Monday, March 15, 2010

This isn't a video game.

I like my gaming to be it's own thing. While the current buzz about design principles is interesting, it comes from MMO Town. In that regard, I'm also trying keep my gaming from becoming improv theatre, or a "TV Show" with a "Director" and a novel in which the author cannot control the protagonists. (Alexis, who is himself a published author, posted once about how the process of writing and GMing are quite different.)

That being said, it seems to me that gaming often tries to emulate something else, some other form of media, some other experience. I think the most common example is the licensed RPG: it looks to deliver a pretty specific gaming experience, and often the rules are designed to bend the flow of the game to resemble the source material.

Some of the most miserable campaigns I've ever run or been in have been licensed rpgs, and the misery comes from one of two sources:

1. The game does not adequately resemble the source material, or
2. Players who do not like the source material join the game, and are then frustrated/disappointed when it doesn't run like a "regular" roleplaying game.

Books and TV shows are written ahead of time, whereas the flow of the roleplaying game is a unique mix of prep and improv created by the players. Characters die in TV shows when the actor quits or the writers make it so. Roleplaying games almost universally run on some random determiner of fate. Unless some mechanic is in place that allows a player to "force" a given result, (Drama Points or Fate Chips or whatever) dramatic rolls generally do not happen "when needed," even if a dramatic success on the part of a character would be called for in a movie or tv script, or in the plot line of a novel.

I suppose my point is that, in my experience, gaming is the most fun when you play it for what it is rather than try to emulate something else. I'm not ribbing on licensed games, but I am saying that TV Show X: The RPG will always be an rpg and never your own private version of the tv show. Your game will never flow exactly like some other form of media. Gaming was meant to be it's own thing, methinks.

Now quit doing it wrong and embrace my One True Way, poltroon!

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