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From New Players to Fervent Hobbyists: BoardGameGeeks Unite!

  1. GLS 9.0 MICROPRESENTATIONS #glsmicro Mark Chen @mcdanger From New Players to Fervent Hobbyists: BoardGameGeeks Unite!
  2. GLS 9.0 MICROPRESENTATIONS #glsmicro Mark Chen @mcdanger From New Players to Fervent Hobbyists: BoardGameGeeks Unite!

Editor's Notes

  1. So there’s this guy carthaginian. Back in Dec 2007 he was talking in an esoteric forum for an even more esoteric game, Magic Realm that’s gained a sort of cult following due in part to its complexity: “ So here I am, in search of something to do, and I stumble upon this... all those monsters, and two sided hexes with caves! But I can't know if I like it without playing? And it's OOP so to play it I have to make it?”
  2. But then he does! But not just that! He completely redesigns it! Turns out, he’s a graphic designer. Enlists the community of fellow gamers to make suggestions on new design elements, improving upon the original. And this takes him several months! And they loved it! Even *I* made one!
  3. And it really is a complex game. In fact, the 3-volume set of rulebooks is longer than my dissertation… It’s a fantasy themed adventure game from the early 80s. There’s intricacies about combat that you just don’t see very often anymore. There’s a night/day cycle. There’s different character classes to play. This game makes Mage Knight look simple.
  4. The community around this game loved carthaginian’s work. Some other gamers have taken it even further… creating their own custom tileset, spending hours upon hours on their craft. In fact, this website has a thriving DIY community. Users share tips and tricks and progress reports and debriefs.
  5. It’s kind of like a highly specific Instructables. However, these are gamer nerds who may not have normally gotten into DIY paper crafts. Interestingly, carthaginian started remaking a lot of games! Here’s a series of photos carthaginian took to show people how to make a box to house one of his game redesigns.
  6. Now carthaginian’s been hired as a graphic artist of several board game projects! Here’s Alien Frontiers, a very lovely Kickstarter game from near Seattle featuring dice combos. Yes, much of this presentation is just an excuse to show you boardgame porn. “ Wait wait wait! What is this amazing website?” you ask! “ Where people can share their love of board and card games and talk about them in a rich, growing community?”
  7. Well, I’ll tell ya! It’s! (This is the homepage.) Unfortunately, there’s a lot of text on this website, so I’ll just talk while the rest of this presentation will just be pretty pictures. Anyway, it’s kind of like IMDb mixed with Amazon mixed with Wikipedia.
  8. BGG has a database of games that include detailed information about the games such as categories, number of players, years published, etc. Like IMDb, you can search for specific game designers or publishers or genres, etc. But each game also has a discussion forum associated with it with subforums on strategy, reviews, variants, etc. And there’s meta-forums surrounding the games that serve up general tabletop news, announces upcoming contests, etc.
  9. Each game has a collective rating like on Amazon. Users can create accounts and add games to their collection. Users submit files, images, further resources, blog posts, etc. And it doesn’t just include any commercial game you can think of.
  10. It also includes print and play games. These are often created by users for free and uploaded to the site. Others can print them and try them out, giving feedback, suggesting variants, etc. In fact, BGG represents a huuuuge world of gaming. What can this community teach us?
  11. What can this community teach us? Actually, some of us are already looking at tabletop games in and for various educational settings. Berland, Duncan, Lee with Pandemic for computational thinking, for example, and Scott Nicholson, the granddaddy of boardgames and learning. But I’d like to concentrate on BGG specifically and what we can learn from its community.
  12. The community is self-governing and organizing: users can upvote different posts and uploads. There are lots of ways to filter and search for games, and most of the categories emerged out of the site’s dynamic activity. One thing digital game scholars, especially new scholars, seem to love to do is categorize games. The emergent scheme from BGG could reinvigorate how we categorize. IE, do we sort by mechanics or by theme? Actually, this is tied to two families of games: Ameritrash vs. Euro games.
  13. Actually, this is tied to two families of games: Ameritrash vs. Euro games. Ameritrash focus on theme. Euro games focus on intricate systems or mechanics. Is this akin to narratology vs. ludology? In other words, is the origin of these lines of thought *continental* in nature? Does America love story while Europe loves structure?
  14. The emergent economy could be interesting to study, too. Users can buy and give GeekGold to other users for good contributions. A user can spend GeekGold on new badges to put next to their username. (Yes, emergent badging system!) This makes the accrual of cultural capital quite literal.
  15. There’s resources for indie designers, too, which is great since I’m now designing a cooperative space 4X game. Designers share prototypes, ask for playtesters, find artists, etc. These images are from Eclipse (well, except the lasercat…). You can see the iterative design process in the progression image of the space map tiles.
  16. BGG is so popular, they’ve got their own convention. BGGCon happens in Texas every year. The concept is kinda like PAX and Blizzcon. It’s a convention specifically for fans of a particular franchise or organization.
  17. All this is to say that the rise of digital technologies was not just helpful to rise of digital gaming. BGG supports tabletop gaming and tabletop gaming feeds into the richness of the online site. IE. Materiality of gaming is analog/digital agnostic.
  18. Look at all the ways to perform and participate and the different literacies needed to be able to produce and consume all sorts of texts and media. These geeks are sort of like expert consumers. Their consumption and desire to play led them to produce and remix. But the lines are really blurred. I’m not sure they’re useful ways to categorizing behavior.
  19. Maybe we could start looking at Stebbin’s research in that started in the 70s on Serious Leisure. He differentiates serious vs. casual vs. project-based leisure. And BGGers could be considered serious hobbyists under the Serious Leisure Perspective. <link here> And, of course, it isn’t all rosy. There’s big problems, as with any culture.
  20. For example, there’s the same gender and race issues found in digital gaming. Sexualized women are sometimes used to sell games (and get upvotes for images on BGG). Minorities are rarely depicted or talked about in this tabletop community. So what do we do about this? I’ll end with this: BGG is awesomely rich and dynamic with lots of self-directed, collective learning and activity and a complex sociomaterial practice. Why is this energy, which isn’t unique to BGG, so foreign to education and what can we learn from BGG to change that?