Video Game Book Club Guide

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totalpatoot

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Edited By totalpatoot

TL;DR

  1. Pick a game everyone wants to play and discuss
  2. Play the game for a set amount of time (we do 1 month)
  3. Discuss the game a little every week or all in one go at the end of the month

Why do a Video Game Book Club?

Video Game Book Club (VGBC) is just a book club, but for games! What follows is not an end-all-be-all guide for how to make VGBC happen for you and a group of friends, but it's what's worked for my friends and I for the better part of a year. It started in the pandemic, but I'm convinced it would've come up eventually without these circumstances.

At its core, VGBC (similarly to a book club) is a way to congregate for conversation that is focused and outside the normal day-to-day topics that are dictated by current events or personal news. More than that, it is a way to somewhat capture and recreate some of the phenomenon that surrounds a hotly anticipated/freshly released game, where you have seemingly endless avenues to express your thoughts and feelings about a title with seemingly endless numbers of people and forums.

The Internet of gamers loves to commiserate over the shared feelings regarding The Backlog many people have and feel unnecessary guilt over. Some people just get stuck in ruts, playing the same games over and over and not feeling fully satisfied, but also not entirely willing to branch out on their own. Both are great reasons to participate in a VGBC.

For us, neither of these were the inspiration for our group to start up. We just wanted to play something "together" without having to work around everyone's schedule to play multiplayer titles. On top of that, we all have a mix of different systems, and there are so few cross-platform multiplayer titles, so our choices were limited there. VGBC seemed like a great way to play some truly great (or not so great) single-player titles that may have come and gone in terms of overall hype or even play a newer title together.

Without further ado, here are the general guidelines for how we operate our Video Game Book Club.

Game criteria

Since our group consists of 4-5 people, we have a rotation that has been established to give everyone the opportunity to contribute and allows us all a fair go at selecting games that interest each of us personally. This allows for a lot of fun variance and will offer everyone the opportunity to consider games they otherwise may have completely looked over based on their own biases.

Here's how it usually looks:

This was the first list I created back in spring 2020
This was the first list I created back in spring 2020
  1. Person 1 selects anywhere from 5-8 games and provides a brief, 1-2 sentence personal pitch about each game. In our case, we try to limit the games to being around 10-15 hours long at most to make sure we're not over-committing ourselves, cause we busy.
  2. Share that list with the group - give them at least a few days to peruse it. We use Giant Bomb dot com to build and share our lists.
  3. Each member of the group takes some time to consider how they would rank the options available from Person 1 according to their level of interest in each game.
  4. Everyone meets and shares their ranked lists from among the options. See the next section for a detailed breakdown of our game selection system.
  5. Next time, move to Person 2, then 3, then 4, etc. and do it all over again.

Determining the game

Each member, including the member assigned with providing the list, will rank each game provided. The most desired rank will have a value of 1 (one) and the least desired game will have a value equal to the total number of games provided that month. Members will then submit their rankings simultaneously for tabulation.

The standard determination for the game played that month will be the sum of the ranks – with the lowest sum winning that month’s vote. Usually, this is all you'll need and the game will be chosen.

In the event of a tie, the following tie breakers will be used in the following order:

  • Number of Top Ranks Earned
    • i.e. the game that has received the most “1” rankings
  • Median Value
    • i.e. what is the middle rank of all ranks received for the game

In the event that these tie breakers do not yield a clear winner, the group will:

  • Eliminate the game that has the most Bottom Ranks earned
    • i.e. if 4 (four) games were submitted that month, the game that earned the most 4 (four) ranks would be eliminated
  • If this final tie breaker does not yield a clear winner, the remaining two games will enter a coin flip to determine the winner. The game that is first alphabetically will be assigned “Heads.”

For additional clarity, please see sample chart below:

In the example provided, Demonik will have been determined to be the clear winner over Eternal Death Slayer 3 after the Median Tie Breaker.
In the example provided, Demonik will have been determined to be the clear winner over Eternal Death Slayer 3 after the Median Tie Breaker.

Playing the game

We keep to a pretty strict 1-month long timeframe for playing games from start to finish. That's why we try to impose a 10-15 hour completion time-to-finish on the games someone selects - so we don't make anyone feel pressured to complete some super long title. Honestly, 5-10 hours is the sweet spot for game time, as it allows VGBC to be something that someone can do in a couple extended sittings or doled out an 30 mins-an hour at a time.

Sometimes we have to move goalpost for "finishing" the game. For example, if we're playing a story-heavy game, we'll aim to complete the main story, even if that means ditching a few side quests for the time being to get through the primary content to discuss. Another example: for roguelikes/lites, we may just opt to get as far as we can all get and talk about our varying experiences with the game.

Overall, limiting the time to play and finish the game helps move the process along and ensures that you don't drag out time with a game to the point of wearing out its welcome.

Discussing the game

This is really the most freeform part of the whole thing. Our group meets a few times a month and discusses the game bit by bit as we progress at different rates. The final meeting on a particular game usually aims to collect the thoughts of the group as a whole on the game, the mechanics of the game, whether people liked it or not, and we'll discuss the plot if the game has one worth discussing.

That's it

That's it!! Nothing else to it, really. Have fun and enjoy some focused game discussion with friends.

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Nuttism

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That sounds like a really interesting idea! It's just too bad I don't really have the time for much gaming now. Thank you for the tips.

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totalpatoot

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@nuttism: glad you think so! Sorry to hear you don't have much time to game, but I hope you're still taking time for yourself in some way.

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ryanpushor

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This is a great guide. I was doing a podcast like this for a little bit and did a Witcher 2 playthrough with friends and it is a great way to play a game you may have missed and still get to talk to people like it just came out.

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totalpatoot

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@ryanpushor: Thanks dude! It's been really fun, and I'm thankful to have made time for other games with some specific motivation.