Curtis Chen of Team Snout talked about stuff he's figured out from running the game. Specifically, he talked at the recent GC Summit and if you follow that link you can see the video. But here's the stuff I wrote down so I'd remember it.
- Run More Games. If you want 'em to happen, you gots to run 'em.
- Curtis can't tell you why you should run more games. If you're gonna find the oomph to do that, it's gonna be for a reason inside yourself, not just because Curtis told you to.
- We're going to go through some catchphrases you might associate
- "This is not a clue." (Generally attributed to Curtis, though he
doesn't remember, but whatev.) If you're giving teams something just
because it's cool, make sure they won't try to decode it.
- Anecdote: Wanted to give teams a couple of music CDs, just to give them some nice road tunes. To make sure that teams didn't try to solve these CDs, wrote "Red" on one and "Herring" on the other. But whoops didn't give both CDs to the teams at the same time. Teams got "red" along with a puzzle; and part of that puzzle was a phone book. So teams looked through the phone book to find "red" stuff, and by golly they found some. If doing the same thing nowadays, would be very explicit: This is not a clue.
- "We're not having fun anymore." Attributed to Jeff R. Allen, who was in Team Snout before he became a globe-trotting Go-coding admin for various NGOs in far-flung lands. He observed that The Game is kind of like S&M. People put themselves through some suffering, and it's not clear when they want to stop. You want a "safe word".
- "Only Game Control Thinks That's Funny." When you're sitting around the table planning how the game's going to work and someone says, "You know what would be funny, is if we made the players..." Go ahead and finish what you're saying and laugh, but don't put that thing in your game. Because only Game Control thinks that's funny.
- It's not your game. It's their game, it's the players' game. You put things into your game because you love those things. But the players love a kinda-intersecting set of things. If there's stuff in your game that they enjoy, great, let them wallow in it. If there's stuff in your game that they don't... help them get past it fast.
- "Nobody dies. Nobody bleeds. Nobody goes to jail." What DeeAnn
aims for in terms of safety when planning an event.
- Audience comment: Broken bones are OK, though.
- Clarification: Broken bones are not OK.
- "Team Snout," when putting together a game, must consist of at least seven people. It gets you diverse backgrounds, group momentum. You can decide things by voting instead of three people arguing about stuff. Diversity is great, but you need folks who can have constructive debate. One strong arguer that drowns out everyone ain't so useful; someone with good ideas who won't pipe up with those ideas ain't so useful either.
- During the game, you need one person who's in charge. You're going to need some quick decisions. Now's not the time for chatting choices around the table.
- Figure out the "must haves" for the game. What do you want to be in the game? This is important—it doesn't just ensure that your game has fun stuff in it. You'll be more motivated to work on the game if it gives you an excuse to work with your favorite things. Also, helps you to prioritize. If, later on, you find yourself putting a lot of time into some aspect of the game, and you realize it isn't actually one of the "must haves", then maybe you should drop it.
- Set expectations! As long as you give them what you tell them you're gonna
give them, they should be happy.
- Anecdote: For Hogwart's game, gave a joking description of the event: you'll be sleeping in your Hogwart's School dorm. Some gamers [Editor's note: me, for one] thought this meant that they'd be sleeping at night. But of course in the Hogwarts books, the kids don't sleep, they sneak out of their dorms and have adventures. And so the players were surprised to find out that they wouldn't, in fact, get any sleep, but would instead be driving around all weekend.
- Packaging matters! Make cool physical things that people want to play with.
- Playtest! If you run overnight games, you probably have puzzler friends who don't want to drive around all weekend. Use them as playtesters: invite them over for a few hours of pizza and puzzling.
- Deadlines! You're working with a diverse group of GC. Deadlines motivate some folks, probably including some members of your GC. So use them. Deadlines should be the heartbeat of your planning process. Mark your calendar: Have a draft ready here have revisions ready here.
- Run More Games. If you don't know what to do, volunteer. [Editor's note: Even a lowly site monitor can learn a $&#*load about game control if they keep their eyes open.] The TV show Sports Night has an anecdote about Cliff Gardner, brother-in-law to Philo Farnsworth: he didn't know how to invent television, but he wanted to help out, so he learned to blow glass to make cathode ray tubes.
- Question from Dwight: Why should we run more games? Games will
still fill up too fast: the same people will want to play them.
- Linda Holman: If there's a bunch of groups running games, they won't all run the same kind of game. [Says a member of the only group in the bay area running 12-hour games; Oh hey she's got a point.]
- Deb Goldstein: With DASH, we're growing the community, geography-wise. There are ways to grow, you just gotta think of 'em.
- Bill Jonesi: You can do "cross-pollination" with other groups like, say, Road Rallye people and grow that way. And geocachers. And Curtis, I agree with the stuff you said.
- Kai Huang: Getting back to Dwight's point: Some of us are saying "more participation", but the games keep filling up. Code Yellow ran a BANG—and in 10 minutes, it filled up.
- Dann Webster: I'm from LA. There's no participation in LA. So if your worry is that your game's gonna fill up in 10 minutes, then run it in LA instead.
You might also like: Curtis' open letter to aspiring GC folks