Year in Review 2013 – Part 3

In this last part of my year in review (part 1, part 2), I won’t be discussing specific games but rather events from my gaming life in the last year. I will also look ahead and try to lay down my gaming goals for the upcoming year.

As with any attempt at looking ahead, things might turn out differently, so be warned…

The year that was

It was a very good year, gaming-wise and a few things really stick out for me.

The Game Society: With my return to Ubisoft Montreal (after THQ Montreal being purchased when THQ filled for bankruptcy), I was very excited to be working in such a large studio, especially since I knew that there were many boardgame fans present. When my good friend Steph Blais came back as well, a plan was hatched: we would try and see if Ubi would allow us to start an official game club, the Game Society, at the office. It worked and the club was officially announced at the end of November. Since then, we’ve had 15 to 20 people showing up every Wednesday night, and we’re hoping to get even more people in 2014.

Ubi Montreal's Game SocietyWhy a boardgame club in a video game company? Well, games, right? To us, a boardgame is simply a video game without any of the special effects and twitch reflexes. As such, going back to the source will allow designers (and everyone else as well) to see mechanics working at their most basic level. We are hoping to take this initiative and push towards talks and lectures, taking games apart to see why they work (or don’t work) and how we can use some of their ideas in upcoming projects. As a secondary effect, there is also the social aspect of playing boardgames. We are about 2500 people at the Montreal studio and as such, you end up only knowing a small portion of them, with teams being anywhere between 200 to 500 people. By having these game nights, we get to meet many people from different teams and exchange ideas with them. And it’s fun.

I’ll probably do a longer blog post about how things are going and the benefits of exploring board games for video game developers in the future.

Strawpixel: Another big event for me in the past year is the obvious return of the blog. I had previously ran Strawpixel at the start of 2000 in an effort to write on a more regular basis and even had some friends doing some art and comics for a little bit, but like most blogs, it fell by the wayside as I got more and more involved in work. My lovely wife, Tanya, had talked to me about restarting it for some time but I wasn’t sure exactly what I would be talking about. She suggested something she knew I am passionate about: games. As a video game designer, talking about boardgame seemed like an interesting angle, so here we are.

I have to admit that I was super enthusiastic at first, writing 3-4 posts a week and, with time, I seem to have run out of fuel, doing 1 post a week. I’ve decided that in the new year I’d do 2 post a week, only one of which will be a review, which I think is what really burned me out, but more on this in the next section.

Starting the blog was really great. It allowed me to become more involved in the hobby, signing up to Twitter and meeting people from across the world. I love how friendly people in the hobby are and it does make for a nice change from videogames, where a few really bad apples seem to be ruining it for everyone else lately. Hopefully I can bring back some of that positive energy to the videogame industry in one way or another.

Boardgame Design Attempts: This year I attempted to design some board games. It’s not the first time I try and it won’t be the last. The first of the two, Import/Export, is in good shape but still has a way to go before it is done and the second one, Possession, is in very early form. I haven’t really touch either of them in quite some time and I do need to tackle them again.

Will they ever be published? Dunno and that wasn’t really the goal of the exercise. I wanted to try and make something to better understand some of the games I like so much. It’s a very standard thing for me to do. When I was much younger, I tackled music, movies,a novel and beer making in an attempt to better understand how these things work. In a lot of ways, entering the videogame industry was very much the same thing and so was designing and having an rpg published. I’m very much of a hands-on learner and attempting to re-create things that I love is the best way for me to fully appreciate them.

And on that note, let’s look at what the new year has in store…

The year that will be

The 10X10in2014 Challenge: I’ve talked about this in the past, but this is the big challenge for this year. Won’t be easy, but it will be fun.

The 40 Reviews Challenge: I’d like to do 40 reviews this year, or a little under 1 a week. I should be able to do this and while I’m no Tom Vassel (of Dice Tower fame) with his 700+ reviews this year, I think if I can hit 40, I’ll be doing well on that front. I’ve got a whole bunch of games lined up already and two groups that are willing to play some new games, so I’m more than ready to tackle this head on.

What? Another Challenge?: Yup, there’s a third challenge coming up very soon for 2014, but this one will probably not run for the whole year. It should start in February and it should be a very interesting time. Can’t wait to announce it, but it will have to wait a little bit…

Different Features: I’d like to diversify a little bit content-wise in the new year and with that in mind, I’ll be starting two monthly sections: the first one will be about my board game designs, and more specifically what problems I encounter, what the reaction of the playtesters are and hopefully links to the prototypes as I go along. I figured the only way to make sure I keep at it is becoming very public about the whole thing. For this, I have Daniel Solis to thank for, as he is setting quite an example both with his blog and his twitter account. The second feature is a more general series of articles about boardgames: I’ll be looking at mechanics, history and family of games as they strike my fancy. In a lot of ways, I’d like it to be a preparation/reflection of the work we’re doing in the Game Society at Ubi Montreal.

In order to properly support these two new features, I’ll try and stick to a regular editorial calendar, with 2 posts a week, one of which being a review and the other cycling between Challenge update/Boardgame design/Boardgame general and new arrivals/Kickstarter. It is quite a schedule but if I’m careful in my planning, it should work out.

Well, that’s it. 2013 was quite a year for boardgaming and 2014 should be equal to it if not better. Let’s hope that we all get a nice new year and with that…

Happy gaming!

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