We landed in Seattle on Saturday morning, and there was already a puzzle-related event to attend by Sunday afternoon! I was worried we’d be a little too exhausted or overwhelmed to make it to the Seattle meet-up for Game Control Summit, but we had a lot of time on Saturday to get settled and Nick knew I would regret it later if we didn’t try to go. So we made the quick drive down to the Microsoft campus where new friends, pizza, and cookies were waiting for us! =)
I think our side had around 13 people for most of the afternoon. We joined the Google Hangout which connected our room to home base in San Francisco as well as a small group in Portland and individual viewers like Todd.
The talks included:
- Allen Cohn on Doctor When
- Amos Eshel (in Seattle) on the 2013 MIT Mystery Hunt
- Bob Schaffer on Elevate Tutoring’s charity hunts
- Curtis Chen & Sean Gugler on JoCo Cruise Crazy hunts
The topic of player expectations came up a lot. This included making sure the players know what they’re getting into (a story-driven, non-competitive game, for example) and “stacking the deck” in your favor by attracting players who are interested in whatever new thing you’ll be doing, making sure the event you actually end up designing matches the event that was originally marketed to the players, the problems with too-humble promotion your event, and how the lack of an established reputation (where players have a hard time forming expectations) can deter players from spending money on your event.
Another interesting topic was GC bonding. It sounds like it’s exceptionally difficult to start with one person’s fairly fleshed-out idea (or one small group of people’s idea) and then try to sell that idea to other people and get them to join GC. For Allen, this “pick-up” style of GC resulted in a lack of ownership, loyalty, and interest in the project, which lead to a lack of bonding, motivation, and getting things done. At first, it seemed like the problem was that these pick-up GC groups didn’t already share the bond of friendship that most GC teams that form from Game-playing teams do. But with further discussion from other people’s experiences, it seemed that even if the GC is a “pick-up” group of basic strangers, as long as they all share a common goal and start out with a shared feeling of ownership of the idea (brainstorming and fleshing things out together from the start), any previous bonding isn’t really necessary.
There was a lot of talk about how to help new players get involved in the community or try their first event. One person mentioned the idea that an application process of any kind sends the message that the event is for serious puzzlers only, deterring newer players. Someone wondered about the need for some kind of medium-length game that is long enough, but not too long to scare away new players. Sean gave a great talk about how to take a high-level puzzle and modify it to “show” many of the steps to beginner puzzlers and help them just get to the “fun” part of executing the puzzle mechanic. I feel like I’m really interested in more events that help beginners get into the puzzling community, but maybe only insofar as I’m interested in finding a better way to drag all of my uninterested friends to puzzle events.
Amos, who was part of this year’s Mystery Hunt GC, gave a great talk about all the challenges of designing such a massive event, though I think most of his advice was applicable to events of any size. Some notes included trying to keep your GC team as local as possible (and meeting in person to get work done), making sure to divide responsibilities and respect that division, trying to avoid letting a few people become overwhelmed with a disproportionate amount of responsibility, and making sure puzzle designers and editors decide together on a set of design goals and pillars for all of the final puzzles.
Overall, I had a good time and learned a lot more than I think I would have just watching from home. And I’m glad to already feel like I’m a part of the local puzzling community so quickly after moving here! Thanks to everyone for making us feel welcome =)