An Open Letter to Aspiring Game Controls
Team Snout, in one form or another, has been active in the Bay Area Game community since 1996. We have run three Games of our own: Homicide: Life on the Farm (HLOTF) in May, 2001; FoBiK in October, 2002; and Justice Unlimited in July, 2004. Our next Game, Hogwarts and the Draconian Prophecy, happens in September, 2006.
Just as every Game team needs to find their own level of comfort and preferred strategies for playing The Game—we all have our own "not having fun anymore" thresholds—each Game Control needs to find their own style when running The Game.
It may take a few Games before you become aware of all the variables, at which point you can begin to understand their interactions and how you can tweak them to affect outcomes. We would encourage even experienced GCs to communicate with each other, not only to share "best practices," but also to warn about "things you should never, ever attempt under any circumstances, for it will only end in tears."
I guess there are a few things that every GC has to learn the hard way. Timing is one of the trickiest things to control—we're always tempted to use locations that have a limited window of opportunity (e.g., storage places that don't open until 7:00 AM), but have learned to either accept that they are not viable or be more draconian and proactive about skipping teams over earlier, less interesting clues to make sure they get to see what we think are the coolest locations.
The most important thing to remember is that you will never be able to control everything—this is one big reason we don't attempt to "keep score" during our Games. Clues and locations will be compromised, teams will take much more or much less time than you expected to solve things, cell phones and other technology won't work, and conceptual connections that seemed obvious during GC meetings will be completely obscure to players' sleep-deprived minds at 3:00 AM. Contingency plans are a must.
There will also never be enough time to do everything you want to do. You'll be thinking up cool ideas until the time The Game starts, but you need to prioritize and do the most important things first. Bells and whistles are just parts if you don't have a train to carry them.
Remember that the teams are not only paying money for this, they're giving up an entire weekend and trusting that you will provide a fun, interesting, and unique experience for them—emphasis on fun. Do not betray that trust.
We have a saying within Team Snout: "Only Game Control thinks that's funny." We say this to someone who has an idea for a clue, location, or activity which is absolutely perfect—but only if you're in on the joke. The challenge is not to amuse yourselves; it's to come up with something that 100+ people can all enjoy. Know your audience.
And always remember, no matter how much teams may complain, they love you for running a Game. They respect and admire you for putting so much time and effort into this event. They may never express their gratitude, but just think back to how much fun you had playing your first Game, and imagine all the teams playing in your Game sharing that happiness. Being GC is not a debt that can be repaid—it's a tradition that we carry forward.
The best you can do as Game Control is to be flexible, remember that the goal is for all the teams to have fun, and help players through the worst of times when their energy and motivation are sagging. This is not "your" Game. This is THEIR Game. Never forget that.
Curtis C. Chen