Editorial: Not Playing It Right

At Asparagus Jumpsuit we’re pretty egalitarian about game systems and styles of play. To date, we’ve published material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Fate RPG, which are about as far apart as possible in terms of game design philosophy and the experiences they create for players. We like all sorts of games, for all sorts of reasons, and we hope to be able to create things for an even wider variety of systems in the future.

As an individual, I certainly have my own preferred style of play. Just because I’m a game designer doesn’t mean I’m not human. I’ve written articles, here and elsewhere, that may lean more toward one direction than another. On social media, and in private conversations, I’ve been pretty open about what my favorite sorts of games are, and what it is about those games that makes them my favorites. Ive written about things that I’ve enjoyed, and why I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve written about what works for me, and why.

Some people disagree with that. They feel that as a writer, and as a game designer, I should be publicly neutral. Unless, of course, I’m promoting something I’ve written or published, in which case it’s okay to heap hyperbole upon a system. I don’t see it that way. I feel that rather than playing politic, it’s better to be transparent and let you know where my biases lay. Be clear about the things that I like, as a player, and as a gamemaster, and as a reader, and the things that just aren’t to my personal tastes. I think that honesty makes the relationship I have with my readers and my customers that much stronger. I think it allows you to see what sort of person I am, and whether the things I write and publish are likely to be aligned with your own tastes.

While my biases do show through, I have never, ever said that what I like is the right way, or the only way, and dismissed other ways as inferior or wrong. Quite the opposite. A few years ago I wrote something called the Rolpunk Manifesto which stated, in brief, that we’re all gamers and should do our best to support each other, focus on our common ground rather than our differences, and that the only “wrong” way to play is to not be having fun. That doesn’t mean that we don’t get to have preferences, or opinions. It means we shouldn’t be jerks about our preferences and opinions.

Look at it this way: If we walked into a restaurant to have dinner together, and ordered different things off of the menu, it would not be a slight towards me if you ordered something that I didn’t care for. It would not be a grand act of oppression if I didn’t order the exact same thing as you. We might have a brief conversation about our individual choices. We can still sit together at the same table, and have a civil conversation about topics of mutual interest. We each might even want to try a bite of the other’s dish.

In retrospect, I do think there’s another way to get it wrong other than not having fun. It doesn’t have to do with systems or style or play or game design philosophy, though. It has to do with us, as individuals. The way we can get it wrong is to be closed-minded and so locked into our preferences that we cut ourselves off from trying new things, having new experiences, and meeting new people. I like what I like, but that’s evolved in over 30 years of trying a wide variety of games with a broad cross-section of the gaming community. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite game or your long-running campaign. It just means that, maybe, there’s an advantage to being able to say “I don’t care for that, but I understand why you do”, rather than “your favorite game sucks.”

7 comments for “Editorial: Not Playing It Right

  1. cleireac
    May 9, 2014 at 11:36 am

    And then there’s the Risus Creed, espoused by none other than S. John Ross: “There’s no wrong way to play.”

  2. May 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly!
    But it makes me wonder if perhaps it is something in human nature to espouse one’s own lot and dismiss others? I hope not, kinda makes me sad if it is true.
    Regardless what it may be, games or religion…often we don’t play nice.

  3. May 10, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Many gamers have huge biases against all kinds of things, and often it seems as if our hatred for something is a kind of bonding. That’s sad. (An example is D&D 4 and Next).

    But I do think we can understand this in another way, and that’s that we are educated individuals wrestling with concepts that are much deeper than they appear on the surface. Sharing our opinions is really us saying “I want you to challenge my thoughts on this, show me a new way of thinking. Open my mind to the possibilities.”

    • May 10, 2014 at 8:05 am

      I think there are bettet ways to engage in an open exchange of ideas than to degrade someone with a different opinion and telling them they’re wrong.

  4. May 10, 2014 at 7:06 am

    No, no, no, no. You got it wrong. When we have our hypothetical meal, I’m the carnivore who orders the veal and you’re the vegan who orders eggplant and we both scoff and argue about who is cruel or unnatural. I don’t think there is any activity that cannot be turned into a battlefield…

    Anyways, I appreciate your transparency. If anything, knowing your preferences for play style help me understand whether or not your products will align with my own preferences.

    • May 10, 2014 at 8:04 am

      But as a professional, I can write for other styles of play. It’s not the same as asking an ideolocal vegan to write ad copy for the Dead Cow Council. I have no moral or ethical opposition to other styles of play. I play those games, too. I just have a favorite.

      And yes, I hope my transparency informs rather than alienates.

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