Blogging: the Chinese whipsaw effect?

Sometimes I love the blogosphere: it binds us together, it enables us to share and circulate ideas, and it allows us to have far-reaching and far-branching debates about all manner of gaming things under the sun.

Sometimes I loathe the blogosphere, for exactly the same reasons.

So as I read the various posts and discussions spawned by Eric of Elder Game’s original post — including my own (Eric link at top, everyone else at the end of the post) — I end up wondering: do we actually read each other, or do we just use each other as opportunities to bang on our own drums, grind our own axes, and stand on our own soapboxes?

I’m bemused and almost irked enough by it to be doing one of these petty, self-justifying set-the-record-straight posts, which in itself irritates me even further. (Doesn’t help that I’ve only had one cup of coffee, come to think of it.*) On the bright side it’s the weekend and nobody reads blog posts over the weekend, so I can mutter quietly and mostly to myself in my corner.

Record–straightening #1. I never said classes were better than not-classes. I said Eric said skill-based is hard, and I agreed with him based on my personal gaming experience. Actually, I do believe I said once or twice that classless is very rewarding, but it’s a lot more work — granted that my only “development” experience of that is for tabletop games, but while I didn’t mess about with million-dollar budgets, I do have some idea of the relative amount of work-time required between managing a classless, skill-based campaign and managing the opposite.

(For those who like this kind of thing underpinned by “evidence,” the tabletop game I ran for the longest time — about 8 years — was Ars Magica, which is pretty much a skill-based game with incredibly messy and open-ended rules, at least the ruleset we used, which was mostly 3rd ed with a smattering of 2nd, 4th and house rules.)

Once again. In a purely theoretical sense I still don’t see what’s so contentious about “skill-based is harder to design and balance than class-based” — I really don’t. As an extremely general statement, it seems pretty straightforward to me. Given the perils of speaking for others at this stage, I won’t — but I certainly never said that just because something is more difficult to design, nobody should bother with it.

Record-straightening #2. I never made any comments about easy/hard and choice/not-choice. Other people’s drums. Sure, I have stuff to say about those things, but I didn’t say them in that post.

I’m still boggling at how this has, once again, become a debate about easy-mode versus iron-man Mr. Real Player, even in terms of development. If you like structure, you’re a sheeple. If you like to be able to screw up your character without hope of recovery, you’re a brave pioneer forging ahead into the wilds of game adventure.

Yeah, whatever.

Yes, I’m paraphrasing rather inaccurately. I felt it was my turn.

I’m definitely starting to think it would be useful for the gaming community as a whole to lose the “if it made me want to chew my arms off, it was BETTER” elitist attitude we’re dragging around with us whether we notice it or not. There are arguments to be made for both simplicity and complexity and they’re a great deal more, um, complicated than simply saying one is better than the other, which is a pretty meaningless assertion without context, actually.

I’m done griping now. Move along. Nothing to see here, classy or otherwise.


* Please. No advice on how I should quit drinking so much coffee if it makes me that grumpy. Can’t a person even use hyperbole on her site anymore without being adviced-at? I’m really just grumpy by nature and coffee has nothing to do with it. Now get off my damn lawn!

10 responses to “Blogging: the Chinese whipsaw effect?

  1. If anything I am in favor of more coffee, or tea in my case, not less. And at all times.

    Blogging is not immune to the general human desire to share our own opinion with others. It is why, when we are talking to others, we naturally start to listen to them less as the idea of what we want to say when they are done talking takes hold. We often begin to think of our response long before they are done.

    This is why people who listen are always sought after, and liked. It is really rare, and quite hard to do: Pay attention to your inner monologue next time you are listening to someone. If you’re with a group you can see people waiting for a pause so they can get their own point in.

    I suppose blogging is no different. People start to think about what they have to say before they finish, or re-read, what has been said/posted.

    And people do read blogs on the weekend dammit! See, I listened 😉


  2. Perhaps if Eric’s original article didn’t have the whole “you’re doing it wrong, noob designers and idiot players” vibe, the responses wouldn’t have been what they were. Maybe he was just in a trollish mood, but he came off as a pretentious jerk in his article.

    As for your article, well… it seemed pretty clear to me. Not sure how you figure it sounded to me like “classes are better”, but if I gave that impression, that was a mistake. Sorry ’bout that. I think it’s accurate enough to suggest that skill-based design is harder, but I reject the notion that it’s therefore *wrong*, and that’s what Eric was claiming. I was responding more to Eric than you, and really, I thought your response article was very good, else I wouldn’t have linked to it.


    • Oh pshaw, stop being so reasonable when I’m trying to be grumpy!

      Wasn’t you specifically — wasn’t anyone specifically, really. Maybe I’m just prone to being irked by the intarwebz this week. 😉


  3. I end up wondering: do we actually read each other, or do we just use each other as opportunities to bang on our own drums, grind our own axes, and stand on our own soapboxes?

    I sure do like pudding! I think everyone else should enjoy it, too. Particularly tapioca.


  4. For what it’s worth, I read your post and didn’t take you for saying anything other than you did. (It was also the first post of yours I read as an aside, both to my delight (excellent read) and dismay (why hadn’t I found earlier!))

    I think Tesh more or less nailed it on the head though. I respect Eric’s writings a lot typically, and his experience. But that post in particular possibly came off a little stronger than he intended. On the other hand, perhaps not. He did mention going in that the post to follow would likely ruffle a lot of feathers.

    I’ve been intending to do a post on the topic — and still may — since first reading Erik’s post on the matter, which is what ultimately lead me to your take. You more or less plucked the thoughts straight from my brain though; right down to the impressions of AC!

    So clearly, I thought it was a great post. Although the further I read I did have another dose of the delight/dismay thing going on, I confess. 😉


    • Welcome then! 😀

      I may have been the only one whose hackles didn’t get raised by Eric’s post then, it seems. I’ll have to re-read it and see if it strikes me differently.


      • When I first read his post, it was sort of accompanied by a D: face because it was very much saying things I didn’t want to hear, because I love open-skill systems.

        I couldn’t deny he had good points though throughout, they just weren’t what I wanted. Life can be so mean in that regard sometimes. 😛

        There was also though just a few prickly barbs spread throughout. Some of them I’m sure are in jest, ‘I’m not trying to pick a fight; I’m just telling you all how exceptionally wrong you are! and others were more through implication, ‘but she needed to know how much I’d grown as a game designer since then.’ i.e., only designers that haven’t grown still cling to a notion of open-skill systems being viable.

        Thanks for the Welcome! Will make for some good weekend reading as I catch up on what I’ve missed. 🙂 Added ye to blogroll/reader as well so don’t have to miss anythin’ more!


  5. Sorry to hear about the blogosphere strife;
    And I came to offer advice (sorry about that too)

    Anyways, the advice is: try DCUO. The people on Virtue and Vice are friendly, haven’t been there long enough to say Landrovolish, but definitely cool. Lots of RP leagues forming.
    As far as the game itself – the cities are ginormous and absolutely gorgeous. The travel powers are, well, I could sign in, do nothing but fly for 2 hours, sign out, and have had a good time. Combat is visceral – you feel like you’re fighting, not just hitting buttons. You can dodge MOB fireballs, etc.

    They still need to put some time into the social aspects and I’m not sure if there will be ‘crafting’ – there are investigations and collections that have the same feel, mechanic wise, but no standing at an oven making pies for 2 hours.

    Again, sorry for the thread jack – I just think you’d like the game…. look me up if you decide to- Ratfink or Woden on VnV (PvE)(and if you weren’t an altoholic before… wait until you start making characters)

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled Blogwar


  6. “I’m definitely starting to think it would be useful for the gaming community as a whole to lose the “if it made me want to chew my arms off, it was BETTER” elitist attitude we’re dragging around with us whether we notice it or not.”

    Could hardly agree more. Even “back in the day” (launch era EQ on) I thought a lot of the more punishing and time consuming designs were more akin to “paying someone good money to beat me with with a stick” than “compelling gameplay.” If that makes me a wussbag mindless newb sheep, so be it.


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