December 17th, 2003

Hawaiian shirt
  • sambear

Designers vision, gamers reality

As a follow-up post to my last In Nomine topic, I wanted to talk about the difference between a designer's vision of a game and the gamer's actual experience.

I have noticed time and time again that they are quite different from each other. For example, when I helped create Changeling: the Dreaming, I was creating a game that I wanted to be a beautiful quixotic sort of paean to adolescence, to dreams and dreamers, to the power of imagination. I wanted to tap into that existential longing that comes from being somehow different but still forced to deal with the real world, the normal world, the unyielding world.

Of course, what gamers tell me is that, as played, it becomes something of a celebration of silliness, a discordant note in the dark symphony that is the World of Darkness, a kind of "dumb and dumber" of White Wolf's offerings. That whole "poignant, quixotic" thing was totally missed on most.

Risking pretentiousness, I feel kind of like Neil Gaiman did when he realized that, instead of doing a story about what happened next with Orpheus, he was going to have to do a story about Orpheus, because nobody in America seemed to know who Orpheus was: essentially, the gaming public doesn't want a bittersweet, highly psychological game which picks up on the yearning and loss of the fleeting nature of youth, beauty, and truth.

What, then, do they want? People want to be entertained, not preached at. They want to enjoy themselves. The last thing people want to do is to pretend to be teenagers again. They want to escape, to enjoy life, to revel in fantasies of other worlds, or at least of a life unlike their own. That's just my opinion. Roleplaying can be elevated to the realm of art, but for the most part it's just entertainment.