In Which I contradict my previous post, and start a Contest.
My last post apparently SET FIRE TO THE TWITTERS, resulting in pile of comments. I replied to several of them; apologies if I missed yours. Once finals week is over, I may go back and see what I can say. For now, I want to focus on moving forward. Our topic for today?
We need to move out of any and all model train territory.
What do I mean by this? I mean that a defining characteristic of tabletop games is that they are inherently social, in a way that a lot of hobbies aren’t. Yet, some people seem to want to relegate us to the sort of things that hobby trains are dying of: people sitting in their basements alone, making tired and boring iterations of the same old shit, and trying to foist it on others.
Now, I’m not saying that one in ten thousand, or a hundred thousand, of these gamers isn’t on to something. However, for every Old School Hack or Brikwars in this group, there are a dozen nascent heartbreakers, games that are the equivalent of someone putting a cardboard spoiler on their car and calling themselves a tuner.
I’m also not saying that games shouldn’t have a single-player component. Army-building, figurine painting and construction, character building, all of that is good in a game. It gives you something to do when you can’t play. However, building armies or characters in a vacuum is a pretty useless and obsessive thing; what are you doing it for?
Let’s use Magic as an example. Magic has single-player aspects (deckbuilding, learning new cards) and multiplayer aspects (actually playing the game, metagaming). In order to shine at the game, ideally, you need to be good at both. When you’re sitting at home, building a deck, the first decision you make is which format. If you’re really good, you’re going to build a deck and sideboard not just for Standard, but for Friday Night Magic at Merlyn’s (considering the metagame and that one asshole who netdecks all the fucking time).
Any good game should encourage this. A good RPG should make your character not only important, but make your character choices important in the context of your play group. What’s more, games need to work on making there be more valid choices at reasonable levels of competition. Most games are completely, utterly awful at this. There are more than 5,000 feats in Fourth Edition D&D, and I would bet money that less than 500 see play with any regularity. Tomes have been written on the awful parts of system mastery that are inherent to previous editions of D&D, other RPGs, almost all wargames, and especially card games.
The goal of all of this is to emphasize the social parts of this hobby. How do you get people to play with you? Well, you ask them to play, of course! You don’t sell them on the myriad character options or dozens of splatbooks, you don’t talk about how awesome it is that this game uses these dice or how amazing a unified task resolution mechanic is. You just sit down and play.
Games need to be built for this kind of accessibility. I’m not cutting out the idea of depth in games, I am saying that along with that depth needs to be an easy of initial play that equals or eclipses what’s already on the market. You know what? Let’s generalize that a lot:
Anything you design, any game you even want to think about making or releasing, needs to beat the hell out of everything else out there. I mean it. No more clones. No more RPGs on this or that subject. No more generic systems, no more rehashed miniature wargames, no more d100 systems (dear God, please no more d100 systems). No more bizarrely specific storygames.
Don’t do it. Lie down until you feel better. It’s been done, it’s been done a thousand times, and you can’t do better. Get over yourself, and move on.
“Well, that’s just not nice, Mr. Gau,” you might say. “I am a creative person, I want to create! Who are you to tell me not to?”
Okay. You’re a creative person? That’s where we’re going with this? Let’s put that to the test:
Make something new.
I don’t mean a new Abandoned Kingdoms setting, or some new houserules for Fields of Warhammer. I mean blow me away with something so new, so creative, so out there, that I just do this
for ten minutes until I realize what a fucking genius you are. I’m not being sarcastic. This is a fucking challenge. It’s such a fucking challenge that I’m willing to put (a small amount of) cold hard cash on the line for it. I’m willing to bet you that you’re not as creative as you say you are. Are you gonna just sit there and take that?
Gau’s “Fill My Brain Full of Fuck” Game Idea Contest
Let’s do this. I’ve got ten bucks on the line for you. Here are the rules:
1. Each submission should be the basic outline of a coherent tabletop game idea. I reserve the right to rule things out because they involve paintball guns or cooking, but I might just not if it’s really that awesome.
2. The three keys you will be graded on are: bodacity, originalness, and sensemaking. Something that is all of these three things will do very well.
3. The limit for submissions is two hundred fifty (250) words, not counting a short title, your name, and your contact info. 251 words and I won’t read it. Deal. Get small!
4. Email me submissions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anything you send me becomes Creative Commons Share-Alike licensed. That means I can publish it and say what I like about it, but you still are the originator of the idea. Also, sending me a submission means you agree to these terms.
5. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, 14 December at Midnight GMT. That gives you just under a week to wow me.
I’ll pick my top FIVE favorite ideas and review them on the blog. The best idea (once again, graded on bodacity, originalness, and sensemaking) will earn you a paypal reward of TEN AMERICAN DOLLARS. What have you got to lose? Service guarantees citizenship!