Home Forums General Game Design What is a narrative wargame? Reply To: What is a narrative wargame?


In thinking about narrative games, about game design and where the hobby is today as well as the *discussion* on this thread,  Raph Koster, in his book A Theory of Fun for Game Design  had this to say about the culture of games and is worth quoting at length: [Page 136]

There are other sorts of problems with games. One of them has proven fatal to many genres of games: The problem of increasing complexity. Most art forms have swung in pendulum fashion from an Apollonian to a Dionysian style—meaning, they have alternated between periods where they were reserved and formal and where they were exuberant and communicative. From Romanesque to Gothic churches, from art rock to punk, from the French Academy to Impressionism, pretty much every medium has had these swings.

I think it is easy to see where the miniature hobby is in that pendulum swing at the moment.

Games, however, are always formal. The historical trend in games has shown that when a new genre of game is invented, it follows a trajectory where increasing complexity is added to it, until eventually the games on the market are so complex and advanced that newcomers can’t get into them—the barrier of entry is too high.  You could call this the jargon factor because it is common to all formal systems. Priesthoods develop, terms enter common usage, and soon only the educated few can hack it.

And here too, one can see this in our hobby, even to introducing terms that remain undefined for the masses.

In most media, the way out of this has been the development of a new formal principle (as well as a cultural shift). Sometimes it was a development in knowledge of the form. Sometimes it was the development of a competing medium that usurped the place of the old medium, as when photography forced painters to undergo a radical reevaluation of their art form. Games, though, aren’t tending to this all that much. By and large, we have seen an inexorable march towards greater complexity. This has led to a priesthood of those who can speak the language, master the intricacies, and keep up-to-date.

I think computer games did have that similar impact on board and miniature gaming, a competing medium.

Every once in a while games come along that appeal to the masses, and thank goodness. Because frankly, priesthoods are a perversion of what games are all about as well. The worst possible fate for games (and by extension,  for our species) would be for games to become niche, something played by only a few elite who have the training to do so. It was bad for sports, it was bad for music, it was bad for writing, and it would be bad for games as well.

Which means that ideas and games from outside the priesthood are the life-blood the hobby in many ways.  And who is both the designated ‘priesthood’ and the provider of the injection of life-blood?

All of these are the case where human nature works against the success of games as a medium  and as a teaching tool.  Ironically, these all converge most sharply in the most unlikely of candidates, the person who loves games more than anyone: the game designer.



  • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by McLaddie.
  • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by McLaddie.