Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why this focus on sappy tv shows?

This is a rant. You have been warned.

Have you looked at some of the games labelled as "storygames" or games about which the designer sprouts exclamations like Story Now? I have, and while I love some New School Forge games, some things makes me sigh.

This all begins with Robin Laws (my Robin Laws number is 3, by the way).

I was listening to a recorded session from Dragonmeet, namely the Pelgrane Press session with Simon, Robin and Ken and they talked about upcoming stuff. One thing Robin was working on was something called Drama System. This was presented as yet another attempt at trying to use the narrative structure of other media in a rpg.

Often when new school games borrow ideas about narrative structure they seem to think of TV shows. Actually, a few games by Robin Laws does this. There are a couple of games that explicitly try to minic TV shows, like Buffy, Smallville and Primetime Adventures. My experience with those games are not positive.

So, when I heard about Drama System I triggered on the word "relationships". I have realized that one reason I'm not very fond of taking inspiration from TV shows is that I really don't care for relationship focused TV soaps.

Why are all these Forgie New School games so focused on relationships? Some designers talk about how odd it is with the classical adventuring party, outside of society and without any natural human bonds and relations. Others talk about how interpersonal conflicts drive drama and immersive roleplaying.

Those who have games with me know that I can go bananas with funny voices, in character speak and that thespian spiel. But, I can also play the game with the characters as chess pieces when I want to focus on e.g. world or story exploration (going along the rails, for the heck of it). I think both is valid roleplaying.

So, why is sappy tv shows the norm for serious character development? I don't think it's anything wrong with it, but I am bored of it! I have relationships already, to friends and family. Why do I have to have that in a game?

Rant over.

As usual, the real world is a bit more nuanced and if it seems like I was slagging a certain designer, let it be known that I received my copy of Robin Laws Skullduggery yesterday, and it looks like great fun!
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