Why open source board games?

Board games by default have a participative nature. But the format of the industry and the products they sell do not allow for this participation. Many those who play have ideas about how it could be sharper and be more fun. l want to know these ideas. Not because I do not have enough ideas of my own. But to explore the new directions a game can go in it has to be underlined that contributions are welcome.

Some body else having an idea of how we are likely to have a “Good Time” better than us is quite an improbable thing. We know which experience will be more fun and we also which not. Sometimes these ideas will be known precisely and sometimes they will be hazy. But whatever the case be we cannot avoid listening to what players have to say. Games generally have “play-tests” before actively launching the game publicly. But the stated aim of “play-tests” is to find out if the game works if and the occasion is fun for all the participants. These objectives make spontaneous play difficult and makes forced play more probable. Designing a game is projected to be an expert act. So, the expert conducts the “play-test” and s/he further analyses the event to decide which feedback to accept and which not.

Seeing a game design studio as an expert agency also alienates people from the act of making a game and limiting their capacity of contributing to a game. I see the game-making activity similar to the process of coming together of a folk story. There are numerous contributors at numerous times and truly speaking the entire process of putting together the game is a spontaneous activity which is not driven by any one person. Just like a folk story can become famous or well-adopted through any of its renditions, a folk game can capture the imagination of the public at large through any of its versions or any of the contributors. My intention behind open-sourcing games is to hopefully let some of them become folk-games. Become distilled, well-oiled machines that work with the people it intends to work for.

One of the biggest obstacles in games is the outreach. For entertainment-based games it is the same market where Corn Flakes, Dark Chocolates and mushrooms jostle for consumer attention and when it warrants also sales offers. Being a small brand with not too much of a marketing budget, we cannot spend the money to reach the right audience. We have to give up ideas of being a small, independent press that pretty much what it does, when it does. We have to become a facility of a people who have made sufficiently big commitments instead of only the financial risk of bulk production — survival is more important than victory over others who are also trying to get by and make it through to the other side.

Open source games have two main aspects which do what is known as “building in public”— documentation and testing. I will talk about both in subsequent posts.

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