One bright spot of interaction

The only time I can recall online discussion of a game of mine making me smile was an ancient thread that called FVLMINATA the “worst initiative system of all time.” I relished the fact that I had outraged someone’s (several people’s, actually) sensibilities.

I’m a moderate at heart. I’m not in-your-face. I’m not offensive. But I still can’t wipe the smile off my face when I recall that thread.

Should I be doing more of that kind of thing? Should I be more assertive and controversial? I dislike when people generate controversy to garner attention. I find it cheapens any interaction.

But I’ve still got some assertive, controversial things to say. I just say them nicely. Serial Homicide Unit says to society and fanboy culture: “Your fixation on violence and identification with criminal behavior is wrong. It is sick and twisted. You’re on the wrong side.” It is a subversive game that puts the lie to its genre.

And nobody plays it.

Maybe I should be more controversial for the most American of reasons: To make more money.

I don’t know the answer to this. I’ve got to ruminate on it some more.

14 thoughts on “One bright spot of interaction

  1. Is that the point of SHU? Because I’ve read your LJ (as a fan of WGP) for at least a year, and I had no idea. From the cover and the discussion of the Audio CD presentation, I had assumed that it was a pick-up game build around the investigative procedural format. I’ve avoided it specifically because I have don’t like the hyper-violent rape/murder serials. Your discussion and packaging of the game have left me with the impression that it’s a enactment/celebration of the genre, much as WGP for Silver Age comics, rather than a critique of the genre/format.

  2. Personally, I thought the initiative system for FVLMINATA was entirely appropriate for the context. It might be less than ideal in terms of game balance or other considerations, but that’s your choice to make as the game designer. And I certainly can’t see why anyone would get bent out of shape about it, even if they don’t like it, as it’s the sort of thing that would be very easy to “house rule”.
    I don’t agree with being controversial for the sake of being controversial. That way lies Madonna and creative pointlessness. I can’t argue with the fact that she’s made a lot of money, but there’s virtually nothing worthwhile in her work beyond dance music, and there are already plenty of other people out there doing a better job of the same thing.
    Being true to yourself shows greater creative integrity and tends to give you better results in the long run. You’ll do best walking your own path, and only you know what that is. It doesn’t necessarily make more money, but it’s more likely to get you to a destination that is uniquely your own. You helped me to see this for myself when I branched out in some directions that didn’t really work for me. Don’t let the pursuit of cash distract you unless the cash is truly your end goal.
    That said, if you’re stirring people up, that’s likely to be a sign that you’ve struck a nerve and are pointed in the right direction. To sum up, use feedback to help you find your creative direction; do not seek feedback as its own short lived reward.
    Hope this helps.

  3. To riff of of this, i believe i *did* see subverting the genre as the main point of the game… but i still haven’t played it. I’m not sure why; maybe it really isn’t controversial enough – not in-your-face enough, but then again maybe it is (for me anyway) the necessary difficulty of (quickly) creating characters that you can really care for/about just to have them killed off. Maybe it seems to me that if you don’t care about the characters enough then it just becomes one of those games like “Kill Dr Lucky” or etc.

  4. It’s interesting you put it that way. It’s a matter of emphasis. On the one hand, you could say that WGP… is an enactment/celebration of Silver Age comics, or you could say that WGP… is saying to superhero fans: “You know those adolescent power fantasies of exaggerated importance and kicking the living crap out of meaningless bad guys? That doesn’t matter. That’s window-dressing. Having the strength to win is nothing. It’s having the strength to lose and keep going that matters.”
    Two different emphases. Same game. The second one gets people’s attention by telling them that their assumptions are wrong. The first one invites people to examine their own assumptions, if they desire. I default to expressing myself in the first. I’m wondering if I should stretch my muscles into the second.

  5. Another data point: I convey things much, much better in person, no matter which point-of-view I espouse.
    On a tangent, I just sent Jason Roberts comments on the first draft of his next game. No Rome, nor guns this time, but it’s still very cool. More updates as events warrant.

  6. You raise a host of excellent points, Scott.
    1) FVLMINATA’s initiative system does make perfect sense for the game that it is. But, it i
    s also a provocative statement about what kind of game it is. It says to gamers: “This game isn’t about physics or game balance or min-maxing. It’s about the experience of living in Roman society. Set your own game-baggage aside.”
    Admittedly, that’s not nearly as controversial thing to say as it was in 2001.
    2) I *know* that controversy for it’s own sake is pointless. I know it, but … but, being non-controversial hasn’t worked out so well either. I still don’t enjoy most of my interactions with people about my games. That’s the dilemma I’m struggling with.
    A brief conversation w/ Kat helped me reframe the problem in my head. “You’re not talking about being controversial here,” she said. “You’re talking about being provocative.” I think she’s right on the money. Controversy is something that happens, or doesn’t. An artist’s choices can make it more or less likely, but ultimately the public decides what it wants to get riled up about.
    Provocation, on the other hand, is like throwing down a gauntlet. While no one has to pick it up, you’ve still sent the message “This is what I believe. I’ve observed the world and reached this conclusion. Disagree if you will, but you better be as sure of yourself as I am.”
    3) It’s not the lack of cash that’s distracting me. It’s the lack of relevance. I work at a job where the absolute best job I can do is one where my efforts are completely invisible. I take care of foster kids, and it often feels like my efforts there are destined to evaporate based on the decisions of others. In game design, I want to feel like what I’m doing matters, even if it’s just in a little, tiny way.
    Does that make sense?

  7. Thanks, Brennan. I love it when people truly understand and appreciate what the game’s about, as I know you do. I’m just pondering whether I should say it more baldly.

  8. You don’t enjoy your interactions with others about your games? My question there would be what it is that you’re looking for from those interactions. If you know how you want people to react, that’s a clue to what elements you should be including in your games.
    If you want to throw down a gauntlet, pick one you feel strongly enough about to throw and build around that.
    Taking care of foster kids sounds plenty relevant. I’m hard pressed to think of anything much more relevant than taking care of other people, especially those who really need the help, whatever your role in that may be. Maybe you just need a way to see more of the results of what you do.
    Yes, what you’re saying makes sense. If you don’t feel as though what you do on the job matters, you want to feel as though your choices elsewhere matter. I fully understand how creative expression helps in that respect, as that has gotten me personally over many a rough spot. Changing jobs may be a more risky, but possibly more rewarding strategy, if you’re inclined in that direction. I’ve been at the same company for nearly 25 years, but I’ve done many different things at that company and finally found a niche that works pretty well for me.

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