Four Years and a Hiatus

Four Years and A Hiatus

Introduction

This is the last non-patron post you’ll see on the site for a while because as I indicated in our last editorial – I’m burnt the hell out on the site and I need to take some extended time to reconnect with the hobby rather than the hustle. But today is also our fourth birthday. As is traditional I do a status update on the project at this point to show everyone how things are, how they were, and some things that haven’t yet come to pass. We’ve done several of these updates in the past – one at six months, one at a year in, one at two years, and one at three years. This is the fourth year update, although you can also expect this to be the last big update of the site status because once we return from our hiatus we’re going to be slowing down.

Man, that’s a downer note on which to start, but it’s too late now. We’re committed. The abort button is just a bit of plastic with a cheap red LED in it. There’s no way to change the trajectory. Bail out now if you can, but this rocket is headed on a collision course with reality in three… two… one…

The Findings of Four Years of Investigation

I’ve run down the content buffer of the site to reach this point, and that has an interesting impact on the stats – for the first time ever the public view on the project and my own private view is identical. There are no stats in the background that are in my secret spreadsheets. Two years ago I had to unpack all these stats by hand, but now this site is more machine than man. Lots and lots of the routine stuff of the site is done by cold, unfeeling algorithms and it means that I spend less time with my nose in a spreadsheet and more time wistfully staring out the window at the happy people playing outside.

As usual, there’s some boilerplate methodology stuff to cover here.

For calculating averages for accessibility profiles, I employ a numerical conversion from alphanumeric grades to number values. F is a zero, E is a three, and each successively higher grade is one integer greater than the one before. For individual accessibility categories, this is how the averages shake out.

Category201820192020
Colour BlindnessBBB
Visual AccessibilityC-C-C-
Emotional AccessibilityC+C+C+
Fluid IntelligenceC-C-D+
MemoryC+C+C
Physical AccessibilityC+C+C+
SocioeconomicBBB-
CommunicationBBB

You might have to be a massive nerd like me to really feel like this is exciting, but it is! I said in our last roundup that I thought the stats had pretty much converged to where they’d stay, but no. The hobby is slightly less accessible than I thought in three categories – fluid intelligence, memory, and socioeconomic. We now have 216 data points, which is an increase of 52 on where we were in 2018. I mean – that makes sense, right? It was 52 weeks ago and we do a game a week. I’d say that now the stats were almost certainly not going to change but actually – there’s a fair chance that with another 52 data points you’d see these changing categories snap back to the mean. However, given that we’ll be slowing down the pace when we come back from hiatus we’re not going to be adding 52 data points a year to the tracking unless I simply start recording values and stop writing accompanying teardowns.

The games from year four that received recommendations, tentative or better, in all categories are:

As usual, there are a lot of games that got recommendations in all but one category, and some of them will end up on our Building an Accessible Game Library on a Budget feature when I have time to update it. Since that’s not a new post as such, it’ll be done during the hiatus just to tidy up our content.

The worst performers of the year are:

However, no game has yet unseated Chinatown atop its dark throne of inaccessibility although Exodus: Proxima Centauri came very close.

The Scale of the Task

We set ourselves the goal of covering a meaningful proportion of the BGG Top 500. Last year we’d covered 20.8% of it. At the time of writing, according to my spreadsheet, we’ve covered 25.2%. It’s a pace of progress approximately half of what I would have wanted. If our focus was laser-precise, we surely would be at 40% by now. And if we were, the chances are high that I’d extend the violent activity of the site to at least year five to see us at the 50% mark. But we’re not making that kind of progress, for several reasons:

  • A lot of the top 500 are out of print
  • A lot of the top 500 that are in print are just hard to get to the table often enough to merit analysis. I’ve written a bit about that before.
  • Games don’t necessarily trend into the top 500 in the way that I might have expected. I’ve covered a lot of games that I thought would rise up to land in there, but they falter.
  • Games don’t necessarily stay in the top 500. I’d say a good 10% of the games that we’ve covered for the site were once in there but aren’t any more.
  • There are versioning issues – sometimes the specific version of a game we cover just isn’t the version of it it that’s highly ranked

And while I do have a pile of cool software tools that crunch a lot of stats for me, they don’t crunch the stats in my personal spreadsheets. So when I have a game marked as being in the Top 500, it isn’t necessarily so. At the time of writing, our site software (which tracks BGG status in real time) says we’ve covered 24.2% of the top 500. Here’s the real-time view if you’re interested – you’ll also be able to see it on our results to date page:

CoveragePercentage
Top Ten30.00%
Top One Hundred28.00%
Top Two Hundred and Fifty28.40%
Top Five Hundred24.20%
Top Thousand16.70%

With the reduced pace of production I anticipate following our hiatus, I’ll honestly be glad if I can add a couple of percentage points per year to the coverage.

Reviews and Scores

I feel like I’ve been really down on a lot of games this year, which is in itself a symptom of burn-out. The stats do reflect it though. Here’s the average review score, based on total average and then by year:

YearOverall AverageYear Average
13.43.51
23.63.62
33.53.40
43.53.35

So it’s not just a feeling – I have been meaningfully more negative about the games I’ve been playing for the past couple of years. I can’t say for sure it’s because I’ve been playing more mediocre games or whether I’m just not feeling the joy as much as I did. I’ll admit that I’ve been awfully bored by the offerings in 2018, 2019 and 2020 to date. It seems to me like the industry has converged on ‘good enough is good enough’ and few games are really trying to push the envelope at all. I’d rather play a game our random idea generator spits out than anything I see on its way in 2020. As I say – a strong sign of burn out.

The truly excellent games we reviewed this year are:

That’s it. And the worst ones were:

You can see what I mean though – not a lot of highs, not a lot of lows. Just… games. Games that are fine. Games that don’t get me fired up.

Reception

Thanks to an unexpectedly strong performance in the final month of the site, mainly due to the surprise success of our feature on Top Twelve Games With Which To Start a Collection, I’m delighted to say that we’ve broken through the one million hits mark in Year 4. I didn’t expect it to happen and had resigned myself to being frustratingly close to the peak. So, that was lovely!

Total for YearOverall TotalDifference
Year 11075131075120
Year 220191330942694401
Year 325550856493453595
Year 4
4777971042731138482

I honestly wasn’t expecting it because the site has been effectively cancelled on social media in Year 4. People don’t respond to tweets, don’t share content, don’t even acknowledge our existence. At least, in public. Privately I get a lot of ‘I really agree with you but don’t want to say so because you know how horrible a lot of the people in this hobby are’. I’m basically persona non gratis on Twitter though, and it’s pretty telling that since that incident the response to anything of mine that gets posted on Reddit is exponentially more negative than it ever has been before. Don’t upset the Tolerant Twitterati I guess, because they are vindictive to the core. My crime? Writing the Hobbyist Media Code of Conduct and refusing to accept that basic professional practice has an identity politics component. I know, I’m a monster.

(I debated whether or not I should acknowledge the vindictive little grievance-goblins of Twitter, and decided ‘Screw it, I’ve already accepted that I’m burnt out – may as well use that lack of concern to lay down some more truths. It’s not like I can be cancelled twice. I’m not Futurama”).

The good news about that whole incident though is that it shows just how little actual power these people have. They can rant and rail and poison the well with their selective misquoting and deceitful misrepresentation. But it has no real impact if you just ignore them. I guess what I’m saying is – stop messaging me about how you support the things I’m saying and say it actually out loud. You’ll feel better and you won’t suffer anything. And perhaps as a consequence the actual toxic elements in this community will be pushed back to the fringes where they belong. Back where they’re not actually undermining the cause they so loudly purport to support.

Anyway, last year I was saying that I didn’t think we’re repeat the feat of 250,000 hits but we did and then some. Now my only regret is that we didn’t hit 500,000 for the year I guarantee though next year will show a big dip because we’re going mostly silent for a while. I am very grateful to those of you that still share and retweet our content, even in the face of the chilly disapproval you’ll get from many in the community.

We also had a few incidents of what you might think of as ‘mainstream success’ over the course of the year. I was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s In Touch program to talk about accessibility in the hobby. I talked to Monocle24’s InDesign team about the same. I fed in on a pile of articles around the place, including a few for NY Magazine. I even filmed with the BBC Social team in Scotland for their social media platform. And my personal triumph – I got name-checked over on Raptitude, which is a blog I love dearly and that massively influenced our 2019 depth years. We’re getting contacted increasingly often about accessibility consultancy, and supporting endeavours in schools, libraries and universities ever more regularly. I see from our stats that we are referenced in a number of university courses, and my only frustration there is that I can’t access the referring learning environment to find out how our work is being used.

Patreon

As usual, I remain profoundly grateful to those of you that have been supporting our content. I’ve managed to train myself into taking Patreon dips and rises in my stride. I only check the figures at the end of the month so as to forecast budget, content and so on. And because I cross-post all our patreon exclusive content from here to there. Ironically the thing that really kicked my arse into that mindset was the exodus of patrons that followed my stance that ‘Plagiarism is bad and plagiarists have no place in this hobby‘. It’s a bad mental health practice to tie your own sense of worth to the fragility of others. If I can’t express a contentious view on my own site for fear of offending backers, then something has gone very, very wrong.

The generosity of those funding the site continues to blow me away, and I hope they are aware that their support has genuinely made this hobby an easier place for people with disabilities to navigate. I hope the extra features that come your way make it worth your while, but if not I hope you all have a just phenomenal glow of warmth at what you’re getting done here. As with last year, let me give you a list! First of all, the reviews that would not be without you:

And the teardowns:

Then the special features and editorials:

And as with last year you’ve been funding software development work in the background.

And yes, I wrote all of these. But I wrote them because of your support. They absolutely would not have been written without you, and as such there is guidance for accessibility and for ethics in this hobby because of you. Thank you so much for having given me the will to do this for the past couple of years.

As I keep saying in this post, the site is going on hiatus for a few months while I try to recharge my batteries and rebuild affection for the hobby. I think it’s an important, necessary step of self-renewal. I will be back at it, at a more sustainable pace, in July. Or perhaps August. I am giving myself permission to extend the break as is required. I understand that this makes a convenient stepping off point for Patrons, and I absolutely understand if that’s what you decide to do. I am grateful for every penny you sent our way, for as long as you sent it. For those that wish to remain, I look forward to reconnecting with the work of this site later in the year, and your Patron posts will still be coming thick and fast in the meantime!

 

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