Thursday, March 15, 2012

Old School Gaming

Somebody on Facebook asked, "what does 'old school gaming' mean?". Here's my response:

‎"Old School" is a buzzword that (to most self-professed old-school gamers) just means "Good". And there are as many definitions of what constitutes a 'good' tabletop RPG as there are tabletop role-players.

For some it's pure nostalgia for the olden days or for early editions of their personal favorite game system. For some it's a preference for simpler, sketchier, more primitive rules sets - never mind the fact that high levels of complexity started appearing in TTRPGs very early on in the hobby. For some it's a preference for story-oriented role-playing over 'winning'. For some it's an expression of distaste for new-fangled innovations like being able to build a specific character concept.

I had my first TTRPG experience back in the OD&D brown box days. I've played (and designed) many different systems since then. So at the risk of muddying the waters even further, here's my own take.

I reject pure nostalgia as 'good' because some later games are better written and more playable than some early ones. I reject the 'sketchier is better' view in favor of a recognition that while some simple systems are extremely powerful tools, others are a complete waste of paper. And usually, the more recent simple systems tend to be the better ones. I agree that in-game efforts to succeed (i.e., 'role-playing' or 'story') is a worthier goal than meta-level player success ('winning') - yet as a simulationist I also reject game systems with meta-level story mechanics. And I have no objection whatsoever to 'newfangled innovations', IF they are useful tools which promote the kind of RP/story-oriented simulationist play style that I prefer.


At 12:44 PM, Blogger miden said...

Could I also thrown in the suggestion that "old school gaming" also often required players to make choices and adhere to rules?

Maybe it's old school griping, but modern game systems seem to cater to players who want it all. Dwarven wizard with half-dragon ancestry and high-level bard skills? No problem. Never mind that there's a fantasy cultural tradition that dwarves are warriors, maybe thieves, and resistant to all that is magic.

What fun is a game if you can't be everything you want, all the time?

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Kevin~ said...

I take this view, that when art has restrictions placed upon it, sometimes it can be more beautiful. My favorite composer, Koichi Sugiyama, composed symphonies on an 8-bit system, and that was his best work in his career. He had done movies, and produced/co-written albums for famous musicians in Japan, but his best work is for video games where the symphony couldn't actually have been heard. It was just beeps and boops.

The beauty about the beeps and boops is it focused everyone on the melody rather than the "boring" sound of a whole orchestra. (I don't find orchestras boring, but I think that's why many people get disillusioned with classical, because of the melody being too complicatedly hidden)

Just like the tabletop example, when a new idea was presented it was very very NEW. When a new gameplay mechanic or a new type of monster came out, it was incredibly creative, whereas with today everything is a copy of everything so it seems much less majestic.


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