There is always a range of responses from megagame designers after their game is over.
Generally, there is an initial feeling of anticlimax – not surprisingly really, as there is a lot of work in the build up to the game, much to think about, prepare and plan for.
Then there are the anxieties before the day of the game, and the pressure to ensure it goes as well as possible on the day.
It comes as no surprise that the day after can often feel a little ‘flat’.
Then there is the response to the analysis of the critique questionnaires and post-game feedback. Generally speaking it is a good idea to give the critique sheets handed in to a friend to analyse – it can be traumatic reading through all the comments the day after. Of course, if the game is universally hailed as the best game ever, then reading the feedback will be great! But there is a tendency to concentrate on the negative and critical for some designers. This is normal, but criticism, constructive or otherwise, has to be looked in context.
Often designers experiencing the post-game come-down, especially first time designers, wonder why they went to all that trouble, work, anxiety and heartache for just one day’s gaming.
Obviously, the answer will vary from designer to designer – one or two will stop there and never do it again. Most get ‘bitten’ and do end up doing another game at some point. The most enthusiastic will be planning their second game even before the first is completed.
So, lets imagine that you do want to run your megagame again. It might be several months or even years later – what needs to be considered?
Here are some tips that might be helpful.
Tip 1: Its Not As Easy As You Might Think
Never, ever, assume that repeating a game will be necessarily easier than the first time. I realise that is counter-intuitive – but it is so often true. It is true that you don’t necessarily have to repeat the game design research. And you don’t have to come up with new game mechanisms and basic structure. But, especially if it has been a long time between games, its a good idea to check whether there is any new research on the game subject area. And you will almost certainly have aspects of the game that you want to improve on, or modify in response to he feedback.
And, of course, all the administration, preparation, production of game materials and so on still have to be done. The very well organised designer might have constructed very durable game components for the game so that it can be played ‘out of the box’ – but this isn’t always possible, practical or economic.
Tip 2 : Allow Time
Give yourself plenty of time. Administration and production will take time. And it is easy to become over-relaxed for the second run of a game – it seems as though you have plenty of time, and suddenly…you don’t!
Tip 3 : Use the Feedback
Read through the comments and criticisms (and plaudits ) of the first game as they appear in the critique sheets. Megagames are notoriously difficult to test (we’ve discussed this in the design chapters earlier). In many ways, the first run of the game is the first full-scale game test. So try to make sure you benefit fully, use the feedback to improve the game. Players who are coming back to the second run of the game who took part in the first run will be looking to see if you’ve fixed the obvious ‘bugs’, and will be appreciative of improvements you have made. It is also important to understand what went well for players, and try to understand why it worked if you can.
Tip 4 : Make Sure You Want To
There is often pressure from players for you to repeat a successful game design. This is both gratifying and flattering. But. As with any run of a megagame you need to be fully behind running the game. If you have any doubts about your enthusiasm for running the game again, no matter how simple it might be to run a repeat, think hard. Low levels of enthusiasm will make the project much harder and your un-enthusiam will leak out into the game itself – players will sense it and it does have an impact much greater than you might think.
So if your heart is not fully into running a repeat then don’t. It might be that your enthusiasm for another megagame is better engaged by that new game project you were talking about in the pub last night. Always follow the enthusiasm!
Tip 5 : Tweaking – We All Do It
Related to Tip 1 above. It might be that you have a lot of tweaks, adjustments and new ideas you want to try out in your re-run of the game. This is great, it is showing you are activity developing your game design and improving and developing. There are down sides that are not always obvious.
You might be fixing something that isn’t broken. Usually you get feedback on what has not worked. A system, mechanism or part of your structure that is actually working well will rarely get any comment. You might have thought of a better way of doing it, and that is good, but I would always advise caution over making too many changes.
You might be unnecessarily adding complication. We talk earlier about how megagames really need simple, elegant and fast moving game mechanisms and systems. Resist the urge to add things because you can – it can have unintended consequences and, worse, slow down the game.
Your mates will always have suggestions along the lines of “…you could add in a thing for [insert cool thing here]…”. Sometimes that is brilliant, but most of the time, unless they have been closely involved in the game design and really understand how it all fits together, it is not necessarily a good thing for the game. We all like to be nice to our friends, but do not be pressured into adding a second dragon.
There is a lot to be said in favour of repeating successful games. Players who come again get a chance to experience different roles and re-connect with those they met in the previous game. New strategies and tactics can be explored, new deals made and the game will always go in a different direction. By repeating a game you can really see how megagames encourage emerging game play – no two runs of a megagame are (or can be) the same.