Your Game Should Have Social Mechanics

Games should have social mechanics. This seems like a self-evident statement to me, but as I spend more time on twitter, it becomes clear that there are those who disagree with me on this point. A statement that I’ve seen repeated is that formalizing social interactions into a mechanical form reduces social interactions to something artificial, in a way that can be off putting.

In this article, I will argue that not only are social mechanics necessary for every game, but that social mechanics can be useful in creating an experience that is accessible and more comfortable for everyone.

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Games Must Be Political

Game designers have an ethical imperative to make their games political.

Now that I’ve assured myself of some angry comments, the rest of this article will go into detail into the reasons to make games political and some methodologies for doing so. Before I begin, I am going to lay out some axioms that will guide the discussion.

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The TFA Model: Part 1- Primer

There are many models for how to approach the concepts of game design and of narrative in general. All of these models are incomplete, because that is the nature of models, they abstract down and are forged from the bias and ignorance of their creator. This model is no different, and it will remain forever incomplete. Still, you might find it useful.

The TFA model suggests that interactive narratives emerge from the intersection of three different forces: thoughts, feelings, and actions. These three sometimes act in unison, sometimes in contrast, but through their interactions and intersections emerge the elements of play. A work that does not contain all three is, inherently, going to be a more experimental narrative and outside of the scope of this series.

Through the next several blog posts, I will speak at length about this model and how to implement it in game design. This post serves as an introduction and primer, a gateway to the ideas and the vocabulary to be explored at further length in the rest of the series.

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Social Capitalism (CW: Abuse, Sexual Assault)

The tabletop industry has been shook by the seismic reverberations of Zak S being revealed as a spousal abuser and sexual assaulter. I believe the accounts of the survivors of his abuse and respect their courage for speaking out, despite the pressure not to. Zak S is a known harasser in the industry and for a very long time, people in power seemed perfectly willing to ignore his vile actions. This refusal to honestly engage with Zak’s actions has made it more difficult for people like Mandy to come forward with their stories.

I don’t want to delve into the personal details of what has happened in this specific circumstance. It is not my place to tell that story. It is not my place to frame that narrative or speak to details I do not know for certain. Instead, I want to step back and look at the larger systems at work that allow for this kind of abuse and harassment to continue unabated. I want to understand why people continue to work with and hire people like Zak S despite their actions being known.

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Dialectic of Design

Political games are becoming increasingly visible and important. Games are a medium through which we can explore the world as players and express our feelings about the often complicated world we find ourselves in as designers. And, after all, everything is political in that it reflects the ideology of the creator, the audience, and the world in which both operate. Therefore, I believe that political games could use a deeper investigation.

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Game Design Against Fascism: The Golden Age

Welcome to the second part in a continuing series of articles that will address how to design games that do not contain fascist ideology. First, I’d like to suggest that everyone reading this check out the initial primer. Second, I’d like to remind the reader that the purpose of this series is less for individual players and GMs, and more for people looking to create new games. While some of the ideas here can be applied to individual home games, a burden of responsibility lies mostly on those working on designing games.

Rather than going more in depth in one of the topics that was presented in the primer, this piece will address a topic that I didn’t include in the primer because I think it’s a broad enough concept that it needs special attention. It’s an idea deeply rooted in fantasy fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and fascist ideology, perhaps due to the lingering impact of the fall of the Roman Empire on the European cultural psyche. This article will be talking about the Golden Age.

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Succession Review

being a tale yet untold of myth, might, and mystery

I recently purchased Succession after hearing it was a game with an melancholy air to it, using a storygame, rules light system. Since I’m designing a similar game, I decided that I’d give it a look. It turned out to be a little too rules light for my purposes, but I figured I could salvage the purchase by doing a F&F of it.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that the game has really bad layout. It uses a standard letter sized page, with extremely thin margins and single columns of text. This makes paragraphs stretch too long, with lines that are difficult to read easily. This problem is further compounded by the text, which is written in a way that tries to capture the tone of the world and stories to be told in it, which is not a great choice for rules text. It also doesn’t help that the font is small and cramped. Fortunately, the book is only thirteen pages long, so it’s easy to read it over multiple times.

That said, let’s dive into the contents.

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