Sequels Don't Need to be Better to be Good

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It’s hard to make sequels. Adding more of the original game can make the formula stale - the sequel will feel more like DLC. Making something entirely new may alienate the original audience, and you may lose the core of what made your game fun. Even making something new-ish, with several core concepts maintained, can fall short of the original if your audience’s tastes have shifted over time. Plus, the novelty or surprise of the first playthrough is often a significant portion of a game’s enjoyment - an advantage that direct sequels won’t have.

Therefore, it’s pretty common for a sequel or expansion to not top the original game. It just happens. But also… I think that’s okay.

I see sequel frenzy most often in the game industry - the assumption that each new thing will top that which goes before. And personally I blame boring videogame marketing tactics like MORE BULLET. IMPROVED AI. SOFTER DOG… which understandably has instilled in players a mood that they’ll have even MORE fun with this new game than the original. A formula for disappointment, I think.

The second dog may not be as fluffy as you hoped, but he’s still a very good Dog

The second dog may not be as fluffy as you hoped, but he’s still a very good Dog

Yes, sequels can be worse. Expansions and seasons, in particular, are probably going to fall short of the original experience. But that doesn’t mean the game itself is necessarily awful. It may even be excellent, the second-best game you’ve ever played. It it just may not better than the original. It may just miss a few of the notes that hooked you in the first place.

I think what kills sequels is often that expectation of strict improvement, that pervasive tinge of comparison. It’s not our fault as players that we have this expectation in the first place, but if we can set it aside and appreciate what’s in front of us in the moment, it can help make the latest experience still feel meaningful on its own merits.

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What kind of post-game player are you?

Just like how there are plenty of reasons to play a game, there are plenty of methods to enjoy them too. Today we’ll explore some ways we enjoy games outside of an actual play session. which ones can you relate to the most?

Free fortunes inside!


Meta content

(At this point I spend more time reading about Magic: the Gathering than playing)

(At this point I spend more time reading about Magic: the Gathering than playing)

There’s tons of game-related information that exists outside of the game itself. Things like statistics, analyses of strategy, heuristics for design, or background knowledge about the development cycle are all bits of media that are stored outside of the game’s direct experience.

You’ll know you enjoy games for their meta content if you find that your excitement about a game spikes when reading about strategy and build optimization, discovering a long documentary about the game or recognizing that Jennifer Hale is voicing this character too. You may also spend a lot of time theorizing about future content or scouring for dev talks and patch notes even if you only play for 20 minutes a day.

Your fortune: you’re quite efficient at the things you work on, and are particularly adept at problem-solving and preparing… but only if you’re passionate about the topic at hand. My recommendation is to extend your researching habits to involve things that you don’t already love - maybe you’ll discover a way to enjoy it more.

Extending the game

Cross-media engagement is common and awesome. That’s fanart, fanfic, cosplay, writing theory or even designing your own gameplay tweaks (ie custom classes or mods). Sometimes a game is over before you’re ready to say goodbye, and it hurts to still have that yearning for engagement when you’ve taken all you could from the canon.

 
 

So making new things (and consuming the content that others make) is a way to stay engaged and explore the world a little bit longer. Other times a game has a broken mechanic and/or Cassandra is inexplicably straight, and so stuff like mods and fic provide ways for a game to sit better.

Extending the game through non-canon creations is a common way that people continue the love. You’ll know this is you if you haven’t touched a game for years but continue writing/reading/crafting/talking about it to this day. Sometimes you may find yourself opening up the game just to specifically grab content and reference materials for your fan additions, and sometimes you follow a bunch of subreddits for the fanart even if you’re five patch notes behind.

Your fortune: You’re a creative soul, and that includes if you only consume fan content instead of making it. The very act of consumption is generative, as you need a certain level of creativity in order to fully enjoy a lot of stuff that is technically non-canonical. My recommendation is to always keep at least two creative outlets open at all times, as it’ll be integral to regulating your emotions in the long-term.

Engaging with the community

Engaging with community is one of the main appeals for being a sports fan. This is particularly true when play sessions for a type of game (for example, football) are forced to be limited to a few hours per week. There is definitely something to be said about the types of lasting friendships that can sprout from a mutual understanding and appreciation for the same thing.

(Bring it back)

(Bring it back)

Game communities have their own flavours of course, but in the end it’s amazing that you can meet a stranger and immediately jump into a conversation around a mutual interest.

You’ll know you play a game for the community when a shift in that community makes your game experience immediately better or worse. You may potentially spend more time on forums than your game, and you may have one or more articles of clothing or desk decorations that relates to your favourite game[s].

Your fortune: The obvious thing to say is that you’re social, but it’s more than that - you’re a person who places value in being part of something greater, in forming strong connections, in finding respect and strength as a unified whole. Or you’re lonely, and trolling is how you interact with people - that’s the other type of person. My recommendation is to try to be a part of multiple communities - it can be devastating for something to happen when all of your eggs are in that one basket.

Gaining life experience

This is the weirdest one - there are games that are enjoyed inexplicably, internally, in which you have fully absorbed some part of its contents and you feel it has actually changed you… whether or not you can explain exactly how.

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For example, games like Yume Nikki, Soma, Firewatch etc aren’t too long, and they’re not necessarily fun in a normal way. But they can be meaningful, and the experiences that happen in those games can stick with you for a long time. (Also this relates to any game - even if it looks ‘random’ to others, such as gaining meaning from Tetris).

Everyone comes across games that change their life, or that are mostly ‘enjoyable’ for its post-game impact on you rather than its literal gameplay. Some people are particularly attuned to this experience though, and you’ll know if you are.

Your fortune: Did you read a lot when you were younger? You have an apt ability to cross-apply the experiences of others to your own life, especially in fiction. Your passion and empathy is palpable and powerful, and though it may often feel like both blessing and curse, it can also be a compass to point you towards your values and goals. My recommendation is to treat your own needs the same way you’d treat a friend’s.)

Everyone does all of these to some extent - which method do you relate to the most for your favourite games?

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What boardgame ‘mods’ would you want?

Do you modify your boardgames? Swapping out different physical components, making custom cards, adding new resources? There’s a few common reasons to do so, and you may recognize some of these.

  • Rejigging your storage methods (Gloomhaven being the most obvious example, but pretty much every game has something changed)

  • Physical components for ease of use (the most infamous being the Terraforming Mars currency mat or the Star Realms health tracker)

  • Scoring rules for fun or balance (like the all-or-nothing Carcassone rule)

  • Adding new fanmade content (like custom D&D classes)

  • Changing art for the sake of personalization or classiness (like altered Magic: the Gathering cards)

Deep and robust.

Deep and robust.

But compared to the deep and robust modding community for videogames - especially games like Skyrim or The Sims - boardgames tend to be a lot less popular to mess with. We swap components and make house rules for scoring often, but don’t often go mechanically deeper than that for the majority of our games. Only in tabletop RPGs do custom classes, custom enemies, custom storylines and scenarios get created and shared. Why not other boardgames? I believe there is one main reason:

There’s no unified infrastructure for sharing board game mods.

For example, there’s no primary website for sharing such information. Most board game sites don’t have a section to host fanmade content, and usually the ones that do tend to be ‘competitive house rules’ for balancing (no Rusviet industrial, etc) - there’s little in the way of new classes, campaigns, actions, rules, etc without lots of digging. There’s also little in place to easily print out or acquire any new components that may be necessary for a mod to work.

And it’s a shame! If we had better methods of sharing information about board game mods, I believe the compounding knowledge would encourage creators to put more time and love into making modifications - knowing that your work may be beneficial and appreciated by others can be a powerful motivator, and can help us get more longevity out of even our oldest boardgames.

If there was a more unified place to share board game mods, what would you look for?

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