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.”