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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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Under Pressure - Board Game Reviewers and Content Creators are Feeling It

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26 Nov 2020 00:00 #316605 by thegiantbrain
My job, I work in a bike...

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pressure a reviewer can put on themselves. More than any other year I’ve been feeling that this year. Got to put out an article weekly, got to keep the podcast on track, got to get those games reviewed. It has felt like a lot from time to time.

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26 Nov 2020 11:08 #316606 by ubarose
I just want to say a big thank you to Iain and all our reviewers and content creators who share their work and talents with us here at TWBG. I know how difficult it has been for all of you, yet you still find the energy to keep writing and creating. I feel like every article, video and podcast is a gift that brightens my day, and feel honored to be part of this amazing collective of board game writers, vlogers and podcasters.
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26 Nov 2020 11:21 #316608 by We-reNotWizards
This rings true for a lot of things. Especially when talking about people you were used to playing games with for reviews. Now it's no longer a case that someone can't make a night, but more that they aren't even allowed to visit if they wanted. I've had to play more games in shorter periods of time, even to the point of playing something to get a feel to within a tight schedule, which I think effect your mood to playing. Difficult times for a lot of people.
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26 Nov 2020 13:01 #316614 by Ithayla
>I’ve let people down this year.

Mood.

Thanks for the check in Iain, it feels good to know one is not alone.
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26 Nov 2020 15:20 #316621 by whowhatwhycast
Well said here. It is immensely important to keep in mind what your goals are to keep the pressure from overwhelming you.

Honestly, before the pandemic I considered letting my Libsyn subscription lapse and ending my show after about 10 years of podcasting. My day job eats up a lot of my time as do my 2 kids, and since I am back to being a solo act, if I'm slacking, then the whole show slacks. The pandemic and working from home actually let me refocus my time and gave me more drive to podcast. I've put out about 50 episodes since April.

I want to echo your call for bringing in other people. I've found that podcasting with a group has helped generate content in a more natural way without worrying that I need to find a specific game to talk about. I've also been bringing some of the same people back for episodes, which has been fun. And I've been reaching out to more designers and publishers from Asia because these are voices that don't necessarily have as much reach in the US (where I live).

Good luck on getting through your pile to review. I've kept away from that pressure by being only an interview show, so I'm not in any rush to "review" anything.
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26 Nov 2020 16:18 #316622 by Matt Thrower
All the feels here. I've stopped asking for new games to review, and the queue is currently about twenty games long. I publish one every fortnight, so that'll take me about two-thirds of a year to get through.

A while ago I made a decision not to review every game that I'm sent. That's why essentially you no longer see negative reviews from me. Games that don't make the grade after a couple of plays only get a short write-up on Patreon. The release schedule is so packed that I feel it's more important to boost games worth your time than warn you off those that aren't. Sorry if you feel I'm not doing my job properly, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

The pace of releases also adds a pressure to get in their fast. I'm sat looking at a copy of The Shores of Tripoli as I type this, the fast-playing new card driven wargame from Fort Circle. It looks great, but I don't have time for it right now, which means it won't get written up probably for a month. By that time, the spotlight will have moved on.

I feel like I'm letting both publisher and audience down not covering games when they come out, but it's just not possible. Not with a day job and a family at the best of times, and especially not during a lockdown. It gnaws at me.

The one thing I'm tired of in game reviewing is learning new rules. I want to learn a game, play it, repeat it, try to master it like I used to. There's no hope of that any more. Even scaling a moderately complex rulebook seems a mountain nowadays, and I've given up trying longer and more complicated games.

And still the releases keep coming. I have no idea how the big hitters keep pace.
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26 Nov 2020 16:53 #316624 by thegiantbrain
I wanted to be open and honest about how I was feeling and let others know they weren't alone. It's really heartening to hear from other writers in the same position who also feel that pressure, let's me know I am not doing something drastically wrong here.

I totally get what you are saying Matt about having to draw a line. I personally review everything I get, but that pile is much smaller than yours so I can do that. I try not to take on anything I won't review, but that is my choice and I can totally understand when someone goes a different way. Under normal circumstances the GB team would be meeting up to play games once a month which allows me to try out lots of things and get plenty of fuel for the fire. That's just not possible right now and probably won't be till Spring 2021 at the earliest (assuming our government doesn't royally screw this up).
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26 Nov 2020 17:55 #316626 by Andi Lennon
Very timely article. After submitting an article a week for the past 30+ weeks I'm feeling pretty fucking spent. I was actually pretty unhappy with my last review and I think I need time to re-evaluate the whole 'self-imposed schedule' especially when I have competing priorities with other projects and my day job commitments. I love being a part of this community and I love the opportunity to have a voice here but there is an element of stress rearing its head when I look at my collection and 'to review' pile that is a mile away from the joy and sense of escape I seek from the hobby. Looking at the 'Nexus Infernum' box on my shelf now I'm not thinking about the fun time we had playing it, more that I feel like I failed to articulate it properly because I felt compelled to get to print, so the box conjures up echoes of late night rewrites as I wrestled with a hook that never quite emerged. I'm actually going to be spending a week in a cabin next week as a kind of 'writers retreat' so I can finish some work on the games I'm writing for and hopefully take advantage of the clarity that isolation affords.

These are all self-imposed issues though and go back to the whole bugbear many of us wrestle with whereby our self-esteem and sense of self is perhaps unhealthily entwined with our 'productive output'. That's perhaps a whole other kettle of fish for another discussion but it's very cool to hear from Iain in regards to this sometime struggle in what is ultimately a 'hobby'. I do want to say though that I truly appreciate everyone who reads or comments on my little fripperies here, not to mention all the great content you all create that I get to read. And all for free! I'll perhaps be submitting with less rigid frequency, especially over the coming holidays and as we surge to the pointy end of our current game creation but I want to make sure that what I submit is worth your time to read as it was my time to write. Love you all.
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26 Nov 2020 23:46 #316631 by Michael Barnes
My first published game review was sometime in 2002 or 2003 so I’ve been at it for getting up to 20 years. It’s just been over the past year that I’ve cut back on doing at least an article a week. I used to try to keep up with the trends, releases, noteworthy titles...but you know what, it’s just not worth it and for about the past five years it’s been just demoralizing to try to do so...it puts you in contact with so much mediocrity. When we were doing Review Corner was the last time I really was keeping up...but it was exhausting. If I weren’t getting paid at that time, there’s no way I would have kept it up.

This article speaks to a lot of the unspoken things about being a games writer, particularly in an ecosystem where neither publishers nor audiences think that what you are doing is worth a dime. And there is just so much cruft to cut through, how do you even figure out what is worth your time as a writer and commentator?

What I’ve learned, and this is going to sound super arrogant, is that when you do this long enough and consistently enough, your audience comes for YOU most of the time. Most of the folks that read the Black Rose Wars review were probably more interested in reading my review than the game itself. Who gives a shit about that game, really?

But that level takes time to get to. Nearly 20 years. But when you do get there, I feel like the pressure slacks off and you feel sweet FA about it and then you just write about whatever you want. I picked Black Rose Wars, I thought it looked kinda cool. It wasn’t. But I was obliged to provide the review, and I did. As soon as I opened the box I realized that had erred in requesting it.

You know I remember a couple of years ago when I got Ike 4 review copies in the mail...for a lot of folks, that sounds like a jackpot. But I remember thinking about how much work and how much pressure those “free” games created. And it got to where I dreaded getting review copies unless it was something that I sought after because I really wanted to write about it.

I’m going to level here- my interest in writing about board games now is pretty limited. I’m much more interested about what is happening in the RPG space because it is where all the exciting ideas, themes, and concepts are happening. I’m excited to write about Free League’s games, the Melsonian Arts Council stuff, and so on. The pressure there is also lower because fewer people are really reviewing these things. Honestly, it feels much less like a waste of time then covering a new to retail Kickstarter that everyone was excited about two years ago.
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26 Nov 2020 23:53 #316632 by Michael Barnes
Matt mentioned that he doesn’t see how the big hitters keep up...well, here’s the horrid, secret truth. NO ONE is playing most of these games more than one time. Because if you are a reviewer of any skill level, all it takes is one play to form an opinion and it is extremely rare that a modern game reveals anything past a single play that is likely to change an opinion. If I’ve played a game more than twice, especially some of these big Kickstarters, then I already like it and that’s pretty set. Today’s designs do not reveal hidden depth or quality over time. The only exception would be games where each scenario adds more detail, but even then it’s detail and not core mechanisms.

The idea that these high profile, high volume content creators are playing titles, especially bigger ones, more than once or twice is laughable.
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27 Nov 2020 07:53 #316634 by Matt Thrower

Michael Barnes wrote: The idea that these high profile, high volume content creators are playing titles, especially bigger ones, more than once or twice is laughable.


Yeah I'm aware of the low bar for posting reviews nowadays. I was more following on from my comment about learning new rules. Like, how can you keep motivating yourself given so much churn? It's exhausting enough learning a new one every fortnight
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27 Nov 2020 21:39 #316651 by WadeMonnig
I don't know if I have ever stated it publicly, but writing reviews (for me) is usually what I do to relax and decompress. Even then, earlier this year, I had at least a three month stint where I was just not even enjoying playing new games and writing a review about another middle-of-the-road game wasn't something I wanted to do. I'm sure it had plenty to do with COVID but stepping away and coming back when I had some experiences with games that I truly wanted to write about made all the difference to me.
And, of course, the world didn't stop turning because I didn't put out a new review every week.
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27 Nov 2020 22:12 #316652 by GrantLyon
Thanks for writing this! Very interesting read and you're definitely not alone in how you feel.
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