Hi. My name appears at the bottom of this article, but please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Neal Murthy, and my title at Nefer Games is Final Boss. There’s a lot of things that come with that title, but the most important thing is accountability. This post is about just that.
I love games – especially tabletop games, which I’ve loved since I can remember anything. I was given a Pachisi set by my grandfather 30 years ago, which set off a lifelong love of not only playing games, but creating them too. Until recently, my creations have been shared only with close friends and family, but my good friend Mike Korupp and I decided to create a company – this company, Nefer Games – to bring some of these games to market.
We’re starting with Sedis, a tile-based game system with which players can play a multitude of games of their own or others’ (including our) creation. Sedis tiles have an arrangement of pips and blanks (dots and circles) around the outer edge. The arrangement of these pips is developed using a method quite different from that of dominoes and playing cards, which rely primarily on the intersection of two things (two sets of numbers, 0-6, in the case of double-sixes dominoes, and ranks and suits, in the case of standard playing cards). Sedis is developed using a different application of mathematics.
Now, I have a mathematics background, and I often see the world through this perspective, so… despite the visual similarity between Sedis and dominoes, I asserted that it was not a derivative of dominoes (such as Tri-ominoes or others), but rather a wholly new game system unto itself. To validate my claim, I sought responses from gamers I know and around the country, and they validated it. So, it was my public assertion that this thing was wholly different from dominoes or playing cards – and as such, was something totally new to the world after hundreds of years. Regrettably, I did not seek further guidance from others such as those gamers on Reddit or BoardGameGeek (two important communities).
Recently, we launched our Kickstarter campaign. As part of this campaign, I had an interview with a local magazine. My claims were stated, and the magazine published them – with an even more hyperbolic title: Did This Houstonian Just Reinvent the Board Game?
My answer to this query-formatted title is “No,” but I still stood by the claim that Sedis was a different thing than dominoes and playing cards.
Then, the internet took over. The claim was chewed up by online communities at BoardGameGeek, Reddit and Facebook (along with the article itself). Naturally, I tried to defend the claim, but the response was (generally) thoughtful and critical rebuttal. Overall, I was using a highly non-standard classification and my assertion was based on this. It’s important to note here that things like classifications and language as a whole is not something to be chalked up to “differences in semantics;” these things are tools of communities, and they’re extremely important to these communities. I was not using the standards of the community I was hoping to serve.
There were exceptions to the thoughtful critiques – in both directions. Some were highly supportive. Then there was this via Reddit (private message)…
You poor brown piece of s***. Go back to whatever country you came from. Your bulls*** is not wanted in America. Kill yourself you f****** sack of worthless garbage. I hope our family dies in a car accident. Your family deserves to die and you deserve to be alone you c***.
Now, I want to be very clear here. There were snarky comments on Reddit. There were comments which were personal in nature. But, there was nothing like this on the public thread. This was my first exposure to Reddit and I was appalled. One of the moderators on the subreddit had messaged me, so I brought this to his attention. The response was swift; this was not acceptable in the Reddit community, and it would be dealt with severely.
At the same time as this message arrived, I also recognized my ill-informed hubris. The members of these communities generally turned from critique to mentorship. They were supportive of Sedis – just not the way I was messaging the claims. And, I was humbled. I then quickly stated my regret and intention to change our messaging. We’ve now done so, for the most part, and Sedis stands on its own merits.
And, that’s the thing. If a game or any other product is created, it should stand on its own merits. The comparisons and contrasts with other things will come on their own.
Nefer Games is all about social connections through play in the physical-social space – forging cultural connections and norms, and developing real skills and experiences. But, you know, sometimes the digital world ain’t so bad. It connects people with vast experiences across vast distances. I’m grateful to now be a member of these wonderful online communities, and I hope that they will welcome me back – a changed man. I’ve been fortunate to build two software companies and a decent consultancy. But, now I’m starting at the beginning, learning to be a commercial game designer and the head of a game company.
Thank you, anonymous Reddit/FB/BGG members, for making me a better person. I hope I can return the favor one day.