Yesterday I happened to wander past a store on East 33rd Street called The Compleat Strategist. From the outside, it looked like one of those stores that is getting to be more and more rare here–a store that is weird and super-specialized.
Are you a new store? I asked the guy behind the counter.
We’ve been here 37 years, he said. Is that new?
The Compleat Strategist specializes in games. I could have spent a long time there but I was on my way to a show of erotic furniture. (New York is good, people). There was a magazine rack near the front of the store that had comic books, magazines, and a few books. One of them was, “Things We Think About Games” by Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball.
Let’s just begin by saying that Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball have such a fabulous two-name combo going that I want to join whatever law firm they are starting.
But anyway: the book.
Longtime followers of OE—that would be those of you who have been reading the site for the last two weeks or so—know that I am partial to playing, games, and the concerns of game makers, which is one reason why Ohio was a proud sponsor of the Different Games conference.
This book is similar to the very fun, “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School,” by Matthew Frederick, which the authors cite as an inspiration. Hindmarch & Tidball’s book begins with “101 Things We Think About Games,” which is a list of ideas, one per page, as in Frederick’s book. But after listing their ideas, they open up the conversation. “101 Things” is followed by a chapter titled, “And Another Thing,” which is more thoughts about games from other contributors. The book concludes with two longer pieces: “7 Lessons Learned from World Of Warcraft,” by John August and “Cliche, Combat, Fellowship, Anarchy, and Enigma,” by S. John Ross.
The ideas presented are thoughtful, interesting, practical, and contradictory. It’s like a big, crazy, think-y, game salad. More, please!
Some favorite bits:
-Symmetrical play spaces are boring
-There is no skill more important to playing good poker than paying attention to everything that happens at the table.
-You cannot convince someone who is not having fun that he is.
I also like the fact that the book was published by Gameplaywright Press, which appears to have exactly three game-oriented titles under its belt, this being one. So go Gameplaywright Press! YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!
I will leave you with a lovely excerpt from the “7 Lessons Learned from World of Warcraft” chapter, by John August:
Kill injured monsters first.
When facing multiple bad guys, the temptation is to go after the one who’s hitting you the hardest. This is often a mistake. That injured razorback, the one who is running away? He’ll be back in 15 seconds, likely with other baddies in tow. So take a few clicks and kill him now. Once he’s dead, you can focus completely on the guy who’s smacking you.
The real world may not have druids and paladins, but it’s chock full of monsters. At any given moment, there may be one monster that looms larger than all the others, who clearly needs to be attacked. Before you strike, look around for injured monsters–the half-finished tasks that probably only need a few minutes to complete. If you don’t deal with them now, they’ll be a constant distraction, and may eventually come back stronger.
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