What Games Mean to Me #20 Try, Try Again

Another great lesson I get from games is to try, try again. I know this is a basic rule that we are taught as children, but there is something about games that makes the lesson stick. I think about the game of Go, a bit far away from the designer games I am usually referencing, but Go is a game where I have  long way to go in what I can learn from that game. The people I play the most are much more experienced and they win on a regular basis when they play me. However, I keep coming back to the table because Go offers a medium for me to exercise the idea of trying again and trying something different and not giving up. The reason I don’t give up is because I feel like I am understanding a little bit more about the game each time I play it.

How does this apply to real life?

When I hit a road block in whatever I am doing in life, I think about the small things that I can learn from the situation that allows me to be better the next time around. Yes there is something that is blocking my progress, but what am I doing in the mean time to educate myself and better prepare myself for taking on the same challenge? When I play a game, what did I learn about a strategy in-between plays that will help me play better the next time?

While the consequences of a game are low compared to the risks taken in life; the lessons taught in small increments can have huge meaning if the lessons are applied to the larger context of life.

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What Games Mean to Me #19 Games Taught Me Game Analysis

When I played games in High School and College, when the game was over, the winner cleaned up and the rest of up turned on a movie. When I got back into games a couple year ago, I started to think about everything that happened on the board and why it happened. I would think about the different decisions I could have made and what those decisions would have done for me during the game.

Taking the time to think about this game analysis after each play has made me want to try games more than once, made me a better designer and opened my eyes to the depth that modern board games provide.

The post game debrief that we gamers experience is part of the fun of the game. Why did you make that move and what was the turning point if the game from the point of view of each player.

Thanks to the games I play and thinking about what happened during the game has had a far reaching impact on my ability to enjoy the games I play and make the game I create better for the people who play them.

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What Games Mean to Me #18 Games Taught Me How to Lose

I am a terrible gamer. I have a way of using strategies that are good enough not to lose but never good enough to win. I think part of that is I have not played any game enough times (other than my own designs) to get to a point where I have command of the basic strategies and move into the advanced strategies. Unless we are talking trick taking games, I tend to be pretty good at those.

Before I got into regular games nights, my usual gaming was with high school buddies and the only thing that mattered was winning. I hated losing in those situations.

When I got into the regular game nights with people from my meetup group, I learned very quickly that the point of games is to play them and the winning and losing part were the lowest things on the list of why to play a game. Playing games with new people taught me very quickly how to lose and sometimes win and have those things not matter. The interaction with people at the table and the enjoyment of playing a game and doing something that was outside the routine of life was more important than winning or losing.

Games have found a way to allow me to find enjoyment while removing the need to win or lose. This is important to me because when I was a kid, I was a terrible loser. Should the day come that I have a child and I need to teach them about winning and losing, I hope that I can use games to teach them that the experience of play is more important the the perceived life or death situation that is winning and losing.

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What Games Mean to Me #17 My Brain Craves Games

Games turn my brain on.

I don’t know if my brain is wired for games but when I play games I feel like my brain is working at peak efficiency. That is not to say I play them any better or I turn this peak efficiency into winning, but I do feel like my brain is firing on all cylinders. I learn games relatively quickly and I really like the learning process and trying to figure out the best strategies.

Games are a great opportunity for me to fail over and over and try things out every time I play a game. I think what games ultimately offer to my brain is a method to systematically organize and think about the options that are in front of me.

I will close with an example. When I was in High School, the game of choice among my friends was Spades. I love Spades, I am good at it, it is simple and it is a lot of fun. I was recently introduced to Wizard and my Spades brain was in heaven. Even though it was the first time playing the game, I jumped into organizing my cards and thinking about what I needed to bid. It took me 5 rounds to figure out how the wizard and the joker really effect the bidding system, but after that I was on a roll. I was able to go from last to second (six player game) over the course of the last half of the game.

My brain felt happy, if that makes sense.

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What Games Mean to Me #16 Games Give Me Hope

Games make me smile, games make me interact with people in new and interesting ways and games give me ways to spend time with people from all different walks of life. Games give me hope that people can come together and enjoy a shared experience.

These days, we are surrounded by all sorts of bad news. Granted, bad news sells and gets clicks, but I could do with some more good vibes in the world. We are also in an age where it is easy to be a troll due to the anonymity the internet provides.

My experience with games has given me hope that people can come together and smile. I don’t think that games can solve the worlds problems, but I think that games can bring people together. When people are brought together to share an experience, they can see that dissimilar people are not that bad. There are people with different kinds of humor and people that have different life experiences. Games are and can be a starting point for conversation and when people talk about games, they tend to listen better because what is at stake in a game is trivial compared to the rest of the world. But listening to another person share their strategies is a chance to learn a way to play that game better. I firmly believe that if people would listen to one another, there would be a little less fear of the unknown and a little more understanding.

Games give me hope because they can facilitate these conversations, the listening and the smiles and enjoyment that is playing games.

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What Games Mean to Me #15 Make Me Think Bigger

The board game market is small, very small. I am well aware of this and yet I still want to try and make a career out of being a board game designer and publisher. What I concluded very early in this process was that I need to think bigger. I need to think of ways that can grow the hobby and bring in as many people as possible. I need to think of different games I can design for all kinds of potential fans. The ideas I get might be crazy and total garbage, but at least I am thinking big.

Before board games came along, I normally kept my scope of thought to my immediate sphere of influence, aka not very big.

The project that is building a board game company has forced me to think bigger and think about others that are currently outside my scope of influence. I now look at the outreach, marketing and advertising projects of other companies and organizations in a different way. There is a lot to learn from the ways other people and organizations reach out to new customers. I can’t look into the future and know what this change in the way I think means in the long run, but what I can tell you now is that I find myself more willing to take the time to hear more points of view when it comes to board games and other topics outside of board games.

I do this because I know that the games we make will need to appeal to a wider audience and their opinions matter. This ins’t just about making the games I want to make. This is about making games for the people that want games that don’t know they want games. Of course, I will still design games that I want to play and I will make games for the fully immersed hobby gamer, but there are a lot of people out there who have yet to be exposed to a game that is right for them and I need to think bigger in order to get the awesomeness that is board games to their table.

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What Games Mean to Me #15 Teach Me to Talk with Confidence

I had a play test a few the week of writing this and while playing our game and meeting some new people was awesome, the time we spent after the test talking about games, design, and Kickstarter was the best.

In real life, I am normally quiet and reserved because I don’t have tons of confidence floating around about the subjects on the table. I tend towards knowing a little about a lot of topics, rather than a lot about a few subjects. This leads to a lot of situations where I know the people around me know more about a subject than I do and while I am in the conversation enough to know what is going on, I am never driving the conversation, or participating at the same level as everyone else.

In game life, I have a level of confidence to talk about all sorts of topics. Taking us back to the conversation post play test, I was the guy at the table that lead the discussion and had something to add to the conversation at all times. I was being asked questions about design and the time I have spent working on our games gave me the confidence to know that what I was saying was legit because I had either read about or experienced the ups and downs of game design.

We talked about what we were going to do during our Kickstarter campaign. Having spent the time reading about how to run a good Kickstarter campaign and followed other campaigns that did both good and bad things, I knew how to answer the questions with a level of confidence I don’t have in other arenas of interaction.

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