The Vintage Game Club has been going on for more than a year and a half now, and I’ve had a great time with it. But, as with any endeavour, its first appearance in the world leads to areas where the initial plan was, perhaps, not the best; so we’re experimenting with a new way to organize the participation.
- The moderators were busy enough that the between-game decision periods lasted rather longer than I was comfortable with.
- On several occassions, we selected games that people didn’t want to stick with, with even the game’s biggest proponents in the voting dropping off quickly.
- The voting process itself wasn’t very satisfactory: console gamers and PC gamers couldn’t agree on what to play, and the need to satisfy a large number of people and the rhythm of play meant that we couldn’t choose games that were too hard or to short or too long. (The Another World suitability discussion was the best example of this latter problem.)
Looking at all of these, I saw one theme: voting. It was directly causing problems (point three), it didn’t give particularly satisfactory results (point two), and it made the moderators a bottleneck (point one). Which raises the question: why are we voting?
I’m not sure we ever made that explicit, but the idea behind voting was that it would encourage a reasonably large number of people to play and discuss a game together, even if they wouldn’t necessarily play it otherwise. And we had some success with that, at least initially, but I don’t think we’ve really done a great job on that metric. In particular, the mental model implicit in that view is that people’s preferences in what to play are relatively flexible; but there are important ways in which that’s not the case, the biggest of which is that not everybody has access to every relevant game platform.
So we’re experimenting with stepping away with the model that we want as many people to play a given game as possible: instead, we’re switching to a model that we’ll work with people’s pre-existing desires to play a given game, and we’re trying to make as welcoming a space as possible for different groups of people to play older games together. This way, even a small group of people who want to find a home for discussing a game will be able to do it at the VGC.
The selection mechanism isn’t the only change: in particular, our change to requiring champions will also, I hope, help directly with all three of the pain points above.
Incidentally, I do hope that, even with these changes, we’ll still have occasional games that get a broad spectrum of participation—the BioShock playthrough was a reminder of how well that can work. I think that is a valuable model, but I no longer think that it should be our only model for a successful playthrough.
This post has not been revised since publication.