Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Be Prepared Teaching Games

Fortune favors the prepared mind.”

Louis Pasteur

I wasn’t in Boy Scouts very long, probably about a year, but I learned a few things (many of them not well). How to use a pocketknife safely. How to tie knots. How to navigate using a map and a compass. How to endure the mistreatment inevitably coming your way as the shortest, scrawniest kid. And, of course, the importance of being prepared. I’ve tried to keep that lesson in mind as I’ve stumbled through all the challenges life has unexpectedly dumped on me over the years. I’ve found having a mindset of preparedness has helped me introduce new games – or the new experience of games – to a host of people. Sometimes I’ve done this with a few friends in the comfort of our home. Other times I’ve prepared for games in more public venues like museums, libraries, and conventions, often for strangers. I’ve learned from experience...both successes and failures. In a world where “overthinking things” still retains a societal stigma (though more of us admit and accept it), it’s nice to know being well-enough prepared can pay off. Especially when teaching games to new players.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Reflecting on Our Game Experience

We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey

We can learn a lot from games if we take the time to look beyond the mere momentary entertainment they offer. Like real life, we often finish a game, make some cursory judgments about whether we liked it, and then head home to our daily toils, temporarily restored by some brief respite of play. Too often it seems we stumble through life like this, careening from one crisis to another on various fronts (home, work, school, friends), muddling through the tedious daily grind, and finding passing relief in our hobby interests before succumbing to sleep, all while rarely taking time to look back at our experiences, reflecting on them to see what we might learn, what we might change as we move forward. Games, especially those we play for some educational value (however shallow), can help teach us to analyze an experience, reflecting on what we hated and liked, how our choices affected the game, how we interacted with other players, and what we might do next time to achieve a more favorable outcome. Reflecting on the play experience remains a paramount exercise when using games for learning, in both formal settings and in our own casual gaming.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Summertime Gaming

Cannon at Drewry's Bluff.
My son’s school year begins tomorrow, an early start that puts an end to the carefree days of summer. I don’t get as much done since I’m busy with yard duties, household projects, and entertaining my son with a weekly day trip and other diversions. We’re both looking forward to getting back into some kind of somewhat productive routine. We found some opportunities for gaming during the summer, with some engaging games we really enjoyed. I’m hoping we can sustain our gaming momentum into the more structured part of the year as I tempt him with themes that interest him.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Design Choice: Rumors

 Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys.”

Joseph Conrad

I’m working in fits and starts developing my Mage-Blight Hills fantasy roleplaying game setting (system-neutral) and making various design decisions in both what I develop and how. I’ve decided, for a number of reasons, to write to the page, working within the layout to keep my writing on each setting element concise. It also helps me manage my own perception of how much I’ve completed. Compartmentalizing my work helps me focus. Nothing seems so discouraging as looking at the existing page count and realizing how far one has to go; but when I finish a one-, two-, or even four-page section on a particular location, person, or concept, I gain some small sense of accomplishment. It forces me to work to make sure every aspect of the setting I write about has the most important and useful information. This work/design choice caused me to re-think how I present and use an important element of many settings: rumors.