Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Highly Subjective: Introduction

I've decided to call my collection of reviews for the Owlbear “Highly Subjective” for a reason. I am an aspiring game designer. I am in my late 20s. I have certain preferences in the way game rules work and about genre and complexity. All of these things are going to influence my opinions on these games. This is something that I feel is a feature, not a bug, of this column. It puts my thoughts and opinions into a more useful context for you, the reader.

That said, some things are fact, plain and simple. Hopefully, the distinction will be clear when it comes up. Opinion, backed by observation, is what this endeavor is all about.

The independent roleplaying scene is small, and many of the participants get to know each other fairly well. Game authors are frequently willing to discuss their games online, and hopefully some of them will come and discuss their games with us in the comments of the review.

Another facet of the size of this community is that word of mouth is a major component in nearly every aspect of a game's life. Occasionally, I'll give you some links to follow if you're interested, usually to a game's (or the designer's) website or forum, maybe to some Actual Play threads. Scuttlebutt about a game, its reputation, and any previous exposure I may have to the game through reading about it online, are all things to be discussed, because they will impact the way I think about a game when I read it. For instance, I may be disappointed if a game doesn't live up to it's rep, or I may be excited because a game seems much more interesting than its lack of buzz would suggest.

I'll be paying special attention to a couple things as I read these games. One is mechanics. I dig mechanics; the way they work, the way they fit together, and the way they provide the focus for roleplaying in a way that simple text and advice can't. With any luck, I'll be able to ferret out some insight into the games by looking at their mechanics. Maybe I can get a line on some emergent properties and discuss things I'd expect to see come up in play based on the interplay of those mechanics.

Another thing is the physical presentation of the book. This goes beyond size measurements and whether the cover is glossy or matte. I'll be looking at some of the more subtle things, like the use of art, layout, and the book's organization. Heck, maybe even a comment on what fonts are used. If I think the book is particularly evocative of the game's genre or theme, you can bet I'll let you know. It's important to note, however, that these comments are coming from a consumer's standpoint. I'm not an artist, graphic designer, or professional editor, and I'll be talking about these books as someone who has purchased them and cares about how they look.

I'll be providing directed comments to the designers, and asking questions of them. Additionally, I’ll have questions aimed at anyone in the audience who may have played the game. And, since I love playing with mechanics so much, I'll probably talk about the ideas that come into my own head as I'm learning the game, what I would do if I were working on the game myself.

Finally, this is just the starting point. I'd like to discuss the games more with anybody who reads this. Post a comment if you've got something to say, if you've played the game, or if you've found this helpful (or annoying). I'd love to see some discussion about any of the games I write about here.

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