Tuesday, December 20, 2005


What Are My Goals?

Warning: long post full of self-reflective wankery, and probably whining.

Something strange is going on. Maybe it's just that I'm becoming more aware of it, but it seems that there's been many recents bursts of anti-Forge sentiment, in addition to the usual suspects. Many of which bring up good critical points, though, I think, oftentimes made in a generalized and over-perjorative manner.

There's also the stirring of post-Forge movement, which I don't know how I feel about.

Of course, this is all coming at a time when I am the absolute happiest with the activity, clarity and general awesomeness on the Forge Publishing and Actual Play forums, as well as when I'm in the middle of getting my first title some traction, and getting ready for the playtest cycle on my next one.

So I feel pulled in many directions, and having to take stock of
Which seem to be conflicting, in some ways.

On the creative level, I'm perfectely happy making something I like and think works, putting it out there, and revisiting it every so often. But I also take it seriously, as (ideally) a craft - and that means I think it's worth charging for. I don't see why I shouldn't make beer money off of the amount of effort and time I put into design and play (because, really, they need each other), especially when I feel like I'm fulfilling needs that I don't see filled in the marketplace.

However, do I have the will to really make a business effort out of this? I don't know. So far it's been hard, and I hope that payoff is coming down the road, because it sure as hell isn't immediate. I fear that at some point I'm just going to not be able to sustain the effort any more, say hell with it, take the losses and leave everything as a free download.

All in addition to a time when I'm unsure of my place in the community, as well as the future of that community. Unless the three-tier system implodes under its own weight (which wouldn't be horribly surprising, but I don't think is a certain thing either), we're never going to be a significant market presence. One reaction to this is "fuck the market, I'm doing my shit, and it's different anyway." Which is totally cool. But that's not me. I don't want to identify what I do as something other than roleplaying. I don't want to sidestep all the "mainstream" players. I was one, and I still play those games, and have fun. If the indie community moves towards becoming a seperate community with a seperate market, thats cool. Will I be part of it? I don't know.

Another reaction is to focus on our strengths, in a thoughtful manner. Focused games with a specific play experience in mind, honesty in design goals, availability to the community and willingness to consider critiques and evaluations in a forthright manner, support for each other (both by playing each others games and hiring each other as editors, artists, etc) in addition to a low-risk, low-audience business model. Now, doing this while maintaining positive links to the larger role-playing community, is that a challenge? Probably. But it resonates with me.

I don't know where I'm really going with this. I fear that the Indie community is going to fragment into individual voices in the wilderness. I hope that there will be cohesion and progressive development, even if it means dropping a lot of Forge baggage in order to be more inclusive/welcoming. I see both as possibilities.


One of the big, common misconceptions is that the Forge is this unified group of people -- you see that a lot in the anti-Forge threads -- and that there is a defined "Forge Way" or that there is a unified body of "Forge Theory." All of this is, of course, complete and utter bullshit.

What the Forge "is" and I wish I could have posted to ENWorld before the thread got to its NINTH page is a community of game designers and game players, who talk about game theory and publishing. There is some consensus, but hardly anything absolute.

The reason this is important is that the Forge diaspora, the closing of Theory and GNS forums, and the post-Forge movement are merely things that that community is doing. True, these things will change the community in some ways, but as long as we remain a group of game enthusiasts who talk about gaming and game design, the essentials aren't going to change.

You aren't the only one who's interested in going back to the "burned-out radioactive wasteland" and introducing a few mainstream gamers to alternate ways to play. There is actually quite a few Forgies who haven't turned their backs or moved on to "bigger, better things." In fact I suspect the people who are proclaiming such things the loudest haven't, either.

It's just the world reinventing itself again; it tends to do that on a daily basis.

I should do a similar post about my goals on my blog. If I survive the day.
Food for thought: the perceived market wasn't really a market anyway. Instead, we have had, for about eight years now, a real marketplace as an alternative. The internet, of course.

It has generally suffered from the feature of disconnection, but that's changed greatly in just the past two years especially. In the case of our favored activity, it has suffered from conflating the commercial space and social context of the hobby with the activity itself.

I think it's exciting. We've really invented something, or at least been present/active at its cultural birth. You can design it, present it, promote it, sell it, and support it - all around the world! In this one piddly instance, all the grandiose blather about the internet from ten years ago is actually happening.

So when people talk about "the market" or "the industry," I ask them what they mean. In most cases, they point to games on the shelves in game stores, and the associated scuttlebutt.

That's not a market. That's a marginalized little weird thing - as if we were to care about the success of two different brands of, oh, kids' chewing gum. The internet is much bigger than that. Creator profit is much bigger than that.

All of your goals seem gloriously compatible to me. Perhaps the only tricky one is "goals as a gamer," which I think would have to be clarified over beer rather than discussed on-line.
Joshua: My worries center around issues of identity politics, for the most part. I mean, I consider myself a pretty easy-going guy. I -love- games, and gaming, and game design, and the Forge has done a ton for me on all of those levels. But so have many other sources. If I start being identified as a "Forge designer" by others...whether thats a good thing or a bad thing to them...well, I dunno how I feel about that.

So, as the community reinvents itself, will identity-things become more or less important? I don't know.

Ron: Thanks for the words of encouragement.

When I say "the community," I'm talking about the indie-game community of designers and theorists, mostly based around the Forge.

When I say "the market," I guess I'm talking about everyone out there that wants to play a roleplaying game.

I fear that identity politics could create an evironment where the community abandons or rejects the established market. Which I don't think is good for either.

Do I have anything to back that up other than my personal feelings/issues? No. Thats why it's a fear.

On the other hand, it looks like I'm going to be getting a review of Timestream in a major Dutch gaming magazine. That, I think, is exactly awesome, and an example of the promise of the internet to our bidness. So it's not all doom and gloom over here, I swear!
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