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How-To AAR (Successfully!)

February 5, 2009

Before I hop into my AAR, I was thinking; “What makes a successful after action report?”  I sent Peter an email, and we decided that, as an early starter, we’d write a How-To. This will be a basic bare bones outline but we will go into more detail in time.

So lets get cracking.

Step 1 – Find a Game

Potentially the easiest step, it is also the most important.  Any game can really be played as an AAR, but games without a strong focal point on a single pre-written story are usually the best.  A game with an existing story is harder to AAR for, as there’s not much room for deviation.  As such, RTS and Strategy games are usually your best bets, or any game where you either play a nameless hero or regular joe.  Mostly, freedom of choice in a game is an AAR writer’s greatest asset, though do not take this wrong; I’m sure there’s room for a compelling Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six AAR; its all about how you write it.

Step 2 – Play the Game

Playing the game is good, but try not to play it and write it at the same time, especially not the first time.  You should always be fairly familiar with the game or else  you may find yourself losing quickly, or missing important and interesting features of the game.  Don’t get me wrong here, losing can be just as fun as winning; people love it when other people don’t succeed, but it’s likely that your losing will be more confusing than amusing if you weren’t playing somewhat competently.  But I digress; you should at least know the basics, so that you can survive long enough to write a compelling story.

Step 3 – Jot down ideas

Common problem with some AAR’s is that they seem disjointed; they have no clear focal point or goal.  Sure, you may write nice enough, but if you don’t have a theme or plot within your AAR, then you’re probably going to have a pretty shallow story.  Decide early on what your focus is going to be. Is the AAR an extended review? Is it a way for you to tell an interesting story? Is it a tutorial for new players? This will help you focus on what you’re trying to achieve with your AAR and focus will help you cut the fat.

Step 4 – Set aside time

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your AAR shouldn’t be rushed either. Take some time,  things can go wrong; the kids start fighting, the cat throws up on your computer, wife-agro gets generated; any amount of things can go wrong.  So to avoid unnecessary stress, space out your story.  This also allows you to edit and go over the AAR carefully and to add more detail which you may have forgotten on the first draft.  Better to take your time and make it look good, than to rush it and have it be crap.

Step 5 – Write away

Writing your own AAR about a game can be a lot of fun as suddenly you’re allowed to convey the emotions you had while playing to a wide audience of readers. Knowing other people are going to share your game experience can encourage you to enjoy your game successes as much as your failures and when you triumph in the face of adversity, without a do-over reload, makes games even more satisfying.

As you play through the game remember what you did, or jot it down in notes. Unless you have a handy pause button you’re probably not going to try to write the AAR as you play so your notes will be crucial. When it comes time to do the writing, try not to be overly flowery.  Remember, you’re catering to a web audience that is used to a direct style that sacrifices long descriptive passages for short, vivid written imagery.

Step 6 – Publish it!

Not really publish, as obviously that falls into some sort of legal copyright hell, but put it up somewhere!  You did this for the people, so give them a looksie.  Hell, email it to us here, (email at the right), and we’ll host it up here for you.

Miscellaneous tips;

  • Pictures!  Provide plenty of pictures, it allows the reader to see what you’ve done (In a good way!).
  • Choose a writing style and stick to it.  Don’t jump in and out of a first or third person view
  • Chose your theme, tutorial, story or part-review and make it clear what your AAR is going for from the start.
  • Did I mention pictures?

That’s it for now.  We’ll post more details down the road.  For now, this will give you a good idea on what you should be doing while writing your AAR.

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