Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Goes Around...

Forgot to mention I picked up a copy of Paranoia 2nd Edition the other day (not surprising really, as I'm sure there's a number of things I've forgotten/neglected to mention). $4 used...quite a steal really. This is the only edition of the game I've ever played and one I've never owned, though I remember it well, especially the great Jim Holloway illustrations.

When I played it before it was circa 1990...I was in high school and a member of the cast of my school production of Bye-Bye Birdie. One of my fellow cast members (an acquaintance though a "non-gamer" person) got the game and we played it back-stage while waiting for our time to "go on" (though only during the rehearsals...not the actual performances!). I recall all of us that played had a lot of fun and laughing a lot, though I don't recall my own particular character (we used the pre-gen ones from the rule book) nor any details of the plot/adventure scenario.

I've actually been wanting to get a copy of the game for some time, but was not interested in the updated rule systems I saw floating around the game shop. To me the 2nd edition is the "original," classic game and even researching the 1st edition on-line seems to indicate this is the feelings of others...apparently the 1st edition was released in a much darker, less humorous vein but with adventures that pushed the humor and satire. The second edition, published by the same company (West End Games) and the same designer simply made the game into what everyone was "already playing."

Not that it doesn't have great potential as a "straight" Orwellian/dystopian future type game...I don't think there's any game that could do that kind of genre as well as Paranoia (assuming you wanted to play out something like akin to Brazil or 12 Monkeys or whatever...even Equilibrium with a few modifications). But does anyone want to play that kind of depressing genre in an age where...well, all paranoia aside we HAVE taken some steps towards a constantly monitored society.

To me, I find it very interesting how art (specifically RPGs) imitate life and act as a "sign of the times." When first introduced to Paranoia, I immediately "got it:" the whole commie-mutant-traitor think, the turn-on-your-neighbor-to-get-ahead game play. Part of this is because it's a well-designed game pointing out huge, gaping flaws in human nature and exploiting them to their (extreme but logical) conclusions. Part of it has to do with the world I was living in at the time. I can't help but believe there was at least a tiny bit of subversiveness underlying the satire of a game like Paranoia being released in 1984 and (for the 2nd edition) in 1987.

[for those gamers that don't remember the 80s, having been born later, Ronald Reagan was a classic fear-monger when it came to Communists, helping to jump-start a Cold War by proliferating a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union...this after a decade where we had backed-off a lot from the paranoia of earlier generations...hell, even Nixon opened the door to China...but whatever...oh, yeah American Consumerism was off the charts as well...O Yuppie Where Art Thou?]

I'm kind of surprised that there haven't been more subversive RPGs published in the last decade seeing all that's been going on in the world. Oh, I know there are a couple (3:16 comes to mind as do a couple of other Forge-y games), but none with the kind of popularity that Paranoia enjoyed in its hay-day. I'm sure part of this is because the RPG has fallen out of favor of the general population...why buy a game you have to read when you can press "on" and start playing immediately (yes yes I am a cranky old man).

But I don't think it's a lack of creativity on the part of game designers these days, just a lack of will to do so. If D20 is what sells, well shit, that's what one is going to write for, right? How many companies converted their games to the D20 system? How many licensed IPs got made into D20 games? How much time and energy was spent trying to shove out D20 material before the door to that particular cash cow could be closed? (wow a REALLY cranky old man!)

Probably I am just exhibiting my own paranoia...spending time reading games like this (ones that are more substance than crunchy rules bits that need mastering) always starts those wheels turning, ya' know? It is quite a good little game, though, and I'm glad I was able to pick it up for such a good price. I'll bet my nephews would get a kick out of it...though of course I'll have to update it by changing the word "Communist" into "Terrorist." Otherwise, they probably won't get the humor.

1 comment:

  1. Citizen, I have recorded your subversive rant and attached it as Exhibit M to my report "Treasonous Bloggers". Which I shall be delivering to The Computer shortly. Please remain in your domicile until security comes round to arrest you.