew Tadyshak
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The best way to teach games I think is too make sure everyone understands the flow of the game. In other words, explain the object and how to get to that with the game actions. Once you the basic gist of how the game works, then the details will sink in easily.
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Alex Johns
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I totally sympathize with the OP. My day job hsa me teaching people all day, the last thing I want to do at game night is teach some more. that is my down time, I just want to play.

And to those posts about people who complain about the way you teach the game, or forget that you told them some minor yet important detail that now has ruined their strategy, just repeat the following phrase to them. "I can explain it TO you, but I can't understand it FOR you."
 
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Michael Knauss
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Sometimes I hate teaching games. It really depends on the group. Sometime if my game group includes my wife and one of her friends they spedn the time while I am trying to explain rules chit-chatting. later during the game they accuse me of never mentioning some rule that everyone else remembered. Teaching is easy if people are paying attention and are attentively/activly listening and asking questions. Sure its not as fun as gossiping with friends, but hey, you get to start and enjoy the game sooner.
 
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monchi
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travvller wrote:
Oooooh, oooooh, a chance for me to rant about one of my board gaming peeves!

Teaching games would be soooo much easier if publishers had better written instructions!

The first thing they all need to do is to go back to school and learn the basics. "This is what I'm going to say, this is what I'm saying, that's what I said."

The last one isn't that important - summarizing what was already said, but the first one is and it's the one they all seem to miss most of the time.

This is one of the reasons I visit BGG so regularly - all those "rules summarization" reviews that some people hate - are where it's at.

For some reason, many BGGers can succinctly describe a game in a single paragraph that just nails it - better than what's written in most board game published rules. It's the very thing required to teach a game well. Give the big picture in a way that makes sense, then get into the details. Instead, most rules offer a poorly written thematic summary (which doesn't help you learn how to play the game) and then they jump into the details.

Teaching games wouldn't be so hard if we didn't have to do the work of the publisher/designer by coming up with this one description paragraph.


teaching would be even easier if rules came with QR codes or links to videos that showed someone that is good at explaining rules explaining the rules.

not sure why designers haven't figured this one out yet. The easiest and best way of teaching most games is via examples of play, but this entails setting up the board and then setting up scenarios which none of us like as it means we need to set everything back up. If rules had videos that would show what they are explaining, you could just cue up your laptop at the table and let it rip.

I know some war games have started to use QR codes in their rule books to demonstrate some of the more complex rules. I would love to see this go mainstream.
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M Hellyer
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I'm a better teacher than a learner; thus, I would much rather teach a game than be taught.

Don't over teach. They don't necessarily need to know every rule and strategy in advance.

Start by reading the first couple paragraphs in the rules that provide an overview of the game. That is usually better written than I could explain.

Teach the objective and the basic gameplay mechanics.

Ask regularly if the learners have any questions. Not just general questions, but ask some targeted questions to make sure they are staying tuned in and learning.

Play a couple practice turns. Review, then start a whole game.

It's a real challenge to read a 12-page or 24-page rulebook and distill that in verbal instructions to a group of learners within everyone's attention span.

I'm good at teaching the objectives and rules. What's hardest for me is generating the enthusiasm for the game with the learners that I have for playing it. Making the learning fun goes a long way to building their interest in paying attention, learning, and ultimately playing. Creating a fun environment around the game can sometimes help (hand out medical masks when teaching Pandemic, use an aquarium volcano when playing Downfall of Pompeii, serve mint juleps when playing a horserace game, etc.)
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The Chaz
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I might need to move to Montreal
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