Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm Tired of Edition Wars -- An Open Letter to Gamers

Dear Gamers on the Internet,

Every now and then I like to visit the various websites associated with the companies who manufacture and produce role playing games that I enjoy. These companies, and companies that no longer exist, have provided me with over 20 years of entertainment. The companies are filled with hard working employees who care about the hobby, participate in the hobby themselves, and who believe that roleplaying games are something valuable enough to make a career out of. Given the size of most of these companies, and the ratio of dollars profit to hours of labor of most rpg product, I hold them in pretty high esteem.

I also firmly believe that every single one of them wants to entertain us with an engaging quality product.

I am sick of reading screeds on the message boards of company x about how company x has betrayed the gaming tradition and how company y's came is the real version of company x's product. I am sick of visiting company y's boards and reading comments by fans of company x's products who troll around slamming on the hard work of the employees and fans of company y. Stop it. It is irritating to those of us in the hobby who love both company x and company y, and who realize that these companies have shared staff from time to time. A certain staffer at company x wrote a heck of a lot of the content about a certain "Shackled City." He seems to be a stand up guy.

These comments apply to all those in the "indie" and "retro rpg" movements as well. These communities are creating wonderful gaming products that are influencing the design decisions of the bigger companies. These communities are invaluable to the gaming hobby as they spawn innovation and are some of the best sources of new players. But I am sick of them attempting parricide on older and newer games/editions. You make the hobby better, but so do those other games.

There is no perfect game, and no perfect edition. I would even go so far as to argue that there are only a few truly awful roleplaying games in existence. In fact, I believe that there are more high quality roleplaying games and game adventures than I will ever be able to play in my lifetime. They are already out there. When I found a copy of Dennis Sustare's Swordbearer, I was blown away by how awesome that forgotten game was. When I cracked open Heroes of Shadow for D&D 4e, I was impressed with some of the design decisions which went in directions I never would have chosen -- yet they still seemed to work. When I began reading the most recent Paizo Adventure Path, the "Hammer Studios" fan in me got giddy.

My gaming group recently decided to add "one shot" sessions playing games we've never played before into our normal mix of play, and it has been wonderful. Some of these one shots will be of forgotten, or smaller press, games, but other sessions will be of prior editions of existing games. I'd love to have four to six one shots that go through the evolution of GURPS from The Fantasy Trip to present. We've already done a couple of "Moldvay/Cook" sessions and will likely do more, but that will have to wait for sessions of Boot Hill and even the old Fantasy Games Unlimited Flash Gordon rpg.

These are all wonderful games, and I believe that every edition of the "most popular role playing game in history" are excellent.

As much as I want to say that edition wars are bad because every edition is good -- and I do believe that -- this isn't the real reason that edition wars are bad. Edition wars are bad because they scare away new players. Imagine if you will to people heatedly arguing about some subject that you have little -- or only a passing -- interest in, let's say this subject is programming on The CW Network. As the conversation progresses, the passion of the speakers might pique your interest a little. "These shows must have something to them if they inspire such passion," you might say to yourself. But as the conversations progress and the passion quickly escalates to violate Godwin's Law, your interest might quickly wane. You will no longer care if Supernatural is a better show than Vampire Diaries, and you may not even turn on the one that most matches your viewing preferences. You might miss something you would really like.

The desire to avoid the product associated with people suffering from a kind of IFWS is stronger with the gaming hobby than with other products because the potential new player must ask him/herself, "are these the kind of people I want to spend 4-8 hours a week hanging out with?"

I'll tell you what. I don't want to spend most of my gaming time hanging around people who have to insult other games to build up their own game play. I want to hang around with people who care about the hobby, and who want to have fun. Let's all have fun!

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