So, this post was going to be about how I took a break from my blog because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with it and trying to figure out the direction for the future. I’ve realized that I don’t enjoy writing about “The Industry” or “How to Make a Better Game” or “The Nine Varieties of Dungeon Masters.” I don’t want to offend anyone who does like writing that — or those who enjoy reading such material — more power to you, but it’s not for me.
I have a special aversion though to writing/ruminating about “The Industry.” I think for the same reason that I have a special aversion to philosophy. We all know about opinions and what they’re like — and the Web has plenty of both. More importantly, today, I came across this post over at The Red Box Blog and I realized (at least in part) why I don’t enjoy this kind of thing…*
The Industry, (and I’m including all those wacky Indie Kids in this as well) has become self-conscious.
Self-Conscious. In a bad way.
I’m just stating my opinion here (and we know how I feel about that) but every time I see one of these things, or read some of the more indy-games, or get drawn into reading Mike Mearls’ blog, or have to discuss an edition war issue, or a million other annoying things, I just have this creeping feeling that we are all staring into the abyss wondering what’s staring back.
We have websites dedicated to “naming” everything in our little niche. Why do we need to codify everything? To what purpose? We have long-winded conversations about old school or indy, FATE or 4E, balance and structure or sandbox and sandblast, and that’s all fine and dandy, but I keep asking myself why? And what I keep coming back to is the idea that we, as a community, have become excessively aware of ourselves, not only of our “image” but also of our goals, desires, and importance. Part of this is inevitable. Gaming has to grow (and “grow up”) like any other culture, but, for me it’s become increasingly difficult to see that growth in a positive light.
I think this is where Edition Wars come from — the idea that we have some way of ‘objectively’ stating that one game or another is really better. I mean, yes, Edition wars also come from twelve-year olds (or those with a similar level of maturity) who argue on message boards, but… then, we’ve all done something we wish we hadn’t on the Internet… myself (definitely) included.
(As an aside, my personal opinion is that the forum/boards communities are at the very heart of what’s wrong with gaming. I learned to hate 3.5 D&D — a game I once enjoyed — because I spent too long on the D&D forums. I’ve never met a forum community that didn’t eventually fall to the weight of entropy in posting. But that is a rant for another time.)
I think this is where the need to “justify” our gaming comes from. We all have this worry that we need to make gaming acceptable, or cool. So games need to be sleek, or fancy, or indy in some way. Games should just be games. I mean, maybe I’m crazy — I could be — but I’ve just been more and more frustrated with the sheer amount of words spilled on meta subjects involving gaming. Who really cares if your game is balanced, or if you play Labyrinth Lord, or 4E, or Talislanta? You should — and your group should — and beyond that, so what?
When I think about Old School, what hurts me is not that we aren’t all playing a retro-clone, but that games were just games. Games came out, games disappeared, games didn’t have to justify themselves in some way, if people liked them, they played them. I also recognize, even as I say this, that I could go back and rummage through my collection of 1980s Dragon Magazines and see the old equivalent of the same things I’m deriding in the “Forum” but I liken that to the Board problem. Ultimately though, gate-keeping behavior is exclusive behavior, no matter what you play.
RPGs need players, not pundits. RPGs need GMs, not professors.
I kinda feel like I do every time my girlfriend watches the Food Network or my friends talk about bands… Iron Chef is not reality. And I don’t care about how “scene kids” feel about Coheed and Cambria. I’m really not interested in seeing gamers become the equivalent of TV Foodies. The thought scares me.
So, what do you think? Am I crazy? Do you, readers, enjoy a lot of “Meta” talk when it comes to gaming or is all that just a thought exercise that doesn’t really impact your table?
As always, Thanks for Reading.
*Please note that I am not (NOT) calling out Red Box Blog or saying the writers there are somehow wrong or bad. That post just happened to be the one that finally solidified my resolve to write about this feeling I’ve been having. That’s all. I mean, it was a well-written and interesting post. Just, not for me.