Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Overdone concepts."

I read Matt Snyder's blog today and got to hear there about what's going on on the Forge, which I haven't found myself keeping up on, even a little bit lately. Matt reported the following Ron rant:
I've had it with games in which the characters are specially-powered in any way whatsoever.

And yeah, I wrote games about sorcerers, magical elfs, and tall babes with horns on their heads. That's done with.

No more. People in situations, from now on.
Matt was sympathetic to this rant. I'm not. I have no use for people telling me what is and isn't "overdone," especially people who have themselves already done the things they now consider "overdone."

Smells too much like the stoner who grows up and tells his kids that they shouldn't do drugs, to me. "Yeah, I thought it was cool before, but now I know better -- now that I don't feel like doing it anymore, I can see that it's not cool at all."



Matt Snyder said...

Ah, Ed, (hi!) let me try another approach.

I'm not tired of these games existence. Hell, I create those kinds of games, play 'em, and love the hell out of 'em. I am NOT saying I don't want anything to do with these games.

What I am saying is I'm tired of seeing no one trying something more, um, normal. My game design mojo all-but shriveled up lately because I felt I had too little to say about "traditional" (read: fantastical) game ideas I had.

So, when my brain started thinking about something completely normal and mundane, gears started whirring. "Cool! Why hasn't anyone done this before?" I thought. I'm hoping it works out.

I can't be tired of gaming when this weekend I'm eagerly gearing up for a true-blue D&D game, and my pals are hoping to convince me to play Vampire in the future. (Ok, now that last one scares me a little bit!)

Ed H said...

Hey, Matt -- sorry for the long delay in replying.

I'm satisfied with your clarification, and grateful that your response to my little snark was so gracious.

And of course I'm mega curious what you're brewing up with the "normal" game. :)

Matt Snyder said...

Ed -- cool!

My game idea won't be finished for a while. I'm excited about it. Time will tell whether others are. That's enough for me.

For a tease, it's called Americana. It's a game about what people seeking freedom and release and happiness in a life filled with stress and trouble.

In short, it's my take on America and what it means to live here and strive to be a good person living a good life (and sometimes failing). I'm taking that focus to give the game some identity, but I suppose it could be about anywhere.

Ed H said...

That's really interesting -- what philosophical sources or inspirations are you drawing on when you think about these things?....

Matt Snyder said...

Good question. Like the lame academic I am (which is to say, not one), I'm drawing sources from two main things.

The first is music. I'm absolutely taken with the sense of place I get when listening to Bob Dylan especially, but also artists like Tom Petty and Neil Young (who is, ironically, Canadian!). The themes these songs build on -- loss and freedom and pain and responsibility -- I find those inspiring.

I'm also inspired by watching more carefully what's happening in the news and in my own life and the lives of those around me in my small town. I keep going back to this imaginary small town in my mind, a dying small town somewhere in the rural Midwest in which people keep harboring old pains and dreams, and longing for something better. That is, I think, the American dream -- searching for something better. Money, love, morality, and more (and less!).

But, I don't want to limit the game to the small town, either. Obviously, the big city has a lot to say about America, life and freedom.

For literary inspiration, I think most immediatley of Kerouac and newcomer (and new favorite!) Jonathen Lethem. Others, surely.

Ed H said...

Thanks for clarifying!

With your reference to music, especially, I find myself doubting whether "Powers!/non-Powers!" is really the important distinction.

There *is* the "I have lots of crunchy powers" ego trip factor that leads people to fantastical worlds, but I think that there are other factors operating. (I'm sure there are Forge terms for all these things but I don't really know them.)

There's also a sense of place that leads people to fantasy. For me playing a completely ordinary person in a very unusual or interesting world is an attractive possibility. A more interesting/attractive possibility than playing an uberpowerful person in a very ordinary world.

It sounds from what you're saying is that you're struck by the fact that particular parts of our own real world, like America, have their own character, beauty, and interest, and they also have characteristic stories. That it could be every bit as interesting to dive into that world and explore those stories as to dive into the world of Vikings and explore sagas, or the world of the Far Future and explore space trading, or the world of gothic 18th century Eastern Europe and explore My Life With Master...

I think that "superpowered vs ordinary" and "unusual world vs our world" are two completely different continua, worth keeping separate.