OK, short rant.
I’ll make it quick, I promise.
Two days back I witnessed a lengthy discussion between roleplayers comparing the merits and flaws of two popular gaming systems*.
The thing went on for a couple of hours as the involved parties compared narrativist and simulationist approaches to the rules, whether one system “outperformed” the other, the rate of fluff and crunch in the respective handbooks.
It was damn boring, and supremely futile.
In the end, the best game system in the world is the one that works for you and your team and for your game world – all the rest is splitting hair about design choices… and as a gamer (as opposed to game designer), I don’t care for design choices as long as the rules work for me.
Which also means I’m cool if they don’t work for someone else – there’s ample choice of rulesets and gaming systems out there.
Variety is a plus, never a minus.
And yet, the long boring discussion reminded me of that gentleman (or lady, I can’t remember) that reviewing a certain book on Amazon, noted that the plot sucked and the characters were silly, but the book was good because the author “followed all the right rules of writing.”
And therefore I wonder – can it be that in some cases the end user is thinking too much about things that should not bother him at all?
Or, to put it another way – is there a risk a lot of users are becoming too obsessed with technicalities that should remain “under the hood”, so to speak?
The thing bothers me a bit, because I can remember long painful evenings spent at the gaming table when the local rules lawyer would put us through a long detailed tour of some obscure set of rule tweaks in some long forgotten handbook instead of gaming.
It was horrible.
And I’ve met a fair share of readers that do not enjoy the story, but have a frigging scorecard with a set of technicalities I must adopt (and adopt in a very visible, intrusive way, so that they’ll notice) for them to give my story a thumbs up.
The story sucks, but the rules have been followed.
OK, OK, sure, they are free to go and do it – but it’s spoiling the fun, for them and for me.
Sometimes I even ask myself if they are so critical and so harsh in the judging of the stories because the are not “getting” them – they are sacrificing fun for technical nitpicking.
It’s like watching a movie on TV thinking about cathode ray dispersion, considering plot, acting and script some kind of “fluff”.
I don’t want to play with gamers thinking like game designers more than I want to write for readers thinking like creative writing coaches.
* No, not the new D&D, sorry.