Saturday, 26 June 2010

My take on "nice things"

Malcolm Sheppard's vaguely phrased rant on gamers and the even more vaguely phrased follow-up seem to be all things to everyone. Many DIY oldschoolers got their hackles up, responding "you talking to me?" Travis Bickle style.

I actually read the article more favorably, being involved with a company and colleagues who are trying to make more than a few bucks from selling the latest edition of a long-standing role-playing game. But I think what Malcolm was talking about - or rather, the concerns of mine that his gnomic pronouncement activated - was not the DIY community but rather the opposite, the people who refuse to DIY but expect that the company will release the perfect game for them, and then haunt the online spaces of that game like a hungry ghost, carping when the product does not meet their demands. In other words, the "citizens."

While you would think that these people are a perfect market for an endless stream of supplements, because they demand an official answer for everything, in fact they are hypocrites.  They have the contentious spirit of the tinkerer, but the moralizing spirit of the crusader, wanting to impose their "objectively correct" answers on everyone else. So while they may buy the products, they will then undermine the company's PR with a gush of negativity, seeking to spread their poisonous point of view to other gamers who might innocently just be looking for fun or creativity.

If you focus the problem onto online space this way, then the old school movement is blameless. You don't see its authors and designers hanging around on 4e forums blathering about class balance or WoW feel. The majority of those complainers are still hanging on to 3e and variants. Real oldschoolers vote with their feet and are a neutral, not hostile or co-dependent, alternative to commercial games.

What's more, some of the strategic decisions made around the latest edition of L5R RPG really have the citizens up in arms. The designers are explicitly telling GMs to take more control in deciding the context of their setting. There is less emphasis on official answers to the kind of rules question that GMs really should be deciding themselves. Needless to say, I think this is a very healthy decision. But if only the people who felt well-served by this power shift were as vocal as those who expect the company to answer their every concern.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, in most things, it seems like people that are happy don't go on the Internet to voice their pleasure over a product or service.