Every so often on twitter, as I scroll through the #ttrpg tag, I see a certain type of tweet. It’s always from an account with a game-studio-sounding name I’ve never heard of, something like Darkwood Games or Blathersplotch Studios. In the tweet, they announce an exciting new UNIVERSAL table-top roleplaying system! Finally! A system that puts YOU in control! You can do whatever you want with it! Be a pirate! Or a space captain! Or (insert third generic genre here)!
It always breaks my heart a little to see these posts, maybe straggling along with one or two likes. I add my own little heart icon, because hey, buck-up champ. We all deserve a shot, right?
There’s a trend in nerd culture or fandom to attribute moral failings to the things we don’t like. It’s not enough for something to be not our cup of tea, or bad, it must also be harmful, destructive, problematic, etc. And to be sure, there is a great deal of harmful, destructive, and problematic stuff in fan culture and media. I bring it up only because that is what I don’t, in this case, want to do for some of the games (or types of games) I talk about generally here. I don’t think these games are morally corrosive or even necessarily bad. I’ve enjoyed a few, in specific circumstances. They just, generally, lie firmly on the “not my cup of tea” end of the spectrum, and I’d like to talk about why.
I’m a fan of “Extra Credits”
. If you’re not in the know, they’re a group of video game design people that put on a cool little semi-animated web series. While their main focus is primarily on design for video games, it still has my recommendation for anyone interested in any game design. In one of their more recent videos, they talked about a concept called “Counter Play.” The basic description is that abilities in a game should exist to do more than just make the game interesting for the player using them; they should actively enhance the experience of everyone playing the game.