I don’t mean the dollars or pounds or kroner you’re likely to spend on the game, the shipping, the gaming table and the popcorn. I’m talking about what it takes to put a gaming session together, the mental, physical and emotional effort it takes to assemble a group of like minded people in the same space and at the same time, i.e. what’s required to organize your standard gaming session.
But that’s not all we’re requiring from our players. In fact, while that’s the visible part, we’re requiring quite a lot more out of them.
What we demand
We demand their cooperation, so that they’ll play by the same rules and value the same goals. If not, if you play Carcassonne in order to build the most color coded environment or a direct replica of your city of birth and all the other players want to score as much as possible then either you or they will be sorely disappointed. So we demand that our players play together according to the same rules and work towards the same targets because if they don’t, if we don’t demand it, our games won’t work, and they likely won’t have fun.
We demand their attention, their engagement, so that they’ll focus on the game, don’t waste time with trivia on the side, don’t cause undue down time through letting their minds wander, chatting on the phone or watching TV on the side.
We demand that they put in their best effort, that they strive to win, and do it on our term, work towards goals what we have decided for them through means that we have constrained them by.
We demand that they keep going, keep putting in the effort even if the game isn’t going their way, even if they’re stressed, or bored, or have an early day tomorrow and really should be heading home right about now.
We demand that they make believe that the game really matters, that there’s something at stake there, that winning, and striving to win, is worth something.
We demand that they act prosocially, that they uphold their end of the bargain, the one they’ve formed with us by agreeing to play our games and with their friends by agreeing to play with them, and not spoil the fun, the experience, and, by extension, our game.
We demand this casually, as if it would be the most obvious thing in the world to demand, the most obvious thing to fulfill, and perhaps it is, perhaps by being part of gaming culture you’re actively saying that yes, you’ll do this, you’ll participate in all of those actions and follow all of those rules and do your best to honor and entertain and be a good player. But every demand we make, implicit or explicit, has a flip side, an equal weight of promise that carries it with it.
We demand by creating games. But what do we promise when we create them?
What we promise you
We promise that we’ll give you something to cooperate towards, a way to establish a common ground on common terms. We promise that the rules we write will give you the basis for that common ground, that they’ll be clear, concise and unambiguous so that you may play the game as soon as possible, without any nagging doubts whether you’re doing it the right way so that you can forget the framework and concentrate on the fun.
We promise that we’ll give you something to focus your attention on, some problem, some task, some puzzle that will engage you. We promise that we’ll clothe it in attractive themes that make it feel intuitive and that we won’t break the theme or knock you out of your engaging activity by irrelevant side tasks or accounting, so that you may immerse yourself in the world we’ve created.
We promise to try to make our games as balanced as possible, with something to do no matter if you’re first or last, and always, always give you the chance, however slim, of pulling off a big score, an epic win, an underdog victory and in so making the game be worth your effort.
We promise to create rewards and payoffs, not only at the end of the game but throughout the entire session, and to do our damnedest to make sure that they will speak to you, emotionally and mentally, and make the gameplay experience a pleasurable one.
We promise to give you ways to engage with others, to collaborate and cooperate even when you compete so that you may leave the gaming table better friends. We promise to try to make our games relevant, not only to the fun of the moment but also to the larger things in life, the social bonds and laughter and memories.
By creating our games we promise you all of these things so that we may demand that you pay the costs of playing them. We make demands of you and by doing so give you the right to make demands of us. So do, by all means, demand and if we fail you, promise to let us know.