Sunday, April 7, 2013
A Pet Peeve
Today, I spend the better part of an afternoon browsing through my local game store. You’d think I’d have a better selection of game stores, what with living here in NYC, but rents are high and the profit margins on games are pretty low. In NYC, there’s really only one place to go, and that would be Complete Strategist. Many years ago, I wrote about this store, so I won’t rehash it here; you can go find it if you’re interested.
So, I spent the afternoon at the Complete Strategist, looking for old, out-of-print games. More on that later. (In fact, the entire experience has spawned several ideas for future blogs.) Over the course of the afternoon, several interesting small-press, indie RPGs caught my eye. I picked each of them up and flipped through them. Cosmic Patrol. InHuman. Aeternal Legends….
Each of them included my pet peeve: They included a “what is a roleplaying game” section, where each saw fit to define what an RPG is to the reader.
Time to put on my ragehat.
Look, I bought your game in a game store. Your game isn’t on sale at Barnes & Noble or Target. I’m not accidentally picking it up, thinking I’m buying the latest crap novel from Stephanie Meyer. I’m not getting it home, opening it up, and saying “HEY! What the hell is this?!”
Grandma didn’t wander into the game store by mistake, just grab something for little Timmy, and leave. Most game stores would sent grandma running screaming into the night as soon as she walked in. Which means that the chance of some friend or relative accidentally buying your game, with no idea what it was, are virtually zero.
Your customer knows what an RPG is. Your customer likely told grandma to buy the game for them. Or, they spent grandma’s $10 birthday check on your game on their own.
Seriously. Stop telling me what an RPG is. Or what polyhedral dice are. Or that I need pencils. I know. Again: bought your game in a freaking game store.
Moreover, I hate to dash your hopes, but no one is coming to your game cold. You are not an entry point to the hobby. Unless your game is called “D&D” or “Pathfinder” (or maybe even “Vampire”), the only people buying your product are already gamers. Like it or not, Pathfinder is a foundational product; it is how most people learn about RPGs. In that case, Pathfinder needs to define what an RPG is to its audience.
You do not.
No one is picking up your game about roleplaying socks in a drawer, no matter how innovative or insightful to the human condition, without already knowing what an RPG is. No one is being introduced to the hobby through your game about roleplaying bellybutton lint. Sorry.
One last time: bought your game in a game store, and already know what an RPG is.
I especially liked the indie game that said "we're not going to tell you what roleplaying is" then proceeded to tell me what roleplaying is.
What I really find interesting, from an intellectual perspective, is how you people define roleplaying. They’re all virtually the same. Group of people. Storytelling. Gamemaster. Dice. No winners…. You’re not adding any new insight into the nature of roleplaying with your screed. Really, can’t we just settle on one definition, put it on a website someplace, and just put the URL somewhere in the text.
Call it “Don’t know what roleplaying is? Then how the f@&k did you get this book in the first place?!”
If one more small press, indie game tells me that dice are multi-sided polyhedrals used to randomly generate a number, I’m going to go to that person’s house and shove a 12-sider up their ass.
Really the last time: If a customer is holding your game about playing psychopaths trapped on a life raft, they’re standing in a game store, and already know what roleplaying is. Trust me.