I took a break from the Appendix N series this week to do a review of one of my favorite games:
REVIEW: Space Empires 4X
I was intending to just sort of throw something together– several of the past few posts I’ve done at Castalia, I start off thinking, “okay… this is the one where’ll I’ll let myself hit the topic with a thousand words and then just quit.” But I don’t quit. Not yet, anyway. To say everything that I think ought to be said if I’m going to bother to bring something up in a weekly post, it sure does look like I don’t have much chance of getting out of it with less than two thousand words anymore…. Dunno why that is. Maybe the buffer size in my brain has shifted up a notch. Maybe if you’re writing for a slightly more diverse audience than just hard core gamers you end up having to explain yourself a bit more. But there it is.
But just because I take a break from Appendix N, it doesn’t mean I get a break from it. We now have a minor flame war spinoff:
From the RPGPundit: Screw “Appendix N”!
From Save Versus All Wands: Screw “Appendix C”!
My take on this kerfuffle is that it is no different than, say, Mrs. Grundy hearing someone pontificating about the history of fantasy and science fiction… and she has not read any of those sorts of books… she doesn’t know anything about them… but she’s hearing what sounds to her like someone that’s gotten too big for their britches… and she has to come over and take this guy down a peg because there’s just no way. These are the actions of a prude, a killjoy, and an ignoramus. This is someone that doesn’t have the capacity to listen. This is someone that has no clue how learning or the human mind actually operates in practice.
Because if you pick up, say, The Lord of the Rings and all you see is magic, monsters, and adventure… then you are either very, very young or else you are a profoundly incurious person. It wasn’t a consortium of English teachers that declared Tolkien to be the Author of the Century. How do you explain his enduring appeal? What happened to his more “intellectual” critics? What was up with his lifelong battle with the Oxford English Dictionary? How can that even be a thing?! Doesn’t everyone come away from the work with questions like this?
This is sort of like the question of whether or not you can learn history from war games. Now… Lewis Pulsipher has a doctorate. I forget all the time because he lets everyone call him “Lew.” But he actually knows a little bit about history and will just scoff at the idea. But I can tell you that after playing his game Britannia, my ears suddenly perk up at the mention of anything related to British history. Hadrian’s wall was just some old monument before… but now when I see an article about it, it means something to me that it didn’t before. Reality is more interesting than it was before. Facts are more savory. I know there’s something really awesome here that I don’t know anything about. And I want to change that. No, this isn’t a history education. But by golly, it’s a darn good start to one. The subject is no longer an abstract chore, but an actual appetite.
I’ll tell you one thing, though. Mrs. Grundy is more than just a run-of-the-mill bitch. Whatever education should be, whatever it used to be, whatever it ought to be… it sure went to hell on her watch. The basic profile of her actions and behaviors seems to indicate that she is at war with anyone that deigns to try rebuild. So what if an intellectual journey begins with games or fiction or even comic books?! She wants to cut people like me off at the knees. When she taught public school, she could have used examples from baseball and basketball in order to keep little Johnny interested in math. It’s like it would be demeaning to her to ever take into account what actually motivates a little kid. Well good job there, Mrs. Grundy. You made yourself feel real smart while you arbitrarily humiliated a kid you were responsible for.
Sure, reading Appendix N doesn’t do anything for me if I want to be perceived as “cool” at one of Mrs. Grundy’s cocktail parties. Well look… not only was I not invited, but I don’t want to go in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, Mrs. Grundy can stuff it.