Formal Ferret Games

Gil Hova designs, publishes, and plays board games

Women in gaming vs. invisible ropes

I’m almost done with my year-long project to record the genders of all the people I have played with. It’s an interesting project, and it gains a new and interesting context with all the awful news going on around the video game world. I guess it’s a good thing that we’re finally talking about women in gaming, although I wish it didn’t have to take death threats against some of our bravest designers in order to start the discussion.

We’re lucky that there isn’t usually such overt sexism on such public display in the board game world. Nevertheless, I think we can do better. My gender project has taught me to pay more attention to women in board gaming. There’s more than meets the eye.

During this time, I’ve been able to see board gaming through my girlfriend’s eyes. She’s a newcomer to gaming, and while my friends try to welcome her into gaming, she doesn’t feel welcome. Through her, I’ve noticed that boardgaming, while not overtly hostile to women, still has a bunch of invisible ropes that keep many women from enjoying the hobby.

Before I go any further, let me be clear: I am a straight white guy, and I’ve led quite a privileged life. I can’t claim to speak for women. No one can, because there is no monolithic generalization one can make about half of the human population. So please don’t think I’m attempting to speak on behalf of all women everywhere. I’m writing this because I think my perspective can be helpful when we try to figure out why there are so many more men playing board games than women.

Another thing I must make clear: a lot of people usually take this kind of thing to mean offensiveness. They think there’s a line between “offensive” and “inoffensive”. If you’re on the “inoffensive” side, everything’s fine and peachy, but if you’re on the “offensive” side, then you’ve just insulted every single woman (or whatever non-straight-white-male demographic you’d like), without exception.

But I’m not talking about that line. We in the board game world don’t really have to deal with overtly offensive stuff, thankfully. Instead, I’m going to talk about  invisible ropes.

An invisible rope is something that most people in gaming don’t notice, but that can turn off someone just entering the hobby. They start walking to us, but then they get stopped by one of these invisible ropes. They turn away, and try to approach from another direction, and hit another invisible rope. Then they try another approach, and hit another invisible rope.

And that’s it; they turn away. All these ropes add together to tell them: Gaming is not for them. They can’t tell us why, because they can’t easily see the ropes that kept them away.

Again, this isn’t about one huge wall keeping people away from gaming. This is death by a thousand tiny cuts. It’s a bunch of tiny actions we perform.

And we can have the best of intentions. We can be thinking that we’re all for women in gaming and inclusivity, and still be responsible for keeping these invisible ropes up. That’s why I don’t think this is a matter of simple offensiveness; that always winds up with apologies and accusations, sometimes sincere, sometimes insincere, none of which really get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Here are some examples of invisible ropes in gaming. For these examples, don’t consider a woman already in gaming; she’s already gotten past the ropes. Instead, consider a woman new to gaming. Think of a woman who is going to a game convention for the first time. Maybe she’s never played a modern game before; maybe she’s only got a couple of games of Settlers or Munchkin under her belt. What invisible ropes will she run into?

More men than women. Anyone familiar with the craft of game design will recognize a positive feedback mechanism, and we have one here. It’s unfair, but there we are. A woman will notice when she’s the only woman in the environment. And it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

Some react by disregarding it; others can’t help but notice it. The latter is not a fault of character, of course. And I’m sure it’s an irritating feeling to feel so singled out.

Representation. Perhaps our hypothetical subject has found a group where she’s not the only woman. Perhaps she’s decided to ignore it. So she goes ahead and plays one of the top 25 games on BoardGameGeek. And it has a guy on the cover.

I went ahead and checked. The top 25 games on BGG have a total of 58 featured characters. Of those characters, only 10 are clearly women. That’s 17.2%.

Some more stats…

  • Of the top 25 games, 22 have featured human characters on their covers. (If you’re curious, Dominant Species, X-Wing Fighter Miniatures, and Race for the Galaxy have no featured human characters.)
  • Of these remaining 22 games, only two have women exclusively featured on their covers: Android: Netrunner and Caverna. And only two others have at least as many women featured as men: Agricola and Battlestar: Galactica.

So representation on covers remains quite male-dominated. And I haven’t even gotten to the question of realistic versus sexualized portrayals of women yet.

Inadvertently condescending strategy help. Let’s chart this one out mathematically: if x is the number of seconds it takes for a man to think about his turn before the other players start pointing out his possible moves, and y a similar number for a woman, then y < x, especially when the woman is new to the group. Sometimes y < x/2. Regardless of how many games the woman owns or plays. I’d need a bunch of gamers and a stopwatch to confirm this mathematically, but look out for it at a game table next time you see a man play a woman he’s never met before. You will notice it.

The language factor. 20 years ago, I used to think that I could say things like “guys” as a non-gendered word. “Hey guys, what’s going on?” And if we made any significant progress in gender equity in the past two decades, I wouldn’t feel bad using it.

But if Gamergate has taught us anything, it’s that women still aren’t treated as equals. It’s made me re-think how I use language when I communicate.

“Guys” is exclusionary. I can think in my head that it’s not exclusionary when I say it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exclusionary for the people who are listening. It’s an invisible rope. When I say it, I’m asking women who are listening to re-map the words in their heads from being gendered to being non-gendered. That’s asking a lot, and I don’t think it’s changed in the past 20 years.

Listen, I don’t want to tell you how to speak or write. I hate to sound like the PC police. I will tell you this: I’ve stopped addressing people as “guys” in writing unless I’m sure the people I’m writing to are all men. The rulebooks I wrote 10 years ago all use “he” as a singular pronoun. I now alternate between “he” and “she”, and I’m trying to get my brain to accept “they” as singular (it’s going to take a while).

Also, you’ll notice how I’m writing “women” in this post? Not “females”? I notice a lot of gamers use “female” as a noun. This is a really cold and dehumanizing way to write about half of the population. If you’re writing a scientific study, it might be all right. But in any other setting, use “women”. It comes off much more warmly. (Of course, “female” as an adjective is usually okay: “That female ninja, etc. etc.” Or how I use “female” in the very next sentence.)

And I will urge everyone in earshot to only use “girl” when referring to someone female under the age of 18.

For how I talk? It’s going to take a little longer. I say “guys” all the time. It’s going to be tough to change that behavior. But that seed is in my head. I’m only now understanding how much language matters, and how poorly the status quo is functioning.

Boys’ locker room mentality. Does your game group meet at a game store? What’s its clientele like? What’s its ambiance like? If it’s anything like the game stores I’ve played at in the past, there are a ton of pubescent boys at the store, shouting taunts like “fag” and “pussy” at each other.

Now, if you’re a person who’s obsessed with board games past a certain point, you can let this bounce off you. But not everyone is blessed with thick skin. And a local gaming environment that’s heavily biased towards teenaged boys is going to alienate a lot of women. No wonder I’ve noticed that I tend to play more women in private rather than in public – 21% of my opponents are women when playing in public, 30% are women when playing in private, at the time of this writing.

But if a woman is playing games in private, that means she’s either found a “safe” area to play games, or she’s built one up herself. Not all women get to that point. I’m sure a ton have hit this particular invisible rope and concluded that gaming is not for them.

Societal expectations. We live in a society where, by and large, women are expected to tend to home and family while men are allowed to follow their interests. This is something I don’t agree with and that I would love to see change significantly in my lifetime, but I think it’s important that we mention it.

I’ve mentioned Dr. Erin C. Davis’ preliminary report on women in boardgaming in some of my other posts. Here are some relevant quotes from women gamers she interviewed…

I can’t play a four hour game. Because I start thinking of everything I should be doing. I should be doing the laundry. I should be taking care of the dishes. I can’t play them. I don’t enjoy them because all I do is sit there and think I’m wasting my time. So any game that’s gonna take more than about two hours I really can’t stand…. (30 year old woman gaming for 1 year).

I think that the problem is for me is, when we are playing a game at home, and much to [my husband’s] annoyance sometimes, I am still doing five other things while we’re playing the game. I am making dinner. I’ve got other things I’m finishing up. I think it is just harder for women to detach from all of the other things that they have in their life to take the time out to play a boardgame. Where as men seem to have a much easier time making the time for themselves to go ahead and do that. (42 year old woman with 1 child who has been gaming for over 16 years)

In our group it seems like the women have other responsibilities that the men don’t do. It seems like the guys go to work and they come to the gaming things where women are like, ‘oh I’m off work I have to go home and make dinner or I have to go home and take care of the kids’ (44 year old woman gaming for 3 years)

Other men staying silent. This, out of all of them, is the hardest one.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat at a game table and seen an invisible rope get strung up. And I’ve almost always kept my mouth shut. It’s not the right time, I’d tell myself. Don’t make a pest of myself.

But if this environment is going to change, and if I’m ever going to see more than 25% of my overall opponents be women, I have to be part of the solution. And that means speaking up.

If I see someone being unintentionally sexist, I would like to be more vocal. I don’t want to be rude or alienating about it. But I’ve heard from other women that the best thing they can hear is a man tell his friend, “Too much. Back off.”

These invisible ropes doesn’t keep all women out of gaming. You might know plenty of women in your gaming groups. But that doesn’t mean that these invisible ropes don’t exist. Some women have thicker skin than others, and they love gaming so much that they’re willing to put up with all the invisible ropes they encounter. Which is awesome for them, but we can’t expect every woman to have that sort of thick skin. It’s just unfair. I think this is reflected in my gender project numbers, especially the split between public and private gaming. There are fewer invisible ropes when playing in private, hence the 10% swing for women I play with in a private setting.

By the way, the correct term for this kind of unconscious, exclusionary activity is “microaggression,” but I’ve found that term turns people off: “What? No! I’m not being aggressive. I’m didn’t mean anything by it! I’m only trying to help!” I think one of the obstacles to this sort of discussion is that people don’t like being called aggressive, or sexist, or privileged. They feel insulted by it and get defensive. I don’t mean to authoritatively set the tone of the discussion here; I just think people are less likely to get defensive when hearing “invisible rope” than if they hear “microaggression.”

So the next time you wonder why there so many more men than women in board gaming, look at these invisible ropes. Even better, try to see if you’re inadvertently setting up an invisible rope yourself.

If you’re interested in reading more, here are some excellent articles on the subject:

Ways Men in Tech are Unintentionally Sexist – This isn’t about board gaming specifically, but a lot of what the writer describes maps quite well to our hobby. I’ve even adapted a few of this article’s points into this post.

I am a Racist and I am a Sexist and Probably Some Other -Ists, Too – I’ve honestly never gotten around to reading anything Chuck Wendig’s written (yet) other than this post, but it exhibits a lot of self-awareness and a desire to get better.

Breaking out of my comfort zone with Circular

These days, I’ve been aiming to try new and different things with game design. I think there’s a lot of potential to do new and weird things with games, and I’m not doing myself any favors by sticking to designing only one kind of game.

There are a bunch of challenges I’ll be taking on in the next few years. To help get me out of my comfort zone, I decided to make something I’ve never done before: a large-scale game, playable by anyone in the general public.IMG_1916

I knew this would be the kind of thing that I would endlessly procrastinate on, so I challenged myself. I live in Jersey City, and every year, we have the Jersey City Art & Studio Tour, in which artists all over the city show off their works in studios, galleries, and restaurants.

Now, I don’t consider myself an artist, and the question of whether game design is an art is one that I don’t want to get into here (those of you who want to read more on the subject, check out Eric Zimmerman’s spot-on take on the matter). But this was a public event with a lot of people milling about, checking out various sites. It was perfect for my needs!

IMG_1915

So this is Circular, a game I made for JCAST 2014. It consists of 18 flyers that I hung up at various local galleries, shops, restaurants, and other public places.

Each flyer consists of a single instruction. If you can find all the signs, you will be able to piece together a single instruction you can execute to win the game. For this game, you were to mail a postcard to a specified address (a mailbox I had set up).

As you can see from the above image, there’s a twist: some of the signs lie to you. Other signs will point out which ones are incorrect. But you’ll have to see them all to get the correct set of instructions!

There’s no way a single person would have been able to win this game alone. The only way to win is to team up with others to figure out where all the flyers are. I’ll check the mailbox later this week to see if anyone won the game.

There’s another challenge too: I didn’t publicize the game. This was for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted the game to be a little cryptic. The core engagement of this game was not really to win it; it was the moment a person discovers the second or third sign, and realizes there’s a game going on. I wanted it to feel a little like knowing a secret; some kind of secret structure happening just under the skin of the festival.

So to me, it wasn’t really important that anyone try to win the game. It was more about allowing people to discover this secret.

IMG_1913

The second reason was that Circular was more of a personal project. I am actually an incredibly shy person. People might be surprised to hear this, but before I started playing board games, I had a really hard time interacting with people. They freaked me out; I was never able to say the right thing. I was never socialized properly as a child, and had to learn people skills much later than everyone else.

Board games gave me a structure in which I could interact comfortably with people. At first, I was the kind of person who would finish a game and then demand to play another immediately (and okay, I still kinda do that). But I slowly started to open up to people. I started to see how to interact comfortably with others outside the structure of a game. It was an enormous confidence boost, and it made me much more extroverted than I ever was.

But I still have little tendrils of insecurity around people here and there. One of those leftover tendrils is the idea of repeatedly approaching people cold to ask for something. And when JCAST asked me to not hang Circular up on telephone poles, as I’d originally wanted, but to request permission from shopkeepers instead, I was filled with dread and horror.

In the past, I would have folded and let my shyness win. But I wasn’t going to let that happen this time! I went on with the game, and on Saturday morning, I went out with my flyers and tape, and started talking to people.

I was amazed that almost all of the shopkeepers I appreached were enthusiastic about the game, and happy to help. I’d like to thank all the stores, restaurants, galleries, and artists that let me hang their flyers: 9th and Coles, Fussy Friends, Torico Ice Cream, Gia Gelato, Tea NJ, Shop Rite Jersey City, E. Tittlemouse & Co, Another Man’s Treasure, Jersey City Art School, Modern Sage, Iris Records, Panepinto Galleries, Rustique Pizza, Basic Coffee and Deli, and Phil from Studio 134. This wouldn’t have been possible without your help!

Circular may have only been 18 flyers, but it gave me enormous courage and confidence to do something bigger, braver, and bolder next year!

IMG_1914

My forthcoming seminar at Metatopia: “Wait, THAT player won?”

I’ll be running a seminar at the Metatopia game designer’s convention in Morristown, NJ on Sunday, November 9 at 11 am. The name of the talk is “Wait, THAT Player Won? Opacity, Transparency, and Player Incentives in Your Strategy Board Game”. It’s event D078 for those of you who want to register for it.

Here’s the full description:

“Do people understand what’s going on in your game? Not just the rules, but can they tell who’s winning? If they should watch out for a dangerous player? If they know exactly how their move will impact their next few turns? Join designer Gil Hova as he discusses transparency and opacity in strategy board games. We will discuss what makes a game mechanism transparent or opaque, how they work (or fail) in existing games, and how to use them to incentivize players to make interesting plays.”

It’s going to be a great talk! I’m going to share a lot of insights I’ve gained over the years. Transparency and opacity are things that usually mess with first-time designers, so if you’re new to game design, you’ll definitely want to attend.

And sign up for some other panels while you’re at it! Metatopia is a very good convention that targets RPG and board game designers. There’s a lot of smart people talking about interesting subjects, and there will be many opportunities to playtest.

See you there!

Talking to Anthony Conta (Funemployed!) about party game scoring

I’m continuing to work on Bad Medicine (formerly Side Effects – thanks to Rishi for the new name!), and it’s still really interesting to survey the difference between the mindset (lusory attitude) of a party game player versus that of a strategy game player, from a designer’s point of view.

I recently had an email exchange with Anthony Conta, designer of the recent party game Funemployed! Anthony’s game is a fun and silly Apples-style party game where players are trying to interview for a job. They must use all their cards, but before they pitch, they’re allowed to swap cards in real-time with face-up cards on the table.

Anthony’s email was fantastic, so I’m posting excerpts here with his permission, slightly edited to make sense as a blog post. I asked him about a design decision in Funemployed that I wrote about last week for Bad Medicine. He chose to handle it differently; he kept pitching and scoring open, but forced the player who won the last round to go first. Why? And does it result in favoritism or throwing votes?

That was a balance issue – it makes it so they have a worse interview next time. Going first is difficult because you get less time to perfect your pitch, you can’t play off other pitches, and people can play off your pitch. You get to set the pace for the round, but generally, breaking the ice is detrimental (think how stand up comedians have a warm up act, or bands have openers, or movies have trailers, etc – it’s very pervasive in the entertainment industry to have warm ups that set the stage).

I’d say no one’s ever complained about favoritism except for the hardest of hard core gamers–usually, the winner “deserves it”. There’s a lot of social pressures in the game (don’t give it to your girlfriend JUST because she’s your girlfriend, give it to her because she had the best round). I’ve found that people don’t play Funemployed just to “win”, though they certainly try their best to win individual rounds. Funemployed’s atomic length is basically a round, and I’ve found people keep playing until they’re ready to do something else.

For Funemployed, you “win” by playing with a good group of people that think like you do and by maximizing your fun through acting crazy and saying silly things. It’s a party game, and the audience for those is drastically different. I don’t play Funemployed with my friends that want to play Dust because they want the experience of Dust; likewise, my fiancee doesn’t play Twilight Imperium because she wants something light. Introducing complex scoring systems in party games just isn’t required; the experience of play, not the explicit reward for playing well, is how these games are enjoyed. I’ve struggled with the scoring system for Funemployed, but honestly, people just play the game until they’re sick of it – I’ve rarely seen it played to its end game state (which is you flip over a specific job, which is seeded at the beginning of play).

Party games like Apples, Cards, Funemployed, etc. are excellent because the emergent situations are excellent. Winning isn’t the main point, the journey/play is. They’re spectator board games that emphasize the jokes/community rather than the actions within. They’re excuses to have a good time.

Thanks to Anthony for a great discussion!

A serious look at tackling a design issue in a party game

Update 9/11/2014: I have renamed Side Effects to Bad Medicine (thanks to Rishi for the name!). I’ll update the document throughout with the new name.


 

This is a pretty long read, and it doesn’t culminate in any single strong outcome. It will give you some theoretical background, then introduce a design problem I’ve encountered with Bad Medicine. Then I’ll lay out possible fixes to the problem, and why I’m rejecting all but one. 

It won’t end with me saying that I think my final choice is the best. But I wanted to give an illustration of how an experienced game designer takes on a design problem, using theory, experience, knowledge of other games, and the obligatory barrage of playtests.

So I’m having this problem with Bad Medicine.

Many party games use voting for their scoring system, either with a single judge or by having all players vote. But a tricky thing about having a judge or open voting in a party game is if players choose their “favorites” based on in-game scores. Like, “I think Ralph’s entry is the best, but he’s in the lead, so I won’t vote for him.”

Is this a problem? It depends on the player. The casual player won’t mind. The serious player will probably not touch the game with a ten-foot pole.

Apples to Apples (and by extension, Cards Against Humanity) works around this by having all submissions secret. So you may not want to vote for Ralph, but you probably won’t be able to tell which card he submitted. A player may still choose to vote or not vote for a player because of metagaming or extra-game reason (the player who will always vote for his S.O., the player who will never vote for his ex), but at that point, we’re in spoilsport territory, and I don’t believe a game designer is obligated to fix that.

But Bad Medicine is a game about publicly pitching. Each player pitches his drug, and then the players all vote for their favorite drug. Each player gets one point for each vote they got. The player with the most votes gets 2 bonus votes (1 in case of a tie). After five rounds, the player with the most points wins.

My problem was that as of last week, it was totally fine for a player to not vote for another player if he felt that she was in the lead. The game did not disincentivize that behavior. This rubbed some testers the wrong way.

Like I said, this is not a problem to a casual gamer, but it’s anathema to a serious gamer. I’d say only 5% of my playtesters complained, but it’s stuck with me. Can I do better? Is there a system I can use that will incentivize always voting for the best player each round, regardless of score, and still keep the public pitches?

First, I decided to hide players’ scores. I had one playtest with open scoring, where the game ended when one player hit 10 points. That was ridiculously bad; I was just about inviting players to get political with their votes. Hiding players’ scores makes the leader non-obvious.

This was a decent start, but it alone wouldn’t work. First, it’s hidden trackable information. Scores don’t get very high, so some players might not have a problem recalling everyone’s scores, especially in a 3-player game. Second, some serious players detest hidden trackable information. Third, even if you’re not score-counting, almost anyone can track who got the most points each round, and will avoid voting for a player who’s won two rounds.

Second, I thought of a lottery system. Players still get their points. At the end of the game, players put tokens representing all their points into a pool and shuffle them. Then one token gets drawn. The player whose token it is wins. So, each point you get increases your odds of winning.

This is the notorious, polarizing Killer Bunnies scoring system. The idea behind it is that as long as you have at least one token in the pool at the end of the game, you have a shot at winning the game. It also reinforces the idea that the outcome of the game isn’t as important as the actual play.

But I rejected it pretty quickly. First: people hate Killer Bunnies, because the scoring system is so opaque and capricious. Second: it won’t actually do what I want it to do. Players will still know who’s won various rounds, and will still avoid giving them votes, which would give them valuable tokens during endgame scoring. So there are all these extra mechanisms, but they don’t actually pull their weight. It comes off feeling like a gimmick.

Third, I could reduce the “atom” of the game. According to the book Characteristics of Games, an “atom” is “The smallest complete unit of play, in the sense that the players feel they’ve ‘really played’ some of the game.” For a board game, an atom is a single game. For D&D, it’s a single session in a campaign. For a video game FPS, it’s a level.

Bad Medicine is five rounds. What if I made one round an atom? So you play a round, vote on a winner, then that’s the game. You can string together as many rounds as you’d like, and then the player who won the most won the game.

This is what people do for the new party game Concept. I’ve never seen anyone actually use the game’s scoring system. Instead, everyone plays a round, then another, then another. Each round is a self-contained atom, and people can leave and join the game between rounds.

But it wouldn’t work for Bad Medicine. One round isn’t enough; it just doesn’t feel right. Five rounds feels right. So this wouldn’t work.

Fourth, I thought of doing something similar to what Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim did for their newest party game, But Wait There’s More. Like Bad Medicine, this is a game about pitching, except it’s more like late-night television ads. But they did something interesting: they hid the scoring. So after each round, players distribute point cards face-down to all the other players. You don’t look at or reveal your points until the end of the game. So you can’t decide to vote away from the leader, because you don’t know who’s actually in the lead.

This system does fix the problem. You can’t throw your vote away, because you don’t know who to throw it to. So you may as well vote for your favorite! It’s typical of Jay and Sen; they are extremely thoughtful game designers, and I’m sure they put this system because they came across this very problem.

However, I will not do it for Bad Medicine for a few reasons. First, I’m worried about Bad Medicine resembling BWTM too closely. So I’d rather not use a scoring system that echoes theirs. Second, I want to keep my component costs down, and this system would almost double the number of cards I’d need. Third, Bad Medicine as it stands is quite elegant, and this scoring system would feel out of place; also, it’s a bit fiddly, as there’s a point halfway through the game where it’s tough to recall which scoring cards you’ve earned and which you have to distribute. This doesn’t harm the experience of BWTM, but I would rather take Bad Medicine in a different direction.

Finally, my fourth reason is the biggest. There’s a feeling game designers shoot for. I’ve heard Jane McGonigal call it “fiero”. It’s the rush of a triumphant moment, some point where everything comes together and you’ve Done Something Awesome. Armchair biologists will link this to the idea of a dopamine release in the brain. Even if that doesn’t have actual scientific veracity, the idea is important: one of the reasons we play games is to experience this rush of a feeling called “fiero”.

And when a player wins a round of Bad Medicine? That’s a fiero moment. It’s a moment where the winning player cheers. I have a mechanism where the side effect of the winning drug is the malady to cure in the following round. It’s not something that has mechanical heft or an quantifiable effect on the outcome of the game, but it feels awesome.

If I were to implement secret scoring, that fiero moment vanishes. That moment of swapping in the winning drug’s side effect for next turn vanishes. A big part of the fun of the game vanishes. Sure, I’ve satisfied the 5% of gamers who have complained about this, but I’ve reduced the fun factor for the 95% of other gamers who didn’t think it was a problem.

So I’m trying something else. It’s this: if there is an outright winner of the round (no ties), then every player who voted for the winning player gets a point.

It’s not much. It means that if you vote for the winning player, you’re no longer sacrificing your own point. You get it back by voting for the winner.

Also, there’s an important psychological effect. Now, if you’re thinking of throwing your vote, you are possibly sacrificing a point. It’s no longer an automatic optimal move.

Some gamers might still be turned off. It’s something I’ll have to watch for in playtesting.

Like I warned you at the top, I’m not convinced that the one-point rule will fix the problem once and for all. It’s my leading candidate for now. If it works? Excellent! If it doesn’t? I’ll see how it doesn’t work, and use that knowledge to try something else out.

Game design is many things, but it’s especially trial and error. Even with a seemingly-simple party game like Bad Medicine, you can use the same tools of theory, experience, market knowledge, and playtesting to hone your game. And as long as you’re aware of the differences in core engagement, you should be fine.

But my next game will definitely be a heavy economic strategy game!