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Against hasty judgments

After some weeks we’re back with our blog’s opinion column, with an article that criticizes gamers. What can I say, we are people pleasers!
Actually, of course, we talk about a small group, i.e. those who can’t wait to tear a game to pieces as soon as they play it for the first time, sometimes not even finishing a game.

Of course, sometimes it happens that bad “broken” games are released. It has always happened, because since the beginning of this profession there has always been a race against time, however, recently the problem has been getting increasingly worse. Sometimes, short turnaround times force publishers to rush and go to press (*) compromising the design, the ergonomics, the quality of the materials or the game design.
Or it can happen because not all publishers are that good, and they can make mistakes. It can happen repeatedly, as you have probably seen on a few occasions.
As I have already written several times, publishing is a complex job, made of thousands of stages. Without even considering administration or sales, which also take a considerable amount of time and huge efforts (but are common to all the businesses), we must say that the creation of a game requires so many different skills, that have to perfectly combine together. Usually, it puts together the work of many different people, who sometimes speak different languages, who need to be coordinated well, because even one single mistake could become a problem for the final product.
Of course, it is not an excuse: if the product is really broken, it has an unintelligible design, or it is made of awful materials, no doubt that the work of the publisher was poor. I can think of many of these instances.
But every so often this is not the case…

Well, sometimes the problem is not with the game but with the user. Often players are anxious to review a game because they are going to get another one soon, so they hasten to tell their opinion, after one game, at times not even finishing that one. It is true that this kind of gamers usually have a lot of experience with many played games, because they are eager to play one game after the other, but it is possible that this kind of experience translates into a need to criticize rather than actual competence to do it, especially when we talk about games that are critically acclaimed, especially if they judge on the basis of first or even unfinished games.
It might happen to the most passionate gamers who end up in the vicious cycle of “board games are my passion -> I want to try every single one of them -> I want them to be more and more perfect and cool -> I like one out of ten -> I’ll play the one that I like over and over again, for the rest of the games I’m going to complain on social media, because I’m a gamer and talking about it is my absolute favourite topic.” I know that these dynamics are also common in other fields, but I believe they are never particularly positive. To be clear: gamer’s feedback is extremely valuable, and I’ve often taken it into account when developing a product. Sometimes, though, it looks like criticisms emerge out of a desire to show off one’s (supposed) knowledge.
I’m going to make a couple of examples with some of our games to explain better what I am referring to:

  • You got Wendake right, it was spot on, but Kepler absolutely not: random progress cards completely spoiled it. I couldn’t even finish the first game.”
    By all means, all opinions are valid, and if someone can’t finish a game because they really can’t stand a rule who am I to judge their tastes. But coming to me at a game event with such a sense of entitlement, adding that we got Wendake right (wow! We were so lucky! Not as if we did 2 years of thorough playtesting.) really got under my skin. That specific rule has been extensively tested with a myriad of people, for a whole year, for countless games, and we included it in the game in the way we thought worked best. By all means, we are not perfect, but I can’t stand how arrogant that gamer was, complaining with the publisher about a game that received almost exclusively good reviews. More than the opinion, my problem was that the opinion was given as an undeniable hard truth, established after an unfinished game.
  • Well, Wendake is nice, but I can notice that the Masks Score Track was added afterwards to make ends meet. It’s a shame, you could do better, but I see that you were in a hurry.”
    No, the Masks Score Track has always existed as stated in this post, it is actually one of the few mechanics that made it to the end product without any change, because Danilo started from the setting and this is a fundamental aspect (basically, it is what distinguishes the Iroquois from other tribes).
    This second example didn’t annoy me as much as the first one, maybe because it was said with a smile, but analysing it, it is not much different. By all means, we can accept the criticism about the fact that the Masks Track is disconnected to the rest. We know that and we decided to keep it like that because we liked to have a way of scoring points independent from what happens on the game board.
    The annoying bit is the mention to the assumption that the mechanic was added at the end in a rush. I am sorry about that, because after years spent testing games infinite times, and creating products that are consistently acclaimed by critics, it hurts to think that people can believe something like that.
    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t express their opinion on games. They are important and often interesting. I’m just saying that, most of the times, editorial choices (including those related to game design) are driven by specific reasons, and brushing them off condescendingly, without an in-depth analysis, is wrong. Rushing online to badmouth a game before anybody else doesn’t sort any good effect neither on the sector, nor on the commenter’s reputation. We end up generating harmful flames, which can easily tire people and might give off the idea of a snobbish community. It is obvious that some criticisms are deserved and those are useful, but if they are buried under loads of unwarranted criticisms, they get lost in the sea of annoyance.

In conclusion: I believe that we (the publishers) should of course be careful to publish products that can satisfy our passionate audience, but the passionate audience should also be careful not to rush into hasty reviews.
This topic is connected to what we wrote in this post about demos at exhibitions, especially to who believes that “playing for half an hour they can evaluate any game”.
No! I mention my games because I know them, but I can assure you that neither Kepler nor Wendake (or any other Placentia game) can be evaluated after playing them for half an hour.
Play them properly, give them the chance to win you over. I can guarantee that they’re worth it!

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(*) sometimes, even we have given in to time, but only for some minor aspects of the games, something that we considered of little importance. We have always been completely satisfied with all the products that we have actually published. We have pushed back the publishing date of a game more than once because we thought that the game wasn’t ready.

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