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rinelk
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How to improve?

Thu Jun 02, 2016 3:05 am

I'm thinking I have enough spare brain at the moment that I'd like to consider how I might serve you better. Should I spend some time working on my photography skills for boardgame-related images? Develop a bit more image manipulation facility for more creative stuff than mere screenshots? Is there a journalism (or other) class I should consider taking? Is there a way to learn wit? What would advance the cause of Pocket Tactics, Strategy Gamer, and (to a lesser extent, because I'm me) Wargamer?

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OBollocks
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Re: How to improve?

Thu Jun 02, 2016 5:24 pm

Any thoughts about a method for displaying consecutive photos of a board game state which communicates how the game has changed from photo to photo? Perhaps a very simple overlay or some kind of region-colouring system highlighting control/forces? I was idly flipping through my terrible LoD pictures and thinking if you didn't look carefully, you might not be able to tell a whole lot about how the game was progressing, certainly if you didn't know the game a little you would be totally in the dark. Only of worth if you're planning more board game content though, obviously.
Is there a way to learn wit?
I (and everybody who reads my drivel on the forum) wish.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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rinelk
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Re: How to improve?

Thu Jun 02, 2016 5:39 pm

Any thoughts about a method for displaying consecutive photos of a board game state which communicates how the game has changed from photo to photo? Perhaps a very simple overlay or some kind of region-colouring system highlighting control/forces? I was idly flipping through my terrible LoD pictures and thinking if you didn't look carefully, you might not be able to tell a whole lot about how the game was progressing, certainly if you didn't know the game a little you would be totally in the dark. Only of worth if you're planning more board game content though, obviously.
Is there a way to learn wit?
I (and everybody who reads my drivel on the forum) wish.
If you're doing a play-by-play, I'd think having a system of icons for each of the actions (presumably collapsing some of them; "Gather" and "Muster" could both be "+", for example, though I suppose you could color-code them for the factions) might help. That would require a little less reference to the previous image.

If you could have a fixed camera position, it would be potentially very cool to do a slideshow/animation, maybe side-by-side with the board and the event cards. Even then, though, you're relying on detection of changes, which our eyes are good at, but not as good as they are at detecting motion. So it would probably be even better if you included the icons for the actions.

Be a ton of work to do well, I expect.

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biffpow
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To "improve" or not to improve....

Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:09 pm

Rather brave question, Kelsey.

Before I answer it in a way that is specific to you and PT, I have to point out a common problem that a lot of us have with technology and the interwebs today: the people running things keep "improving" their products. This is a problem because many of the "improvements" are not really positive changes at all, but changes for the sake of change, as if their UI and graphics people need things to work on and so they come up with alternate (not better) ways of presenting their products to make it look like they're doing something useful (which they are not).

The best example of this is itunes. I hope we can all agree that it used to be a lot easier to use. Now it is a mishmash of options and presentations, most of which focus on the very visual at the expense of information and UI. The same for Netflix. It used to be that you could get on a page for a movie you were curious about and see their review, the reviews of other people, and things that people who liked that movie also liked. Now you get all-visual sorting with very little information and no easy way to self-organize the increasing number of movies and shows available.

But this is the rant of a 95 year-old luddite, so I'll bring it back around to what you asked--does Kelsey need improvement? Do we need a Kelsey V2.0? Not really. You're consistently one of the best writers on PT. You caption your images really well, and you aren't afraid to bury the lede (which is to say that you will make us actually read a bit before revealing your opinion in a review), making for much more entertaining reading. As far as graphics go, which seems to be your main point of concern, I don't really come to PT for mind-blowing graphics, and I don't think anyone does. That you want to somehow improve the graphics is admirable, but I don't really think anyone is clamoring for that.

If we have to visit that subject, then the things that I'd like to see "improved" are to make the graphics all clickable for enlarging (as with the olde site), and to maybe allow us to "tag" the graphics ourselves. Both of these would have been useful for the recent game you made with the image of all the different board game pieces (which I failed miserably at but enjoyed a lot). Of course, graphics tagging (am I even using the right nomenclature?) can get messy, but it does make for more potential interactivity. I can imagine people responding to the captions or making up their own. We have clever readers here on PT (self excluded).

As for the rest of PT (which you didn't ask for) (think of this as bonus content!) (you think you want it, but then never watch it), my biggest suggestion for improvement is to change the homepage layout. It's awful. We've all given it plenty of time to grow on us, and it has not, and it's just deplorable that if you post more than 2 stories in a day, many readers will never see the first because it gets pushed into an exponentially smaller box below the first scroll. That's really bad design, and it's a disservice to the excellent content being posted here.

Posting on the forums is clumsy too. Replying to anything opens up an entirely new page with no connection to anything. What I mean is, I'm typing this without the ability to scroll up and see the your original post, any threaded comments to your post, or any article that such a post might have originated with. This is just poorly designed as well. It's like I'm on a Prodigy message board in 1994.

Of course, I realize you can't fix these things because I have the distinct impression that PT is unable to control its own design at this point, and I accept that and will keep using the site anyway. I'm just (rudely) taking advantage of this opportunity to post things I wish would be changed for the better.

As for your own personal "improvements", I don't really see a lot of room for that. Seriously. I would hate to see you become like itunes, after all : )

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OBollocks
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Re: To "improve" or not to improve....

Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:22 pm

Rather brave question, Kelsey.

Before I answer it in a way that is specific to you and PT, I have to point out a common problem that a lot of us have with technology and the interwebs today: the people running things keep "improving" their products. This is a problem because many of the "improvements" are not really positive changes at all, but changes for the sake of change, as if their UI and graphics people need things to work on and so they come up with alternate (not better) ways of presenting their products to make it look like they're doing something useful (which they are not).
The Germans have a word for this, because they are German: verschlimmbesserung. An improvement that makes things worse.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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rinelk
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Re: How to improve?

Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:40 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, Biff. Part of where this is coming from for me is that I'm finally starting to feel like I should sort of think of myself as a journalist. I haven't really done that yet, but I feel like it comes with some responsibilities. For one, I have no friggin' idea what the foundations of journalistic ethics are, and I feel like I need one in order to apply them to anomalous situations like the one we find ourselves in. So maybe I should just read a book on the topic, something like Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach. But maybe I should take a class.

Part of what I'm realizing is that I don't understand enough about the business of making games to report on it very well. For example, Mike Futter at Game Informer just wrote a great explanation of Vivendi's takeover of Gameloft and increasing stake in Ubisoft. I don't have the background knowledge to write something like that, but it seems like one of the ways to get a sense for the shape of the industry which doesn't rely purely on PR or play of released games. So maybe I should work on how to report on business.

Images are on my mind because I've been messing around with them a little more than usual, but that's happenstance. I do think we could use visual methods of communication better, but knowing that you're mostly going to be seeing unaltered screenshots from games has value, too. Anyway, all of this is my way of saying that you're absolutely right--our readers are very sharp. So, as I sit around wondering whether I should try to learn to program my own game, or take journalism classes, or something else, I figure I should ask smart people with a stake in my decision. :D

You're right that the technical stuff is out my direct control, but it's good to have a sense for what we should ask about.

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biffpow
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Re: How to improve?

Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:40 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, Biff. Part of where this is coming from for me is that I'm finally starting to feel like I should sort of think of myself as a journalist. I haven't really done that yet, but I feel like it comes with some responsibilities. For one, I have no friggin' idea what the foundations of journalistic ethics are, and I feel like I need one in order to apply them to anomalous situations like the one we find ourselves in. So maybe I should just read a book on the topic, something like Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach. But maybe I should take a class.

Part of what I'm realizing is that I don't understand enough about the business of making games to report on it very well. For example, Mike Futter at Game Informer just wrote a great explanation of Vivendi's takeover of Gameloft and increasing stake in Ubisoft. I don't have the background knowledge to write something like that, but it seems like one of the ways to get a sense for the shape of the industry which doesn't rely purely on PR or play of released games. So maybe I should work on how to report on business.

Images are on my mind because I've been messing around with them a little more than usual, but that's happenstance. I do think we could use visual methods of communication better, but knowing that you're mostly going to be seeing unaltered screenshots from games has value, too. Anyway, all of this is my way of saying that you're absolutely right--our readers are very sharp. So, as I sit around wondering whether I should try to learn to program my own game, or take journalism classes, or something else, I figure I should ask smart people with a stake in my decision. :D

You're right that the technical stuff is out my direct control, but it's good to have a sense for what we should ask about.
One of the greatest things about this site is that you are allowed (possibly encouraged even, I don't know) to consider this as a contributor--that you want to think about things more like a journalist and less like a reviewer. And that you can create articles like Cards Aren't Cards, which currently stands at 23 comments (far outpacing most other articles here). Most contributors to most content-rich sites do not have that ability, and that you are taking advantage of it is a boon to all of us readers.

That you are thinking so carefully about how to best do that is a pretty strong reflection on the level of quality you put into your work overall (I suspect a lot of readers will agree with me on this).

What you appear to be thinking about is "journalism" vs. "site postings". Or possibly reporting vs. posting press release commentary. This is no way meant to suggest I don't enjoy all of those things on this site, only that there's less reporting here than on Game Informer, using your example. PT tends to stick to "Developer X told us this is happening, it looks cool, witty comments, let's keep an eye out for this in three months." And I like that. But I'd like in-depth reporting and analysis too.

That said, I don't know that a lot of PT readers come here (or want to come here) for that type of article. I find it interesting, and I'd enjoy seeing it here quite a bit, actually. Would other readers? How would you describe the characteristics that interest you about game industry news and make you want to write about it?

I'd also be curious to know what things/circumstances have caused you to start thinking about ethics of journalism with regards to your work on PT?

I admittedly have no idea what a Journalism class today would look like. Having taken such classes decades ago and even worked for a time as a journalist, my conception of what that is today is completely different than what it was taught as back then. I know people who blog and think of themselves as journalists (though I don't think of them as such). I think that, like "pornography", the word "journalism" means very different things to each person who approaches it.

All of that being said, I'd agree with you that it's time to start thinking of yourself as a journalist. But I wouldn't let that label change how you approach your writing.

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rinelk
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Re: How to improve?

Thu Jun 02, 2016 10:46 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, Biff. Part of where this is coming from for me is that I'm finally starting to feel like I should sort of think of myself as a journalist. I haven't really done that yet, but I feel like it comes with some responsibilities. For one, I have no friggin' idea what the foundations of journalistic ethics are, and I feel like I need one in order to apply them to anomalous situations like the one we find ourselves in. So maybe I should just read a book on the topic, something like Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach. But maybe I should take a class.

Part of what I'm realizing is that I don't understand enough about the business of making games to report on it very well. For example, Mike Futter at Game Informer just wrote a great explanation of Vivendi's takeover of Gameloft and increasing stake in Ubisoft. I don't have the background knowledge to write something like that, but it seems like one of the ways to get a sense for the shape of the industry which doesn't rely purely on PR or play of released games. So maybe I should work on how to report on business.

Images are on my mind because I've been messing around with them a little more than usual, but that's happenstance. I do think we could use visual methods of communication better, but knowing that you're mostly going to be seeing unaltered screenshots from games has value, too. Anyway, all of this is my way of saying that you're absolutely right--our readers are very sharp. So, as I sit around wondering whether I should try to learn to program my own game, or take journalism classes, or something else, I figure I should ask smart people with a stake in my decision. :D

You're right that the technical stuff is out my direct control, but it's good to have a sense for what we should ask about.
One of the greatest things about this site is that you are allowed (possibly encouraged even, I don't know) to consider this as a contributor--that you want to think about things more like a journalist and less like a reviewer. And that you can create articles like Cards Aren't Cards, which currently stands at 23 comments (far outpacing most other articles here). Most contributors to most content-rich sites do not have that ability, and that you are taking advantage of it is a boon to all of us readers.

That you are thinking so carefully about how to best do that is a pretty strong reflection on the level of quality you put into your work overall (I suspect a lot of readers will agree with me on this).

What you appear to be thinking about is "journalism" vs. "site postings". Or possibly reporting vs. posting press release commentary. This is no way meant to suggest I don't enjoy all of those things on this site, only that there's less reporting here than on Game Informer, using your example. PT tends to stick to "Developer X told us this is happening, it looks cool, witty comments, let's keep an eye out for this in three months." And I like that. But I'd like in-depth reporting and analysis too.

That said, I don't know that a lot of PT readers come here (or want to come here) for that type of article. I find it interesting, and I'd enjoy seeing it here quite a bit, actually. Would other readers? How would you describe the characteristics that interest you about game industry news and make you want to write about it?

I'd also be curious to know what things/circumstances have caused you to start thinking about ethics of journalism with regards to your work on PT?

I admittedly have no idea what a Journalism class today would look like. Having taken such classes decades ago and even worked for a time as a journalist, my conception of what that is today is completely different than what it was taught as back then. I know people who blog and think of themselves as journalists (though I don't think of them as such). I think that, like "pornography", the word "journalism" means very different things to each person who approaches it.

All of that being said, I'd agree with you that it's time to start thinking of yourself as a journalist. But I wouldn't let that label change how you approach your writing.
Mostly, I'm thinking that I don't have any explicit standards of professionalism, and thinking of myself as a journalist may help clarify some of those. "Professionals have standards. Be polite. Be efficient. Have a plan to kill everyone you meet." I intend never to have standards of professionalism which will prevent fart jokes, so I'm not taking this too seriously, but still. I know I shouldn't review a game based on other people's screenshots, but exactly what do I owe my readers when I turn in a review? I think my intuitions on that are pretty good, but they're not perfect. It would help me improve them if I thought about them some more, I think.

As for other sorts of articles, I'd like to write about whatever surprises me. When I heard that Playdek found themselves overcommitted, I was flabbergasted. What's the story behind that, and how did it happen? My assumption is that it had to do with the ambitious JRPG thing they were working on, but I don't know. Did that mess with working conditions there in ways which might have left some of the employees suffering, and, if so, how does that experience illuminate how other development houses might avoid similar issues? This might sound totally naive, but why isn't everybody basically open about everything? Keeping secrets is hard, but virtually everyone seems to do it, so there must be a good reason. Yet the few developers who seem extremely open, inviting others to view as much of their journey as is practical, seem to do well and earn lots of goodwill.

Relatedly, I write for Pocket Tactics. My checks are signed by Slitherine, and I recall being told by Owen (whose name isn't Owen) that he was entering into an agreement in which they would take a part stake in the site, but he would retain editorial control. Are we wholly owned by them now that none of us has heard from Owen (barring another nom de plume)? That's unclear to me. It's less important for me personally than some of the other folks on staff, because my beat (mostly puzzles and boardgame adaptations) overlaps with Slitherine's wheelhouse very little, so I just don't have the opportunity to report on them in a biased way. On top of that, I've never had any direct communication with anyone at Slitherine except in relation to the aforementioned checks or technical support for the website. So the ethical issues about all of that are sort of attenuated for me.

But they're about to be more serious--The Battle for Sector 219 just released on Steam, and will soon come to iOS. It's absolutely on my beat, and I've played hundreds of games of The Battle for Hill 218 and reviewed it when it was released, plus I was a kickstarter backer of the tabletop version of 219, which gave me beta access to the mac version. So I suspect I'm far and away the best reviewer for us to assign to this from an experience perspective, and my hope is that a big, fat declaration of my bias at the start of the review will adequately cover any ethical issues associated with it. But I'm not sure about that, and Metacritic scores pretty effectively eliminate such disclaimers. But the more news and interviews I do, the more I'll be put in the position of having actual interactions with the people whose work I'm reporting on, and there's a tension between avoiding name-dropping out of humility and disclosing connections. For example, Mike Futter, whose article for Game Informer I mentioned above, is a personal friend. I admire his work, but how much of that admiration is related to the fact that I've hung out with him and his family a bunch and like the guy?

Anyway, that's a lot of wankery. I suspect you're right to make me consider that what a lot of people are looking for specifically ISN'T a professional journalist, but a fellow enthusiast who relates to games much the way they do and writes about them, rather than about abstruse questions of journalistic practice. So maybe what I need to do is recognize that I'm overthinking, and go play a game.

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OBollocks
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Re: How to improve?

Fri Jun 03, 2016 3:07 am

I think we are currently seeing a backlash to gaming journalism, because it is at heart still an enthusiast press industry, and expecting impartiality is naive. Although it inched along toward cleaning up its act, there was no impetus except from 'fanatics' (anyone read RAM Raider back in the day? http://ramraider.blogspot.co.uk/ Anyone?) and there was very little benefit to doing so, until the corruption got a little too much and a great many people both inside and outside the industry got sick of it, and now we've got fucking 'ethics in games journalism' which has an awful group of shits behind it. However, a great many places are soldiering on, and the amateurs and pros in games journalism are still very reliant on the games industry for all kinds of support. Very few sites, as much as I can tell, run a ship that is entirely above board (I like my metaphors like my women, mixed and just left everywhere), so most places are still strongly influenced, one way or the other, by publishers/developers. It's even worse in the board game industry.

So you do have an interesting dichotomy, if you want to be impartial and unbiased, which is probably a hopeless endeavour, but it's something to think about. It's certainly easier to do in the board games arena (don't do paid reviews, for instance), but hardly anyone will care because almost the entire extent of board games journalism is acting as an unofficial PR wing for the industry, and it has grown up organically, and there's very little in the way of calls for establishing impartiality. The press is upbeat, uncritical, and very biased. In PC and video gaming, a portion of the press is shifting towards greater impartiality and discussing things many levels deeper than controls wokring gud, 4k 4 lyfe, but there's resistance from a certain sector of the readers to subjecting games to the same critical eye other art forms fall under, while at the same time espousing games as art.

I think if PT did nothing but pump out reviews, it would expose the site to a lot more accusations of being corrupt. The more thoughtful critical pieces PT produces, the more difficult it is to take that accusation seriously. It's not a binary state, no matter what our own charming Shittish Inquisition screams, every outlet is somewhere on the continuum between saintly and institutionally bent. You can still produce works of worth no matter what folk say or even the state of things behind the scenes.
This might sound totally naive, but why isn't everybody basically open about everything?
Part of it is instinctive, part of it is because just about everyone else does it, and part of it is because you can't copyright your game mechanics, and even patents for certain aspects can be granted but still lead to long, expensive lawsuits. There is vicious competition that, while often carried out politely, is still savage.
The beatings will continue until morale improves.

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Wasp
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Re: How to improve?

Fri Jun 03, 2016 9:53 am

I would like to see more reviews, more playthroughs (especially of complicated wargames), and background industry stories , of all types; who's taking over who, why they went bust, science of FTP analytics, it's all good stuff.
I've got used to the homepage, but the forum is still awkward.
I thought the foundations of journalistic ethics were simple - never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
The writing standards here are consistently brilliant though. No need to go on a course.

    

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