Saturday, March 1, 2014

Old Goals, New Games - On Refocusing My Worldview

Phil's old desk calendar, that he got in India several years before I was born.
Now, it's on my desk. There's a parable in there, somewhere.

It has been, I do not mind saying, a very hard winter. We've had the longest run of below-zero (F) days and nights in several decades, and I have been hit pretty hard; as some of you know, my job keeps me outside at night, and the extremely cold weather has really run my stamina levels way down. I've been in survival mode, more or less, since last November, and it's had an effect on things here at The Workbench.

Back about a dozen years ago, I set out to provide a game space that - as best as I could manage it - replicate the kind of 'social gaming' we did out at Phil's for so many years. Back then, games were an a opportunity to get together with some of our friends and have some fun; we did this with and without lots of 'stuff', and that's what I've been trying to maintain down in the game room over the years.

Over that time, and as I've gotten to see what the on-line game fora look like, I've developed the perception that the kind of 'play style' that we used to have isn't all that much in tune with what gamers today are looking for. I'm also basing this on my experiences at the local game shops and conventions, where things seem to be set up to maximize 'through-put'; fast, 'quick-play' games that are limited in both time and space, and which require a limited amount of participation on the part of the players. The 'collectable card games' are an example of this, I think.

A number of years ago, I was talking to the games committee of the big local F/SF convention about getting space to run some games at their event. I toured their space, and noticed that the game tables were set up for what felt like a bridge tournament - small square tables, with four to six chairs. I asked about this, and the committee members told me that that was the format that games used these days; players didn't want to spend a lot of time in the game, they mostly just wanted a couple of hours' worth of entertainment.

We talked a lot about the kind of games that I run - 'Braunsteins', and the like - and the committee finally offered the suggestion that I and my style of game play simply didn't "fit the format"; they - quite intelligently, I thought; these are smart and thoughtful people, who know their gaming - and that I hould really get one of the convention's party suites and offer games in that space for the duration of the convention. Their thought, which I agree with, is that game players want what amounts to an 'in-and-out' game session - the kind of socializing and such that I do, they suggested, was better-suited to a social environment.

Now, please keep in mind that I don't disagree or condemn this play style; if that's what people find to be fun, then they should be free to use that model. "Cool," I thought, "at least they're playing something!"

And, of course, this means that the kind of effort that I put out to run my kind of games is something that a lot of modern gamers don't have a good handle on. They simply don't have the cultural background, because they don;t know what gaming was like back in those days when we were making it up as we went along. Again, cool; I'm all right with that. Where I'm running into some issues is simply that I don't have the stamina or energy, post-brain surgery, to be able to run a lot of things unless the environment and venue will allow for my need for logistics planning and execution.

So, I've been thinking a lot as I get through my nights; I'm looking at refocusing my energy and effort on the projects I'm working on that I think will further my ancient goals of 'having fun' and 'promoting Tekumel'. I'll still be open for games here at The Workbench on the second and fourth Saturdays in the month, and I'll still run games for folks. But, there will be some changes - changes that you, Gentle Readers, will probably not notice.

I will be continuing to work on my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne"; I will be repurposing the 'trade show booth' that I had originally built to show off Prof. Barker's Temple of Vimuhla model to be the 'trade show booth' for promoting my book at events where I think people might be interested in the thing. My thought is that since I paid for all this stuff, I might as well get some use out of it.

I will be reconfiguring the miniatures collection to reflect the preference for smaller games; Howard Fielding has shown the way ahead on this, with his packaging of his admirable miniatures into smaller and handier groups. He's right; one usually doesn't need the Big Battalions on the tabletop, and it'll speed up my painting cycle time. I will also be using the miniatures to fully illustrate the new edition of my rules, "Advance Standards!", and I will generate some small-unit rules to meet a need for same - I'm not talking about the classic Qadarni fights, I'm talking about what we used to call 'skirmish games' between small units on patrols or raids.

I will keep the Big Games in stock; I've already built them, so I might as well keep them handy for the future. You'll see more of them in the future, as I get them photographed.

So, there are my thoughts on a bitterly cold Friday night. Any thoughts or comments?