Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Never Met A Game I Didn't Like...

…until I met Steve Jackson.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. The FIRST Steve Jackson game I met was Car Wars (“Deluxe” edition!) and I played the hell out of it. GURPS, though, and (especially) Toon occupy very low rungs on the ladder of “games I’ve played."

However, I HAVE played them (the latter more than the former), unlike many of the games I’ve collected in recent years (Aberrant, DeadLands, Terra Primate). When I was a kid, we played A LOT of games. Wow…talk about the “good ol’ days.”

Today, people are so married to one particular game or game system that they refuse to play anything else. To me, this is totally crazy. I know that I’m not a total aberration for enjoying a diversity of games in different genres with different systems. But especially with younger folks it seems to be “D20 or the Highway” often enough (older folks are often "Champions or the Highway;" go figure).

Frankly, I find this lazy and believe it actually discourages the intellectual stimulation that RPGs can provide.

“Oh, but it’s too hard!” whine some folks. Too much investment of time and money to learn a new game, they say. To which I say, “bullshit.” You are picking the wrong game. Steer the fuck clear of games that require hundreds of dollars and hundreds of pages of rules to digest. Buy the slim, trim games, or a retro-clone, or an older, used game and kit-bash the rules you don’t like. There’s an f-ing smorgasbord to sample out there.

“But I only like fantasy!” whine others. Really? Do you only watch fantasy movies? ‘Cause there are precious few out there and many (most) are simply atrocious. Try a different genre…you might like it. Robot Jox may look shitty on the big screen, but BattleTech can be kick-ass on the table-top.

“I have no one to play ‘weird’ games with!” There’s a whole goddamn network called the internet that never existed when I was a kid. If you can’t LEAD your own buddies into gaming diversity, find some new ones.

When I was a kid, my allowance (when I received one at all) ranged from $.25 to $1 per week. Even in the 1980s that was six weeks of saving to buy a single module (if that money didn’t get spent elsewhere). Later on, I worked during the summers, but since I had to pay for my own entertainment (movies, books, etc.) not to mention save for college (my parents didn’t pay), and a trip to Japan (Summer of 1991), precious little of this got spent on gaming. And my parents haven’t bought me a single game (even as a gift!), since my Cook Expert set.

And yet by the time I finished high school had managed to PLAY, not just own:

D&D (B/X, AD&D, BECMI), Boot Hill, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Top Secret, James Bond, GURPS, Toon, Car Wars, Star Wars (WEG), Heroes Unlimited, TMNT, Rifts, Teenagers from Outer Space, Robotech, ElfQuest, Stormbringer, Battletech/MW, Traveller, Amber, Shadow Run, Vampire the Masquerade, Twilight 2000, Dragon Quest, Dragon Light(?), Marvel Superheroes (basic & advanced), CyberPunk...crap, I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple.

I managed to do this because I wasn’t the sole person responsible for the gaming. Most of MY money (up through middle school) was heavily invested in AD&D. But different friends would bring different games to the table, and it was actively encouraged by the rest of us. Though I was “the designated DM” often enough, when it was someone else’s game, he or she was responsible for teaching the rules and running the game. The rest of us had the responsibility to be open and receptive, and generally respectful, since we hoped to be treated the same when our turn came.

Looking at games I’ve discovered since college (Ars Magica, Call of Cthulhu, Over The Edge, Sorcerer), I can’t help but wish I'd found them sooner, as I’m sure some of my past gaming groups would have enjoyed the hell out of ‘em. But thems the breaks. I hate to see people limiting themselves to famine when there is so much feast out there to be had. Sure, not all of it is great (I’d probably buy Nobilis before I’d ever run a game of Immortal: The Invisible War…and I doubt I’ll ever find a group interested in Terra Primate!), but even as an occasional break from a long term D&D campaign, it’s great to have some diversity.

Variety is the spice of life, ja?
: )


  1. "Today, people are so married to one particular game or game system that they refuse to play anything else."

    In my experience this isn't a "today" thing. I ran across this a lot in the mid to late 80's where people played one game basically exclusively.

    In fact, I would guess that the majority of gamers play(ed) one game, then the next largest group play(ed) a few games, and then there is that small segment of the population like ourselves that are or were chronic system-switchers.

  2. You could be right...certainly I have encountered players as I've gotten older. Perhaps I've just continued to run into a less and less tolerant crowd?

    Elementary - Middle School: wide-open gaming
    High School: 3-4 games with some interest in new stuff
    College: 2-3 systems with very particular interests in the new
    Post-College: Um...Magic cards?

    I'm not sure if it's just that the longest running groups (i.e. older folks) tend to get more insular or if it's just that I hang out in the wrong places (e.g. I don't go to cons).

  3. In high school I had one group that was totally system-friendly - whatever the game, we'll play it.

    But I also knew a dozen players who would ONLY play D&D or WHFRP. They don't like non-fantasy RPGs. And unlike watching movies, playing a game in a different genre involves active involvement and they just have no interest in putting that kind of effort into a genre they don't appreciate or enjoy.