Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

Currently Consuming
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow
« Link Roundup for 7 May 2011 | Main | Lost in Translations »

Two Years On

Wes Otis asks:

If you could go back, is there anything you would do different with A Penny For My Thoughts?

The short answer is “not really.” The long answer is in something I wrote recently for the Afterword of the Italian edition of Penny, which I just realized hasn’t been posted anywhere in English. So here it is:

It’s been almost two years since I finished writing the original edition of A Penny For My Thoughts. The publication of the Italian edition gives me the opportunity to look back at the book and the game with the additional perspective the passage of time affords me.

I think the book does what I want it to. There are few things I would change if I had to do it over — some of the steps in chapter two are too long and should have been broken down further — but enough people have been able to play the game without having me at the table that I’m happy with it. The comments I’ve read about how easy the game is to pick up and about how other games should aspire to the same clarity reassure me that I reached my goals as a writer.

I have been surprised by how many people have played the game and enjoyed it. Each story I have heard has reminded me why I wanted to publish it, rather than simply setting the design aside after Game Chef. I admit that I haven’t been able to support the game as well as I would like, particularly on places like RPGGeek.com. I’m grateful to a small group of dedicated fans has that stepped up to promote and support it. They’ve taken what I designed and made it their own. Every mention of Penny on a forum, on Twitter, or on Facebook makes me smile.

And now a story: A few months after Penny was published, my sister got married. While I was at my parents’ house for the wedding, my mother asked if we could try it out. So my mother, my father, my mother’s two sisters, and I played A Penny For My Thoughts around the kitchen table. Now, my family is about as far from being a group of gamers as you can get. But at the point where, at the beginning of the “pleasant” memory, my aunt Lynne asked her sister Hilve, “Was that just before you walked out into the street, were hit by a car, and lost your arm?” I knew the game worked. (She asked immediately afterward, “Are we supposed to make it hard for them?”)

That reinforced in my mind one of the underlying ideas in Penny, one that I didn’t see as clearly when I originally wrote it. We are instinctive story-builders. The natural pattern-matching process of our brains can’t help but assemble narratives out of events it encounters. It’s not just gamers that do this. That’s why Penny works when my parents play it with their friends. Non-gamers sometimes have an easier time playing Penny than gamers do, because they listen to this instinct with letting letting ideas like character ownership or “winning” get in their way. Penny works best when you trust these instincts.

Penny has exceeded every expectation I had for it. I never imagined winning the Indie RPG Award for Most Innovative Game. I couldn’t possible have believed a game I wrote would be translated into another language. It’s been a tremendously cool experience. Thank you for being a part of it.

On the subject of thanks, there are few I want to give. Thank you to Renato Ramonda for being one of the early supporters and playtesters of Penny. Thank you as well to Guilia Barbano, Flavio Mortarino, and the rest of the Janus Design crew for your interest and promotion of the game. Sorry I wasn’t able to make it to Milan last summer. We’ll have to try again. Thank you to Fred Hicks for continuing to handle the business side of keeping Penny in print. Deciding to work with you on this was one of the best publishing decisions I could have made, and I’m happy to continue to ride Evil Hat’s coattails. Finally, thank you to Ryan Macklin, my occasional partner in crime. This wouldn’t have happened without you. We should commit more crimes together.

Enough of my blathering. Go play!


Fitness: Rest day
Writing: 427 words, 277 average

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>