Forging Motivation: Game Design Is Mind Control

(Game Design is Mind Control was the title of a talk given by Luke Crane; one of the best things on the internet about game design this side of Mark Rosewater’s blog on Magic the Gathering).

Where I left things last time was with D&D and White Wolf largely dominating the market.  There were good games being produced – but the market was being dominated by the two major game systems.  And people were noticing that the so-called Storyteller system didn’t really bring anything to help you tell stories or make them more intense, or even help you really get into character – which wasn’t a good thing for something that was supposedly a roleplaying game.  Something needed fixing.  And (arguably) something was.

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But we’re gonna smash that bastard, make him want to change his name…

Like a number of my blog essays, this is a response to a Forward Thinking prompt – this one on the subject of cruelty.  I also might entirely be heading off in the wrong direction here.  (The blog title comes from the opening to the musical Chess).

I started out thinking of the topic of cruelty by doing the obvious – a websearch to see what people had said.  Although the Psychology Today column was interesting nothing I turned up whether vanilla or kinky had much to say on why people are cruel.  And searching for cruelty’s very close cousin, teasing, produced even less useful results (and a lot more kink).  But I don’t think you can get to grips with cruelty without understanding teasing.  I think I have an answer – but this is only what I can come up with.

Cruelty and teasing are both about security. Continue reading

Storyteller tell me a Story: Major RPG Business models of the 90s and 00s

Where we left my history of the trends in RPGs last time we were in the 1980s and looking at toolbox games such as GURPS that were (in theory) able to handle anything.  In theory.  In practice the running joke is that it doesn’t matter which setting you’re playing GURPS in, it feels like GURPS.

The 1990s were a completely different decade as far as roleplaying games go, and dominated almost entirely by two companies.  TSR, makers of D&D, and the new kids on the block, White Wolf Publishing, makers of Vampire the Masquerade and other related games.  By the end of the 1990s, TSR lay dead from a self-inflicted wound, and White Wolf were taken over a handful of years later despite at one point (with very favourable circumstances) outselling TSR.  In both cases these grievous wounds were, in my opinion, a consequence of their publishing model – and Wizards of the Coast, who bought the bankrupt TSR (and I’ll deal with D&D 3e in this post), would echo  White Wolf’s self-inflicted wound with D&D 4e.

There were good games, improvements on what came before or innovations being published in the 1990s; Over the Edge, Everway, Feng Shui (what better name for an action movie RPG than the art of furniture arrangement?), and FUDGE (we’ll come back to a game based on it next time) to name the first few that spring to mind.  There were also dozens of Fantasy Heartbreakers; D&D derivatives that made one or two major innovations but were basically houseruled D&D.

But really the story of 90s and early 00s roleplaying is dominated by D&D (both TSR and Wizards of the Coast), White Wolf, and their business models and how they all ultimately lead to major self-inflicted wounds on the parent company.

  • TSR and AD&D 2e

  • White Wolf, Vampire: the Masquerade, and the rest of the World of Darkness

  • Wizards of the Coast and D&D 3e

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Another Brick In The Wall

To talk about the purpose of public education is to imply that public education has only one purpose – and that is to oversimplify matters drastically.  Major purposes of public education include in no particular order:

  • Teaching basic skills
  • Allowing people to reach their potential
  • Social Mobility and Cohesion
  • Relieving pressure on parents
  • Base Economics
  • Prevention of Child Abuse

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