Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Berlinger Test: Five Rules for Articles about Tabletop Games

In the spirit of my post on mainstream articles about board games (8 years ago, already? wow!) and the Finkbeiner Test for articles covering women in science, here are five rules for not sucking in your article covering a new tabletop game or the people who play tabletop games.

Your article may not mention:
  1. That tabletop games are relics of the past.
    Corollary: or any of the following phrases: "old-fashioned", "back to basics", "remember [something from thirty years ago]", "[back of the] closet/attic/basement", "dusty", "nostalgia", or "comeback".
  2. That generally only young children enjoy tabletop games.
    Corollary: or that "nowadays" older children and adults enjoy other activities, such as video games.
  3. That tabletop games promote obvious, superficial benefits.
    Example: such as family togetherness, strategic thinking, decision making, or basic math and reading skills.
  4. Any game originally published before 1990 as a comparison or as an example.
    Exception: unless your article is about a new game that is explicitly derived from that game.
  5. The author's own lack of patience, lack of intelligence, or propensity to cheat at games.
    Clarification: thereby insinuating that people who play games are fanatics and nerds who take gaming too seriously.
In essence, your article about tabletop games should have the same integrity that is required when writing about a sports event or new video-game release. The tabletop game industry is a more than billion dollar a year industry (not including tabletop gambling, which is something like a hundred billion dollars); smaller than the sports and digital game industries, but not a quaint hobby or pastime. More than a billion people play tabletop games; they come from every social, national, religious, ethnic, professional, class, age, and gender group.

It's not a problem that you're ignorant about tabletop games, just like it's not a problem if you're ignorant about mutual funds or macrame. But your article about mutual funds or macrame shouldn't condescend to those who deal with them, nor your readers who have already seen hundreds of articles on the subject over the last twenty years, even if you haven't.
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