Insider 9/14/2010

After three blogs in a row about playtesting, I’ve decided to write about not playtesting today.

Between playtest coordination and game development, I spend a pretty good quantity of time in a given week playing our games with a critical eye toward every rule, every interaction, and every minor game balance consideration. Whether it’s playtest games during lunch, extended sessions after work, or testing something out with Soles, game testing is ubiquitous.

While I love the fact that playing games is a vital component of my job, it’s easy to fall into that critical gaming mindset at all times. Other times, however, circumstances force me to fall back on my purer gamer instincts, to peel aside the game developer aspects of my psyche and to play for the true core of the experience – for fun.

This year at Adepticon, I ran a number of Monsterpocalypse events. Since these were somewhat smaller events and we had an odd number of players, I played as the “bye round” as well as randomizing the pairings and answering rules questions. It was an amazing experience. Breaking away from development-oriented Monsterpocalypse was a real change of pace, playing without being forced to proxy models that don’t exist yet was refreshing, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to smash up some cities and beat up on enemy monsters.

The factor that took the experience from a fun diversion to a real blast, however, was the players. The Chicago Monsterpocalypse crew has some of the best opponents you could ever face. Even in a competitive setting with prizes on the line, they were clearly focused on that fun factor that I mentioned earlier. Don’t get me wrong: they still take their strategy seriously and play to win, but that purity of gaming experience is a hallmark of throwing down with these guys.

This has become something that I try to keep more in the forefront of my mind, and I sincerely hope that your community has the same hallmark of sportsmanship and fun. It’s as easy to get wrapped up in a competitive mindset as it is a development one, but at the end of the day, games are about having a good time. Having a good time isn’t based on whether some model is slightly stronger or weaker than some other or about whether you have successfully crafted the perfect optimized list of doom or about how the dice happen to fall.

Having a good time is more about the mindset of the two players sitting down at the table before a single die is rolled. If you and your opponent are there for the love of the game, for having a good time over a fun hobby, then you’ve both already won.

Have Fun!