So I was talking to people and thinking about this Martin essay.
In it, I basically lay out this hypothesis that the reason why alotta the people who prefer newer, more focused, game designs with really clear "this-is-in/this-is-out" rules do so is because they are kinda socially awkward and so they like that these games put stuff into rules rather than relying on the players and GM to socially negotiate stuff like "Ok, well how much detail do I have to go into to describe how I am tying some iron spikes together to make an impromptu fish-hook and can I trust you that you'll rule fairly on that?"*
I'm thinking mostly of the ones who are so attached to these kind of rules they can't figure out why anyone sane wouldn't want them.
Now I'm realizing I didn't fully think something out there:
I think it's not necessarily that (or only that) some socially awkward people like rules-as-written because they're kinda technocratic thinkers who like technocratic solutions. It may also be--and feel free to let me know how you feel here-- that these gamers are painfully shy people who see social confrontation in itself (regardless of the subject or stakes) as pretty scary and as something that kinda hurts. Or that at least takes a few of their hit points to do.
If you're them a game demanding (or just implying) that changes to standard operating procedure be socially negotiated is kind of offensive in itself. Like I want to play a leopardperson and I have to ask? And I don't have the rulebook to back me up? Fuck. That is in itself the game kind of harassing me.
In other words, to Shy Guy, the group assuming something as a default constitutes a sort of de facto pressure to go along with it.
"GM's discretion" is a problem not (or not just) because you don't trust the GM but because putting your 2 cents into that discussion is socially risky.
Further, if you were Shy: the Content As Written of any gamebook becomes extremely important (way more important than any DIY D&D person could instinctively understand) because not going along with the assumptions of the game will require some social negotiating and social negotiating hurts. (As opposed to being neutral or even fun, like it is most of the time for most of us because we're talking to our friends--or at least people with common interests--about a topic of common interest.) If there's a scary idea in that gamebook or a rule you don't like, that is going to be way more of a problem to negotiate away if you're a shy person. Shy guy doesn't even want to go near having to ask exactly how rituals in this Carcosa game are going to be handled.
If you're shy "expectations" (of all kinds) are not just things you blandly steamroll ten seconds into the first session, they're things it will cost you something emotionally to violate.
And if you are Shy and assume most gamers are like you (and maybe they are)(and which a Shy Guy or Gal could easily assume because if you're really shy you may only want to play with other shy people or may end up mostly playing in organized things with strangers) then wanting to play a game might seem to you like--of course--wanting to play the standard game. Because changing rules is hard and painful and who would wanna do that?
It might also explain why people get So. Fucking. Angry. about games with some mechanic or setting bit they don't like. If the game has lizard-dogs you are gonna have to confront someone or have lizard dogs, if a game has Vancian magic you are going to have to confront someone or use Vancian magic, if a game has paladins as merely a splatbook class you are going to have to confront someone about it being a splatbook class. It's all scary.
(Things I'm not saying:
Shy= Focused Design Fan
or the contrapositive of that
Not Shy=Not Focused Design Fan
Shy=Not Traditional Game fan
or the contrapositive of that
Not Shy=Traditional Game fan
Vociferous Badwrongfunists Who Will Shit On Things That Aren't Focused Designs and Don't Understand Their Appeal constitute a subset of Shy People and that their Shyness may explain this part of their behavior.)
Now since I am really really not Shy Guy and neither are my players (they sure as fuck let me know when they don't like something), I am aware how far out on a limb I am going. I am aware how many assumption I'm making and how I haven't tested any of them.
Again: all this is a guess.
So I am asking you all.
Does this make sense? Does it match your experience?
And if you are the shy person and I have missed something crucial, please see this as a serious attempt to figure out what that is. I apologize in advance for my ignorance.
*As I said in the original essay, there are lots of reasons to like newer rules. This is just about one of those reasons and about the vicious partisan zeal with which some people advocate those reasons.