Sunday, November 26, 2023

Anyone Who Tries to Convince You That You Didn't Have Fun is a Jerkoff

I really do try to be non-denominational when it comes to role-playing games and the various scenes that form around them. I consider how other people have fun at their gaming tables to be not my business, so it's not worth getting het up about one way or another. 

However, I've learned the hard way that not everyone is like me. In particular, I have a bone to pick with the way that some indie gamers are deeply invested in convincing people that they aren't actually having fun with the games they play

Other kinds of hipsters don't do this. Music and film hipsters will just assume you have bad taste if you like stuff they don't approve of or if you aren't into what they like. The worst of the OSR guys simply think you're simply having the wrong kind of fun if you're playing games not in their niche. But the kind of indie gamer I'm taking about here believes that you're either deluding yourself into believing you had fun or they try pathologize you--you've been "abused" by bad game design into thinking you had fun or have otherwise been harmed by gaming in a way that never really holds up to scrutiny

My theory is that the genesis point for this attitude is Ron Edwards stating that Vampire: The Masquerade causes brain damage. Now, I take Edwards at his word that he didn't mean that statement as attack, but it's pretty easy to see why people took it that way. The problem is that other folks picked up on the idea of pointing at people who play different games and proclaiming that there must be some wrong with them and ran with it. 

The idea is now part of the Forge's legacy, and you see it pop up fairly often in, Something Awful, Reddit--where indie gamers hang out. The license to imply, if not outright state, that there is something actually wrong with other kinds of gamers and that they aren't really having fun has seemingly become embedded in the culture of that scene.

It makes sense that this strange variety of hipsterism is so deeply entwined with the indie scene because that scene often takes the premise that people aren't having fun playing rpgs and that "good design" can fix that as tenets of faith. For me, is where indie theory doesn't align with my experience. It is not my experience that people are unhappy playing rpgs. I've not met these people. I'm skeptical that sane people will keep doing a thing as a leisure activity if it's making them miserable. 

Even if we take it as a fact that these unhappy people exist, it always ends up sounding like their problem has less to do with a game's design being "bad" and more that there is a people problem at work. No amount of considering "the Big Model," "robust game design," or implementing shared narrative authorship will fix a problem like "this one guy at the table is being a tool and it's ruining my fun." The real solution to that issue is that you just stop inviting that guy to play. In fact, I strongly suspect the "a well-designed system can fix any interpersonal issues" guys are often the shithead players at their tables, as are any jerkoffs who want to convince you that your fun wasn't real.