Wednesday, August 24, 2011

War In The Heavens pt. 12: this is important

This post is going to be a response. Not to anything said by anyone else, but to an argument I had in my head as well as thousands of blog posts, forum messages, and articles I have read over the years. The question I posed to my self, about games in general, and this game specifically, is this. Can a game be good on it's own merits?

Now, what do I mean by this? What I mean is kind of complicated though the core idea is simple. I have often heard that game system Y is bad, because the players had a bad time with it. This is usually followed with some sort of advice, usually falling into three categories. One the reply will say that they need a better GM. Two the response will be in total agreement with the statement, adding in a new story of how they had a bad experience. The third will ask questions to the original statement, and by the way the questions are worded it is clear that the reply is just a set up to bash the way that that player plays(something like, “well of course the game sucked you failed to realize the interaction of Rule A and Rule F! If you played the game properly you would realize Game Y is awesome! You suck!”).

Now I will admit these are not the only responses I have seen. These are, however, the ones I have focused on for the sake of this discussion I had with myself. Basically what makes a game good? More specifically, who makes a game good? Is it the GM, the players, or the game designer?

I realized that what made a game good was a solid combination of all three. A shocker, I know. I will wait a moment while you pick your collective jaws off the floor. I admit, this is not revolutionary thought. None of this post is particularly mind blowing. This is just a way for me to focus my thoughts about my game.

So, a game's design is important, but so are the GM and players. You could have the best designed game in the world, but if the GM and players were not doing their part, they would say that the game sucked. The game designer very rarely gets to tell the players or GM that they suck. Actually I can think of a few times this has happened, and as both a player and a GM this response pissed me right off. How dare the designer tell ME haw to play the game. At least that's how I felt when I read that first section of the Aberrant Player's Guide. As a designer I have to be aware of that. Once I have written my game, it is no longer my game, and yelling at people who play the game wrong will make me more enemies than friends. Again, I know, shocker, right.

So if I cannot control the quality of players and GMs out there, then I must work to produce the best game I possibly can. I can't take any shortcuts, nor can I assume the players know what I am talking about. It doesn't matter how elegant a system I present, if I present it wrong.

I can influence the players and the GM, of course. I can use the fiction, and add advice relevant to my game. But over the long hall my opinion will matter less than some thirteen year old kid who picks up the game, because he liked the space ship on the cover(or what ever I put there, seriously, I haven't even play tested yet and you want cover art? Savages). His idea of what the game is matters far more than mine. See when he buys that book, the game is no longer mine. It is his game.

I will try to keep that thirteen year old in mind when I write this. After all, he is me. He is you. He is where we all were when we first walked into that shop. You know that shop. The one with the bearded fat man behind the counter. You walked in and the smell of old models, dust, paint and binding glue slammed into you like a freight train of awesome. He ignored you of course. This is the ritual, you must speak up. This terrifying man is allowing you to grow up just a little. You see that first book, you know the one(for me it was TMNT&OS). You pick it up and walk to the counter. His eyes glance at you briefly from his dog eared copy of Foundation. The rest of his body is unmoving. With shaky hand you present your money. He nods. The book is yours. At least that's how I remember it.

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