Design Workshop: Is Game Blogging Good Preparation for Game Design?
March 27, 2013
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I’ve long wondered why I so highly prize session reports. They are not usually the most popular posts. And other people’s session reports, well… honestly, I can’t understand a lot of them. If I am unfamiliar with the system or the genre I often can’t understand what it was that made it so compelling at the game table. But the thing about those session reports… even if I don’t read them they are almost always a sign that the writer will have something insightful to say when he editorializes in other posts. I think the reason for this is that they are so much more likely to speak to problems that come up in actual play. Given that, I have hypothesized lately that game blogging might be good preparation for designing games. Reading through Lewis Pulsipher’s game design blog, I quickly turned up a solid lead on getting more insight into that. Check out the headings in the post, “things to watch for when playtesting.”
Is the game balanced — When Earlburt and I started playing Car Wars together, we soon found out that I had an unfair advantage if vehicle design was involved while he had an unfair advantage if unusual rules and situations were incorporated into a scenario. Our 2029 campaign was designed from the ground up to create a large series of games where neither one of us had an advantage. Also… a whole series of games were planned in advance so we wouldn’t be tempted to negotiate a scenario favorable for our personal styles of play!
Rules difficult to grasp — Oh my. If there is something about a game that is hard to explain or that is easy to mess up in the first sessions, that is instant blog fodder every time!
What do players tend to forget — Here’s another one. Earlburt and I had played dozens of games, but a cover-to-cover readthrough of the rules revealed several things that we were still overlooking. Some of them had pretty significant impacts on gameplay, too. Complex games like Car Wars, BattleTech, and Star Fleet Battles are always going to be like that… but odd corners of many role playing games that are often misunderstood or misapplied is also good game blog material.
So yeah… most all of the points that Lew brought up in his post are going to be intimately familiar to any serious game blogger– especially, I think, if they do a lot of session reports or play one particular game in depth instead of getting caught up in the cult of the new. Game blogging is almost indistinguishable from playtesting. That’s the tail end of the game design process, though. Thinking this through, I realize that though I’ve played games all my life and while I think I can hold my own in any sort of playtesting situation… I don’t know beans about the early stages of developing an all-new game design.
Your move: have you written a post or two that illustrates one of Lewis Pulsipher’s “things to watch for when playtesting?” If so, please drop a link in the comments.