Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fix Me Fix Me Fix Me

L to R:
boxing technocrat, angry technocrat, shrewd technocrat
There's going to be a new Sherlock Holmes movie--this time with Ian McKellen.

Why Holmes again? Why now? Aside from the obvious (Guy Ritchie just did it and it made money, Benedict Cumberbatch just did it and it made money, Holmes is in the public domain) I think there's a deeper reason that, in 2014, people want to see Sherlock Holmes and want to see problems solved in a Sherlock Holmes way and with Sherlock Holmes mannerisms.

Basically, I think, if you ask most people what things have gotten better during their lifetime, they're gonna name technological things. Dial-up sucked. The entire universe on your phone is an undeniable advance over World Book. On a shallow scan: tech and know-how has, overall, done right by us. Or at least undeniably done something.

On the same shallow scan of the last decade or so: Few people would name recent improvements in creative fields or the way we see the world. Other than attitudes toward gay rights, there are very few recent ideological victories anyone can point to. Other than HBO and maybe stand-up comedy, few people would seriously make the argument anything in the arts is getting, on a mass scale, better.

As for ideology making things worse? Well we see that everywhere--9/11, Guantanamo Bay--it isn't hard for people to point to recent examples of Visionaries Fucking Us Clean Up.

Which is all to say that right now what people want isn't a visionary, it's a technocrat. It's not someone with new ideas about what to do--it's someone who'll do what we all know needs to be done correctly.

It was not always like this: there are times when the zeitgeist is seized by excitement with it's own newness and has an optimism about experimentation. These are times when people are ok with Han Solo being wrong half the time--he's Han fucking Solo.

I think this is one reason Obama won: he presented the competition as pre-eminently incompetent rather than moved by the wrong impulses, despite Hope and Change, he most often presented himself as the adult in the room. He out-adulted the competition on both sides. He wasn't gonna get mad and take a country off the map--this comforted people.

The Avengers has a telling back-and-forth between Captain America (a pre-eminent ideological hero) and Iron Man (a technocrat par excellence):

Cap: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?
Iron Man: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
Cap: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
Iron Man: I think I would just cut the wire.

Iron Man might as well have just said "Fuck you, I'm the IT guy". Iron Man doesn't have to be brave or noble or self-sacrificing because fuck it--you need him.

And the film bears it out, really: regardless of what the movie textually says the filmmakers and the audience clearly believe way more in the presentation of Iron Man than in the presentation of Cap.

Now Captain America would be a hard sell in any year after about 1950 but the movie's other ideological hero, Thor, comes off equally poorly-served.

The ideological heroes--the ones who make speeches about being good--are given lame plasticky costumes and only a few good lines and are kind of played for laughs. The characters who, noble or otherwise, are just overwhelmingly competent--Iron Man, Black Widow and the Hulk ("I have an army""We have a Hulk")--get cool costumes and believable things to say. 2014 believes and wants to believe way more in competence than in belief.

Look at Jackson's Rings movies--Jackson summons the terrifying, charismatic competence of Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas and the dwarves far more effectively than he manages to make the Hobbits' nobility and doing-the-right-thingness convincing. Sam's "The people in those tales never gave up" speech at the end of Two Towers is excruciating.

Ideological heroes aren't all naive goody-goodies, of course. Wolverine may the best at what he does but he's also pre-eminently ideological--he is defined by his willingness to play dirty. Put Wolverine and Captain America in a room in the comics and you get a clash of ideas every time. Put Iron Man and Hulk in a room and you get a clash of techniques.

People are well sick of ideas. They just want the goddamn file to print.

--

A technocrat is not emotionless--or at least the technocratic hero isn't. The pre-eminent technocratic hero emotion is scorn. "You had one job."

Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes hates everyone dumber than him soooooo much. And so do we--because it's their fault this murder isn't solved yet.

It's probably no coincidence that technocratic scorn is also an emotion everyone on the internet gets to feel dozens of times a day. Here's a fine example:
Think of the language people use to describe Washington: "broken" government, "failed" state.

There's nothing wrong with a technocratic solution--the problem is when what's a creative or ideological choice is framed as one in the overwhelming rush to just get the goddamn file to print. "10 Ways To Fix America".

Whiiiiiiich all brings us around to games…

____________


…people--especially technical people--desperately want technocratic (ideology-free, choice-free, creative-vision-free) solutions. "Broken game""unprofessional""oh god, the passive voice again""doing it wrong".

Here's some technocratic advice from one of indie RPGing's most well-regarded and bad designers:

Do you have any suggestions for people wanting to layout their smaller games?


Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Find layouts that you like and studiously reproduce them. I don't mean steal the actual art, of course. I mean, measure the text boxes, page proportions, type sizes, etc. and use them yourself. Page layout is a craft, like building a bookcase. Study the canons and classic methods and copy the masters, like an apprentice carpenter. ...Graphic design and layout are deep, complex art forms. They're worth learning, for sure, but don't expect to pick them up quickly or easily. Whenever I see someone online ask "How can I learn to do layout and design for my game?" I translate it to "How can I learn to compose a symphony?" It's just as vast a question, with no simple answers, just hard work.

Here's some advice from me: Reinvent the wheel. Totally ignore how everybody else did it--they aren't giving people your game. Games need a totally specific presentation and graphic design and every RPG ever has pretty much fucked that up. There are no masters in this field at all. So caveman together some fucked-up folk art layout that you think might serve whatever you're doing. Have a vision and go for it. It can't be worse than what people are already doing and it'll be fun. You might even win an award--we did.

Sherlock Holmes can solve a murder technocratically because there really is a right and wrong answer. You catch the villain or you don't.

And art isn't that kind of problem-solving and writing isn't that kind of problem-solving and, after a certain point, RPGs aren't like that.

After a certain point, a thing can't simply be well-designed. It needs to pick a direction and an audience and it has to pick the compromises it is and isn't willing to live with.

I will trade having to talk about the rules once in a while for speed of access. Some people won't. We need different games. There isn't a technocratic way to determine which of these solutions is more right. We aren't solving a murder, we're entertaining people at our house.

Designing an RPG is more like throwing a party than it is like anything else: There are parts of that which require mere competence, but there are many that require vision. Imagine a version of perfection, imagine who would enjoy it, and then design at that.

There are gamer communities who really really do not want to believe this--they have a Cult of Competence and think that with enough playtesting or enough designing or enough arguing they can somehow make The Game That Will Be Undeniably Best or, at least, better than the games that were produced without all this wrangling and sitting at the feet of the masters.

And if all else fails, there's the appeal to capitalism. The best game is the one that makes the most money, right? That's, at least, a nice, technocratic way to keep score. Unfortunately if popularity and money made a game good then all RPGs are worse than 80s D&D and Vampire and other obviously broken games and all RPGs are worse than Farmville.

But these nerds fucking love their Technocratic Scorn. They need something to cling to that's as solid and objective as the fact Miley used the wrong "they're".

The biggest mystery is these technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts. You'd think that all those chops would at least have some payoff especially when the RPG field is chock full of high-profile obvious technical mistakes anybody can point to. You'd think that ten years of arguing and theorizing about games might make the resulting games more effective overall than some random thing some GM wrote--but it never is.

Technical chops need to be employed by someone who knows what they're for: a means to an end. And they need to know that end is special, particular, eccentric to them and has no guarantee of being universally popular.

If you're designing a game, what you're doing is making something creative. And if you don't go at it as more than a problem to be solved it will suck and your game will be stupid. Aiming for money is dumb, aiming for popularity is dumb, believing enough Game Brainery will achieve either is dumb and basically fuck you and all your Steve Vai records.
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63 comments:

  1. Interesting factoid: both you and I were banned from RPGNet for arguing passionately and honestly on behalf of a position we earnestly hold. Respect.

    I'm surprised, with the epic incompetence of the current generation of leaders, you decided to reach back to the last one for an example of it. If there's anything ubiquitous about these clowns it's not simply that the file won't print, it's that they have the printer plugged in to the water faucet.

    In other words, your analysis may be clouded by your ideology here. Competence doesn't stem from leadership: witness Dilbert's boss. Nor does leadership stem from competence. There are plenty of people who are damn good a something that nobody would think to follow behind.

    Sherlock is hot because his is a world that makes so much more sense. We all got blasted (again) with the Nostalginator Ray like we do every decade, when things seem kind of weird in the here and now.

    Or maybe my analysis is also shaded by ideology? Things seem weird to me now because all the assumptions are being challenged by our leaders and that's uncomfortable for me.

    Impeccable analysis as usual. But in this case I reject the premise.

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    1. I never said anyone WAS competent I said they SOLD THEMSELVES on their competence.

      Whether any real-world leader _actually is_ competent is a subject I have not touched on.

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  2. Not premise; the examples of the premise.

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    1. What in God's holy name are you on about?

      Quote a thing I said. Then explain what your problem is with it.

      Delete
    2. You just reached way too far back for an example of technocrats makin things go badly.

      I honestly believe technocrats always make things go badly. There's no substitute for regular people running their own lives with a minimum of interference.

      Delete
    3. You have failed to quote.
      What is the example you are talking about?
      Quote it.

      Delete
    4. I'll do his work for him. He's complaining that your "examples of incompetence" (actually examples of harmful ideology) like 9/11 and Guantanamo are last generation, in spite of their lasting effects and importance, and criticizing your not choosing (I think he was obliquely hinting at) obamacare as your incompetent technocrat example (not what your example was about)(too soon to objectively tell about obamacare).

      Delete
    5. Then he made a mistake:

      "As for ideology making things worse? Well we see that everywhere--9/11, Guantanamo Bay-"

      Those are examples (in the public's eye) not of _incompetence_ but of _successfully ideology_ . That is exactly what I say there.

      So when he said "you just reached way too far back for an example of technocrats makin things go badly." He has it all backwards.

      As for what "generation" they were--the point (which he seems to have missed) was that the current president's _marketing strategy_ (like him or not) was to present himself as a technocrat so he could avoid seeming ideological. Despite being (like everyone who is non-fictional) ideological.

      Whether or not Obamacare is or will be a failure, it has not yet provided the general reader with a widely-known example of someone who successfully rose _because_ of that failure.

      I really hope you're wrong about what Scott wrote, WBWhiting because if what you say is what he actually meant then he went and wrote a LOT of stuff under this blog entry with bothering to even read it which, on top of failing to quote the thing he was talking about when asked (twice in a row) makes him look pretty stupid.

      Delete
    6. You don't use any other examples from "last generation," so he has to have misinterpreted your ideologue/ technocrat contrast.

      I think of current republicans as being ideologues not technocrats, and I've heard Obama described as a centrist technocrat by other democrats, and I read republicanism/ libertarianism into "There's no substitute for regular people running their own lives with a minimum of interference. " I think that he's hinting that you should be pointing out Obama's 'failings' rather than Bush's failings. "In other words, your analysis may be clouded by your ideology here... Or maybe my analysis is also shaded by ideology?"

      Obviously, someone can have a subjective opinion on the ACA, and it is never too early to have an ideological opinion on something. A comprehensive enough ideology can answer any question before it is even asked (note I don't say correctly).

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    7. None of what any of these politicians _is_ is to the point.

      The post uses _how one candidate presented themself as a candidate_ as an example. And as an example of something that goes beyond party politics.

      So all that you said related to that is not really relevant here.

      Delete
  3. 'Unfortunately if popularity and money made a game good then all RPGs are worse than 80s D&D and Vampire and other obviously broken games and all RPGs are worse than Farmville."

    The formula for Farmville (or any digital title now really) is: follow the data. Spy the fuck out of them, watch where the majority of them walk away from the game, then create a fix. After x number of fixes you get a formula for what those types of players want. The "ideological way" might be - iterate on the game, play it yourself, get feedback, adjust. (find the fun) - Valve does it, Double Fine does it, Pixar does it (for movies)

    I think the biggest disconnect in terms of digital media to what you might be doing at the kitchen table is that often, your session winds up being one of the only games in town, whereas for digital there are SO many fucking options. If people don't like your farmville clone there's 50 other clones to go check out. This puts some pressure on the more competitive companies to create that sort of "we're the best and biggest, and we'll address all your needs" environment.

    I think that sort of environment then manipulates the "dial" of D&D that flips it historically from proactive (these rules are nice, but feel free to throw them out if they don't work to you) to reactive (WHY didn't wizards put psionics into 5e?)

    Ultimately, I think if you're not Paizo or D&D, you don't need to even have the "I can address all your needs" conversation. It's just not relevant to your potential audience, and you don't have the marketing and power to do what the big boys are doing. So change the conversation to what you DO do, don't just try to be another Coke cause Coke already has that niche covered.

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    1. Heh, I try to ignore them as best I can but man have they got meme share now. And the larger you spread your net, the lower the common denominator gets. You don't have the capacity as a single creator (unless you're a founder, and even then) to run all the ideas at once, so you delegate, and then you get surveys and committees, and as you point out above, less innovation (usually around fear of failure). People Pixar admit this bluntly when they have to kill innovative concepts simply because they're too smart for the mass audience.

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    2. "There are gamer communities who really really do not want to believe this--they have a Cult of Competence and think that with enough playtesting or enough designing or enough arguing they can somehow make The Game That Will Be Undeniably Best or, at least, better than the games that were produced without all this wrangling and sitting at the feet of the masters."

      Coming back to this (and the Farmville argument/Technocrat/"I got all the fixes for you") it's really that, once you get to a certain size, you start to worry about failure quite a bit more. The dialog does a natural shifts from "What do I like to do and how can I promote it" to "how do I keep this bloated dead gravy train going?" When all the experienced people are engrossed in the latter conversation it stamps out the former conversation. So when people look for clues on how to kick off their design that's what the y get, the logic of the guys who are already at the finish line.

      Delete
  4. From the political perspective, I have long concluded that not only is world leadership that of the loonies having taken over the asylum (I date it from when politicians starting taking seriously the advice of neo-classical economic crackpots like Milton Friedman); but that whatever voices they are now listening to are emanating from and echoing within the void between their ears. The World wants and needs a new Napoleon Bonaparte - someone wioth ability by the bucket load, and a really focused sense of purpose.

    Napoleon was a 'tech' guy, an IT guy. Proof? "It is with artillery that one makes war," quoth the great man. A loose translation: " Artillery is IT, Man!"

    As for the RPG field - well, my lack of experience in that sort of thing ill qualifies me to an (informed) opinion. So I won't offer one.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. As I recall, the whole "Napoleon" thing didn't go too well last time.

      The last thing we need right now is a technocrat with visions of Empire. Or, as Zak pointed out, someone *presenting* themselves as a technocrat. Which presupposes that our problems can be solved by technocratic means - which is not the case at all. But people LIKE the technocrat approach because it's (ideally) simple; "just cut the wire".

      One could also go into the whole idea of America constantly being duped by wolves in tech clothing, while our culture is profoundly anti-intellectual, while those of us on the more intelligent side of things look for that elusive tech fix, usually brought by an intellectual elite (c.f. the popularity of Ayn Rand among geek/nerd culture).

      Delete
  5. am I the only one who cackles like a jackal when sam gamgee opens his fat fuking mouth and says (in his unlikely orphan-annie wig) "share the loooowd". in jackson slow-mo?

    anyway, why do you other commenters read Smith when you don't understand a fuking word he is saying? it's like frodo is being tailed around by like dozens of useless jackson-sams, constantly saying stupid sh!t getting in the way of frodo and, more importantly, the fuking plot.

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  6. This went long, so please allow me to break up my response into three sections.

    Let me start by picking out a few kernels I agree with: different projects benefit from different approaches instead of some attempt at a universal template, yes. If you're doing creative work, it's better to just start producing first and worry about the fine-tuning later instead of wasting your time at the start searching for a magic bullet, yes. Our society suffers from a surfeit of scorn and there is real harm being done by a need to win that is stronger than the need to understand those who disagree with you, to convince them or leave them be, to be gracious and build bridges. Yes. "Technical chops need to be employed by someone who knows what they're for," very yes.

    But to be honest, beyond that your message in this post is kind of a shambles.

    Do you believe in objective standards of quality? If you do, then why do pile such scorn on people who try to find and use objective standards?

    If you don't, on the other hand, then where on earth do you get your assertion that "technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts"? You mention money as a (straw-man) example of a faulty objective standard, then knock it down, but no other criteria for judgement are ever mentioned. Meanwhile, if you mean to uphold a subjective standard like "some human beings gain enjoyment from it at some gaming table somewhere," then even a single example of someone having fun with one of those supposedly butt-sucking games, whatever it is you're thinking of (if you were thinking of anything at all instead of just attacking a boogeyman of your own imagination, that is) would falsify your claim.

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  7. Speaking of boogeymen, what exactly is being contrasted here? You seem to have set up this dynamic of "technocrats" - analytical types who admire competence above all else, whose primary characteristics are pedantry and scorn, who never produce anything of value, personified by Iron Man - versus idealists, creative types who admire sincerity above all else, whose primary characteristics are... (unclear), personified by Captain America... and by yourself?

    Do you even realize that, with the structure of the post as it is, you're essentially calling yourself the Captain America of game design? (Without having ever actually designed a game, no less - Vornheim is cool and all, but a setting and some house rules are hardly a game by themselves.) You make this sweeping statement that any given game should target a niche rather than trying to be universally lucrative/popular, but aren't you simply throwing your hat into the Theory ring without even so much as a butt-sucky system to demonstrate your theories in action?

    You criticize a designer for advising newcomers to study the work of others, and offer counter-advice to just jump in with both feet and start creating. The first irony here is that you use the word "bad" with zero support immediately after admitting that he's well-regarded. In that case, aren't you required to break down for us, the bystanders, why he is well-regarded despite being bad and what the nature of his badness is? The second irony is that, even with his fiddly approach to design, it appears that he has designed games, and even with your creative approach, you haven't.

    Let's pull back for a fine distinction here: I'm not saying you need to design games in order to credibly critique game designers. (The only thing that you'd need to acquire is a coherent argument and communicable, reasonable criteria.) I'm saying your argument is a mishmash that conflates page layout with game design and Vornheim with an actual playable game. You holding up your single product as counterpoint to unknown numbers of unknown games (the badness of which we're just expected to take your word for) - in the context of page layout, yes, but you also seem to be using it to demonstrate the superiority of your approach to game design over that of others.

    You launch broad accusations that carry an implicit Right Way (just bust out the creativity, man) and Wrong Way (how dare you study what other people have done?) for doing things in the same essay that you argue for custom-tailoring solutions to fit niches. Well, what do you do if there's someone whose creative process is best served by measuring other people's page layout and using that as a basis to tinker from, someone whose creative process is itself analytical?

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  8. The part about scorn keeps getting me, too. You seem to acknowledge the problem with "ideological heroes" - after all, wasn't the Red Skull an "ideological hero" from the Nazi point of view? - but you seem to miss the fact that in the very exchange you quote, the Cap's lines are dripping with scorn.

    "Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?" - Note the sarcasm at the start, followed by belittlement.

    "I know guys with none of that worth ten of you" - a literal statement that the listener is of little worth, without any consideration for what Stark points out: an IT guy who cuts a wire really is worth more to the army than a "nice guy" who just throws himself onto it in impulsive self-sacrifice. Because the IT guy doesn't fuck up company morale; because the IT guy lives to fight another day.

    Compare: "But these nerds fucking love their Technocratic Scorn. They need something to cling to" - The choice of Captain America is apt here; how many years has it been since anybody worth listening to used "nerds" in the derogatory tone it's being used here? Admittedly the Captain would find something more eloquent than "fuck" to use for emphasis, and I hope that by the time he got to the image of people "clinging to" something for comfort he would start to move from scorn into pity, but I guess not all ideologues can live up to the standards of a fictional hero.

    And all the vitriol you spew here at some faceless target(s) - what is the point? What is your theme? Are you thinking about, or talking to, some specific person? Is this a continuation of some specific argument where, if we knew the context, we could make some sense of your disjointed jumping from topic to topic and general thematic wire-crossing?

    Is your point "Aiming for money is dumb, aiming for popularity is dumb, believing enough Game Brainery will achieve either is dumb"? That's a really weird thing to assert in a post that tacitly acknowledges the commercial and cultural success of the Avengers movie (a product of Movie Brainery).

    Or maybe your point was just "fuck you and all your Steve Vai records," a private message to some guy who... likes Steve Vai records?... that you accidentally broadcast to the public somehow?

    TL;DR: You're contradicting yourself; you're not making sense; you come off as a guy who's angry at someone in particular but lacks the sense to keep it private and possesses a certain self-unaware arrogance to boot. I hope you get the issue worked out soon and can get back into your element, which seems to be creatively coming up with setting-type content, so we don't have to put up with any more of these garbled diatribes.

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    1. YOUR FIRST MISTAKE:
      "Do you believe in objective standards of quality?"
      For games: no.
      From the point of view of an individual: yes (you are served or not)

      "If you don't, on the other hand, then where on earth do you get your assertion that "technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts"?"

      2 reasons:
      They don't do the thing they say they do (universal appeal)
      The people they _do_ appeal to always suck . So like "Baby-shooting: the Game" sucks
      because the people who like it might be entertained, but all those people suck.

      Thanks for asking.

      YOUR SECOND MISTAKE:
      I did not say technocrats "never produce anything of value"
      I said:
      "There's nothing wrong with a technocratic solution--the problem is when what's a creative or ideological choice is framed as one.."

      Please do not attack me without having read the post.

      THIRD MISTAKE
      "aren't you simply throwing your hat into the Theory ring without even so much as a butt-sucky system to demonstrate your theories in action?"
      I am judging all game products not just finished games. Duh.

      FOURTH MISTAKE
      "you use the word "bad" with zero support"
      He is bad--if you doubt my evidence what you do is _ask for that evidence_ not assume it doesn't exist.

      Are you asking?

      FIFTH MISTAKE
      "aren't you required to break down for us, the bystanders, why he is well-regarded despite being bad and what the nature of his badness is? "

      Only if it's questioned. Are you questioning it?

      SIXTH MISTAKE
      "The second irony is that, even with his fiddly approach to design, it appears that he has designed games, and even with your creative approach, you haven't."

      I don't see what that has to do with anything. His game product bites--I don't need a _license_ to see that. All I have to do is examine the audience and him as a person. If they are all worthless then the game is no better than "Baby-shooting: the game"

      7th MISTAKE
      Pretending (bad faith) that the graphic design of the category of thing called "game" is so vastly a different project that the category called "game product" doesn't overlap.

      8th MISTAKE
      "You launch broad accusations that carry an implicit Right Way (just bust out the creativity, man) and Wrong Way"
      Incorrect: the only Right Way is to make a modest claim for what you can do. And the Wrong Way is to make an unfulfillable claim (universal appeal, objective awesomeness)

      9th MISTAKE
      "what do you do if there's someone whose creative process is best served by measuring other people's page layout".

      If you _measure it as part of your process_ that's unrelated--I saod nothing ont he subject. If you _then design like it and your final product looks like it_ you have fucked up and will produce something as bad as what already exists.

      10th MISTAKE
      "after all, wasn't the Red Skull an "ideological hero" from the Nazi point of view?"

      Sure. There's nothing inherently good about ideological heroes. Did you read this blog entry while you were in a washing machine?

      11th MISTAKE
      Most of your 3rd comment is completely incoherent and (i think) based on some false premise about x kind of hero being better than y which you made up.

      12th MISTAKE
      "Is your point "Aiming for money is dumb, aiming for popularity is dumb, believing enough Game Brainery will achieve either is dumb"? That's a really weird thing to assert in a post that tacitly acknowledges the commercial and cultural success of the Avengers movie (a product of Movie Brainery)."

      I never said the Avengers movie was "culturally successful". I kinda didn't like it. As for it's commercial success: who cares?

      13th MISTAKE
      Assuming some mystery target rather than taking me at my word. Lots of people do this stupid thing I point out.

      Delete
    2. So address all your mistakes, Confanity, and get back to us.

      Delete
    3. Ferus: 1. Lie.
      2. Personal attack.
      Banned for life.

      Delete
    4. Perhaps I can boil things down for you. In brief, it feels like you posted in haste and anger, and haven't realized that it's not clear for people who live outside your head.

      You seem to have missed my point, which is that your post lacks coherence and supporting evidence. Ironically, you make snarky asides about my not having read it: I read it, alright. It's just that I felt as if I were sitting on the subway listening to someone have an angry argument over the phone: a lot of information was missing or irrelevant, and no clear thread connected the parts into a whole.

      You say my third section is based on a “false premise about x kind of hero being better than y.” But you not only discuss “technocrats” at length; you also contrast them with ideologues (e.g. Iron Man / Captain America), and then you explicitly connect the technocratic approach to “scorn” and to bad game products. Put another way: if you didn't mean to present a judgmental contrast of hero types x and y, what was the purpose of the Avengers section? If your only goal was to introduce the idea of a “technocratic” approach, then Holmes would have been enough.

      You seem to have missed that I agree with several of your arguments. There are lots of hints in the post that point toward a reasonable conclusion. It's just that they're never made clear, and that clarity is most of what I'm asking to see. Please get out of your own washing machine before you start listing my “mistakes.” :p

      On that note, you ask whether I am “asking” various things. YES. Yes, I am. But I shouldn't need to! A fundamental aspect of good theory/criticism is defining your terms and criteria, accompanied by concrete examples or at well-constructed thought experiments. For example, when I say “good” criticism, I mean criticism that is worth the reader's time, which the criticized could use constructively. Someone who posts a one-star rating on a website without saying why is a bad critic. Film Critic Hulk is a good critic because he gives examples of things that failed, develops a theoretical ground for why they failed, and points in a direction that would allow for future success.

      You do none of these things. Instead, you 1. made a series of aggressively-worded assertions 2. from a position of assumed authority and expertise 3. in a public space. In effect, your post is a very loud one-star rating, but we don't even get to know what it's a rating of. We, the readers, should not be required to make special requests before you deign to hand down the reasoning behind your pronouncements; that would be one of your responsibilities as someone who makes assertions in the public sphere. (At least, if you want to be taken seriously and are not a right-wing talk-show host.)

      You make repeated claims that certain people and games are “bad,” but you never explain why or how. The closest you get is a tangential mention of page formatting... but Konsumterra makes the same argument more effectively in a much smaller space, and it's such a trivial aspect of a game that bringing it up weakens your argument. Do you have nothing to say about the design of games/products themselves?

      In your response to my comments, you got a little more explicit. And I accept “failing to meet stated goals (of universality)” as a ground for critique. But, again, you never made it clear in the post proper. More importantly, “failing to achieve goals” is not the same thing as “bad” in a global sense, especially if you also argue (as you seem to) that the goals as stated are impossible. Example: if I aim to run a mile in two minutes but end up taking four, I certainly failed in my goal – but a four-minute mile is still world-class running. Similarly, a game that aims to be universal can fail, but still be fun and worth playing. So there's a critical distinction that you seem to be missing.

      Delete
    5. Some point-by-point responses:

      -You admit that games are good or bad depending on the individual, but then say that game X is bad because all individuals who like it are bad people. Without debating violent games (D&D is fundamentally about amoral "murder hobos"), taste (you endorse the people who made Death Love Doom), or social mores (you're a fucking porn actor and yet you judge people as whole people based on a single hobby?!?)... without opening up those issues, let me ask:

      Who do you hope to win us over to your position by declaring the fundamental suckiness of everyone who likes a set of games you don't like? Aren't you indulging in the worst sort of internettiness?

      -"I did not say technocrats "never produce anything of value" – I said: "There's nothing wrong with a technocratic solution--the problem is when what's a creative or ideological choice is framed as one.."'

      Perhaps I was unclear here. You said "technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts." I hope you can see how this stands out, and how it sounds like "technocrats [in my opinion] never produce anything of value." If you didn't mean it that way, cut or rewrite it.

      -"I am judging all game products not just finished games. Duh."

      Duh, you say. After repeatedly referring to, and focusing on, "games" and "game design." Here's a hint: if you want the reader to get that you're thinking about "all game products," try not to start your climactic paragraph with "If you're designing a game," because that shit will make people think you're talking about game design.

      -"I don't need a _license_"

      Okay; I need you to hit Ctrl-G and find the paragraph beginning with "Let's pull back for a fine distinction" and then read what I wrote. Okay?

      Delete
    6. -On the "9th mistake," I see your point, but you missed mine. If you deny universality, then you undercut any universal statements you yourself make. Plus, you misrepresent the "technocratic" approach. It feels like you're using that one guy as a straw-man example to attack the whole. Yes, thoughtless imitation without understanding is bad. But an effective method for people of analytical mindsets is not creative abandon (the alternative you seem to endorse) so much as – as you say – competence. Even if one starts with uninhibited creativity, sooner or later competence has to be added, yes? But despite a few statements that indicate you agree with me here, your post is all over the map. Again, your problem is lack of coherence.

      -'I never said the Avengers movie was "culturally successful".'

      Not in those words, but you referenced it. You assumed that it would be familiar to the majority of your readers.

      -"Assuming some mystery target rather than taking me at my word. Lots of people do this stupid thing I point out."

      Wow. This is not an acceptable argument. DO "lots of people" do "this stupid thing"? Can you demonstrate it? How many is "lots"? What exactly is "this stupid thing"? (Claim that their game – or game product – has universal appeal?) And what exactly do you point out? Outside of the comments, the only thing you clearly point out is page layout!

      I'm not "assuming a mystery target." You obviously have at least one specific target, whom you specifically quote. You set that quote off with white text on black background and represent your target with a picture of Comic Book Guy. But he remains unnamed; i.e. mysterious.

      And finally, sorry, you haven't earned the privilege of being taken at your word without evidence. (I suspect nobody ever should!) Perhaps you're aware that some people question authority instead of meekly accepting it; in this case I am one of those people, and I doubt I'm the only one. We expect a coherent argument backed by reason, and demanding that we simply "take you at your word" sounds... bad. You got mad at Ferus, but this impression is probably what he was reacting to.

      Delete
    7. In brief, one last time:

      Your argument is unclear and contradictory. I get the impression that you were reacting emotionally to something that I'm unaware of, and I'm sympathetic, but that doesn't change the deep and pervasive flaws in the way you structured and presented your thoughts. We need details; we need extraneous bits removed to avoid confusion; we need you to make sure you're explicitly and coherently stating what you mean to say. We need to know the premises you argue from and the route you took from them to your conclusions. We need you to stop demanding unquestioning obedience and start treating human beings, even those with different tastes and priorities than yours, as human beings.

      And mostly we need you to get off of whatever forum it was that got you so riled up so you can go back to producing useful creative content instead of angry rants. We need more Negaverse Hit Squad and Church of Tiamat, and less “I'm thinking of a guy and all his games suck.”

      Delete
    8. Just because you (who have come here and made irrational arguments before) don't understand something because you read too fast or not at all doesn't mean there's something wrong with it.
      As soon as you say a thing that is directly contradicted in the post you lose all credibility.

      "if you didn't mean to present a judgmental contrast of hero types x and y, what was the purpose of the Avengers section? "

      SIMPLE: please type something that is evidence you grasp what I am about to say:
      a_ To show the difference between 2 types
      b_ To show that in 2014 it's easier to conjure one kind than the other.
      There.
      There's that.
      "You seem to have missed that I agree with several of your arguments. "
      I didn't miss it: your few moments of lucidity are not the point, we're discussing points where you failed and assumed.

      "and that clarity is most of what I'm asking to see."

      The second you _assume a stupid idea you made up_ and then attack instead of _writing to ask a question to check_ you are the asshole.

      "On that note, you ask whether I am “asking” various things. YES. Yes, I am. But I shouldn't need to!"

      Of course you should: if a writer took the time to spell out every assumption no essay would ever end.
      Anyway: the shitty RPG author is John HArper. If you make the bold claim he has made nonshitty games, say you need clarification.

      "And I accept “failing to meet stated goals (of universality)” as a ground for critique. But, again, you never made it clear in the post proper. "

      You are lying or stupid. I explicitly say
      this:
      " You'd think that ten years of arguing and theorizing about games might make the resulting games more effective overall than some random thing some GM wrote--but it never is."
      TA DAA! If you don't understand you ask nicely

      Delete
    9. "Zak, what do you mean by 'effective;" and then I answer.
      "Who do you hope to win us over to your position by declaring the fundamental suckiness"
      If you think my aim is to "win over" people you are sadly mistaken. I simply am providing what I believe to be true information so that other people will provide useful info back that helps me run a game.
      This goal has been successful here.

      "Perhaps I was unclear here. You said "technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts." I hope you can see how this stands out, and how it sounds like "technocrats [in my opinion] never produce anything of value." If you didn't mean it that way, cut or rewrite it."

      Your stupidity here comes form not realizing that in that second section I am discussing _specifically_ game design.
      "Whiiiiiiich all brings us around to games…"
      Read more carefully and ask more questions before you assume.

      "if you want the reader to get that you're thinking about "all game products,""
      Again if you are too stupid or evil to ask for clarification of things you don't understand before making insulting accusations, you are not the target audience. I only wish to communicate with good, smart people.

      "I don't need a license"
      your response is not coherent.

      " If you deny universality, then you undercut any universal statements you yourself make."

      Incorrect: universal judgment of games ("tic tac toe sucks" is incorrect) is different from universal judgment of people "people who assfuck babies suck" (correct)

      " It feels like you're using that one guy"
      What guy? Why do your dumb feelings matter?

      "Even if one starts with uninhibited creativity, sooner or later competence has to be added, yes?"
      Already addressed:
      "Technical chops need to be employed by someone who knows what they're for: a means to an end. "

      "Not in those words, but you referenced it. You assumed that it would be familiar to the majority of your readers."
      SO? That doesn't mean I make the dumb claim you foolishly assumed I made.
      This assumption alone is enough to torpedo you as a rational human.

      "DO "lots of people" do "this stupid thing"? "
      Sure: view the discussions of 5e on RPGnet to see technocrats mewling about how the designers lack the BASIC SKILLS that they, anonymous internet guy have.
      More examples available on request.
      "What exactly is "this stupid thing"? (Claim that their game – or game product – has universal appeal?)"
      Yes. Or that they have an objective superiority based on technical chops.

      "You obviously have at least one specific target, whom you specifically quote. "
      John Harper is an example of someone giving technocratic advice.

      " you haven't earned the privilege of being taken at your word without evidence. "
      SURE SO WHAT YOU DO IS:
      -Ask for evidence rather than jackholishly assume it is missing.

      "I get the impression that you were reacting emotionally to something that I'm unaware of,"

      Again: these irrational assumptions torpedo you as a sane voice. You are not allowed to assume insulting things without asking first. It marks you as evil.

      "And mostly we need you to get off of whatever forum "

      Again: assumption, This assumption makes you evil.

      "We need more..."
      I do not work for you. And it's disgusting that you would think to take someone to task for wanting to have a conversation that goes over your head.

      Address these things.

      Delete
    10. "Address these things"? You pretty much lost me at "making assumptions = evil." Especially right after verifying my assumptions are correct: according to your own assertion you went on RPGNet, and there you read something about 5e, and it got you upset. So you come out here and spew out the bile that built up while you were staring into the echo chamber there.

      But since you asked (although it was hardly in a civil manner) - Please, sir, may I have some more? Would the expert please kindly specifically demonstrate how 100% of human beings who enjoy [googles] Agon and Lady Blackbird are all sucky as human beings? I get that defensive assholery is part of your personal style, but by this point I can completely see what Ferus was talking about. You really don't even comprehend the criticism I was trying to offer, and your response jumps straight to irrational abuse (again... “assumptions = evil”? Where the hell did that come from?).

      I'm not so unreasonable as to ask that you provide thorough evidence by demonstrating this for all games ever designed by everyone you'd call a "technocrat"; that's a snipe hunt. But I do want to see you try to hack out clear lines of reasoning without resorting to ad hominem attacks against faceless targets or strained analogies (with your fixation on babies, are you thinking of Wraeththu and assuming, evilly of course, all other indie RPGs are the same?). Go ahead. I asked.

      Delete
    11. Making assumptions isn't evil,
      making
      insulting
      assumptions
      without
      asking
      first
      is evil.
      Do you grasp this? Answer yes or no.

      Delete
    12. " according to your own assertion you went on RPGNet, and there you read something about 5e, and it got you upset. "
      Incorrect: I did not do that.

      You simply asked for one (of many) examples and provided it.

      Do you grasp this? Answer yes or no.

      Delete
    13. I haven't been to RPGnet in ages. But the old threads are there.
      "kindly specifically demonstrate how 100% of human beings who enjoy [googles] Agon and Lady Blackbird are all sucky as human beings?"
      I dunno about Agon but I have never seen anyone who wasn't a dickhead who liked it.

      If you can produce what you believe to be a non-dickhead who likes that particular fanfic generator, I will either be surprised or endeavor to explain to you what they actually did that was wrong and indicates they're a dickhead.

      Do you grasp this? Answer yes or no.

      Delete
    14. " You really don't even comprehend the criticism I was trying to offer, and your response jumps straight to irrational abuse"

      You assumed I had no evidence and you assumed I had done something I didn't do.

      You said it _explicitly_ more than once that you assumed some bs about a forum. You continue to do it. The evidence that you are terrible is clear--no good person would ever assume an insulting thing without asking someone they could just ask.

      Delete
    15. As for evidence John Harper is bad "most well-regarded and bad designers"
      Here is plenty evidence:
      http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/15862/history-of-gaming-confessions-of-a-dungeon-master/p5
      He later openly referred to his own behavior here as "trolling".
      (again, because you are too stupid or dishonest to grasp this subtlety--this is evidence of my claim _from a forum_ despite the fact _a forum discussion_ did not spur me to write this and you are still bad for assuming that.

      Delete
    16. I grasp that you completely failed to give evidence or reasoning of any sort. (Did you notice? Or does dodging a question count as answering it, for you?) I grasp that you believe vague anecdotes are a valid substitute for reason. I thoroughly grasp that your judgement when it comes to dickheadery isn't the most trustworthy.

      I will say that one of my cousins, who's a really nice guy, seems to have played and enjoyed Lady Blackbird, so go ahead and be surprised. I will also say that Ben Robbins seems to have played and enjoyed Agon, and nothing has indicated to me yet that he's a dickhead. Certainly he doesn't respond first and foremost to criticism and questions with abuse.

      I'm sorry to see such a nasty, defensive streak coming out in you here. I guess I'll just sit back and wait for actual content to come out, and if there isn't enough compared to the venom, I'll just chalk you up as a waste of time; just another armchair theorist who spends too much time "mewling" about the faults of others and not enough creating.

      Delete
    17. "You said it _explicitly_ more than once that you assumed some bs about a forum."

      I said repeatedly "It seems" or "it feels." If you can't tell the difference between "it is as if" and "I assume that," then you're beyond my power to help.

      Nor did I say you had no evidence. I said your post gave no evidence. I pointed out that, from our point of view, your failure to give the evidence that you claim to have undermines your assertions. Again, if you can't figure out the difference there....

      Delete
    18. "I grasp that you completely failed to give evidence or reasoning of any sort. "

      Quote the assertion I did not support. Then ask a question about it.

      "one of my cousins.." you are, of course, not a reliable witness.

      re: Ben Robbins. I don't know Ben--but if you're right, Lady Blackbird _is not a bad game_ but what I asserted was John Harper was bad and I provided a link.

      "Certainly he doesn't respond first and foremost to criticism and questions with abuse."

      No: I respond to insulting assumptions with abuse. As is proper.

      Address these things.

      Also: there are a great many times where you asserted something that wasn't true above--you need to apologize for those and admit you were wrong.

      Delete
    19. If you have John Harper admitting to trolling people, sure, that's an admission of dickishness on his part.

      You may be totally correct that Harper is a pure-grade dick. Unfortunately, that's completely irrelevant. The assertions I am challenging were about whether all games by him, or any other people you would call technocrats, "suck butt." Alternately, whether 100% of the people who enjoy said games are sucky people.

      Just as you can appreciate a Leni Riefenstahl film as well-made while wanting nothing to do with Nazi ideology; just as Sports Star Bob can be a complete asshole even as decent people enjoy his performance in a game, so a complete dickhead can still produce material that, as a game, is good, or is enjoyed by people who are decent people.

      Delete
    20. "If you have John Harper admitting to trolling people, sure, that's an admission of dickishness on his part. You may be totally correct that Harper is a pure-grade dick. "

      As soon as one trolls one is a pure-grade dick. As soon as you do that you are bad and my statement is correct:
      "As for evidence John Harper is bad "most well-regarded and bad designers""
      All he has to be is "bad". I am correct.
      "
      The assertions I am challenging were about whether all games by him, or any other people you would call technocrats, "suck butt."
      "
      Produce a non-asshole who likes his game--and has played the competition.

      -
      You said it _explicitly_ more than once that you assumed some bs about a forum."
      I said repeatedly "It seems" or "it feels."

      This is an overt lie. I quote you:
      "Especially right after verifying my assumptions are correct: according to your own assertion you went on RPGNet, and there you read something about 5e, and it got you upset. So you come out here and spew out the bile"

      This is evidence of you lying. Or having a painfully short memory.

      Address this terrible thing you've done.

      Delete
    21. "Nor did I say you had no evidence. I said your post gave no evidence."

      Which woud be fine _if
      you
      hadn't
      went
      on
      to
      make
      insulting
      assumptions
      after_
      You see? Once you do that--you are a red shirt, You don't matter anymore, you're not rational.

      Delete
    22. [sighs]

      Oh sweet Zak S, I'm sorry that you talking about people "mewling" on a forum made me somehow believe that you were upset by something on a forum. I'm sorry that I didn't realize that any upset that happened when you read that "mewling" doesn't count as upset if time has passed between reading and reacting. I'm sorry I forgot to tell you that Ben Robbins is the West Marches guy, and has definitely both enjoyed Agon and "played the competition."

      I'm sorry that you said "but if you're right, Lady Blackbird _is not a bad game_" and still don't seem to realize how this falsifies your claim that "these technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts." I'm sorry that you're still shouting at me to point out mistakes on your part even after directly contradicting yourself in this way.

      That's all. Thank you for your time.

      Delete
    23. I never claimed to be _upset_ . I am simply providing evidence of wrongdoing.]

      Why do you keep fabricating facts and inserting them?

      Delete
    24. "I'm sorry that you said "but if you're right, Lady Blackbird _is not a bad game_" and still don't seem to realize how this falsifies your claim that "these technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts." "

      Note the use of the word "seem".

      I can only speak to my experience.

      Please address these things..

      Delete
  9. I was once told by a professorial type that Sherlock Holmes was about urbanism and alienation. In the same way that Flowers of Evil or The Nose is about urbanism and alienation. The city is suddenly a huge place (especially to the new arrival): its anonymity terrifying, its opportunity inexplicable and the possibility/chance of deceit omnipresent.

    Perhaps something in the present is giving people that sense of order and solidity melting into air again, and they want to imagine that there's a Sherlock fellow who can take in the overwhelming amount of sensation and actually make sense of it all.

    How this relates to game design, not sure? I do find that the more technical games, the ones with far too many rules also want to be totalizing and sometimes seem like they aspire to provide rules for anything that can happen by way of either rules for agreeing on rules or worse, a multitude of sub-systems, modifiers and statistics.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Having been away from gaming for 20 years (xcept some cthulhu stuff sporadically) i was disappointed when living in bigger ciy with big game stores how bad rpg design had become. The biggest killer for me is wasting space with decor, over sized fonts and line space, i also dont like to touch some paper stock which is my fault i suppose but prefer pdf in some cases. Im dyslixic and a terrible editor but if im distracted by bad editing (and i like to read archaic sagas) there is a big problem. I think i might do something on this myself....I like density, usability and not using bad design tricks to make book fatter when content is lightweight

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wait a second. You cite, as the source of your spleen, a thread criticizing 5e. Weren't you involved in 5e, Zak S.? Did you not form ties with the people working on that project? Did you not think it important to mention this conflict of interest that lies at the core of your whole rant?

    Were you really going to hang around and attack people, and compare Lady Blackbird (which I've looked at now; it seems harmless and actually pretty well in line with your recommendation of games that focus on one niche instead of trying to be universal) to baby rape, without revealing that vital bit of data that might potentially exert some subconscious influence on your motivations?

    You stand on your soapbox, and you have the chutzpah to talk about how everyone you've met who likes game X has seemed to you like a dickhead (ignoring the fact that we are no more required to accept your judgment on the fact than you are required to accept what I say about my cousin) - and therefore, because anecdote is equal to data, then obviously everyone who likes any game of the same type as X must also be a dickhead? You say this, while hiding a little connection that, if known, would make it look like this whole post is just you being enormously butthurt about somebody criticizing something you feel connected to?

    A disclaimer, before you start assuming assumptions on my part: I said "look like." It's a perception that is possible to arise based on the facts, and it doesn't make you look good that you brushed those facts under the rug instead of starting with a disclaimer of your own.

    Now I'm not saying that all the screaming and goalpost-moving and personal attacks launched against strangers and so on that you showed us here -- in defense of a post where the vast majority of the material was irrelevant to a thesis that was only produced, in the comments sections, after you were pressed -- I'm not saying all that was definitely because you were lashing out at someone who'd said mean things about a project you felt connected to some time in the past.

    I'm just saying that it sure looks that way... and that the more you depend on insults and browbeating and arrogance to respond to what started as a sincere, if irritated, attempt to "fix you fix you fix you" as you requested -- the more you defend on those, the more credibility you lend to the impression that your motives are ulterior, and that you do have a motivation other than a simple desire to lead game-product design in a positive direction.

    So, and I'm in earnest here, be careful with that stuff. Try admitting the connection and demonstrating that it's not a factor. Your lack of any kind of grace or civility is enough of a handicap as it is, in the public sphere, without stuff like that making it look like your "theory" posts are ethically compromised to boot.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Again, thank you for your time. That's all. I look forward to your next creative post...

    ...but rest assured that after such an ample demonstration of how small your wheelhouse is and how vast your compensatory store of invective, I'm not going to waste my time on anything else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. If you want non-5e examples I can provide them, simply ask.
      2. You are not addressing all the bad assumptions you made in your original comment. YOu aren't apologizing, explaining, or admitting you are wrong. Why are you evading the issues brought up here?
      3. You just invented _another_ fantasy: "baby rape". I made no reference to this.
      Why are you doing these terrible things?
      4. "brushed those facts under the rug " I didn't "brush" any facts under any rug. What are talking about?
      5."I'm not saying all that was definitely...I'm just saying that it sure looks that way"
      Well given your track record of:
      -being repeatedly factually wrong
      -fabricating information
      -refusing to admit when you are caught in lies or mistakes
      …then neither you nor anyone else should trust your judgment.

      6."the more you defend on those, the more credibility you lend to the impression that your motives are ulterior,"

      Basically you are saying "By rationally addressing the things I say you increase my unsupported assumptions and make me think more crazy things". That is your problem.

      Because I am a fair person, if you ask a question I will answer it. If you bring up a point I address it. No amount of attacking me _for having a conversation with you that you started_ is going to make me feel bad about treating you fairly in this way--even though you are obviously terrible.

      7. "be careful with that stuff. "
      You talk as if there are important consequences to upsetting you with the truth. There are not.

      Address these issues. Unlike last time, where you evaded all the things you said that were wrong.

      Delete
  13. So, I may be dumb: I have played Danger Patrol, and Lady Blackbird, and Ghost/Echo, and I had a pretty good time, and if I'm a terrible human being then I'm not very good at recognizing my terribleness. I'm perfectly fine with the assertion that these games are not the best, but if I were pressed to describe what was wrong with them, it sure wouldn't be a failure to commit to a vision, to "pick a direction and an audience" - if anything, they struck me as monomaniacally focused on evoking a very particular vibe, much more so than any version of D&D I've played. They'd be near the top of any list of eccentric and non-universal games I've played. Am I misreading you in thinking that you are holding up these games as examples of technocratic products, and if I'm not, can you go into more detail in your analysis?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know you, Spitting Trashcan (and the handle "Spitting Trashcan" doesn't really help) but to quote yourself, Spitting Trashcan, discussing yourself:
      "I'm a weird social retard"

      …so…I can't say. Maybe you're a fun person who recognizes your limitations and was being self-deprecating. Maybe not.

      I have no way of knowing at the moment.

      I freely admit that Harper may have designed a game that a fun, interesting human being enjoyed. But I haven't met one yet. So my "seems" stays where it is.

      Caveat:
      I now know 1 charming person who enjoys Monsterhearts & 1 charming person who enjoys minmaxing--which are 2 modes of play which appear, at least online and anecdotally, to be dominated by dickheads. This proves these things have _some_ value. The same may well be true of Harper's games.

      He's still a dick, though, and his technocratic advice is still bad.

      Delete
    2. I should also add that while this might seem to violate might "don't make insulting assumptions without checking" rule, I generally follow this policy:
      When someone claims games I like are only played by losers, I usually invite them to come play a game online.
      They usually don't take me up.
      But, basically: I gave them an opportunity to check their hypothesis and they refused it.
      That's really bad.
      -
      I stick to my guns here:
      "The biggest mystery is these technocrats never seem to produce games that don't suck on butts."
      My evidence is:
      1-They make claims of universality that aren't true
      2- I never met anyone _yet_ who liked these games who wasn't a giant dick.

      The second could be wrong, I freely admit. The word "seems" reflects the tentativeness of my analysis.

      Delete
    3. Hm. Well, to add some perspective: as best I can tell, I care way more than you do about whether other people think well of me, and this makes me skittish about interacting with people who don't know me well (as we are doing now) lest my first impression be bad. I do have people who I've gotten to know, and while they may be being nice or I may be bad at perceiving signs of distress, they seem to enjoy my company. So, self-reported anecdotes, yay. The user name is from the album cover for Cat Stevens' album Mona Bone Jakon which I really like for no particular reason; it tends not to be in use in any new venue.

      I played all of the mentioned games in the context of a sort of book club for games, where people interested in playing or running new games gather periodically to do one-shots. I've only ever encountered the vast majority of game designers in this context, by playing their games, and don't know what claims they may be making about their design process, but I would definitely be dubious as to any claims that they are making games that will be enjoyed by everyone. If you're responding to what they're saying about their games, and I'm responding to just playing the games, then we're working from different information.

      Delete
  14. Totally unrelated to this post (which is fucking awesome) but I have given your blog for a Liebster award.
    http://drinkinandmodelin.blogspot.com/2014/05/liebster-award-aka-list-of-blogs-and.html

    Feel free to change the questions as you see fit if you choose to participate. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  15. From your description of a 'technocrat', no 'technocrat' would design a pen-and-paper RPG. They'd design something that would get the largest possible audience ie some kind of computer game.

    So the RPG designers claiming to be like that are really 'ideologues' (or hobbyists) pretending.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. just because you have a given attitude doesn't mean you're smart enough to understand the logical end-outcome of having it

      Delete
    2. A good example might be the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.

      John Goodman comes across as an 'exasperated expert' in his statement that "John Goodman knows more than you do", and the DCC RPG had an 'objective' stated design aim: it wasn't intended to be 'my cool ideas for an RPG', but 'an emulation of the fiction in Appendix N'.

      But, in fact, it ended up having lots of D&D-isms that John Goodman presumably thought were cool.

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    3. I don't really see what you're talking about or how it relates to the DCC RPG or my blog post.

      I think maybe you're taking the ad copy's reference to Appendix N too seriously.

      Delete
  16. I think you comments section may need a party armed with fire and or acid to come through at some point. I thought It was a good and fair analysis myself.

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  17. Smith for president. He is the hero we need.

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  18. I think it's interesting how Holmes and Conan parallel each other: both are literally pulp heroes; both are unconcerned with expectations of civilized behaviour; both place all their faith in themselves and not in authorities; both are routinely shown as the last resort of the weak when the structures of civilization have proven powerless or disinterested; and of course both are endowed with abilities far beyond those of normal people.

    Although the details differ, of course, the characters appeal because of that "a lone good man can make a difference" notion which resonates with the vast majority of people as a form of wish-fulfilment. Which is something that politician, particularly presidential candidates in those countries that have them, are always keen to evoke and exploit in their campaigns.

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