HinterBlog

December 31, 2010

Veracity and chasing the impossible dream

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 9:24 pm

I see this most in historical games but it happens in any genre to some extent. The expressed desire that a game be “more realistic” or if it was just more “true to the period”. Sometimes it comes our as “OMG! There is no way that the dino-blaster 2000 could take out a neocybercryoTyanoRex 4500!!!” but it invariably comes down to a question of veracity.

Normally, I would say this is a simple argument of definition.

correctness or accuracy, as of the senses or of a scientific instrument.

I do not believe this is the case with RPGs. Why? Because in our little slice of the world, veracity has become a subjective idea. Yeah, you heard me punk, truth is subjective. Not to go all Kierkegaard on you, but since we are dealing with a fictional work and not one of scientific or non-fiction, you really need to ask a much more personal question, a more immediate question, is it entertaining? It never ceases to amaze me that this seems to be the last thing on many people’s minds when dealing with a game. It seems to them, and rightfully so, that their enjoyment is secondary or some how dependent on the veracity, the externally verifiable truth or factual correctness of a game.

Now feel that. Right there. Your first reaction, you initial revulsion at the thought of a game riddled with errors, impossible to read, sentences that end in the middle. That is not what I was saying. It is the first reaction, a vague feeling that somehow if you have Caesar driving a Porche and shooting dinosaurs with his blaster that the game might be fun. However, add Caesar being born in the wrong year and the entertainment value is destroyed. The game is only good for kindling.

It gets worse. No matter how “correct” the game is, you will always have “errors” in the game. Gamers seem obsessed with this. Designers are driven by a need to try and fill this impossible gap. “Not impossible,” you say,”you merely need to get your facts straight”. I fear this is not the case. It is that subjective truth I mentioned earlier. Someone, somewhere will find something you changed, you made the call on, like how strong a t-rex is or what social changes were important, and hammer them. True veracity, even if attainable, is not a shield either.

In the end, you can only make games that you would play, that you would like. Instead of objective veracity, a designer or GM should shoot for consistency. This is much more attainable, and I believe, far more rewarding not only for the designer but also for everyone involved. With consistency, you have the idea of a thread or theme that persists through out the book. Much like a novel, your character, you world, should not have rules at one point that change at another. Your framework is the basis that you engage the reader from.

Finally, to be clear, I am not advocating inaccuracies in a fictional setting. Far from it, I am advocating creative license coupled with consistency and thinking through the repercussions. So, gunpowder in early Roman Empire is going to have a great deal of far reaching effects on history. However, whether Romans had gun powder in the first century is not the point. If you thought it was, you missed mine. 😉

December 30, 2010

Gamers nowadays or “Squabbins!”

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — bilbo @ 11:25 pm

So, reading a review of Roma Imperious (link) I was struck by something. First, I have NEVER had a reviewer, gamer or even historian describe Roma as “threadbare”. However, my second and much more profound realization had little to do with the review. It struck me, and I actually choked up a bit, that gamers have fundamentally changed. I have seen it for a while now. They seem more and more, unwilling and actually offended if they need to put the pieces together. What I mean is that not so long ago (I am talking as little as 2004-5, a high percentage of people I met (a mix of non, new and old time gamers) were EXCITED about the idea of a setting or game where you used your imagination. Where you could see the adventure ideas. It was not about a complete package, like some demonic CRPG where the world was mapped out and you never had to imagine any part that was not available (the game simply wont let you go there).

It just seems that the trend is more and more towards gamers who want every parsec mapped, every eventuality laid out, every horizon planned and awaiting their arrival. The nature of do it your self, or the very idea that a game would be arranged and written in a manner that intentional gaps lead you imagination to places where it flourishes seems to make a game “incomplete” to these folks. I does not even enter thier mind that the system has bits to stoke the setting imagination (eh, Clash). It is a dissection of page counts and a bemoaning that all the pieces have not been carefully planned out for them in a manner that leaves, as the saying goes, to the imagination.

I do not wish to leave you, assuming anyone still reads this, with the feeling I have given up or am wallowing in despair. Quite the contrary, I am mad as hell and know there is room for all types of players in this hobby. To me, the truth may be I just am encountering the wrong folks at this point. Maybe I need a regular group instead of a lot of con games. Still, It is my hope that the spirit of do it yourself is still alive and thriving. I hope folks look at my books a scoff, “Hah! I can do it better” and then precede to do it better!

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