I've obviously been a little reticent of late (I'm sure you've all noticed). My productivity levels have certainly been 'low' when it comes to output on this here Blog. I've not been sitting in a darkened room rocking gently backwards and forwards though... OK... so maybe I have done a little bit of that, but mainly after attempting to do things like wallpapering and other DIY tasks. Have any one you ever attempted to lay massively uneven natural stone tiles on a floor that resembles the Himalayas? Well I have, and let me tell you, I have a new found respect for tilers. Quite often we look at the stuff other people do from the outside looking in and we think 'I could do that'. Sometimes we're right, we almost certainly could do that, but I think we all too often like to underestimate the difficulties associated with other peoples work.
As a researcher / consultant I often here all the jokes about giving consultants watches so they can tell you the time. They bring a wry smile from me, and I understand some of the hostility towards 'outsiders' coming in to tell people either A) what they already know or B) how to do things. It's a difficult line to tread and get right. Quite often if you are asked to do something for somebody else the reasons are very similar. The most common reason I get asked to do something is because there is a lack of resources at an organisation to get a short term piece of work over the line. This can be the most challenging environment, mainly because the organisation will almost certainly have people who are capable of doing the task themselves... it's just their day job is getting in the way. In these situations I find it is best to acknowledge that fact, and work with those people, keep them informed and pick their brains.
The other reason people call on you for help is difficult for totally different reasons. Quite often you'll be brought in to do a piece of work because an organisation hasn't got a clue how to set about doing the task themselves. Here the first task is trying to work out what the ultimate end goal is. Often somebody will think they know what they want, but actually they don't. They just think that a piece of research might just answer all the questions they have. Convincing people to do something different to what they think they want and need can be tricky, but ultimately if you are unable to guide them they end up disappointed and unsatisfied with your work, even if it exactly what they asked for. So although people might think research and analysis is easy, I can assure you it is not.
Often I'll read statistics and cock an eyebrow at how little they actually tell us about a phenomenon. My first thought always used to be 'shoddy workmanship'. Now, I know a little bit more about the truth. The reason some of the statistics you see in articles are as simplistic as they are is because that's what most people will understand. I have seen many people's eyes glaze over at the mention of inferential statistics, or multivariate analysis. I've gotten better at talking to people in a language and a way they can comprehend easily, and the narrative that I try to tell with my work is always now tailored to the audience. Now, I can hear some of you asking 'what the hell has this got to do with wargames and boardgames?'... well if you stick with me I might be able to shed some light on that for you.
|This wonderful graphic tells us absolutely nothing, yet games news outlets have run with it and claimed it's massively insightful. Really? What's the sample size, methodology and more importantly where are the comparative statistics?|
I have often been asked to play test products for people down my long and distinguished career as a games nerd. Perhaps it is my keen analytical mind that has made me a popular 'go to' play tester. Or perhaps it's my breadth of experience with games of all types. Or perhaps it's because I'm able to articulate my thoughts in a way that is enlightening, or helpful (we are rarely both at the same time). It's actually more likely an unholy combination of all of those things. Lately though I have had more input than I normally would as a straight up and down play tester with a number of products. I've been involved with solving design issues and sorting out statistical sequences for gameplay mechanics. I've even helped with discerning whether or not there's a market for certain types of product. Simply put it hasn't been easy. Yeah sure it has been fun at times, and really educational, but it has proved far tougher than I thought it would be.
I've relished the challenge though, and it has given me a totally different perspective on the production of games, and how bloody difficult it can be to produce something that does what it is supposed to, while also being entertaining. There's a lot of work that goes into the whole design process, and quite often I think we as gamers don't really appreciate the complexity of the task at hand. I thought I did, and honestly I didn't. Now I'm not suggesting we cut games designers more slack when they screw things up. Nope. I'm just saying that unless you've walked in their shoes perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to judge people. Sure judge their product, but that isn't necessarily the same thing as judging them, which sadly there has been a lot of in our hobby. I've been keeping up with news within the industry, and I've been reading Blogs... and I've noticed an upswing in whinging.
Now this is for two main reasons. Firstly it is experienced gamers, who have significant levels of knowledge regarding products and know what they're talking about, and they can now see that certain games have intrinsic flaws with their design. Well, from their perspective. They could have been 'done' better is often the claim. Well yeah maybe, but they might be missing the bigger picture, the product might not be designed for them anymore. The second complaint is from people who don't know what they actually want from a game. They think they do, but when they get it, well it turns out it wasn't what they wanted after all. I guess the similarity in the root cause of a number of gripes, to the gripes that researchers often have to put up with struck a chord with me. Maybe if we as consumers spent a little bit more time understanding what it is we actually want from products, we'd spend far less time being frustrated at what we all buy. Peace out!