thread: 2009-12-18 : Seed content

On 2009-12-24, Robert Bohl wrote:

Well yeah, of course it's true that in-session bumpiness fucks up group buy-in. But that's not what I'm talking about. Here:

Ridiculous extreme game 1:

You have an amazing world and character creation system that simultaneously lets anyone do any story they want (perhaps only shading tone or presentation a la Primetime Adventures). People are quite excited after world and character creation and can't wait to play. When they do, it's unsatisfying because the mechanics are very far from the fiction, because they in turn don't "know" what the game will be about.

Ridiculous extreme game 2:

You have an amazing world pregenerated for you and a bunch of really cool characters to choose from, but since the game is and can only be about the process of sorting stamps, very few people want to play it (let's ignore for a moment that the audience for stamp collecting is probably quadruple or more that of the one for RPGs). Or at least, I don't want to. Furthermore, it's a nightmare to hack because the needs of meaningfully replicating philately with the level of precision this game provides means there's no wiggle room.

Note I labeled both of these games as ridiculous extremes. I don't think either game exists, or represents a realistic "side" to the "argument." I do, however, think they illustrate the tension I was trying to indicate in my earlier post. If you bake in the situation and it's boring and unhackable, you're fucked on audience, if you make a game that can do anything it might as well do nothing.

My personal preference both as a designer and as a player is for the world/character creation section to be wide open enough that I get that wonderful feeling of buy-in that I have come to love from Forge-derived games, yet constrained by a certain feel, genre, whatever. The constraint may exist to market the game, to capture the "aboutness" of a purpose-designed game, or to allow the designer to write targeted rules that will have to do with what will happen during play (in other words, the argument you're making).

In other words, I want something between those two extremes. Thankfully, nearly every game I've ever bothered to play twice in the past five years fits the above-outlined personal preference, so I'm good.

Your "call to action" on this, though, is great. I may not necessarily agree with the slippery slope that parts of your argument went to in my head (i.e., open world creation is immoral or whatever), but you're very good at making me think about this kind of shit. I don't think I agree with the final arguments you come up with all the time, but I do learn a lot.


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