April 20, 2010

“You’re playing that wrong”

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — bilbo @ 8:36 pm

I have never, in my 30 some years of gaming, understood this as it applies to RPGs, especially in the context of “as the game was intended”. I have run WoD with super heroes, DND in sci-fi settings and monopoly as an RPG. I have yet to find a system that you cannot tweak to do what you want or even just play it out of the box but put a different setting to it. I have seen these, I have no good name for them, shall we try systemic zealot, who believes in some sort of holy grail of “as the designer intended” or “goals of the system”. No one has ever shown me a system that can enforce a type of play and short of a seriously broken system, I doubt there is one. All systems are universal. You may not like the elements that system produces or your opinion may be that the system does not support the elements that you believe are necessary for a setting/genre but those are highly subjective and far from a valid basis for declarations that someone is “playing the game wrong”.

Now, you might say, Bill, my demented game designer, what about the designer, surely, he must know the intended form of play!! First off, stop calling me surely. Second, no, not really. Once you have a game, especially an RPG, it is yours. The designer is irrelevant beyond possible comments or explanations of how he viewed it while writing and playing the game but [b]those views are equally as valid as yours or anyone who plays the game[/b]. I know, as a game designer, I am supposed to push the myth that we are somehow the authority. Somehow, we know what is right for our games and that they can never be played except in the manner we conceive. Sorry to disappoint but no dice…er, diceless…yeah.

So next time you have the urge to tell someone “Oh! you aren’t playing that game the way it was intended!!”, take a deep breath and don’t. Just say no.

Hint for those without a sense of humor: The above may be directed at you, but most likely it is not. If it is (and you would be a weird minority if it did) the good, and I hope it pissed you off.


  1. I agree, though I think that such arguments should be understood that some of the players are not getting out of the game what they expected. As in, “It’s not wrong to play that way, but when I agreed to play X game, I was looking forward to a typical game of X.”

    Also, you definitely have to tell us about Monopoly as an RPG.

    Comment by David — April 20, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

  2. Certainly. Introspection of what we get out of a game is very important. Helping someone out as to why they are not happy with a game is important.

    Let’s look at it two ways:
    First (example of what I take exception with) : “AD&D is not meant as a sci-fi game. That is why you are unhappy with it as a sci-fi game”.

    Second (what I would find a good way to solve the issue you bring up) : “What other games have you played? Oh, you might like X since it has a similar TR system.”

    Some might say that is a small and unimportant difference but I think it is very important, it is the core of how we can advise gamers as to what games may fit their desired play style.

    Comment by bilbo — April 21, 2010 @ 8:22 am

  3. The first, and most important, rule of any game is to have fun. Everyone brings expectations to the table, the ones that get hung up on them are the ones to which you are referring. Most people just take what fun they can from the experience, and easily discard their expectations because they are having fun. All we can do about the ones that get hung up on their own expectations is point and laugh, saying that they totally missed the point. Which is to have fun.

    Comment by scott — April 21, 2010 @ 11:45 am

  4. Yep, basically if you’re having fun you are doing it right
    (although the rules lawyer in me still reins against this:.)

    Comment by Alan hUme — April 25, 2010 @ 3:39 am

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