Sunday, January 06, 2013

More on Amateur Hour

When I say that RPGs are "amateur hour" I mean a couple of different things. On the one hand that term has a pretty negative connotation-- of unprofessional-ism, etc.-- and I very much do mean that. Not just that there's a lot of badly made, badly edited products out there (although I do mean that) but also that I see, compared to other game design communities, a lack of seriousness in a lot of the RPG design discussion that goes on in various quarters.

What's the challenge of game design? Making games that are fun. What do Magic designers talk about? What different people find fun, and why, how to make cards that appeal to those people. What do RPG designers talk about? Why my fun is better than your fun. Not all of them, mind you-- but that this conversation happens at all is a supreme waste of time.

There's another side to the "amateur" coin, though, and it's that there's a lot of RPG products and content produced by people who are doing it just because they love the game, not because they have any professional aspirations. You can do that in RPGs because the physical barriers to entry are so low, and it's a good thing-- my own RPG bookshelf certainly attests to that.

Magic has consistently higher quality than 95% of the published RPGs out there-- including and really especially the professional stuff. They have a bigger budget for everything, and they're rewarded much more for "getting it right"-- for tight design and art everywhere and good visual design and good copy-editing. People have more fun, they can measure it, they get paid.

But the most interesting stuff that Magic makes isn't near half as interesting as the most interesting stuff that's come out in RPGs-- even in just the last year. Magic doesn't do weird. They don't do specific. They do well-produced, slickly-rendered, everybody-kinda-knows fantasy with a slight Magic: the Gathering twist. This has gotten even worse in the last few years, as they've gotten more successful. One of the lessons they've said they learned from Kamigawa block, their Japanese themed world, was that they should have been less specific and less culturally accurate and stuck more to what their players "know" about Asian fantasy.

Which is fine. I enjoy what Magic does, and they do it well. But I enjoy weird and specific and particular, and it makes me sad that Magic doesn't-- can't do-- more of that. One of the advantages of RPGs relative amateur-osity, is that they can do a lot more of that.

If they can quit arguing about who's way is better long enough to just do it.

19 comments:

  1. “Why my fun is better than your fun.”

    I think that these conversations are really about trying to figure out what—if anything—are universally fun factors and which bits aren’t universal. Not that the people involved fully realize that.

    I also think that a lot of us are constantly struggling to understand what we find fun. We think we know, but we engage in these conversations because, underneath it all, we really aren’t sure.

    Or maybe I’m just an optimist trying to rationalize it. ^_^

    Not that any of that invalidates your points.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can somebody give me a specific example of this “Why my fun is better than your fun” monologuery within RPG blogdom that is not related to an Edition Wars skirmish or a subjective conclusion based on comparison between differing mechanics?

      MTG is (and I say this without insult) designed to suit the tastes of the lowest common denominator. Same goes for nearly all other WotC products, naturally. They want to scrape in the most cash possible into the Hasbronic Corporate Machine. Most small press stuff produced by OSR peeps tends to be the opposite. Idiosyncratic, appealing to a small group of like-minded weirdos. There's very little democracy of flavor and style, and I think that's what makes these works desirable and sometimes compelling. I don't want the watered down RPG version of Japanese mythology; I want the well-researched one that has been processed by the imagination glands of some cellar-dweller recluse.

      Delete
  2. "What do Magic designers talk about? What different people find fun, and why, how to make cards that appeal to those people. What do RPG designers talk about? Why my fun is better than your fun."

    Well, that's because collectible card games and RPGs are very different things. A collectible card game is ALL about the game as a commodity. While RPGs are also commercial products, there is also a DIY/small press element, from which games are created for the love of playing the game, and the people involved in that overlap very heavily with the people making RPG material for pay. So while the makers of a CCG are trying to make something that sells (and you seen to equate sales with a measurement of fun, and making something that sells with professionalism*), something that they think that you would want to BUY, the writers of the vast majority of RPGs on the market are trying to make something that they and their gaming groups would want to PLAY.

    *Hollowing out the definition of 'professional' to 'does something for pay', misses out on the much more useful understanding of professions as vocations and as communities.

    ReplyDelete
  3. By the way, I know you know most of this, but I think that comparing RPGs to M:tG is a bit like comparing RPGs to a fantasy themes breakfast cereal - they might share a few aesthetic qualities, but both the producers and consumers of these products are looking for entirely different things.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What? Why are you comparing RPGs to MTG? DrBargle recognized this is a weird comparison, but he didn't really specify why. It's weird because RPGs should be compared to board games/card games, not MTG. DnD could be compared to MTG. DnD should not be compared to board games.

    When you actually make the correct analogy, your whole "MTG designers do it better!" thing kinda falls through. There's *plenty* of "my fun > your fun" arguments in board games; there's a great big divide between heavily-themed, highly confrontational, luck-laden Ameritrash and dry, strategic Eurogames. There's plenty of garbage board games out there, just like there's plenty of garbage to RPGs, although the barrier to entry for board games is quite a bit higher since there's physical goods involved.

    And board games *definitely* do "weird" and "specific" even if MTG doesn't.

    Videogames, books, and television all definitely have legions of people having "my fun > your fun" type of arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, it's a pretty broad comparison, but that's part of the point. CCGs and RPGs share some key qualities-- they're both games, they both have a lot of modular pieces, they both have a strong social component, they both have a lot of math and numbers, they both use randomness, they have an imaginary component that contributes to their success (obviously quite different between the two, of course) they both have signal examples produced by a team of game designers in Seattle.

    But then obviously they also have a lot of differences. Part of the point of analogies is to compare things that are *different* to talk about why they're different, despite their similarities, and what's different about that.

    I mean, heck, if I wanted to I could draw some interesting comparisons between RPGs and breakfast cereal. ;D Actually did just that in the shower this morning while I was thinking about this.

    With that in mind, Vulcan-- I'm not sure I understand why MtG is such an inappropriate comparison with RPGs. Would you mind clarifying? Also, why is MtG not a card game? When you say "card game," what do you mean?

    ReplyDelete
  6. kamu punya pacar? nggak? sama dong.
    jadian yuk...

    ReplyDelete
  7. What are some RPGs you like in terms of "weirdness"?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Welcome to the the New World Order.

    No don't worry, this isn't an odd conspiracy rant. It's just my firm conviction that amateur hour is the future of most of our current forms of entertainment. That it's now cheap to produce amateur efforts, which will never bring their makers enough to quit their day jobs, let alone to hire a professional artist or even an assistant.

    While the expenses of large budget glossiness, demand that those finished products appeal to the broadest of audiences or be considered failures. Large already means bland to many people.

    Consider the difference between the science fiction movie Primer, which is weird and brilliant, but will only ever appeal to a select audience, and the average comic book movie which has to sell in both Bangalore and Kansas, to make back the investment. The big budget model is doomed to fall at some point, as digital replication continues to erode the returns needed to meet that budget. Other than Kickstarter or corporate sponsorship, the future looks dim for slick and professional.

    Which leaves our future as amateur hour.
    Which means more weird, if lower quality.

    I think Hunter S. Thompson said it best.

    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

    Our amateur hour is getting better. Thirty years ago, we used to cut and paste our zines, using the office copier when nobody was looking. Today we can at least produce a fancier version.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, I discovered your weblog by way of Bing although looking for first aid for a heart attack and your submit seems extremely fascinating for me.
    Cccam Server | Best Cccam Server | Cardsharing Server | Best cardsharing

    ReplyDelete
  10. Come to my website to view the contents of my website
    BOLA PELANGI - BANDAR MIX PARLAY TERBESAR DI INDONESIA HANYA DENGAN 1 USER ID SUDAH BISA BERMAIN SEMUA GAME. Join US ! klik link di bawah ini ☟
    Prediksi Parlay Jitu
    Mix Parlay
    Bola Jalan
    U build Great Artikel ^_^ i already Share this artikel Bandar Bola
    Bola Online
    Berita Bola
    Prediksi Parlay

    Untuk Info Dan Bonus Menariknya Bisa Hubungi Kami Di Bawah Ini :
    WHATSAPP 1 : +6282143134681
    WHATSAPP 2 : +6281333472723
    Ayo buruann , mana tau kamu menjadi jutawan setelah bergabung dengan kami ..
    ♛ Group FB Prediksi Parlay = https://www.facebook.com/groups/346501502486292/
    ♛ Instagram = https://www.instagram.com/bolapelangi_01/Bola Pelangi
    ♛ Pinterest = https://id.pinterest.com/bolapelangilounge/ Bolapelan1502486292/
    ♛ Instagram = https://www.instagram.com/bolapelangi_01/Bola Pelangi
    ♛ Pinterest = https://id.pinterest.com/bolapelangilounge/ Bolapelangi Lounge
    ✆ WA = +6282143134681 || +6281333472723

    ReplyDelete
  11. In Atlanta real estate inspection is considered an important factor before proceeding with that property, whether its a workplace or your home. The fact that wherever you are going to spend the maximum of your time should be healthy for you. While we take care of the cleanliness of the space we are working in, taking care of the air quality around us is important as well. One of the most dangerous toxin that is present in the air around us is radon. Radon gas is present in the air around us but when it gets trapped around us inside our property where we breath, it can get stuck inside our system and its prolonged inhalation is the leading cause of lung cancer in non smokers. Champia real estate inspections offer bestRadon testing in Atlanta as they have the necessary equipment and experienced professional with relevant expertise and a huge number of positive reviews so one can completely rely on them regarding your safety and satisfying results.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In Atlanta, Real Estate Inspections are an important part to be included in your property maintenance routine because as much as getting your painted or getting apparent repairs done is important, a home inspection is important in order to know if your house is safe for you and your family to live or not. There are many factors that are hazardous for your family such as high levels of radon inside your home, mold problems, water leaks, termites, air pollution and other factors that pose a threat to your health. A known name for Home Inspection Atlanta has is Champia Real Estate Inspection which deals in home inspection as well as commercial inspections. They were founded in 1987 and have a record of over 50,000 completed inspections and a completion time of 24 hours which is pretty quick. Not to forget their multiple warranties on home inspection which makes it even more reliable.

    ReplyDelete
  13. When it comes to home inspection Atlanta ga has the best home inspection company who will deal with all your problems relating to the health of your house. One of the very common problems that are present in almost every house either known or unknown is the presence of mold inside the house. Mold is present around us everywhere so it is nearly impossible to eradicate them completely unless it is some heavy mechanical equipment. They are present in the air in the form of spores and spread on moist environments. It is a good new and bad one too because if you have moist surfaces at your home, there is a good chance that mold is present around you too and it can cause many harms to your health. It is also a reason to worsen present medical conditions like allergies and respiratory diseases. Champia offers the best Mold testing atlanta has. They have necessary expertise and equipment to deal with this problem and help you get rid of it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. When it comes to Mold Testing Champia real estate inspections have the best services to offer. As they have the best home inspectors in Atlanta who have the necessary expertise to perform a successful home inspection and adequate experience. They have completed over 50000 inspections and a great number of positive reviews as a proof that you can rely on them completely when it comes to the healthy environment of your home. They provide a number of warranties as well for residential inspection so you can be relaxed about the outcome of the inspection. For residential inspection, they give 24 hours ultimatum and schedule and complete the appointments and reports at the exact time. The home inspectors at Champia are very adaptive and care about your comfort. They love it when you are an active part of the home inspection because in this way you can get to know more about the details and they can give you more tips about the maintenance about how to take care of your house after the inspection process.

    ReplyDelete
  15. When it comes to Home Inspections Atlanta Georgia has the best inspection company named as Champia Real Estate Inspections because they were founded in 1987 and since then they have been serving with excellence. They have over 50000 completed inspections in their portfolio and have diverse expertise. This real estate inspection company deals with residential as well as commercial home inspections and have a delivery time of reports in 24 hours for residential inspections and around four days for commercial inspections. Their quick and efficient service plus their customer satisfaction rate is what makes their best real estate inspection and other states of Atlanta has to offer. Among many others, the three key qualities that make them prominent are their experience, certifications and their affordability. They come with additional warranties for residential inspections only so that the homeowner is comfortable with the services and the person that they are letting inside their house.

    ReplyDelete
  16. There are two very important things that come to our mind when we think about a home inspection:
     Is it safe to let a stranger inside our house?
     Is spending money on this worth it?
    We have the answers for you. While residing in Atlanta, and along with many options to choose from, Champia Real Estate is the best choice for you. While spending on getting a home inspection from them, it is affirmative that in whole Atlanta home inspection prices are very affordable as compared to the quality of services they are providing. They make sure that the money you are spending is worth the hustle. They involve you in the process to give you proper insights and maintenance tips. home inspectors in atlanta sent by Champia are certified professionals and they come with insurance plus different sorts of residential warranties so you can totally rely on them when it comes to these two terms which can make you worry about the process.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Atlanta home inspection is a booming industry because of the many cases found inside the homes which were proven to affect the health of the residents and the structure of the house. House inspection companies help out the residents in finding out what is wrong with the place they are residing or even if they are buying that property. Champia Real Estate inspections have the best home inspectors Atlanta has to offer because of their vast experience and their expertise in this field. Champia Real Estate Inspections has been working in Atlanta since 1987 and have a great number of positive reviews in their pocket to back their services. Their home inspectors are friendly and adaptable hence they make it easy for the customer to address their issues to them in order to understand the situation completely and take the necessary steps needed. To make it more comforting, they back their services with a number of warranties so that customers can rely on them completely.

    ReplyDelete
  18. DR EMU YOU ARE REALLY GREAT. I WILL KEEP COMING TO YOU WHEN EVER I NEED YOUR HELP.
    WEBSITE: HTTPS://EMUTEMPLE.WORDPRESS.COM 
    WHATS APP: +2347012841542

    I want to thank DR EMU for the wonderful work he done for me and my family, i was having a serious breakup with my ex but when i contacted him for help he brought him back to me with his historical powers, and also helping me to get a job, since he cast his spell for me things has really be good to me and since i know him my husband has been faithful to me, well i will say that this man is a really great spell caster that every one must contact for help, if you are facing breakup or marriage problem just contact this man for help he will help you settle everything with his power, please contact him on his email: emutemple@gmail.com once you contact him all your problems will be solve.

    ReplyDelete