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My Job Brings Awkwardness to the Thanksgiving Table

November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving is one out of, maybe, four times a year that I get to see what you would call my “extended family,” despite the fact that they live just a couple miles away. We used to see them more often, but as time has gone on my side of the family has developed strong differences in opinion from the other sides. I’ll leave it at that. However, I discovered something very interesting last night, and that is that talking game design shuts people up faster than putting on a World War II documentary.

It all started with the questions. “What year are you in?” “Are you on a trimester system?” “What school do you go to again?” And all the other questions that not only have I answered a hundred times over but to which you definitely paid no attention when I answered them the first 99 times. So this time, I decided to NDA my answers. A meh here, a blink there, the occasional whatever. Then from the other side of the table came questions about resources I needed for my board games and expensive solutions to finding those pieces. However, nobody knew what I needed the pieces for, exactly, and that’s when I realized the ultimate solution to shut everybody up: tell them in detail what I’m doing.

I realize this can’t always be done, especially when you’re under NDA, but wow did it work. When I was asked what I needed little wine bottles for, I said that I needed them for molotov cocktails. When I was asked what a molotov cocktail is, I explained in detail not only what it is, but grabbed the wine bottle on the table and demonstrated – in detail – how to make one. Needless to say nobody wanted to talk to me again after that.

I’ve been trying to imagine the possibilities ever since. The card game I am developing will not only clear the room but also make people disown me. The sidescroller I am developing would return the thanksgiving food to the realm from whence it came. Heck, I could probably put the room to sleep by talking about balancing spreadsheets.

The only group of people that this would not work on is, of course, fellow game designers. It’s a good thing, then, that I like my fellow game designers and they don’t bother asking questions that they don’t really care about. Game designers are the family you wish you had, but if you have one in your family, you apparently want nothing to do with them. Such a Catch 22. That is unless you yourself are a game designer. The rules are different for us because we designed them, documented them, balanced them, and probably even programmed then in when you weren’t looking. Thus, we win. Always.

I do recommend trying this out the next time somebody is heckling you with questions at some kind of event, especially if they do not play or make games. It’s fascinating to see the human race’s response to the kind of stuff we do.


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One Comment
  1. Mark Silverstein - law designer permalink

    In the future, everyone will be like a game designer at a family Thanksgiving dinner for 15 minutes.

    On second thought, NOT.

    At least people don’t fall all over you with their game design problems seeking free advice. I mean, like, how many people have that problem? Contrast with being unmasked as lawyer at family gathering; that leaves you potentially in same situation as if you are the front door greeter at a Wall-Mart when the store opens to mob of “bargain hunters” at 5 am the morning after Thanksgiving, unless you can quickly shout “no advice without payment of retainer!”

    My advice: avoid the questions and clear the room before you start talking shop. Grab that Afrika Korps/Rommel video, put it in the DVD player, turn up the volume so everyone can hear the night barrage outside El Alamein, and call everyone in to watch.

    Then open the front door. WIDE.

    Guarantee: you will score the best slices of pumpkin pie (or functional equivalent) and have the room all to yourself, and no one will know you are a game designer.

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