... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I'm Setting Myself Up

I've been mostly avoiding RPGNet, mostly because most of the material has no interest to me (and people arguing about material that has no interest to me is even less interesting.) But also, even when the topic is something I could theoretically participate in, it seems to come from some weird parallel universe. Like this topic: "Do Level-Based Games Create Disappointment By Implying That You Will Reach (X) Level".

I assume by the phrasing that the thread creator doesn't mean "disappointment" in the sense of "shucks, I didn't make it to 9th level". Rather, I think the implication is that the game itself disappoints, because someone is waiting for 9th level (or whatever) to begin playing, and doesn't appreciate any of the play that occurs before the arbitrary start point. Or they do appreciate the low-level play, but with a very strong sense of entitlement to a final outcome; they come up with an elaborate "forestory", much as some devote a lot of work to their backstory, and not being able to reach that goal feels like some kind of bait-and-switch.

I can understand this way of thinking, but I can't sympathize. I may want to achieve a goal in the game, and I may feel some lower-case disappointment when I don't reach it, but this doesn't retroactively negate whatever fun I've already had, nor does it spoil any possible future fun. I can try again. I can also leave my plans sketchier and fill them in as I go along, so that I don't feel like I've missed out on something if a character dies.

I can imagine that some game designs might be disappointing in and of themselves, if they are actually designed so that the fun kicks in at a given level, but you have to play through some pre-levels before you are even allowed to enjoy the fun. I know I feel this way about some video games, where you have to grind stats for a while to be able to face the actual challenges in the game. I don't completely enjoy the Diablo games, for example, and although I kind of enjoyed Dungeon Siege, there's a bit of grind involved there, as well. But then, it's not an early death that makes these games difficult to enjoy, it's what you are actually doing while you are waiting to reach an enjoyable part of the game.


  1. forestory is a very useful concept. I guess it's a necessary/unavoidable adjunct to backstory, actually.

  2. Interesting topic. What I find possibly "disappointing" in some sense is the way that the leveling mechanic conflates different types of imagination. First, if you play D&D, you need to engage your imagination. You need to picture what the DM is describing. For the sake of your enjoyment and for the sake of your success. Second, when reading about what happens when you hit 9th level, it's tempting to imagine "what it will be like." And that's very different, at least because it's two stages removed from RL. I don't think the potential for disappointment has to do with not reaching 9th level, but in reaching it, and discovering that the DM is not going to do play-by-play of decorating your throne room and reviewing your troops or your first date with Princess Maridadi. Those elements never get a "scene."