Hello all, I hope everyone is doing well. This week I’d like to discuss perspective. Before we get too carried away, let’s define what I mean by perspective. Perspective in this case is defined as a particular attitude or a point of view. I will be focusing more on game design considerations of perspective, in regard to the attitudes of consumers, critics, and as a group of designers. I’d like to preface by saying that just as perspective can be complex and nuanced and is very subjective, I will be describing my experience and opinions and am by no means writing in stone upon the grand tablets of “absolute truth.”
The question may be asked, “so since perspectives vary from person to person, why does it matter?” In the context of board game design, understanding the perspective of consumers, reviewers, and fellow designers can help to make a more focused product and help tailor your game to a specific niche. My perspective as a designer will be different than other designers but may have a lot more in common than consumers or reviewers. I myself am also a consumer of board games but since my days as a designer, my attitudes towards genres, mechanics, physical components, etc. have had a significant shift. I may share fewer common attitudes from a purely consumer point of view, looking outside of the board game sphere for example. Movies, books, food, video games, board games, lots of things we interact with in our daily life have people who are considered to be critics.
Critic vs. Consumer
Now going to your favorite movie on Rotten Tomatoes may reveal that there is a divide between critic and movie goer reception. You have probably met that one co-worker or person in your life who really loves a movie but has a less than great response critic reception. Common things said after that are “They are just so disconnected” or “They don’t understand not everything needs to be a masterpiece”. This is a stark difference in perspective; critics watch, read, eat, and breathe movies. It’s their job. At some point I’m sure everything that isn’t spectacular may seem bland, formulaic, hum drum, or the like. It may take a real “showstopper” of a film in order to garner any gleaming review. Another case, a little closer to home, is when I play games. It’s now very difficult for me not to comment on component cost or think about the decision-making process to choose one type of cardboard over another. My wife on the other hand cares significantly less and doesn’t think too long about components. Neither of us are “correct”, simply we have a different perspective about what a quality game looks, plays, and feels like. And this leads to my next point about the importance of playtesting.
Playtest, Playtest, Playtest…
Playtesting not only allows you to balance a game but allows you to expose your game to a variety of people whose perspectives may vary greatly. In my opinion, having people who have a wider spectrum of perspectives allows you to better understand what people like or dislike. Playtesting with the same group over and over can be insightful to the replayability of a game, but it’s just as valuable to have input that is less influenced by previous iterations of a game. Having people playtest who may not be the target audience can be helpful to understand what works for people outside of the target demographic. Every game has a target group of people it’s aiming for: euro gamers, TCGers, RPG folk, and so forth. The more perspectives you can collect with a playtest, the more you will find trends across the different groups. Some mechanic or theme or particular feeling while playing may resonate across several groups.
Missing the Mark
No game is for everyone, and as such not everything is going to land or be understood by your players. Whether they are reviewers, fellow designers, or consumers. The wide array of personal experience and history will make pleasing everyone an impossible task. Not to say that you should ignore everyone who doesn’t think that your game has bad parts. Approach criticism with the intention of understanding the perspective of the critic.
Now this is easier said than done. Simply put, this idea of understanding someone from a perspective that is not yours is one of the most difficult things to do as a human being. Even at B.A. Games Sam, Ed, and myself do not always agree on the direction of a game or changes that are made to a game. This is simply a difference in perspective, it can be hard to explain why we feel a change or feature is good or bad. At the end of the day there isn’t really a right or wrong but merely a “different” way to solve a common problem. If all of us held the same opinion about all the choices our games would be worse and be less suitable for the general audience.
At times you may even have perspectives that come out of left field and are not the implied meaning at all, in cases like this it’s important that “if it happened once, it’ll happen again”. You will never be able to cover all your bases, but you may have a perception be different that intention. It’s important to understand how someone came to this perception; you may need to make adjustments to rules, themes, or mechanics in order to prevent misinterpretation.
Well, this wraps up some of the bigger points on perspective and why it’s important to listen to others and try to understand their point of view to better craft games that are more fun and all around better. I think that a lot of this can also be brought out of the world of board games but I’m a game designer, not a Sociologist. I’d like to thank everyone for sticking it out with us and reading our blog post to maybe learn a thing or two. If you have any helpful insight or something to say on the matter, feel free to comment below or wherever you saw this post. Keep gaming out there!