Credit for the original idea for a #VGBC goes to Rick Wolf, who also coauthored this post. You can get in touch with Rick at @InvolvingSalmon on Twitter.
Your very own #VGBC (one of those newfangled acronyms we hear are all the rage these days). A club devoted to selecting and critically discussing video games. We like the acronym #VGBC, but you can call it what you feel. It’s worth noting that we aren’t reading a book each month (although some game design books would do us well), but we’re calling it a “book” club to emphasize the format that encourages thoughtful discussion.
Each meeting you can discuss any aspect of a video game that strikes your fancy. Maybe you really like the music or art direction, maybe there’s one level that you could play over and over again until you get it perfect, maybe you really like the silent protagonist’s haircut. Let your club know. Chances are, your thoughts about the video game will evoke some exciting input from others in your club. You can respond with all those witty retorts you’ve been practicing in the mirror. This is what’s known colloquially as a discussion.
But how do I know what to discuss, you ask? It’s simple. Take turns picking a topical game that everyone can play, within reason. We say within reason because, like a book club, everyone needn’t finish the discussion material to weigh in. Don’t expect everyone in your club to buy the latest $60 game.
A rule of thumb can be that the host of the last meeting gets to choose the game for the next meeting.
You, your friends, the cat (If you have one. No catnapping.), anyone with interest in critically discussing video games. Maybe, like us, the group consists of people that are interested in game design. Maybe you invite your friends that love games, but haven’t ventured into the realm of formal discussion. The more the people you have with different interests, the more likely you are to get a new take on a game.
Pick your favorite periodic adjective. We’d recommend starting with monthly meetings, but you can meet as often as you like. Really. We don’t mind. See if we care. It’s not like you invited us.
Anyway. Pick a time that works best for your group. Sometime in the evening, say around happy hour, with a delicious beverage and snacks sounds good to us. We’d reckon that allowing for two hours should be enough discussion. If a topic is particularly engaging you can always spread it out over multiple meetings.
It’s up to you to work out a schedule that works for your group. Scheduling apps like Doodle.com can be helpful for coordinating busy schedules and finding a time that works for everyone in your group.
In your home, in your friends’ homes (assuming they’re part of the meeting…), in your garage, at a local pub.
It’s nice to meet somewhere with a television and a game system to play the game you will discuss. Showing video of your favorite parts of the game can be nice too. If you want to do that, try to plan ahead and get a save near the part you want to discuss or check for video playthroughs on YouTube.
If you meet outside your home make sure you check with the establishment beforehand. Give them a headcount and check if it’s ok. Be sure to spend a little scrilla and tip well. Be aware of other customers.
Because video games deserve a critical reading. Discussions force all of us to crystallize our views from vague notions of “It’s good,” to “The fog of war mechanic in this game vastly improves the strategic elements, strengthening the multiplayer meta-game.” (Your mileage may vary.)
Sometimes you’ll get to suggest your favorite game. Others may deride your choice, but they will get their chance too. Heck someone may even like the games you suggest, discussing an intriguing aspect that was lost on you. Then the others in your club will suggest other games. You never know, you may just find a game that you like. If you’re anything like us, assigning a game and being accountable to comment on it can also help curb the constant growth of your Steam library.
Maybe one month you’ll find that you hated a game. But take a moment and think about why it isn’t fun. Do you dislike it because you’re bad at puzzle games, or is it unenjoyable because it’s a garbage visual novel whose writer has never heard of the three act structure? These reasons are very different, and both are worth considering. We’re hoping that reflecting on what makes a game good or bad will make us better designers. We do this with most games that we play, but by doing it with friends we can all get feedback on our thoughts; and we guarantee that will make us grow as designers.
What we’ve presented here are a set of guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules or requirements for hosting your own #VGBC. Want to talk about knitting? Cool. Want to discuss your favorite sporting moments? Great. Board games? Lawn darts? More power to you.