Rules of Engagement

A recent video from Ignacy Trzewiczek sparked some controversy amongst the boardgame community. This was mostly down to the extremely clickbaity nature of the title of this video which was ‘Why Boardgames Online Gameplays Suck”. This was followed up with a video where Ignacy admitted to putting this up knowing that it was clickbait when he posted it. Not a surprise. Rodney from ‘Watch it Played’ was very measured in his reply to Ignacy, saying he wasn’t angry, more disappointed, and used the phrase ‘quality of engagement’. This got me thinking about how we go about curating our spaces, and what we can do, as creators, to foster good, useful conversations.

I think that might have changed the title since the controversy

In a way this is kind of a follow up to the piece I wrote earlier in the year about the numbers behind the cast: our followers, money, and what the importance of those things are. Engagement is the other side of those numbers. Who is actually reacting and replying to your posts, and more importantly what is that interaction like?

There have been plenty of studies showing that clickbait, like that of Portal Games, really works. Outrage and anger will get you eyes, attention, and engagement with what you are producing. Human beings can’t help ourselves when it comes to clicking on something we fundamentally disagree with. Is that what you want though? Do you want to attract anger and controversy? Worse still if you are taking a position you actually disagree with just because it gets you numbers, do you want to attract the people that agree with that position?

If you are actually looking to start a conversation about the topic of streaming board game playthroughs, then starting from the position ‘they suck’ doesn’t give us a lot of room for a chat that will go anywhere. You’ve stated a definitive opinion. The thing is, in this video there are actually things to discuss about such playthroughs, and Ignacy makes some points that could be talked about around engagement with the audience when streaming. All that is lost in the reaction to the clickbait nature of the title, so if you honestly think there is a problem, you have totally failed to get anywhere near solving it. Good job.

It is much better to start such conversations with an open question like ‘How could you improve your streaming playthroughs?’. A video on that subject from a well known publisher I am sure would have been very useful to the community, especially during a time where online gameplay has become much more a part and parcel of what we do in the hobby.

The boardgame world does not ‘need’ extra controversy, there is plenty of that already as regular listeners to the case will know. What we do need is the ability to talk to each other about subjects that matter without descending into hyperbole and anger. There are subjects to be tackled as the hobby grows, and we need calm voices and clear heads to steer us in the correct direction.

The Giant Brain has always spoken honestly about games and the culture around them. There is however a way to be critical without falling into the spiral of controversy for clicks. We hope that we walk that fine line between bringing worthwhile criticism in a calm measured way (with the occasional bit of anger). Over on our Discord we have talked about many controversies, but always in a measured way, even when people feel strongly. We get nothing from shouting at each other and fostering anger. We stand to lose so much. If we try and understand the other side, if we can have open and honest conversations, we have everything to gain.


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Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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