Hello Gnomes and gnome adjacent affiliates, and gnome fans, and gnome readers. And the person or group I missed–hello to you too. My name is Chris Sniezak and I say Play Better Games, Damn It!!! It is a philosophy I live by as I am always trying to improve the experience of play that I’m getting out all gaming activities. You can always play a game, play it well, and have fun with it. That’s fine. For you. Not for me. It’s not enough to play a game and have fun with it. I need to take it one step further. I need to know why it was fun. What was fun about it for me. Why someone else had a good time with it. Where that magical “fun” came from. Then I need to see if I can replicate it, reproduce the experience, or bring it to a different gaming medium. That’s what Play Better Games, Damn It means. You’re never satisfied, you’re always getting better, you’re always playing better games.
First reason. When you know what kind of games you like to play, and you know why you like to play them, you can save yourself time and energy finding the game experiences you enjoy. That way you’re having more quality gaming experiences.
Second reason. When you understand what is making a game tick then you can better help other people find the kinds of games they like. There are so many kinds of games out there that this knowledge allows you to have a better chance of growing the hobby by providing newer gamers with positive experiences.
But what about trying new things?
You should try new things when you can and with the understanding that it’s new and you’re really there to see if this game fits into your definition of fun, fun is subjective by the way, or it doesn’t. We’re human beings. We change. Our tastes and preferences change. For me I was really into medium Euro games a few years ago. I still enjoy a medium Euro but I’d rather play an amerithrash/ameritrash Co-Op these days. If you’re not sure what those mean here’s some links to more information:
I also really dig RPGs. They’re my bread and butter game. To even be more specific I enjoy games that push pulp style play more than others. I also like magic and monsters in my play because it takes it one step away from reality and that’s fun for me. Throw in mechanics that support narrative play style and stick a modern setting on top of that and I’m pretty much in for that game.
So what kinds of games does that translate into? The Dresden Files RPG, Night’s Black Agents, and a bunch of superhero games–Worlds in Peril, With Great Power (The newest edition), Venture City Stories–are all games that jazz me and fit into my categories. That’s right I said jazz me. I also dig fantasy games too, like D&D–especially the most recent edition–and Dungeon World. Right after that it’s the horror stuff like Call of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents, which fits in horror too. Of course, these last two games also fit into that modern, or at least close to modern, fantasy feel. Plus, when I play Call of Cthulhu, or other games in the 1920’s to 40’s settings, I can play some jazz. I used to be a gigging jazz musician after all. Trumpet player if you’re curious. If you weren’t I’m sorry? I think? Moving on.
How to Identify What is Fun
There is a methodology to this. One which I will now share with you. That’s right. Time to divulge some of the secret sauce formula. That’s why you’re here anyway, isn’t it?
First: Collect Data
The first thing I did was play a bunch of different games so I could have a bunch of data. Now if you’re the kind of person who only plays one game, like D&D or Pathfinder, then you’re still fine. This just means you need to think about all the different kinds of media you enjoy: books, TV Shows, movies, YouTube channels, Twitch Streams, video games, whatever.
Second: Prioritize Enjoyment
Once you’ve got your pool of data you can now think about which of those things you enjoyed the most. Start listing them till you have ten items on your list.
Third: Look for Commonalities
There will probably be some kinds of crossover on your list. It could be genre, playstyle, mechanics, elements of those stories or games, tone, character archetypes, whatever your brain tells you are the commonalities.
Fourth: Question Yourself
Now that you have some commonalities ask yourself why those things make a game enjoyable for you? What makes them tick for you? Is there something deeper than “I like those things”? Do you identify with them? Is there some element of escapism that lets you be what you want to be rather than what you are? Is there some element of realism that lets you explore parts of yourself you’re not willing to outside of a game? Are they just the best ways to let you blow off steam or give you a release from the everyday?
Fifth: Assess the Games
While there are bad games out there, most games are just not right for the people playing them and are perfectly well constructed games on their own. Now that you have some introspective information about yourself you can make an informed decision about whether the game is for you or not. If it’s not for you then you can move on and look for a game that is for you. If the game is for you then you can move on to figuring out how to make that game even better for you, and the people you’re playing with.
Time to get Started
That’s the beginning folks. The intro to how to Play Better Games, Damn It. I hope in the future my articles will show you more ways to do so and if you’re so inclined drop your ten-item lists in the comments below and get a little introspective on yourself in front of the Stew community. You’ll only be helping yourself and everyone else. Keyboard Drop. I’m out.