28 September 2013

GGF #4: My Game Is Great, Your Game Sucks

We are an intensely tribal lot, and we take our gaming choices very, very seriously.  We're polarized into making so many choices - often based on the first thing of that type we encounter -- identifying with them out of reflex, and defending them to the death ever after. Of course, since deep down we believe the world is a zero-sum one, no one can possibly like a choice we reject without it taking away somehow from our own sense of self-worth.

This turns into a battleground, and there’s no end to our ability to pick fights.  Be it D&D versus other games, GURPS vs Pathfinder vs Hero, OD&D vs AD&D vs new D&D, 3.0 vs 3.5 vs 4.0, tabletop vs LARP vs MMORPG, prep vs. no-prep, dungeon fantasy vs story game, sandbox vs. railroad, indie vs. “mainstream,” it isn’t so much that our choices are to be virulently defended: it’s that anyone choosing otherwise is seen as a referendum on our common sense and good taste, tantamount to an insult.

For instance, I remember a thread a few years back where GURPS and D&D were being compared, and some people went into a hissy fit over the assertion that GURPS is more flexible than D&D.  Well, it is -- GURPS is a much more free-form, skill-based, point-buy system that furthermore is generic, where D&D is a game that limits the available types of character one can play and which seeks to emulate one genre, and one genre alone.  No kidding GURPS is more flexible.  It was designed to be.  But you know?  A computer does a heck of a lot more than a hammer does, and is a heck of a lot more versatile.  That doesn’t mean that if I’m doing some carpentry, what I want is anything but a hammer, and using my desktop PC to bang in nails isn’t going to work as well.  A honking lot of people feel that D&D is the game to play for the dungeon fantasy genre they want, and have felt that way for decades.

But that’s tribalism talking: for those fanboys, to ascribe a virtue to some other game that their own game allegedly lacked by comparison -- even if that game didn’t seek that virtue, and even if they wouldn’t want it to have that virtue?  It was a personal attack, to be opposed with all their might.  To call GURPS more flexible than D&D -- for it to be seen as more "anything" than D&D -- carried to those fanboys the implication that there was something at which D&D was inferior.  That was plainly intolerable.

After all, why else in the wide green earth would we possibly care that some stranger over the Internet not only plays Some Other Game, but resolutely rejects playing Our Game?  Because, of course, we Have To Get Everyone To Agree.  It’s vitally important that gaming groups stay in lockstep over system, genre, milieu and playing style, well ... because it just is, that’s why.  Otherwise the tribe fractures, and we can’t have that.


  1. My attitude is more like, "Your game sucks because the folks who play it seem like brainwashed fanboys who refuse to acknowledge there are other games worth playing."
    I'm fine with playing your Pathfinder, but if I say I'd like to try The Whispering Vault the 'compromise' is not to say "Well, howsabout we try D&D 3.5?"

  2. I have sympathy for your take, but a lot of people are in their comfort zones. I know GURPS. I've written for it, I've played it, I've GMed it, and I've been doing that since before the system was published. I'm going to want to play in GURPS campaigns, and I'm never GMing anything else. If you start up a new campaign in (say) The Whispering Vault, you're asking me to master a 134-page rulebook, and I'm inclined to want to know -- before I go to that trouble -- that I'm going to like the campaign, that I'm going to like the rule system, and that you're going to do it for a good while. For a one-shot? I probably won't.

    But this attitude is no different than with any other preference. I'm a hockey and soccer fan; I'm not a racing or a basketball fan. I like certain kinds of ice cream, and don't like others. I like most any kind of seafood that started out having fins, and don't like seafood that started out living in shells. I'm not saying that basketball isn't worth playing, or that lobster isn't worth eating ... I'm saying I already know what I like, and I'm comfortable with sticking to that.

    1. Yeah, fair enough... it just sucks, for me, that my tastes don't line up with the majority.