This year, for the first time, there will be no forum to host the discussions that compose the social side of Game Chef. If you want to post about Game Chef on forums, that’s fine, but try to keep it to a minimum number of threads so not to invoke the wrath of the local admins.
Instead, participants are encouraged to start a new, free blog to host their thoughts and questions about the contest and allow them to share their creative process (and fightin’ words) with other chefs. I suggest WordPress or Blogger as good options. Signing up for a blog should take about 15 minutes. You don’t need to worry about making it pretty — unless you just want to — because folks will mostly be reading the RSS feed, which just includes the content of your posts.
Once you have a blog, email me the address (jaywalt at gmail, subject: “Game Chef 2009”) and I will add it to the Great Combobulator, a RSS feed aggregator that will combine all blog posts related to Game Chef 2009 into a giant, searchable blog. In addition to the standard search function, chefs should thoroughly tag their posts so that folks interested in their games will be able to find them and become fans or help with design and playtesting. If you don’t know how to tag blog posts, try asking a friend or the internet.
The intent here is for participants to browse the Combobulator, find other folks who are working on games that look interesting, and bookmark those blogs or subscribe to their individual feeds. Just like with Planet Story Games, which serves as my inspiration for the Combobulator (thanks, Mike!), I’m not expecting folks to necessarily read every post on the Combobulator, especially while trying to write their own game. In effect, though, folks can create their own overlapping feedback groups by following a number of other interesting chefs. Commenting usefully or encouragingly on someone else’s blog will probably lead them to check out your blog and do the same for you. This is called reciprocity and is basically how the independent game design community functions nowadays, out on the wilds of the internet, jumping from forum to forum and blog to blog. Read the stuff that interests you and let people know if you like what they’re doing. Build relationships. Have fun.
In addition to the Great Combobulator feed, there are two smaller aggregated feeds for specific purposes.
The first one is the Freshman Mixer, for folks relatively new to Game Chef or chefs who feel like they don’t know as many fellow amateur game designers as they’d like. Anybody who requests it can have their blog added to the Freshman Mixer feed, where newer or less well-connected folks can get to know each other and crotchety old geezers can stop by and meet the new faces who will soon make our games obsolete. No, you cannot get Mike Holmes to buy you booze. Well, you can ask, but I’m not sure it’ll do much good. If you want your blog to be in the Freshman Mixer, let me know when you send me your blog’s address.
The second aggregated feed to watch is the Crying Wolfman feed. If you get stuck and need some help getting unstuck — it happens to all of us, at some point — write a blog post and tag it with “crying wolfman,” explaining how you got stuck and what help you need. That post will be automatically added to the Crying Wolfman feed and, ideally, other folks will jump to your aid and fight off whatever werewolves are afflicting you. However, as the title of the feed also suggests, overusing this tag will inevitably lead to folks ignoring your cries for help, so don’t abuse it. Of course, if you legitimately need some werewolf-fightin’, please say so. That’s what this feed is for. I heartily encourage other chefs to occasionally poke your noses into the Crying Wolfman feed and help out stuck designers. It can even earn you medals!
Once the “One Month” deadline for Game Chef 2009 has passed — once it’s October, basically — these three aggregated feeds will shut down. What do you do with your blog then, since you might want to continue developing your game or keep talking with the cool folks you’ve met through Game Chef? Here are my suggestions:
If you already had a games/design blog before this challenge, merge your Game Chef 2009 mini-blog with your existing blog. It’s dead easy to export and merge blogs nowadays. Ask your friends and the internet. You probably also want to make one last post on your Game Chef blog telling people where your existing blog is.
If you don’t already have a blog, now you do! Keep going!
Leave your new blog as it is and forget it. Life is ephemeral; game design doubly so.
Finally… the only restriction I will make about your Game Chef blogs is — assuming you want to be part of the Combobulator (and, if you don’t, that’s cool too) — please don’t post a bunch of crap (or even interesting stuff) to your blog that has nothing to do with Game Chef. I’m sure your children and kittens are very cute, but that’s not what the Combobulator is for. It’s a lean, mean game-producing machine. If folks start complaining to me that you’re spamming the aggregator with phone book entries or recipes for mole, I will be forced to remove your blog from the feed. Please don’t make me do that, since I want to do as little moderating and administration as possible. That’s why we’re going with this model in the first place and why you can’t simply just use the blog you already have — yes, even if you promise to only post Game Chef-related content for a month.
P.S. If you wanna do the traditional “tagging in” to Game Chef 2009, do it in your new blogs so I can make sure the feed aggregators work. Just throw up an initial post called “Tag!” Also, tell your friends and enemies about GC2009; post on all the various internet-y places that you visit or just tell people face-to-face.