Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

My Hobby is not About Making Sure Anyone Stays in Business

Seriously, people, I’m in this for the games. Good games, specifically: the short list of the greatest hobby games that were ever made. It’s pretty simple, really.

For the past ten years I’ve heard about all this stuff I’ve got to do to keep the industry going. I’ve got to shop at the friendly local game store, because without brick and mortar establishments we’re not going to get new players. I’ve got to stop going the full edition war because I’m going to scare the civilians out there on the sidelines. I’ve got to get excited about some kind of stupid plastic toy variant of a classic game because somehow it’s going to help the wider gaming scene and justify further development of a great property. I’ve got to buy stuff I don’t really need or want in order to “support” worthy game lines and creators. And so on.

It’s bunk.

Sure, I’ve bought games I had no need for just because I was so happy to see a “real” game in a game store and I wasn’t going to walk out of there without signaling the store to keep up the good work. I’ve gone through phases where I buy PDF’s like a drunken sailor. (Half the readers of this blog have probably done the same.) Honestly, though, if a handful of a middle aged geeks squint their eyes really hard and wish with all of their might and drop all of the spending money on all the right things… it’s not going to make a darn bit of difference. If the industry is not making it, it will fail. If role playing games and wargames are done, then it’s over no matter what we do. Still, I notice that no one ever tells anyone to “help the hobby” by posting five hundred blog posts about games and gaming. No one ever tells me to prep a game and then go take a slot at a nearby convention and hold down a table of eight strangers for four hours. No one ever asks me to solve some open problem in game design. No one ever asks me to “help the hobby” by teaching someone a game that they want to play.

And you know what…? That stuff that nobody tells me to do…? That is my hobby. My hobby doesn’t grow when I spend money. It grows when I do it.

But then it gets down to the big new thing right? (I’ve seen this happen with a half dozen new games.) Here comes the hot new thing, right? Wooooh! But instead of trying to make a good game, the producers have come up with some trick for turning it into a cash cow. Now, I’m not talking about new editions per se. (Getting all the errata edited in and known problems addressed is well worth the price of admission to me for a particularly good game.) No, I’m talking about gimmicks like making it “collectible” or selling toys or making it “free to die” or whatever. Who cares about that stuff? I sure don’t.

Yeah, I say that… then the claws come out:

  • “Good Games” don’t sell anymore.
  • The games you like failed in the marketplace.
  • Your games deserved to be replaced by the new thing.
  • You gotta get on board with the new thing because if you don’t, your player base will shrink to nothing.
  • Your games were rejected by gamers.

And it’s like Ross Perot (as played by Dana Carvey) comes out of nowhere with some kind of complicated graph waving a pointer and jabbing with his index finger. I’ve totally got to see the facts and logic and reason here! Listen to us, Jeffro!

The fact is, there’s a twelve year old kid in my town pleading with me to teach him Star Fleet Battles. My son loves Ogre and G.E.V. and Illuminati. More than one group of people is asking me to run Moldvay Basic D&D for them because they’re curious to find out what role playing is. There are people that have played Britannia 500 times that would love to explain the finer points of that game to anyone that shows up PrezCon or WBC. The games industry can be burned to the ground– completely obliterated– and it would not affect my hobby one bit. You could set my entire game collection on fire and I would have no trouble keeping on. (I could download some old retroclone for free and start designing the great American space game. I’d never run out of things to do!) I’m sorry, but my hobby is just fine with or without an industry milking it for all its worth. And whatever happens, it is not my responsibility to get behind any given company or project or game line no matter how noble or great or awesome the people doing it might be. The fact that they made really good game designs in the past is the only reason I ever supported them in the first place. If they make it clear that making good game designs is no longer on their agenda, then we’re done.

But… but… but… what about the new blood? The new players? The shrinking, man!?

The industry is not my hobby. The health of the industry has no relation to the health of my hobby. It does not help my hobby at all if someone produces something that looks sort of like a game and makes scads of money doing it. Since when is it my job to prop up someone’s appearance of being an industry when they don’t really do anything for me? (If it really is my job, then I want to get paid!) I’m afraid, though, that the hot new thing of this next year of two is not going to be around long. But people will still be playing Titan ten years from now. People will still be arguing about Classic Traveller ten years from now. Guilford Courthouse and Hammer of the Scots will still be on the table. I think that’s almost certain. It’s very unlikely that anyone is going to change the world with a new game that flat out ignores basic, well understood principles of good game design. Even if they did, it still wouldn’t have anything to do with my hobby.

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27 responses to “My Hobby is not About Making Sure Anyone Stays in Business

  1. Robert Eaglestone May 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Hey, H. Ross’ diagrams were perfectly reasonable. So what if he got a little tetchy? Can you blame him? Anyway, he wasn’t a politician at heart.

    • jeffro May 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Ross Perot does not appear in this post. Ross Perot as played by Dana Carvey does. Totally different thing; Dana Carvey’s invocation of Ross Perot’s charts are what I’m talking about!

  2. Jimmy Anderson May 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Very cool post Jeff! I didn’t know I agreed until I read it, but I can pick out SO much stuff in there that made me nod my head as I read it…

    Great words!

  3. freddyboomboom May 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Tell it, brother! Can I get an Amen! Amen!

    However, I will say that, having been one, drunken sailors aren’t looking to buy PDFs. Honest. :)

  4. MishaBurnett May 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Thank you! The exact same thing can be said for fiction, for theater, for the visual arts, for music, etc., etc.

    I enjoy the arts. I gladly pay money for the arts, but it is NOT my responsibility to ensure that artists can make a living doing art. Some can. some can’t. I write novels, and I love my fans, but it is not their job to support me–that’s my job.

  5. MishaBurnett May 21, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Reblogged this on mishaburnett and commented:
    It’s about gaming, but it applies to fiction as well, I believe.

  6. Dariel Quiogue May 21, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Totally agree! I’ve always wanted games you only need to purchase once. That’s why I’m staying independent.

  7. Charles Akins May 23, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I really liked this post so I added a link to it through my Best Reads of the Week series. I hope you don’t mind.

    http://dyverscampaign.blogspot.com/2014/05/best-reads-of-week-may-17-23.html

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  9. Anthony Simeone May 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Yeah man, just get out and play! Great post.

  10. Charlie Warren May 24, 2014 at 11:28 am

    You nailed it! Just because something is the “new shiny” doesn’t mean it’s worth a crap at all. One definitely does a lot more for the industry, community, and hobby by bringing new players into the fold rather than just adding a small contribution to the sales of the latest hot item. Chasing the latest trend will accomplish very little at all.

  11. soldierking May 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Funny, I’m looking at my “active game” shelf and there isn’t one thing on it that has been released in the past five years. Most are ten plus years old.

    • jeffro May 24, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Replayability is a primary quality of the greatest games. Product sustained by the cult of the new only has to be good for a few sessions.

    • jeffro May 27, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Oh neat; I wasn’t writing specifically about D&D, but that sure seems to be what most people were thinking of when they read this rant!

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  13. dawnrazor May 28, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Thanks! Great post, and my feelings also, especially now when the whole OSR is getting bazonkers over a new version of D&D.

  14. lewpuls May 13, 2016 at 9:38 am

    We could extend this by saying, your hobby isn’t about making sure someone gets the recognition they desire (justifiably or not). (Thinking of the GenCon Insiders.)

    • Wonk May 13, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Sour grapes much, Lewis? You weren’t accepted to the insider list this year so now you’re disparaging those who were. Very unbecoming behavior for an adult man who is supposedly a professional. Our hobby is not about YOU getting the recognition that you desire, according to your own words, so why don’t you cut out your self pity party.

      • jeffro May 13, 2016 at 11:13 am

        Being “accepted as an industry insider” is no longer recognition for “a history of significant contributions” along the lines of people like Dr. Pulsipher. At GenCon, it has been redefined to include ““indie tabletop publishers, indie LARP designers, event organizers, activists, critics, academics, and community managers” that are virtually unknown in the industry.

        But maybe there is a running theme to the selections beyond even that:

        Crystal Frasier: She strives to make game worlds where everyone can see themselves reflected.

        Amanda Hamon Kunz: Her professional interests include inclusive gaming, the intersection of feminism and games, and diverse world-building.

        Kathryn Hymes: With Thorny Games, Kathryn aims to give players tools to tell stories in unorthodox and original settings from voices that may have otherwise been unheard. She seeks to actively avoid RPG tropes in order to make the hobby more approachable to new enthusiastic faces.

        Anna Kreider: She is also an illustrator and the author of the popular feminist gaming blog Go Make Me a Sandwich….

        Marie Poole: Her passions in the industry include: finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint in game production and creating an inclusive safe environment for all folks.

        Donna Prior: She has spoken about building communities, diversity, harassment, and accessibility at the Game Developers Conference, numerous times at PAX/PAXDev, Gen Con, Mensa Annual Gathering, NorWesCon, and the Community Manager Conference in Leipzig, Germany.

        Alex Roberts: You may also have heard her on panels at various conventions, mostly talking about sex.

  15. BeSeeingYou May 13, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Please, clutch your pearls harder. It’s adorable.

  16. Pingback: Is Rules Bloat Integral to the Rpg Hobby? | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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