If you're anything like me--and based on the forums, I know that some of you definitely are--you deal with pleasing different audiences on a regular basis. In my case, it's not just pleasing different gaming audiences, but also pleasing different sets of readers.
Since I'm not one for being constrained creatively, I'd like to talk a bit about meeting the needs of different gamers (and readers), what's going on with my reviews going forward, and get some feedback on things that are useful to our readers.
Although it's clear the hearts of the average F:AT reader lie solidly with plastic-filled deathfests and dice-rolling extravaganzas, it's very likely that you are pulled in multiple directions by different groups of gamers, each having different needs.
For example, I am a part of the following groups:
* My die-hard, AT-friendly gaming group. This is where I get my fix of AT goodness. Long multiplayer themefests are the norm.
* My brother--also a subset of the first group, he and I like to play two-player AT games. In fact, if it's 2p, he is my likely opponent.
* My wife--a wonderful woman who entertains a surprisingly diverse number of games, she doesn't shy away from conflict or theme, but hours-long gaming sessions and lots and lots of bits aren't really that interesting to her.
* My kids--My kids and I play family-friendly fare, naturally. Though I did just get in some Marvel Heroscape with my 7-year old last night.
* My extended family--They prefer card games or lighter stuff. Rules-heavy games aren't going to see a whole lot of play.
* My co-workers--We have a group of folks, 7-8 in number total, who will play lots of different games. But, time is a constraint here, with games needing to fit into an hour.
Since I'm a gaming whore, I like to game as much as I can. What this means is that while I'd love to be playing Twilight Imperium on a weekly basis, if I'm wanting to get as many gaming opportunities in as I can, I need to broaden my horizons. And I do, on a regular basis.
What Devil or Witch Was Ever So Great as Attilla, Whose Blood Flows in These Veins?
I get that we're a niche site, devoted to a certain brand of games and gaming. But it's also important to remember the genesis of this site in the first place.
No one likes to be told that, point blank and without caveat, the types of games they like are "stupid." It's frustrating to endlessly defend your favorite style of game from people who obviously haven't played one in the first place. You know the type...those who rate wargames a "1" couple with the genius comment, "Wargame."
But how stupid would we be if we reflected that exact same behavior?
There's this really stupid fucking song by Sacred Reich called "31 Flavors". Just this cornball 80s/early 90s song where a metal band is telling their listeners to try new things. Or at least I think so...
Want nuts with sticky whipped cream?
Come lick it off and be my dairy queen...
But that's not the point right now.
The point is, if you're the kind of person who INSISTS that a group of gamers your with play your multi-hour epic conflict game when it's not a good fit, you're kinda like that guy who's riding in a car and insists that everyone listen to some obscure ska band when everyone else in the car HATES ska, and when they don't play it you whine and bitch about how much what they're listening to sucks, and if they do play it you jam and sing, oblivious to the fact that everyone else in the car is having a hideously terrible time.
My Shelves Runneth Over
This does create an interesting problem, of course. Because I feel this need to be prepared for any gaming situation, I find myself categorizing my collection into "need-to fill niches". Like mentally running over every gaming situation I might find myself in and making sure I've got that covered. It's borderline OCD behavior I know, but what if I find myself in a situation where we need a 2-hour conflict-oriented game that plays 5? (Answers, to name a few: Senji, Star Wars OT Risk, Small World).
I think that's why if you do have several different groups to please, it's hard to cull down a collection properly. I sometimes see these "purge your collection down to 20 games" initiatives and they make me smile, because I don't think there's any way in hell I could do it.
This is all very important to know for my readers, because I approach my game reviews this way. I am constantly on the lookout for games that fill niches. That's why if it's a Dudes on a Map Game that plays 5 or 6 and takes 5 hours I'm less likely these days to be taken immediately with it as that niche is extremely well spoken for. That means it has to be extremely special just to get my attention. However, if it's a conflict-oriented game that plays well with 3 in an hour, you'd better believe I'm at least going to give that a solid look.
I know that's something that's hard to categorize without my spelling it out in each and every review, but I am extremely sensitive to things like scalability, rules density, length of play, and number of bits. And not sensitive in a bad way--but my critical eye is going to be looking those things over, and comparing them to just how well that particular combination of elements are already represented, and what a game brings to a table that's better than those representatives, if anything.
I may still get a plastic-driven stiffy whenever I open a box of MONSTERS AND MENS: THE BOARDGAME. I will forever be a whore for great bits, there's nothing I can do about that. But since 2004, we've had such an influx of fantastic bits-heavy games that I tend to keep my eyes on things that elevate those newer offerings above what's come before. It's probably not fair that games released now have to compete that way, but it's the sad inevitability for gamers who have full shelves already. Being innovative will get you in the door easier, otherwise, you'd better do what you do a whole hell of a lot better than what's come before, or you're probably going to get passed by.
Now We're Taking It Back, You Don't Believe Me? Feedback
Now, here's the part where I solicit some feedback. You see, I'd like to cover some family-oriented games, talking about them in reviews, but maybe not the formal style reviews I usually provide.
I don't think I'm a beautiful and unique snowflake, and I think a lot of you are in the same boat as me--always looking for games to satisfy different audiences. And it follows if we're at least partially like-minded gamers, you'd like to hear what someone's opinions are from that viewpoint, so long as the prism of those views are understood in advance. I think it's necessary to look at games based not only on purely subjective criteria that exists in a vaccuum, but also in consideration of the audience, and by extension how theme and mechanics might serve all of these.
What I don't know for sure is how best to provide these reviews, or how often. I thought about keeping them separate, even bumping these discussions to blogs (can lame names like GAMING WITH THE FAMBLOG be far behind?) but I think that while they won't be strict by-the-number reviews in that sense, they'll be meaty enough to warrant front-page inclusion.
I also want to make sure that if I deviate and start covering stuff like this, no one feels cheated, or feels like the site is "moving in the wrong direction.(tm)" This is just something I feel like doing, and something I feel might be a good service to our readers. You won't be getting family gaming reviews from Joe Bland, but opinions on games that fit different groups...but always with that same Ameritrash tint. (I don't care how family-friendly your game is, if it's truly multi-player solitaire, then I'm going to shit all over it.)
Immortality. It's Yours! Take it!
So let's hear it. Do you anticipate finding value in discussions like these? If you're in multiple gaming groups, what is the composition and the needs of those groups? And what aspects of games that suit other audiences do you find yourself keying in on?