Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Random Thoughts: Real Life Flaming, Welcoming People to the Hobby, Your Mom Plays Video Games, and Influential Gamers

I found out about this sort of thing the hard way talking to a younger dude that was like this. He was edgy and cool, but his brain was somewhat colonized. He somehow got to talking about this thing that happened at his high school… some kid had worn a shirt that was deemed to be across the line by his type and they’d rallied and made it clear that nobody could do that there. I was surprised that he could be so positive about doing something like that. I said, “that’s the difference between my generation and your generation. People like you at least had the sense not to attack free speech back when I was in school….” This assertion that he was basically a product of his times rather than some stripe of free thinker put him into a rage. He started screaming and cursing at me for several minutes. (Yes, he thought himself the voice of tolerance and reason, of course.) It was then that I realized that this “flaming” stuff you see online… it’s not just a product of anonymity and technology. No, some people really are like that….! They actually can’t respond to a difference of opinion with anything but rage.

On being “welcomed” into the hobby — No no no no no! You have no idea how clueless you are. Honestly. It just isn’t like that at all. If you think anyone is going to roll out the red carpet for you then you don’t know anything about gaming. Do you have any idea how merciless competitive chess is? How hard it is to find an opponent for a wargame? Have you ever interviewed people to see if they’d be a good fit for a wacky roleplaying campaign concept you want to try out? Have you ever run a demo at a con and felt the pressure of having to be at least as interesting as the people running a dozen other tables…? Have you played games that other people want to play and then been disappointed that they never reciprocate and play the stuff that you are into…? There is no welcoming committee. When I bought my first tabletop game– Car Wars of course– I basically had to become an evangelist for it in order to get people to play it with me. Look, gaming is something people do for fun in their spare time. It doesn’t need you. It will go on just fine without you. If you have a notion of what you’d like to get out of it that’s maybe a little offbeat, it’s not gamerdom’s fault for not being just right for you. You have to invest a little effort to go out and make it happen yourself. It’s ironic given that so many people in the scene are themselves outcasts to varying degrees… but the fact is, you’ll also have to develop some significant social skills to pull it off. If you don’t have those and are unwilling to develop them… then there’s not much that the designers, the industry, and the convention organizers can do for you. So by all means… grow up and get over yourself. It’s a hobby, stupid. They can’t fit a team of coaches and cheerleaders in the box for you… and they never will.

Welcome to the hobby — We hope you enjoy getting stomped in the face, stabbed in the back, and painfully outmaneuvered as much as we do. If you’re looking for a “safe space” for sadists, psychopaths, and masochists you’ll be right at home.

Welcome to the Hobby — “Dune gives you (and the other players) an absolute, unrestricted, and utter unbeatable chance to be a JERK. That’s right. Dune allows you to be a huge jerk, and all in the name of FUN. And really, whats more fun than being a jerk? Being a jerk to PLENTY OF PEOPLE AT ONCE. Jackpot.”

“but now your mom wants to play video games and everything’s no longer about you…” — Wait, so more people playing games means my hobby is no longer about me. That’s interesting. Because I get to play games for maybe two to five hours a week tops. It is my favorite thing… and the only thing I get to have my way. At work, the customer is always right and what my boss says goes. At home as a parent, I am under the normal demands of compromise, commitment, and responsibility. The needs of my family carry a lot of weight in how things have to be done. That’s how things are for an adult. Gaming is the one break I get from all of this, the one place where I recharge… and it’s for such a pitifully small part of my week. And yet here are these orcs– these busybodies– suddenly showing up and explaining how it has to “change” and how it’s got to be “better.” What’s wrong with these people?!

Much as they like to accuse the people that they bully of being losers stuck in the mom’s basement, I think it makes sense to turn that around. How many of these people have settled down and actually had children? Sure, I’m no Sigmund Freud or anything, but it sure seems like some kind of displaced psychological mania. Still, I just can’t imagine these people having ever been responsible for a child. I mean, you have to tell them what to eat, when to sleep, when to bathe… you have to explain to them how to do the simplest tasks. Heck, you even spend a lot of time managing their play time. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. People that live with that kind of ongoing responsibility just aren’t going to be inclined to try to manage what other people do in their free time. In the first place, parenting is too humbling of a thing to make that sort of tilting with windmills seem productive. Mostly though, it’s just so exhausting you don’t have the energy to try to take responsibility for other people’s pastimes.

So lets look at this completely spurious argument one more time: but now your mom wants to play video games and everything’s no longer about you…. This is all predicated on the assumption of scarcity when the fact is, more games are being created, developed, and published right now than ever before. On the tabletop and on the computer, niche games which wouldn’t otherwise have been made in previous years are getting funded on Kickstarter. Tools that allow novice developers to create video games and amateur designers to publish role playing games have never been better. No matter how off the wall your tastes are right now, there’s something out there that’s been created as if gaming really were all about you. Given that people have the choice, why should they be shamed for wanting it any other way? This makes no sense.

The fact is that people that have no interest in gaming and that have no idea what is actually going on are using this fact of increasing diversification as a club to bash a particular segment of the market. In a weird spasm of incoherence, just as the diversity problem is being solved– to the point where even I can get support for B/X D&D and first class microgame reprints– a movement has emerged with a goal to make gaming less diverse. But there is absolutely no case here for changing games. There is no need to attack one segment of the market so that less well served segments can supposedly blossom. The fact that one group of people having fun right now shouldn’t bother anybody except the envious and the spiteful.

The community was diversifying quite well on its own without the help of these outsiders, as can be seen in the shift from wargames to rpgs to CCGs to euros and complementary trends on the computer gaming side. But changing or eliminating wargames, for instance, wouldn’t do anything to help people that like puzzles or cooperative games. It’s just not a zero sum game. The answer here is to leave gamers alone and let them continue to sort out the problems they are already in the process of addressing.

And now for something… completely different:

Games Should Be Religious Tracts — “It is not enough to make games that sell. We must make games that change the gamer. Tom Clancy wrote books that sell, but he changed no one.” — Ernest W. Adams, founder of International Game Developers Association, November 18, 2014 (Twitter)

I think this Guy Just Holds Gamers in Contempt — “‘Influential gamer’ is silly; it’s like ‘influential TV watcher.’ Follow the creators, not the consumers; Sid Meier, not some random buyer.” Ernest W. Adams, Nov 13, 2014 (Twitter)

Okay, so what about Bobby Fisher’s combinations? What about those guys that play world championship level Starcraft? What about that girl that goes to several conventions a year, stays up all night playing rpgs? (She doesn’t gamemaster, she doesn’t blog, she doesn’t design anything… she just playes the heck out of these things to the point that all the game masters at the cons know her and even prep their adventures with her in mind.)

Let me tell you something about the best designers in the industry, the ones I respect the most and the ones whose games I play avidly. The ones that I have had any amount of contact with, when they find out that I have played a crap ton of Car Wars sessions, they invariably pick my brain about what’s right about the game, what’s wrong with the game, how to fix it, and what makes it fun. I have made zero contributions to the design and development of that game, and yet they don’t hold their noses and treat me like some sort of obnoxious Archie Bunker type. They treat me like someone that can provide insights from a gamer’s perspective that they don’t have time to figure out by trial and error.

Designing games and writing about games takes a lot of time. The gamers out there that do nothing but play can rack up an incredible amount of game sessions. Like that guy that’s played over five hundred sessions of Britannia, a six hour board game…. If you are designing a game that is even remotely like that, you would do well to spend a little bit of time talking to that guy!!!

That’s common sense… but it’s apparently news to some of these gaming pundits. Doing something for the gamers is of course the entire point of game design and the games industry. Of course you’d want to pay attention to what gamers care about and what they actually do with these games out in the wild.

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16 responses to “Random Thoughts: Real Life Flaming, Welcoming People to the Hobby, Your Mom Plays Video Games, and Influential Gamers

  1. Cirsova November 26, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I love hearing about how gaming has diversity problems when just the other day I was gaming at a table with two women, an elderly gay man, an ‘average white guy’, and white guy and black guy, the latter two in still their army fatigues.

    Also, if recent events are any indication, IGDA is probably one of the least credible game-related organizations out there right now.

  2. Jeff V November 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    When game designers start holding their customers in contempt, they are reaching the end of their design life. What they forget is that it’s not our problem if they don’t sell any games — it’s theirs; we’re not requires to spend our hard-earned money on any trash they put out on the market. If they design what WE want to play, we’ll buy it. If not, then I’d guess they’ll be eating a lot of mac and cheese and beany-weenies for the next few years until they get over themselves.

  3. John C Wright November 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    “When I bought my first tabletop game– Car Wars of course– ”

    Go, go CAR WARS!! You are a man after my own heart. I played it immediately after reading ‘Why Johnny Can’t Speed’ by Alan Dean Foster.

    • jeffro November 26, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      One of the truly great games of all time…! :D

      • Lesser Gnome (@LesserGnome) November 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

        If the Car Wars Kickstarter is even half as mind-bogglingly extravagant as the Kickstarter for OGRE I might very well die a happy man. Steve Jackson has done so many awesome projects (and has been responsible for so much Matchbox destruction) he is one of my personal heroes. This is my first time at this blog but it reeks of excellent taste :)

    • Zachary Ricks November 29, 2014 at 9:33 am

      One of the games I could never get anyone else to play (had to settle for the computer version – Autoduel, though I still have the game someplace around here), AND one of my favorite short stories of all time.

  4. Daniel November 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I’m still chuckling at the thought of anyone being “welcomed” to Car Wars. We scaled up to Hot Wheels cars and implemented cigarette lighters, kerosene and bottle rocket gunpowder for – uhm – effect.

    If your Camaro was not black and melted after the first game, you had not yet been “welcomed.”

    • jeffro November 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      I heard about a convention game that was upscaled like that. Every time someone took a hit, the players would pound the table and clamor, “debris! debris! debris!” The miniatures for the debris and obstacle markers were that awesome…!

  5. Steve November 26, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Fascinating comments from Ernest W. Adams.

    He must be some kind of genius auteur to have the confidence to make statements like that. Right? I can’t wait to see what brilliant, life-changing gaming experiences he’s created.

    He was lead designer on John Madden Football for 3DO, and served as the audio/video producer on the Madden NFL product line from 1993 to 1999.[4] In 1999 Adams moved to Bullfrog Productions, and for one year he worked on a new game in the Populous series, and Dungeon Keeper 3, but both games were cancelled.

    Oh.

    Seems the creating games bit isn’t Ernest W. Adams’ forte. But he sure is good at sitting on committees:

    He is a member of the International Hobo[6] game design and narrative consultancy.[1] Adams remains a lifetime member of the International Game Developers’ Association, though he no longer has an active role in running the organization, and is on the advisory board of Women in Games International.

    So basically this fat, neckbearded slug is yet another Ellsworth Toohey wannabe, if you know your Rand.

  6. herbn November 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    If you think following the great designers starts with Sid Meier you’ve already failed. I expect serious designers, pro or amateur to start with Sid Sackson, Charles Roberts, Don Featherstone, etc.

  7. Christopher DiNote November 27, 2014 at 8:59 am

    “It is not enough to make games that sell. We must make games that change the gamer. Tom Clancy wrote books that sell, but he changed no one.” — Ernest W. Adams, founder of International Game Developers Association, November 18, 2014 (Twitter)

    False, Tom Clancy’s books helped encourage me to join the military – still in, about 20 years later. What a sanctimonious tool.

  8. JSpace November 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I don’t know the names of many of the players on the Dallas Cowboys roster, but that Jerry Jones sure is cool. He spends money like nobodies business! Whenever I face a meaningful decision like what size of beverage to purchase or whether or not I should buy the latest iBox, I ask myself, “What would Jerry Jones do, with his superior intellect and vast sums of money (W.W.J.J.D.W.H.S.I.A.V.S.O.M.)?”

  9. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/12/03 | Free Northerner

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