Live-Blogging Lesson #12: Just the Facts, Please

2 November 2015 | 25 Comments

jakub-rozalski-1920-duael-hammer-smallFor any crowdfunding project in any category, there is at least one key place on the internet where people could (and should) be talking about your project. I’m not talking about Kickstarter, Facebook, Twitter, or reddit–though all of those places are important. I’m talking about the place where people go to specifically talk about stuff relating to your project category.

For board games, that place is a site called BoardGameGeek (I wrote about how a creator can navigate and use the site here), or BGG for short.

One of the key features of BGG is that you can subscribe to pretty much anything: a game, a designer, an artist, a company, a specific thread in the forums, etc. I subscribe to all of my games, so I get to see every post and every comment about them.

I’ve learned over time (and I’m still learning) about which threads I should chime in on and those for which I should let the conversation evolve organically without me commenting. If someone asks a question, I’m happy to answer it, though often other people answer before I even have the chance.

During a Kickstarter campaign, there are often lots of people on BGG who are trying to figure out whether or not they should back the game, and they turn to BGG for those questions. Different people ask these questions in many different ways, ranging from “What’s your favorite thing about this game?” to “This game looks terrible. Why are people backing it?” I let other people respond to those posts. :)

There’s one type of thread that I’m always compelled to reply to: Those where there is a misconception or inaccurate statement about the game. These threads are usually the result of someone being confused. It’s easy to clear up confusion.

But sometimes these misconceptions are expressed as unfounded attacks on the game (or me, or Stonemaier Games). Those are the ones I really struggle with. The words “misconceptions” and “unfounded” are really important here–if someone is speaking the truth in their attack, I just have to suck it up and deal with it. But not with unfounded misconceptions.

I’ve realized, though, that one of my weaknesses is responding to these unfounded attacks in a detached way. Because I’m not detached from it. I’m very much attached–I put the “maier” in Stonemaier Games!

But I’ve come to realize that the best way for me to clear up unfounded misconceptions is to simply state the facts (if someone else hasn’t already stated them). I’m not saying that I always do this–I’m just as flawed as anyone else–but it’s my goal to just state the facts and then leave the conversation. Keep it clean, detached, and unemotional. If the bullies of the world want to continue bullying, that’s up to them. But at least the facts are there on the record for everyone else to read.

That’s just me, though–I’m sure there are other ways to deal with unbounded attacks. What’s your approach?

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25 Comments on “Live-Blogging Lesson #12: Just the Facts, Please

  1. Thank you for the great post. I have definitely made the mistake of getting involved in BGG conversations that I shouldn’t have despite liking to think that I maintain a professional tone. I suppose that our boardgames cut so close to home given how much time and effort we put into developing them. It makes me glad I did not go further into my initial career choice as a game critic…I just find it so hard to criticize things once you have went through the creation process yourself.

  2. Jamey ~ from your business acumen to the way you treat your Backers, you continue to astound us with your professionalism. In addition to the performing arts, my daughter wants to pursue a business minor in college. She’s seen me with my Kickstarter Projects and I mentioned to her…”if you want to read one book on doing this (KS) right, read Jamey’s book…well, after I’m done with it.”

    I’ve often thought about writing a book…”Virtues & Vices in the Workplace” given people’s greed and desire for promotion often at the expense of others (among other things). The reason I bring this up is because I tell others who are interested in starting a KS project to consider the Stonemaier way…don’t just develop a community of customers…build a community.

    With reagrd to your responses, I agree that simply stating the facts in as unbiased, detached way as possible is the single best response. Frankly, given your emotional-tie to Scythe (and all of your other games), you remain extremely positive in the face of set-backs, bad press, and other adversity. Keep your chin up, my friend.


    1. Joe: You may not have seen some of my finer moments on BGG. :) I’ve definitely made some mistakes there! But I appreciate your kind words.

      That book concept sounds fascinating–I’d be happy to connect you to my publisher if you write it.

  3. I definitely realize it’s difficult to deal with criticism. One thing that is going to be a double-edged sword for you with the success of Scythe – that you’ve already seen to some degree – is that as a game gets more popular, it also gets more attacks, for whatever reason. The deal on Scythe is amazing so you may have people jumping in not exactly sure what they’re getting. For some of those people, they’ll expect Scythe to be something that it isn’t. And they’ll attack it for being what you’ve clearly stated it was all along.

    I think your strategy of just trying to be objective will be super important then.

  4. That’s something I would have a hard time with. I get very attached to things I spend a while creating, and so I tend to take critical comments (a little too) personally.
    I try to remember that no matter what it is I create, love, do, or believe, there’s someone in the world who will find it utterly deplorable. That sounds much more pessimistic now that I see it in writing, but what I mean is that there will always be people that hate something, no matter what it is.
    I loved your post from a while back about the commencement speech for your high school (the “you are your own gatekeeper” one). I don’t remember all of it, but you discussed how easy it is today for creators to reach their market. And it’s great how it enables consumers to be so involved with content creators, but it also makes it possible for the detractors to do so as well.

    1. Jeremiah: I think you’re completely right. I think the board game industry–while largely a very loving place, also brings out something in a small number of people where they will hate on something they haven’t even tried. I’m totally fine if someone doesn’t like my game after they’ve played it. But it makes no sense to me that someone could hate on a game they haven’t played.

  5. I like how you approach misconceptions by stating only the facts, and I think it sort of forces that person to analyze their own question or comment, and reflect upon it.

    When I ran my campaign back in July, I received a few posts on BGG that involved some minor misconceptions on a few things. I saw this as a public relations opportunity, so I quickly responded in a polite and honest manner. Their responses back were all very positive, and some of those who had reservations or misconceptions ended up being some of my best supporters because of my response.

    However, I was fortunate not to have any attacks, and like you said it’s probably best to keep emotions detached in those types of cases. People tend to respond to emotion, and if you don’t show any, I think it sort of defuses theirs. It’s certainly tough though, because when you put your heart and soul into something and someone squashes it, it’s really hard not to show emotion.

    1. Mike: I like your perspective on using it as a PR opportunity–that’s a great way to think about it! I also like this line: “People tend to respond to emotion, and if you don’t show any, I think it sort of defuses theirs.” I need to get better at that.

  6. Great post, Jamey. A nice reminder of my need to get more BGG activity in my repertoire. What advice do you have for bringing attention/traffic to a BGG game page that isn’t getting many visits just yet?

    1. Thanks, Geoffrey. Hm, that’s a good question. I would suggest that you try to get an image on BGG’s homepage. It can be hard to do, because you need an image of a final component, but if you have that, it can really help.

      1. In fact, I do have finished images—the KS campaign was a success! The game is out! Just looking for more avenues for promotion and spreading knowledge. The BGG page is live and has a few photos. Just somewhat inactive at this point. :)

    2. I agree with Jamey, posting a few good images is very important as many people are highly visual. Additionally, start a few threads or videos (on your game’s page) talking about various elements of your game, and you definitely want to submit your game to at least a few relevant geeklists.

      Also, engaging in some of the game design forums can be helpful too, where you can often post links to your game and pictures. I usually start by asking a general question about some design element in my game, and let the people ask me about my game. That’s when I might say “thanks for asking… this is the title of my game, and here is the game’s page on BGG”. I posted a lot of things in the design forums on BGG when I was developing my game, mainly for feedback, and it really helped get some traffic to my game’s BGG page early on :)

  7. Excellent advice. It’s hard to remain detached sometimes, but these are moments where professionalism can really shine. I like to give myself time between reading the comment and responding. I’ve found that if I respond to a negative comment too quickly there is still too much emotion behind it.

      1. Jamey, I’ve been teaching myself to do the same thing that Dani was talking about. Sleeping on it is usually my strategy, if I can manage it.

  8. Gosh it really is hard when it’s an attack. Or when it’s a sweeping attack like “the art is terrible” but ultimately really only based on the smallest detail (like the art on a single card or token). I usually wish my wife could respond to all those for me, she’s nicer than I am. – But I imagine the more people you have following your game the larger in quantity the “Vocal minority” are. – Tough thing. My Wife’s advice: Keep the chin up, and focus on the positive comments, the high overall ratings, and just politely correct when someone’s got it wrong and ignore where you can’t chime in (like rating comments).

    1. The ratings comments are the worst, aren’t they?! I really should never read those, but sometimes I’m like, “Why did this person rate it a 1?” and then I read in their comment that they’ve never played it but they don’t drink wine or they heard something bad about the game, so 1. That’s it. No biggie. It’s not like this is my livelihood or anything. :)

      1. “I haven’t played Euphoria, but I wouldn’t want to live in a dystopian society, so I’ll rate it a 1.” – Someone, probably.

      2. Yeah, the majority of games that receive a “1” rating seem to be entirely unjustifiable. According to BGG, their definition of a “1” rating is: “1 – Defies description of a game. You won’t catch me dead playing this. Clearly broken.”

        I remember discussing this with a game designer/publisher a while back after someone rated his game a “1” on BGG. The game did very well on KS, had all fantastic external reviews.. even Tom Vasel loved it. So it was clearly an attack for whatever reason, coming from a negligent BGG user.

        I propose that BGG implement some kind of added layer of approval for “1” ratings. Perhaps you would have to have a pier approval of your rating before it’s posted, where you would have to provide a written reason as to why you give it a “1”. The pier review could be made up of a group of BGG users or even some of the admin, who oversee and manage misuse of the system.

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