I had the good fortune of spectating northsidegal's first Newbie game. The game featured a strong group of new players, some of whom are still actively playing mafia today. As a prominent member of the 2017 cohort, she has been involved in game designs, moderation, and of course play, including her participation in the 2018 Team Mafia event.
On Starting Mafia
fferyllt (F): How did you first learn about the game of mafia, and what was your first game experience like?
northsidegal (N): My first game was actually in school one day. It definitely wasn't a serious game, but the person "modding" the game was a really good narrator and came up with really great stories for all of the death or day/night scenes, so the main focus there was more on hearing the twists and turns of how people died than actually playing, I guess. That's where I first learned about it, but my first introduction to forum mafia was through mafiascum.
My first game was a pretty interesting one, I think – it definitely had a lot of twists and turns. After a bit of a slow start RadiantCowbells ended up replacing in, which shook things up, to say the least. After a day one scum lynch, there was hypoclaiming tracker innocents, I ended up swapping claims with RC, and after my death and a few unfortunate replacements, someone replaced in only to lurk so hard that he didn't even cast a vote in LyLo. It was definitely engaging enough and the ending unsatisfying enough to leave me wanting more.
F: I watched that game! I remember the LYLO absence. Cabd was the mod and Huntress was the final scum.
So, you've recently started playing. It's interesting how the game can so easily reel people in! What is your favorite role that you've had, so far?
N: Honestly, I think it might just be Vanilla Townie. I find being town far more interesting and engaging than being scum, and being VT means I don't have to have any concerns about playing deliberately to avoid the nightkill – I can just focus entirely on trying to find scum. If I had to choose a power role, I guess it'd be vigilante. I know some people absolutely love being vig because they find it hard to convince people on their scumreads, and there are definitely times I can relate to that. Being a vig is a lot of pressure, though – you really have to weigh how much you trust yourself vs other people if nobody follows you on a scumread, and much more than any other power role you're more likely to take flak postgame for your choice of targets.
F: The first time I drew vig at MS, I vigged a mastina-alt who turned out to be town.. The recriminations happened during the game the next day, and by the time the game ended, nobody really cared. Probably a factor of it being a large game that lasted several months.
F: How would you describe your playstyle?
N: Well, other people have described me as "analytical" before, but that's a bit generic. I've been changing my style around a bit recently trying to figure out what works the best, but I think no matter what I'm always trying to look at people's mindsets when they post. I think that pretty much all differences between town and scum can be boiled down to if a person has a genuine mindset of trying to figure things out or a scum mindset of just keeping up appearances, so that's what I focus on.
Typically I'll end up with a few reads I can be pretty confident on, and from there it's trying to sort things out between the less confident reads.
(That's all as town, of course – as scum, I think my playstyle so far has /tried/ to be "do exactly what you'd do as town", but has /actually/ ended up being "lurk the game out and hope town mislynches".)
F: I think it takes a while to develop a scumgame. Sometimes years.
N: Well, in the meantime I guess I'm fine with being obviously town in my towngames! 😁
F: What do you think is the hardest part about being scum?
N: For me personally it's just been actually getting interested. I know the joy in scum is meant to be in deceiving people, but for me I've always just cared more about solving the puzzle than about... getting to pretend to solve a puzzle? It seems like more of a chore than something I'd do for fun.
F: I think the joy in scum (for people who find that joy) is in the manipulation and freedom.
What would you say is the hardest part of being town?
N: That's a hard question to answer, because I think it might change from game to game. In one game, you might have great reads but just can't convince anyone, and another game you might struggle to get any bearings at all in terms of reads. That being said, I think the overall hardest part of being town is figuring out if the things you're seeing are meaningful. There's so much data in any given game of mafia even early on – even just knowing what will be relevant and what won't is incredibly difficult to figure out. No individual tell will be reliable for 100% of people, so you need to tailor how you analyze specific behaviors when looking at different people. Being familiar with people's metas helps a lot with that I think, but that won't always be true for everyone in a game, and even then people will often be playing specifically to subvert their meta as scum.
F: Do you have any games you feel are particularly memorable?
N: The Tarot uPick game that you modded over at MS is pretty memorable, I think – after a day one scum lynch, town had made two mislynches based on the lack of a kill seeming to point to different people based on night actions. Then, when we were on track to make two more mislynches to lose the game, it kind of came to me suddenly who the last scum was and we managed to win what looked like a doomed game. (As it had turned out, the reason for a lack of a kill was that scum had forgotten to submit one.)
Memorable outside of just "I did pretty good" 😉 though, there was a Greatest Idea game that I was a Werewolf in. I was the only Werewolf actually, and, for that matter, I was the only member of any scumteam. There was almost no chance I won it even from the very start, but I think I still got decently far enough making it three days in! I wasn't actually the only one who wasn't town, though – there was a lyncher whose target got lolhammered day one. I don't think he was even on the wagon.
F: What do you think is the most memorable moment in a game you played?
N: I guess i have two responses for this question. The first isn't so much a single "moment", but is just the way a game ended up turning out: "Lucky's Lucky uPick Lollapalooza" was a role madness micro that I replaced into where my role was a slot machine, and each night i got spins equal to the number of the night it was (night two two spins, night three three spins, so on). Each "spin" of the slot machine had the mod roll a die, and i got different powers depending on how many / what numbers i matched. Well, after one scum had been lynched, the second scum trapped himself into a fakeclaim that let me break the game by just continuing to no-lynch until i eventually rolled 3 of the same number enough times to investigate everyone else who was still alive. This ended up taking the game to Day -18-, and made the game overall last a process of months - in fact, it ended up running longer than team mafia did!
F: An 18 day micro! Was there a doctor in the game?
N: No, but i got a bulletproof vest each i time i got two of the same number (which was every night after a certain point), and the last scum fakeclaimed a role that handed out bulletproof vests. I'm not -entirely- sure why he didn't just shoot the last person (i.e. not me or the person he fakeclaimed protection on), but i think it was to keep him open as a mislynch target?
The second moment requires a little bit of context, but i think it's still pretty funny. The game began with a lot of talk about policy lynching Not_Mafia for having an "unreadable" playstyle – i disagreed strongly with that because i felt that he was readable, but in my haste to defend him as readable... i forgot to actually read him. Of course, he took the opportunity to troll around as much as he possibly could, fakeclaiming each day (it was something setup-specific), lolhammering, but the one thing that i always remembered the most was this:
It was pretty hilarious in the moment, at least. Town went on to lose that game from a townie voting early in lylo and then, upon realizing his mistake and being p-edited by scum quickhammering, taking the time to type p-edit comments out when he was unvoting.
F: That would be a teachable moment!
This question is similar, but has a twist. Have you had a game or moment in a game where you thought to yourself "Hey, I'm good at this"?
N: Ooh! Well, obviously i have that every game after i lynch all the scum of course (/sarcasm), but i guess for a more special time, one of the first times that i really felt that way was in Mini Normal 1964. I replaced into a slot that had been kind of widely scumread from the start of the game and, after a little bit of meandering, i participated in the day one scum lynch and then afterwards i correctly read the lurker scum that everyone else had townread. Of course, just getting two scumreads correct isn't anything insanely special, but it was one of the first non-micro games that i played and one of the first games where i really managed to get past distractions and actually get to scum.
F: What kinds of games and setups do you prefer to play?
N: I enjoy all types, although definitely with a preference for setups with some kind of central unique mechanic: something like Shut Up And Vote is a good example. Those are the same kind of games that I try to design as a mod, too. Outside of that, I'm perfectly fine with even the most bland, flavorless setup – I might in some cases prefer that to some crazy theme game if it's complex to the point of detracting from the actual game of mafia.
F: The SUAV games are hilarious to watch. When I actually played one, though, it was extremely frustrating to not be able to ask questions.
How do you approach the SUAV setup? Elli says you're quite good at it!
N: I think I'm pretty good in terms of actually being clear in what I'm trying to say, but maybe not the best in actually scumhunting there. Visual composition or design, or just how how to display information visually is something I find interesting anyways, so I just treat SUAV as an opportunity to be creative and think of ways to translate common questions or phrases into something people can understand just looking at, without reading.
F: Do you have a post you're particularly happy with in terms of visually displaying your stance?
N: I think this is a pretty high-level one that actually managed to get through to people? It probably looks like Greek to people, but it's me asking someone for her readslist.
The part at the beginning is meant to show that it's a message to Raya in specific, the next part quotes my own readslist with my name, another person's readslist with her name, and then Raya's name and an empty space.
F: Did you get a reads list back?
N: I don't actually think I did; I think she was lynched pretty soon after that. I know from reading the scum Private Topic that at least one person got it, though.
F: Do you have a favorite game you've designed?
N: It'd definitely be "Lone Wolf" – a 9 player hidden alt game where the 2 person scumteam is made up of one person controlling both accounts. The game didn't turn out all that well the first time I ran it due to some serious lurking that I didn't exactly plan for a way to deal with, but I think the idea is still a really interesting one, and adds a crazy amount of things to look at when scumhunting. (Side note – Mafia451's own Ellibereth was scum in this game!)
F: Is it an open setup?
N: When I ran it the first time I added two masons, but from post-game comments I think if I ran it again I'd just make it open with 7 VTs: people thought that it'd be way too easy to determine which two people were the same.
F: I think my brain would explode trying to keep two ISOs town-looking, but each different and consistent.
N: It might've just been Elli-"neural network"-bereth saying that, but I can definitely see how the activity might be hard to consistently and believably fake.
F: Do you have an idea for a game flavor that you'd particularly like to design?
N: I've never really been that interested in making a game themed around a movie or a TV show or something. To add flavor to a game I usually just find pictures that are nice to look at (i.e. art or pictures of flowers or of animals or something) and include those with votecounts. If the flavor had to be included in the roles / setup, I'd probably base it around people from MS. I've already run one game like that, but people seemed to really enjoy it, so it can't hurt to run it again.
On What Makes Games Enjoyable
F: What are the ingredients that make mafia games enjoyable for you to play?
N: An active game is definitely a big one. People lurking when you're town makes it hard to get reads, and when you're scum even if it makes it an easy victory I don't think there's a lot of enjoyment in that. The game being challenging is another – it's certainly nice to take the free victory once in a while either as town when scum are exceedingly obvious or as scum when town explodes on itself, but I'm certain that it'd get boring if it kept happening. I actually think that being familiar with the other players in the game makes it a lot more enjoyable. The meta aspect adds a whole new dimension to the game both as town and as scum, either working to read people off of it or working to subvert it. Plus, it's always just more fun playing with friends than with strangers – it makes the game more engaging, to me.
F: When you replace into games, what do you look at in deciding if the game is for you?
N: I'd say it's almost always one of three things: either I've been reading the game myself and I have reads that I really feel good about and want to introduce to the thread, the players in the game are people that I really want to play with, or the setup is one that I really want to play in. I read a lot of games that are going on, so the first one ends up happening a lot, probably as much as the other two combined.
Advice For New Players
F: What advice would you offer to a newer player?
- Avoid overconfidence. Having reads that are off isn't the end of the game. Having reads that are off that you push really hard and never reconsider -will- be the end of the game a lot of the time. What's more, the more confidence you build up in some particular idea, the more crushed you might be when it gets proven wrong.
- Keep things simple. Really often i see newbies come up with really elaborate narratives in their head as reasons for reads or when they encounter some situation. For the vast majority of games, the truth -usually- isn't all that complicated.
- Learn from mistakes - this can be your own mistakes, or the mistakes of others. Reviewing a game after you finish it to see which reads you had right or wrong and why is one of the best ways to improve your game. Even more, if you're the type of person to read other people's games, picking up on other people's mistakes or successes can be equally effective in shaping your own play, and without any of the bias that may come from trying to analyze your own play (not to mention the meta knowledge that reading other people's games will give you).
F: Is there anyone you’d like to see interviewed for this series? And if so, do you have a question you’d particularly want them to be asked?
N: I guess i don’t really have anyone in specific in mind, but i think it’d be interesting to hear the process behind designing some really complex large theme game.
Best wishes to northsidegal in her future mafia endeavors! I, for one, look forward to the continuing impact that she has on the game both as a player and also as a game designer with original ideas for new mechanics!
2019 update: Our congratulations to northsidegal for being mafiascum's 2018 Paragon winner, recognising her superb play as town.
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