Saturday, August 13, 2005

Interaction action #2: The theory and practice of good gaming...?

Saturday evening saw my next event: Game Design: Realism vs. Playability, featuring David Cake, Gordon Lamont, Marcus Rowland, and a late replacement for the unexpectedly absent Dave Howell. I was looking forward to this, a crucial and fascinating design conundrum for us gamers.

Plus not only have I met Gordon at DiceCons past, but Marcus Rowland is a name known to me from the days of yore.

The panel itself was run as a question and answer session after a quick round of personal introductions to an attendance at least at big as that at David Cake's lecture, and it was really quite lively, with lots of people getting a chance to contribute, some snappy answers, and a few good jokes
"did you hear the one about the game where you might not even survive character creation?" (rpg old farts' classic Traveller joke...)

"or what about the boardgame that takes 40 minutes to play a battle that lasted only 10 minutes in real life [Prestonpans IIRC]"
(Gordon on playability and resolution)
There was no real moderation as such though, so the talk, though reasonable enough, wasn't really going awaywhere.

This was exacerbated for me by the overwhelming preponderance of rpg'ers- 3 on the panel, and most of the questions. That's fair enough to be sure, but I'd've liked to have heard more about the isses in respect of boardgames too, which have after all shown themselves the simulationist's ne plus ultra. In the end though, I'd have to say that it wasn't really the panel's fault, stifled as they were by the paucity of the gaming programme at the 63rd Worldcon.

It has to be said that the premise of the panel was an example of this: realism and playability were set up as a simple contradiction- for the sake of a debate naturally enough, as if this is a big isse: "Playability means a game is easy to understand, and more quickly. Realism adds depth and believability but makes the game longer. How do you find a balance?" The thing is that playability and realism so construed are not contradictions in that simple sense, as witness the mulititude of great games of all kinds ever-increasingly available. This stifling sense of unimaginative convention programming was commonplace at my Interaction panels, too many of which seemed to be set up to play out tired old issues, dead debates in the face of panels who could generate no worthwhile controversy of the topics they were given.

The games programme at Worldcon2005 was such a disappointment to me that it threatened to overshadow my convention highspots. So I have not finished with it yet, but I'm going to move before I start to rant...

- Interaction action #1: Long weekend in geek-central
- Interaction action #3: Elsewhere in the convention guide
- Interaction action #4: Schmooze and small adventures

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