Teaching Games (Part 1)

Holy crapola, this is four posts in one day.  Is he needy?  No.  I just have had a lot on my mind with regards to games over the last few decades and not a lot of ears to hear it.

I digress.  This first part of a “teaching games” series is going to focus on why I think it is important for gamers to teach games.  As a teacher, there are a lot of great reasons for me to teach games in a school.  Its why I have a club for it.  Games teach critical thinking and problem solving and strategic and longitudinal thinking, cost/benefit analysis, and sound social interaction.  And that’s my short list.

Not all gamers are professional educators.  They don’t have to be. So why should a gamer bother teaching the “noobs” or “newbs” about their game?  What is the benefit to them?  Well, they’re innumerable, but I’d like to make an argument from the “personal benefit” side of things.  Empathy is a tough sell for a lot of gamers.  Many of us are socially well adjusted. Many are not and simply don’t have  a lot of experience thinking about what other people need or want.  I’ll tackle the concept of empathy in a later post.  For now, I want to address one of the most common gamer “complaints”, which also happens to provide the solution as to why it is important that people take the time to seriously think about teaching games effectively.

One of the most common complaints I hear from gamers is that a game “died” quickly or that it is difficult to find or recruit players.  Battletech is kind of a poster child for this.  The game was released in the 1980s with what i consider to be a sometimes flawed, but on the whole pretty elegant rule set.  The basic rules haven’t changed in 30 years.  Any gamer will tell you that there are games that don’t last a year.  Battletech has been around for quite some time, so it’s player base is pretty “old” by the standards of most games.  Most of the players are middle-aged adults.  There’s nothing wrong with this, other than the fact that young new players tend to be intimidated by gaming with people twice their age.  Its weird to them, they can’t relate, and they are concerned about the omnipresent creeper in game circles.  I don’t blame them.  Battletech happens to be a game where the player base has to work extra hard in making the game palatable.

Most gamers don’t seem to make the connection between the viability of their player base and their own personal skill at recruiting players.  They’ll scapegoat pretty much anything under the sun.  The mechanics flaws are too numerous, the artwork is the wrong style, the game is too expensive, blah, blah blah.  The truth of the matter is that the first impression that they chose to present to the new player is the real culprit.  They haven’t spent much time thinking about what the other player needs or wants from their gaming experience.  I’lL spend a post or three detailing some of the more common pitfalls and some strategies that people can use to overcome the difficulties.

I believe that veteran game players have a large influence over the first impression for new players and that this first impression makes or breaks the future development of the player base.  Do you want more people to play games with?  Great.  Make it happen.  “We constitute the front line, and the last line of defense.”  -Captain Ramsey, Crimson Tide.  Yeah, silly, but I love that movie.

So, the future goal of these posts will be to lay a groundwork for how veteran players can actively share their loves and passions with other people.  Just like a marriage or a professional career, it takes work to be successful.  Maybe you aren’t up to the challenge?  If we don’t do something to create our recreational reality, then we don’t have any right to complain about a game “dying”. People should want to get better at teaching games because it is what creates and maintains a player base.  I don’t care how old a game is.  With a passionate veteran or group of veterans, any game can be resurrected.  Ha ha.  I just remembered its Easter Sunday.


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