A Solution

A number of folks offered me a solution to the problem I went into in my last entry. It’s a good solution, and I decided to write it up, so I can refer to it again whenever I feel the same depression creeping up on me:

Make your games for your target audience. The audience that you had in mind when you wrote it– The ones that “get it.”

To hell with the rest. You’re never going to make them happy, and it’s futile to try.

Part of this is recognizing that not all games are automatically for all gamers. This realization needs to occur on all sides. If gamers realize that a game that doesn’t appeal to them doesn’t automatically make it “broken” or worth bitching about, then the level of venom will drop. If game designers realize that not everything they design is going to be lauded by every gamer, and that the gamers that are bitching don’t need to be convinced, because it was never intended for them anyway, then the level of defensiveness will drop.

Less venom. Less defensiveness. Less conflict.

Not every game is intended for every gamer, and there is no point in trying to make all gamers happy. That way lies ulcers.

Design your games for the ones who get it. They are your customers. The customer is always right–but the ones who weren’t your target…the ones who don’t get it…the ones who will attempt to beat the joy of creation out of you with rants and insults…they are not your customers, and never were going to be. As such, Fuck ’em. They’re not worth worrying about.

At our scale (i.e. Non-WOTC), we can afford to specifically target a particular niche, and be fulfilled by it:

Design the games you want to play, for gamers who you’d like to play with.

The rest can go hang.


At Low Ebb

Time has come ’round again for the cyclical “Let’s lynch the game-designer” mood to strike over at RPGnet . By now, I’m more than familiar with the drill:

1) I make a harsh response to someone who is being less than civil to me.

2) Some yutz, previously uninvolved in the situation (and usually a non-registered, anonymous user) gets all huffy and put-out about it, and lambasts me for being “unprofessional.”

3) The usual suspects jump in and pile on, gleefully tearing into me with the relish usual reserved for wrapped Christmas presents. Same names every time, too.

4) One or two “industry professionals” (occasionally some pdf-basement-press wanna-be, but from time to time one of the more sanctimonious, self-righteous varieties of a genuine published professional) sounds off about how they would NEVER act that way, and hence aren’t they so much cooler than me, and worthy of praise.

5) Repeat ad nauseum, until any joy I have in writing for this field is beaten out of me for another couple of months.

I know that I shouldn’t let it get to me. I know that the ravings of a bunch of borderline Asperger’s Syndrome social misfits don’t matter at all, and I shouldn’t let it get under my skin. But after years of dealing with it again and again, it’s never failed to frustrate the living hell out of me.

Most of the professionals that I respect in this industry tell me that this is the main reason they don’t participate in the various forum boards, despite the potential to interact with the audience. I have always wondered, though, why, if the fans of this industry are such a burden to have to deal with–if, as has been said to me time and again, they are often beneath contempt and something to be avoided–then WHY bother to write for them at all?

This doesn’t apply to all of them, of course— some of the folks that I’ve interacted with on-line have been normal, well-spoken, respectful people who enjoy the dialogues that access to creative professionals afford them. What bothers me is that more of them don’t take umbrage at the behavior of their stereotype-reinforcing peers, who result in the image of fandom being as bad as it is. I know that I, for one, am tired of the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy being the image of fandom which is more often accurate than not.

I can think, off the top of my head, of at least a dozen game industry professionals who have gotten so tired of dealing with internet fandom that they have either sworn off the internet forum boards, or, in some cases, have gotten so jaded as to quit the industry entirely. They’ve asked themselves the question of whether or not the fans of the role-playing field are worth dealing with, and the answer has been, time and again, a resounding “No.”

That’s a question that I now find myself asking, yet again.

Or, if I may wax a little Carrie Bradshaw-ish to close with a posed query: Is it worth continuing to produce material for an audience comprised largely of the sort of socially-retarded, obsessive oddballs that you’d be embarrassed to be seen with in public?


OK…this is just friggin’ creepy. Even for California.

Other than that…not much going on right now. Work is proceeding, as always, and I’m still prepping for NaNoWriMo. Design work is still apace on Apollyon Noir, and in gaming news, I’m still running my bi-weekly Buffy game, and now I’m getting ready to kick off a play-by-IM RPG of Doctor Who with a like-minded friend–a prospect that I’m very jazzed about.

For some reason, Autumn always puts me in a mood for Who. Not sure why, really…but it spills over into other bits of Anglophiliac Phantasmagoria: Victorian Fantasy, Sherlock Holmes…hell, in recent years, even Harry Potter. There is something about the crispness of the air and the smell of dry leaves and chimney smoke that makes me think of plummy accents and baroque science-fantasy. Gawrd luv ye.

I’ve been dying to do a new version of a Doctor Who RPG…I’ve even gotten my foot in the door with BBC Consumer Products (licensing division)…but I have to recognize that even if I did pony up the licensing fee (which would be no small feat, because I’m sure the BBC doesn’t recognize the concept of ‘small press’), I haven’t got the time or the energy to devote to running yet another RPG company. Still, it might be worth a shot to simply put together a proposal. Couldn’t hurt, after all.

Or hell, maybe I just do one as a fan, not as a commercial venture. Put it up on a website and let folks have at it. That might be the way to go, when all is said and done. Just a labor of love. Might be fun, as well. Something to think about.

This past weekend, I attended the wedding of Aaron Rosenberg and Jen Purcell of Clockworks Games. Aaron is a long-time friend, and one of the guys who I got into the industry with, back in the days of Epitaph Studios. Even more amusing is the fact that I was there when the Bride and Groom first met, and my fiancee, Laura, was actually the Groom’s roomate and a friend of the Bride, who engineered their first date.

Aaron and Jen produced a mock-up “Playbill” as a wedding program, and Laura and I were pleased to see that we were mentioned in the backstory. The rabbi officiating at the service was a friend of theirs, and a gamer, so during his advice to the couple, he put it in gaming terms, which was hilarious: life as a diceless LARP, and to which they were now adding the “marriage” supplement, which introduced new skills (like compromise), new character types (husbands, wives, and families…which are groups made up of 1d4+1 characters), etc. About half the guests “got it”, leaving the elderly aunts, uncles, etc. looking around confused at the chuckles going off in the crowd around them.

A beautiful ceremony (and my first attendance at a Jewish wedding, so fascinating for me as well), and a remarkably cheese-factor-free reception. Not once did the DJ play “The Chicken Dance”, so that was a plus.

Of course, Laura and I now have to start planning our wedding.

No pressure.