Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.


Posted by Nathan P. on March 13, 2009

There’s a substantial difference between gamers and designers, or at least designers who publish.

When you play, you’re making something for the consumption of the people who are playing. The whole audience/participant thing.

When you publish, you’re making something for an audience. Full stop.

The lines blur, because they are both acts of creation. But they are not the same.

(sorry Paul)


4 Responses to “Insight”

  1. Tommi said

    When I design, I design for me and my friends. When I play, I with my friends. I’m a designer. I’m not a publisher. I have to agree with your sentiment.

  2. Let the people say “Amen.”

  3. Paul Czege said

    Check out the tool on the left margin of Books and Authors. It lets you dig down through categories and subcategories of fiction and nonfiction to find a book you might be interested in reading. The company that built the tool clearly puts a lot of money into categorizing and subcategorizing books so the tool will work. And they do this because their customers, who are librarians, tell them that’s what they want.

    The problem is that no one searches for books that way.

    The human brain is a finely tuned pattern creation machine. Librarians love organizing and categorizing stuff. And they allow themselves to think that elaborate categorizations necessarily add value. It’s an indulgence that’s powerfully rebutted by flat tagging schemes on the wider internet. But human neurochemistry is such that exercising the brain’s pattern making machine feels good. It feels clever and special.

    When folks play an RPG they have to make decisions about the applicability and the implementation of rules and guidelines. Back when friends of mine first played Holmes basic D&D they had the situation of a magic sword clashing with a magic shield. They determined there was a magical explosion, and that both parties needed to roll a save against Dragon Breath. This was a design decision. They were designing the experience for themselves. When you play an RPG you make design decisions.

    You do yourself a dramatic disservice as a game creator if you let yourself believe that your design thinking is something special. There’s historically a very low threshold for becoming a comic store owner: a little seed money and some comics. As a result back in the 70s and 80s lots of folks opened stores on little more than the assets they’d developed from a decade of comics collecting and fandom. Being a RPG designer has an even lower threshold. You learned everything you need to know from your experiences as a gamer.

    Design thinking isn’t special. It’s part of how the human brain makes sense of the world. And it’s part of participating in the hobby. Everyone knows this except RPG designers. There’s a reason that “production values” and page count can drive the RPG price point upward, but design excellence cannot: the consumer believes he’s possessed of his own similar capacity for design excellence.


  4. Nathan P. said

    I don’t disagree with anything you say there, Paul. Design thinking isn’t special. But publishing your work is a fundamentally different activity than design/play. The hobbies of play/design and publishing are two overlapping endeavors. It’s an important distinction. That’s all.

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