A Big List Of Some Things To think About When Recommending A Game

I think about player limitations. I think about them a lot when I’m designing a game — if there’s something that makes it hard for players to deal with the game, and it costs me nothing to make the game approachable at the outset, then that’s an easy way to make sure more people can play my games. Also there’s a capitalist incentive, yada yada yada, but let’s face it, I don’t make games for the money.

I make games for the prestige.

Hahaha, me neither.

Anyway, I have a list of things I think about and check back on when I’m making games that plays into how I talk to people about my games when I’m selling them face to face. This is useful to think about when you think about ways to recommend games to other people. It’s important to consider the things on this list as a simple ‘yes/no’ not ‘good/bad’ paradigm. People want games that are good for them. While this list won’t make games perfect for anyone, being able to answer the question ‘Did I think about this?’ is important.

Typically, you’re going to see recommendations for games that can benefit from these considerations. The good news is, as you think about these things, you’ll be more likely to think about things games give people and how they relate to them. This isn’t exhaustive, either!

Game Actions

Some people can’t lie. Some people can’t hold a hand full of cards vertically where everyone can see them for a prolonged period. Some people don’t like swearing.

  • Does the game require a player to lie
  • Does the game require a player to undermine another player
  • Does the game require a player to obscure information physically
    • If so, does it provide a way to do it, or is the player reliant on having both hands available
  • Does the game require game actions with names that make players uncomfortable (like Hard Wired Island‘s use of ‘bullshit’ as a player verb).
  • Does the game not require a player to undermine or lie to another player, but a willingness to do so confers a huge advantage?
  • Does the game require players to be silent?
  • Does the game require players to not talk about some specific information but doesn’t require silence?

Content Warnings

Does the game feature fiction or setting that people will find upsetting? Some quick examples:

  • Colonialism in general (hypothetical colonialism of fictional places)
  • Colonialism in specific (actual known places with actual known history)
  • Sexual themes, of any degree
  • Violence, depending on the degree
  • Are there visual signifiers of sex or violence even if the game fiction doesn’t need them?
  • Is the game cruel to fat people?
  • Does the game deliberately build uncontrollable tension (think like Jenga or Rhino Hero)?

Material needs

  • How many cards does a player need to manage?
  • How many tokens?
  • Are these items particularly challenging to manage? Is a player expected to keep both?
  • How high are the numbers of these items likely to be? Does a player need to be potentially concerned with a 20 card hand?
  • Does a player need to shuffle regularly?
  • Does a player need to shuffle regularly without another player being able to help them?
  • Are players close to each other?
  • Are they distant?
  • Do they need a standard table space, or is it flexible?
  • Does this table space need verticality?
  • Can it be played outdoors?
  • Are the pieces reasonably heavy?
  • Is bumping the table going to heavily change the gameplay state?

Signalling needs

  • Does the game communicate what players should want to do?
  • Is there game activity that looks rewarding but is there for players to do when they don’t have an alternative?
  • Are the game pieces biased to communicate a specific course of action?
  • Does your game text dedicate a lot of time to communicating a specific idea?
  • When a player fails to do something, does the game communicate to them why?
  • Is the game colourblindness-friendly?
  • Is the game playable without literacy?
  • Is the game playable without visuals?

This is like I said, just a short list. But I find it useful to ask and be able to answer these questions, and have good answers as to why.