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September 2012 Miscellany

Thoughts about some game-related topics that are not long enough for separate blog posts.

Since I got back from WBC and GenCon, I've posted several articles at my "home" blog. Not all are posted on other blogs (e.g., ones heavily video-game-related aren't posted on BGDF and F:AT). Here's a list with links:

Observations about changes in game distribution (and publishing)
http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/09/observations-about-chang...
Getting a foot into professional (tabletop) game design How to be taken seriously by publishers (more cautionary advice)
http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/09/getting-foot-into-profes...
Zynga and Fundamental Problems with their Social Network Games http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/09/comparing-this-years-gam...
Comparing this year’s game conventions
http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/09/comparing-this-years-gam...
Interface (and other) game design lessons from a rental car
http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/09/interface-and-other-game...
"Seven years and a million dollars"
http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/09/seven-years-and-million-...
Review: Gratuitous Space Battles
http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2012/08/review-gratuitous-space-...

And for what it's worth, I seem to post on the "home" location a couple days before posting elsewhere, in any case.

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People outside the USA who want to buy my game design book might consider using Book Depository to order, as they offer free shipping to about 50 countries. I have not used them myself but have seen a reference to it. Amazon UK has the book, and perhaps other Amazons in other countries do as well. Singapore Books (http://www.singaporebookstore.net/2012/04/game-design-how-to-create-vide...) seems to be a related source.

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I have posted a nearly 2 hour audio file of my session about game design at WBC: http://bit.ly/O7GRJJ

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One never tires of unsolicited appreciation, especially because individual books and games don't really make that much money for the author/designer. As in this email I recently received:

"Dear Mr. Pulsipher,
Just finished your book on tabletop and video games and it was awesome! i appreciate all the great advice and the realistic expectation level it sets for designers. The supporting website is so helpful. thank you so much for taking the time to do this book and sharing your knowledge and experience.
Lori Nelson"

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There are all kinds of words applied to games that, for many people, are interpreted to mean "what I like", regardless of any dictionary meaning of common connotation. "Immersive," "intuitive" (which also means 'what I'm familiar with'), "interactive," and that's only some words starting with "i"; there's also "social," "deep," and so on.

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Rampant egalitarianism - the idea that everyone must be the same, that no one should be allowed to stand out - is already filtering into video games, and is crippling our schools. A former teaching colleague of mine, who went back to university for four years to get a Ph.D., wonders if it's too much to ask university students to call him "Dr." instead of Mr. But "a former [Department] Chair once explained to me, 'By asking them to call you this, they may feel that you are demeaning them because you have something they don't. ' (And no, that is -NOT- a joke.)"

The students are half my former colleague's age. Of course they can't expect to have everything he has. But they will have the *opportunity* to get a Ph.D. Most of them won't get one, but that's the point of equal opportunity, not everyone will take every opportunity.

Critics already remark on the gradual disappearance of "consequence-based" gaming in the single-player video game world. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you keep trying you'll finally "beat the game". You die, you come back, usually without harm. You cannot lose. So it doesn't really matter what you do, there are no long-term and few short-term consequences to your actions, no responsibility. And everybody is "equal".

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I read on Purple Pawn about a large game company called Fundex that has filed for bankruptcy reorganization. Somehow their sales went from over $25 million in 2010 to just over $2.5 M this year.

Aside from wondering how that happened, I was unsurprised to see that there's no indication on their Web site that this is going on, even though I have a PDF of their filing, downloaded through PP.

Which reminds me of some familiar hobby game companies that have had financial trouble yet you'd never have known from their Web sites.

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I looked for "game design" groups on Yahoo the other day. Most of the ones I checked out have been overrun with spam. Difficult to run such a group effectively and not monitor (approve) messages. I get lots of junk messages (advertising some Website or other) on my Blogger blog, so I have to monitor all comments.

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People who like to play poker online worry about an analysis, not about yomi. So they don't need to see people or smell them or hear them, they just need to know what those people do.

I suspect a really good analysis of poker play might work pretty well against ordinary players. I have to think that against outstanding players, it would not. Predictability cannot be a good trait for high-stakes poker.

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While I was a guest on the Ludology podcast, I spontaneously said something about games with a certain personality (the topic was epic games), but later I couldn't really remember what I meant. So here's the question. Can a game have a personality? Do all games have a personality of one kind or another? Are there several categories that all game personalities fall into, or are they more varied than that? Any suggestions?

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If you want to write stories, become a story writer, not a game designer. You have much more control over stories in novels, plays, movies, short stories, and so forth. Talk with anyone who writes game stories, and you'll soon hear some frustration, because the needs of the game override the needs of the story. Quite rightly. People may start to play a game because of story, but they continue to play (or not) because of gameplay. Stories get used up.

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One possible outcome of my Britannia publisher search is that I'll become a "publisher." Any suggestions for name of the company?

Pulsipher Games, PulsGames, PulseGames, all seem mundane. Not sure how much name recognition is in "Pulsipher", unusual though it is.

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A lot of people fool themselves about the "simulation" value of commercial board wargames. If they were really simulations, the games would be so chaotic (and yet require so much planning, paradoxically) that they wouldn't be enjoyable, for most players. Real war is "a mess". As well as being "hell".

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The mania for seeing certain kinds of events, such as sports, live on your mobile phone or otherwise, rather than time-shifted, is another symptom of the failure of imagination in modern culture.

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Attentive publisher! McFarland wanted to put a space in "boardgame" in my book to make two words. They called to make sure it was OK with me! Not likely to happen in the game world.

Sigh. And then they failed to send out review copies, and didn't ship any copies to GenCon with all their other books. Oh, well.
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A phrase to describe the Russian army in the Russo-Japanese War: "cosmic levels of incompetence." I like it. I'll talk about the book it's from another time.

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