Voting with Money

What’s the problem with elections? They are manifold, but the primary problem is that most voters are too ill-informed to make a rational decision, so they mostly vote for a safe candidate.

Now, like it or not, our hobbies largely revolve around money. Games are produced for better, more gallant reasons, but eventually reaching and serving an audience will involve money. And why not? These people have the right to make some money out of their hard work and creativity (which in itself, is hard work).

Now, who among us has the money? People like me. Long time players, who now have careers, families and mortgages (well, I have two out of three). So, much of what we put our money in drives the industry. Sadly, quite a few of us are using our money on revamped products from the eighties, where slight adjustments are made to make them resemble modern games in some sense, but basically they haven’t changed in any way that actually matters.

This is your equivalent of pop music. Not good pop music, necessarily, but the lamest possible pop music, which is based on making listener friendly variants of edgier stuff. Think Britney Spears -level music. Think Skrillex or any of those bands which put the word ‘core’ at the end of a wrong genre. And if we put our money into it, we are facilitating it, thus encouraging making the same thing again and again, while discouraging actual innovation.

I get it. Not everything has to be on the edge. You don’t always have to play the state-of-the-art game. Actually, part of innovation is failing, because you can’t make actual progress without learning from your mistakes. However, eighties… Taking a look at inventions of roughly similar age to RPGs, you wouldn’t actually use a PC from the eighties. You’d chuckle, if you saw someone with a mobile phone from the eighties in a modern casing. Still, for some reason, we take these games from the eighties seriously for same strange reason, even though comparable steps have been taken in RPG design.

(Ok, my music comparison is actually pretty unfair. Its actually more like buying the albums of bands you liked as a teenager because of some strange irrational detachment. You don’t owe those bands anything. If they are not on par with what they did back then, you are under no obligation to help them out.)

2 thoughts on “Voting with Money

  1. What kinds of things in RPGs have gotten better? I mean that if a game works fine, there’s no clear way to make it better. Is, say, RQ3 really that much worse than HQ2 for a low-key Glorantha campaign? (Yes, HQ2 is a way better for an epic Glorantha campaign.) “Forgean” game design is different from traditional game design, but does that mean indie games are better?

    Or is your criticism aimed at the nostalgic factor, people supporting reprints of old RPGs (Vampire, D&D) while they don’t play those games anymore? If so, I do agree it’s weird. You cannot get the actual play back by buying a rulebook anymore than you can relive the experience of eating a fine meal in good company by reading a book of recipes.

  2. I don’t think indie games are necessarily better, but I do think games are designed better now, so when attaching yourself to a earlier, weaker design, you are deliberately stopping yourself from using the more modern ideas out there. I don’t like to put all indie games into one huge pile, because I only see the cream of the crop. The ones that really shine. There’s a bunch of poorly-thoughtout projects out there, too. They just never cross the threshold required for me to notice them. A bit like movies. Hollywood doesn’t actually produce any worse movies than the rest of the world, they are just putting so much money into the marketing that despite my uninterest I know about every Adam Sandler comedy, whereas I’ll only learn about European movies, if they are good enough, so they seem better in comparison, even if there’s plenty of shit out there.

    But… what’s done better? Plenty of things.

    Comparing RQ3 and HQ2, they are both generic games. However, there is a difference in how they approach this. Whereas RQ3 as a product of the 80s, is generic in that the system tries to be everything for everyone, HQ2 is generic in the sense, that it doesn’t care about the setting. However, its clearly aimed at gameplay where the narrative becomes more important.

    For example, back in the day when we played RQ3 actively, our combat would often devolve into a series of hits and blocks, which would generally not lead anywhere for long stretches of time. On the other hand, in HQ2, each of these rounds pushes the narrative of the conflict forward, even if the participants are closely matched.

    Besides the fail-forward and emphasis on the style of play, most newer rules systems are better streamlined and have vastly superior systems for social conflicts. All in all, just better.

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