Sunday, July 29, 2012

Game Design As Art

For years I've been both an artist and an RPG game designer, and as I see it, game design is just another artistic medium. When I draw a picture, I'm trying to depict a certain subject and convey a certain story or feeling, visually. When I design game mechanics, I'm trying to depict a certain subject and convey a certain story or feeling, through the experience that people will have when they play.

Yet for some reason, visual arts tend to be respected as the special creative expression of the artist, while the art of game design tends not to be granted a similar level of respect.

I've been thinking about this since Gary Gygax Day, when someone posted a quote from Gary where he criticized D&D 3.5 - and some of the reactions showed complete contempt for Gary as the ARTIST who created D&D. Imagine if someone took the Mona Lisa and modified it, and then when DaVinci complained he was told that it's none of his business. (I'm not comparing D&D to the Mona Lisa. I'm using the Mona Lisa as an example of a piece of visual art, simply because it's well known. The same principle that I'm trying to get at, here, would apply equally if someone modified a napkin doodle by your aunt Matilda).

I realize that the needs of tabletop role-play require additional GM input to a degree that looking at a picture doesn't, but still. If things were done to works of visual art analogous to what's commonly done to works of the art of game design, we would all be (rightly) appalled.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sexual Harassment Amongst the Unbelievers

There is a kerfuffle going on in the Atheist community. I've been pretty silent about it, but somebody asked me my opinion so I wrote the following response, which I would like to share. Non-atheists will find nothing of interest here; move along, you folks have your own problems ;-)

Okay. So just to be clear, the kerfuffle I'm talking about is the ongoing flame-fest over the issue of sexual harassment policies at Atheist conventions. So here's what I think.

I think what we're seeing is the consequence of trying to form a community out of a bunch of people who have abandoned our culture's default (Christian) rules of behavior. I'm not saying it was a mistake, I'm saying we all ought to face up to the fact that we have some work to do.

Some who've dumped Christianity feel that in the absence of its archaic sexual taboos, we should now all be free and open about our sexual impulses. Others who've dumped Christianity feel that in the absence of its patriarchal biases, we should now finally respect the absolute equal rights of women and have zero tolerance for unsolicited sexual advances.

I don't think the problem is that one side or the other is wrong. I think they're both mostly right. The problem, in my view, is that we lack a clear new cultural standard for behavior that accommodates both of these views by adopting reasonable limits to enable them to co-exist. Both sides are being a bit shrill and defensive, and that's entirely understandable, because both are fighting to make sure that the new emerging standards of behavior place as few limits on their side of the dispute as possible.

So while it can be unpleasant to listen to this infighting, I think we need to accept it as inevitable. I also think it could be healthy in the long run. Because if we never work through these differences then we won't be one community, we'll be two.