Monthly Archives: June 2014

Reporting from Peaky 2014

Back in April Mo and I attended the Peaky 2014 freeform writing weekend. (I wrote about that last year.) This year Mo and I both pushed boundaries – his group took his idea from last year (“What Happened in Blackpool/Picking up the pieces”) and expanded upon it to create a version (currently unnamed) that works for up to 40 players! (They tested it with 18 – I wasn’t part of the testing group but it sounded like the players were having a lot of fun.)

Upper Rectory Farm Cottages

Upper Rectory Farm Cottages in Leicestershire – where the Peaky Writing Weekends are held.

I, meanwhile, co-wrote The Truth, a team-building business politics game for 15 to 30 players. We were under quite a bit of pressure for a couple of reasons. First, there were only two of us in the team. A normal Peaky writing group has at least four or five members, sometimes more. So having only two people meant that all the writing was done by just the two of us – and we didn’t do enough proofreading. However, it also meant that there were fewer arguments and once we had agreed what we were doing we could just focus.

Second, Jerry, my co-writer, had promised that he would run a game for an annual trade union conference just four weeks later. So the game had to be playable by non-gamers from the very beginning. That’s unusual for Peaky – the games are normally written by gamers for gamers.

Luckily, once Jerry had outlined the kinds of things he wanted to include in his games (we had a sheet of paper listing design goals), I realised that I could use much of what I had learned from previous Peaky writing weekends, and we were able to write and play a workable game over the weekend.

So what’s The Truth about? Well, it’s a politics and negotiation game. The players are all employees and managers of Megalith plc, a financial services company. (What the company actually does is irrelevant.) Everyone starts the game assigned to one of five offices, each of which has office goals(for example to host the annual Christmas party, or to be the best at something). Individual employees also have goals (such as recruiting union members or moving office). Sometimes those goals coincide – but more often they don’t… The characters are purely roles – there are no personalities in the usual sense.

Whenever I run a game at Peaky I always have pen and paper to hand as I find I am taking copious notes – there are always things we missed during the frantic writing. The Truth was no different, and Jerry took my notes and his away to fix them prior to running it for “real”.

From the feedback I’ve seen, The Truth was really well received at the conference. Jerry did quite a bit of work beforehand, and the game was more polished than when we ran it. Where there was criticism, it was aimed mainly at the opening instructions rather than the game itself. (We were probably guilty of that at Peaky as well – but we were playing with experienced gamers who we thought knew how this kind of game worked. But more instructions would have helped.)

I would have liked to seen The Truth being played at the conference to evaluate the market for business-related games. It’s not something that Peaky Games nor Freeform Games have any experience of. Not yet, anyway.

Goodbye Scissors-Paper-Stone

When I grew up we played scissors paper stone. And I still much prefer saying “scissors paper stone” to “rock paper scissors” (which, to be honest, always sounds a bit ugly to me).

But as this chart from Google shows, rock paper scissors has soundly thrashed scissors paper stone. So it’s time to change. But we’re not going to rush into it. We’re a (very) small team with a huge to-do list. So for new games, and as we update old games, we’ll make the change.

Rock Paper Scissors v Scissors Paper Stone

Since the mid 90s, rock-paper-scissors beats scissors-paper-stone

So why do we use rock paper scissors for our resolution system?

We use rock-paper-scissors in our murder mystery games for several reasons:

  • First, almost everyone in the entire world knows how to play.
  • Second, you don’t need any special equipment to play.
  • Third, the only outcomes are win/lose/draw – which is enough for our resolution system. (I’ve written about making sure you know what happens on a draw before here.)

(By the way, we don’t use rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock (or any of the other variants) because it’s neither well known nor intuitive. And we don’t need the added complexity.)

But I’m not very good at RPS?

One of the downsides of RPS (and perhaps it’s biggest failing), is that it isn’t completely random. There’s a psychological angle – people aren’t completely random. Here’s a clip of Derren Brown winning time and time again against football fans. (And here’s a blog post analysing Derren’s technique.)

This article from the BBC highlights some strategies that players adopt that prevent the game from being completely random.

  • Players who win, tend to stick with their winning rock, paper or scissors.
  • And players who lose, tend to change – but they tend to follow the order of rock, paper and scissors. So players losing with paper tend to change to scissors for the next game. (I don’t know if that also applies to those of us who grew up calling the game scissors paper stone…)

So now you know that, you can use this information to beat your friends. (Unless they’ve also read the article, in which case all bets are off.)

In fact, if you’d like to test your skill, try this RPS simulator.

Truly random rock paper scissors

And if you’re still uncomfortable playing rock paper scissors, I picked up these dice on Amazon.

RPS dice

Rock-paper-scissors dice

Steve Hatherley