So, in the thread Shelter in Place was disappointing
, Jackson Tegu led the way in reflecting on a game several S-G members played in (including me). After a lot of discussion, some obviously fruitful and some perhaps not, among both people who were present and people who were not, and those familiar with the game and those not, the perhaps inevitable "discussion about how to have this discussion" started up. To wit:
Posted By: jackson teguI think it's good for us to learn how to critique things as a community. An apology to those who were shocked by this approach; we'll smooth it out as we get better at talking about troublesome things.
Posted By: GrahamIt's about telling the story behind the critique. Why did you collectively decide to critique this game? Why a public conversation, rather than a private note to the designer or publisher? What was the conversation that led to the decision (implicit or explicit) to criticize? Who said what to who?
Posted By: John HarperI'd appreciate more threads like this. Maybe a category: Post Game Breakdown, or something.
This place needs more thoughtful critique, don't you think?
Story Games is about games, not solely about game design or game advocacy, right?
We write about larger marketed games critically, why not smaller marketed games too?
Well, I think that's a worthy conversation that deserves its own thread. So here we go!First, some ground rules for this thread:
Whatever you write, always make sure that you:
1) Tell your story, or
2) Ask a question.
and throughout it all,
3) Interpret generously.
1) means BOTH telling your story, as opposed to your opinion, belief, judgment or a "fact" divorced from your experience, AND telling your story, not anyone else's in the conversation. "I have a friend who..." is fine, but "well, what you experienced was CLEARLY the result of..." is not.
2) is what you can do if you don't understand someone else's experience, or if it differs from your own, or whatever. You're asking for the sake of improving your own understanding, not debating or demanding proof.
3) is the social glue that keeps the conversation both fruitful and affirming. It's not merely the social judo of read charitably, that is, "I think you're being a jerk but I'll pretend your said something nice." Rather, this is really believing the best possible intent and good faith behind everyone's statements.
We're no longer talking about the Shelter in Place game at Gamestorm, per se
. Rather, we're using the SiP game as an example of both a game that contained some obstacles to engagement, AND a discussion of those experiences. So we'll be drawing on that thread as a case study for how to discuss this kind of thing as a community.
I found the previous thread difficult to engage with in a couple of different ways. First, I had a very different experience than a lot of my fellow players, so I had to manage a lot of defensive and reactionary impulses while reading. When I DID post, I focused on my experience (telling my story), and noting the similarities and differences between mine and that of others.
Second, I had difficulty engaging with some of the comments from people who weren't there, because they felt dismissive of our experiences, whether by contrasting them with their own, or explaining them away, or whatever. I could generally see past that to the positive contributions people were trying to make, and the thread has generated discrete, practical solutions (Lanyards! LEDs! Outdoor play space! Visual props for character powers!). But it's an energy drain and a stress generator when those helpful ideas are filtered through statements I recieve as judgmental or dismissive. And bear in mind, I was the player who actually enjoyed
the game! But even so, I felt like I was in an unsafe place to share my experiences and feelings.
So the "how can we talk about this kind of thing" conclusions that I draw are: we probably need several people who played the game together to participate in the thread for it to be productive, so they can compare and contrast their experiences. Active listening is a plus here, of course, with the understanding that no one's experiences invalidate the others. And we need to ground the discussion in the actual events of play, how those events impacted the participants' enjoyment and on concrete steps they could take to improve it. People from outside the experience putting their own stamp on that experience is a downer and seems to result mostly in defensiveness and arguments over theory. Folks who didn't play can best engage by asking questions about the experiences of the players to help them tease out why things went down the way they did, or sharing their own experiences that shed light on the game at hand.
Anyone else? How would you describe your experience of this thread, that thread, that game, or other games? What questions do you have about ay and all of the above?
-JoelEdited to remove some argumentative and accusatory stuff that on reflection, was unfair and hypocritical given my thread guidelines.