This is a translation and an addition to a Facebook post I wrote a while back. I liked it, so I’m posting it here. It might not come as a surprise that I’ve been involved in the table-top role-playing culture since the mid 80’s. I was given my first RPG somewhere in 1986 or 87, and since then I’ve been totally glued to games. I’ve run conventions. I’ve GM:ed at conventions and I’ve written adventures for conventions. In doing that, I’ve come to realise that there are as many ways to play as there are gaming groups. Things that suit one group might not suit another. Personally I think that being a snob about rules systems or ways to play games – an us vs them mindset – hinders the development of role-playing games and games in general. In other words we all like different things and we enjoy different experiences.
As an example, at one of our many gaming convention visits, our group was one person short and we brought a stranger in to play with us. It was at a GothCon, and the adventure we played was for Rôlemaster. Our newly found adventurer was a rules connoisseur, a true dice roller. We were more into the free form movement that had just began to spread across Swedish conventions. This clash resulted in quite a bit of frustration. Our connoisseur wanted to roll for everything. We wanted to jump on tables (I’m exaggerating. Except I’m not. Not really).
Gaming is about personal preferences, and those preferences can be influenced by all manner of things. I for instance dislike Apocalypse World, but not because of the rules. I dislike it because of the language and expressions used. I like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, not because I think the rules are particularly good, but because Vornheim made me think in new patterns and that makes it possible for me to set aside some of the obvious sexism and other crap that follows (Fuck for Satan for instance. Don’t ask). I love Aeon Trinity by White Wold. Not because of rules but because of the game world, and because the entire book is an ocean of adventure hooks.
Sure, we can talk about game worlds and rules systems that are not meshing very well, but that still doesn’t prevent people from enjoying the game. All of that is personal. To state that one system is better than the other is as limited as saying that mobile games aren’t real games. It’s a way to exclude one audience in order to include another, and to strengthen the identity within the group that thinks ”like me”. It leads to group think and google bubbles. It’s how us vs them gets started, and nothing good ever comes from lumping people together in groups.
(”But you’re a feminist, you keep complaining that games aren’t inclusive enough! How do you justify saying that and then stating that all gaming experiences are equally valid! You want to remove sexism and objectification and male power fantasies!” No. I’ve never said that. What I’ve said is that RPGs through the way they’re currently written, for men, by men, are excluding women and other marginalised groups – ergo we need RPGs that include these marginalised groups. But I have never ever said ”let’s remove the sexist games and ban people who play them”. That’s a construct in other people’s minds. On the other hand, I’ve never promised not to criticise games that ARE sexist and excluding either.)
My point is that we should use each other’s insights. We should learn from each other. As gamers and game masters it’s a lot more edifying to read stuff you think you might not like. Even if one doesn’t like it, at least for me, I find new ways of looking at things, and a better understanding for those who like to play that way.
In the end, it probably doesn’t hurt other players if one group is playing AD&D and loves it, while another group prefers Dungeon World. It’s not until we start attacking or patronising players because of their preferences that we create a separatist gaming culture that won’t learn anything new, a culture that just keeps repeating old patterns.