Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Triptych 14 Three Subjects in One Blog Post

Triptych 14
Three Subjects in One Blog Post

Consequence and Reward in Games
Chinese Britannia
Ignoring History OR Can you function if you try not to offend anyone?

Games can be quite consequence-based, where players try to earn something, or they can be all about avoiding negative consequences, where players are rewarded for participation (most notably, in F2P video games). The more the game is of the latter type, the fewer setbacks you can incorporate.

Similarly, some players embrace constraints (which can lead to setbacks), others really dislike constraints. (This applies to a lot more than games, of course.) The more players dislike constraints, the more they dislike the setbacks that grow out of constraints.

Party games tend not to have setbacks, and many of the folks who have come into the tabletop board and card game hobby have come from party games.

The trend is toward fewer constraints and toward reward-based "games".  Question is, what does your target market think?


Chinese Britannia?

Someone thought he'd heard of a Chinese Britannia I'd made.

No, I haven't made a Chinese Britannia. I've dabbled at it, but haven't got to playing a prototype.

There is an old one called The Dragon and the Pearl, published by a UK game shop in a small number of copies, long out of print as far as I know. It looks quite good. (Although it's out of print, my correspondent managed to get a copy from that game shop.)

There is also China: the Middle Kingdom, published by Decisions Games. I wrote about it on the BGG site for the game. Egregious error here: the designer for some reason decided to limit all action to the modern China borders! It also goes to and through WW II. I wouldn't use the Britannia game system for gunpowder era at all.

Someone was testing a China Brit game (called Mandate of Heaven) online years ago, but it hasn't seen the light of day.

I have designed a 2-3 player strategic game also called The Mandate of Heaven (if you know Chinese history, it's THE obvious title), about a time between dynasties, but it's a block game, no resemblance to Britannia. Not published, though it may be one of my best games.

My correspondent said, "I wonder why there are so few games about China."

My guess: the Chinese have been "the enemy" for a long time now, that may translate into less interest in games related to the Chinese.

Also, I think far eastern history will always be less attractive to westerners than western history.

And historical games are very much out of fashion, just as history itself is out of fashion in the USA. Too many people prefer wishful thinking to fact, so history is ignored in favor of fancy. Which leads to the next topic.


Ignoring What’s Ugly in History
Can you function if you try not to offend anyone?

Here’s a description from an event at the Meta-topia convention in 2017:

Writing More Inclusive Alternate Histories" presented by Eric Simon, Darren Watts, Shoshana Kessock, Elsa Henry. From the implicit imperialism of steampunk to the complicated controversy of HBO's Confederate, it seems like alternate history is often fraught with problems. We provide you with techniques and ideas for writing, designing, and playing with historical and alternate historical themes in ways that are positive, inclusive, respectful, and productive

But history isn't necessarily or even primarily any of those things (positive, inclusive, respectful, and productive). Nor is Life. History is Not Nice.

You might say, "in a game we can be different," but then you're in fantasy, not history or even alternate history.

Being constantly "positive" is not a virtue; it's a way to escape reality, especially when you consider history as a whole. There's a LOT of ugliness in history, why pretend there isn't? It's often messy, violent, greedy, self-centered, self-serving, and most of the "seven deadly sins".

No one designs history to satisfy lots of people. It is what it is. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality. And as we all know, those who ignore reality too much end up in asylums for the insane. Although in America in 2020, there are a vast number of people ignoring reality.

“But what if I offend someone with this ugliness?” Can you do anything of substance without offending someone, somewhere? I don't think so. Because there are too many people who feel a need for validation of their views and aare offended if you don't validate those views, if nothing else. And too many who are "offended" by anything they disagree with. In other words, offense is frequently taken, not given, and consquently it's really hard to avoid offending some people.

As a writer of anything, but especially of history, can you use "don't offend" as a major goal of writing? What happens when it clashes with "is it true"? You’re screwed. I always think truth matters more than someone's feelings.

There's a saying, "the truth hurts." But lies, or wishful thinking if you will, hurts a lot more in the long run.


Monday, July 20, 2020