The Paradox of Choice (Applied to Game Design)

I am developing a board game design workshop here in Boston that starts in September. I am really looking forward to facilitating the workshop and learning from the participants. In preparing the course materials, I came across my notes from a board game seminar that I took at Gen Con a few years back. The seminar was hosted by Jeff Tidball. Jeff is a creative executive and award-winning game designer. His class made a lot of great points, but he made one pint really clear to me. Game design is about doing the work. You have to have a lot of “butt-in-chair” time.

How much time have you wasted trying to choose the best salad dressing?

Jeff also mentioned the paradox of choice. He recommended that we watch a TED Talk from Barry Schwartz on the subject of choice and try to apply it to game design. Barry does not talk about game design in his TED Talk, but his message about choice can easily apply. A game with no choice is not fun. A game with too many choices is also not fun. You need to find a balance and do not overwhelm your players with too many options. Choice is central to the art of game design. You need to decide which choices to present to players and which ones that can be removed from your game.

I recommend that you watch Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, to get the full context and see how you can apply it to game design.

 

“My other shirt is a v-neck”

Have you ever done something that you completely forgotten about only to see it on the web years later? I guess the whole current generation of noobs will know what I mean when they are sitting in their job interview, and the interviewer asks them about that YouTube video…

If you ever go to a gaming convention you will notice all of the ironic t-shirts everyone wears. For example, the overweight guy wearing a small Supperman t-shirt. Each year more and more t-shirt vendors invade the exhibit hall at Gen Con.

If you know me, you know that I just had to create a bunch of sarcastic, novelty shirts. I just can’t not do it. So in 2006 I made up a bunch of shirts. I sold a few, mostly it was a waste of time. A few survived and I gave them out to my friends for Gen Con 2006. One in particular was a shirt for The Dungeoneering Dad that read, “My other shirt is a v-neck”. Looks like TDD gave it away…

Today, I find that exact shirt on a website called “toomanytshirts.com” – a site where “a random dude from Pittsburgh” wears and photographs a different t-shirt every day.

It's In Here Somewhere...

That was a pleasant surprise to see the old shirt still making its rounds with my trademark bar code on the sleeve. I completely forgot about the two weeks I was “T-shirt Hans”.

Here are some of my other more popular (less popular) t-shirt slogans:

    • Rage Against the Washing Machine
    • Got Rhetorical Questions?
    • I believe in God and Aliens
    • 3 out of 5 dentists agree 60% of the time
    • Community Chest
    • I hate Slogans
    • Political Statement
    • I am case-Sensitive
    • I’m the man from Nantucket
    • Ask me about today’s specials
    • I hate scallions
    • My favorite font is Ironic Sans

Reiner Knizia at Gen Con 2007

If you play RPG’s, computer games, or board games, then Gen Con is the gaming convention for you to attend. A group of my friends, who call ourselves “The StruebSquad”, a group of game players and designers, go out each year. The competition is tough, but the time spent is a great departure from the grind of the real world.

Gen Con 2007 turned out to be one of the best. The last day of the four day convention, the squad got to meet a hero of ours — Reiner Knizia. Reiner is a german game designer that has created some of my favorite board games and continues to put out challenging, fun, and creative games several times a year. Two of my favorites are Lost Cities and Ingenious.

Reiner Knizia at Gen Con