03 June, 2012

A sad week, or the dawn of a new era.

I don't know.

A lot of gamers don't know about the Forge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/), and a lot of those gamers who do know about the Forge have a love/hate relationship with it.

Some call it the forum that launched a new industry of independent game design...some call it the graveyard where a thousand fledgling designers brought their ideas, only to be shot down in flames by calls for "actual play" when all they wanted to discuss was their new ideas.

Founded by Ron Edwards, with some strong assistance from other folks who've become independent RPG design heavyweights, the Forge had been greatly influential over the last few years, focusing game design in ways that nothing had done previously. It founded terminology that has spread through the gaming world like an infectious disease, sometimes confusingly (like the term "simulationism" which doesn't necessarily mean simulating reality), and sometimes counter-intuitively (like "narrativism" which has little to do with following a story in the traditional sense), and the definition of these terms has launched a thousand arguments across the other RPG forums and the blogosphere. Some have argued with the core tenets of the site, the notion of the "Big Model" of game dynamics, the "holy trinity" of GNS...but none can argue that these ideas have informed the current generation of games, whether old-school renaissance, modern indie, or even the mainstream games being produced at the moment.

The Forge was designed as a place for like minded individuals to push game design in a new direction, and now that game design is moving in a new direction it has served its purpose.

The Forge prompted me to develop my "Vector Theory" of game design; a theory that informed the design for my game FUBAR. It really got me thinking about how we design games, why we design games and what process could be used to design better games.

The biggest problem I always had with the Forge was the feeling that I got there too late. I think I first joined up with the forum in 2006, by which time there was already a blanket veto on all discussion that might further the development of the game design theory driving the site. The Forge was the nexus for a paradigm shift from one school of gaming thought to the next...but it felt like it deliberately didn't want to be a part of another paradigm shift should that occur.

"We represent the change from thinking 'A' to thinking 'B'. If you want to think 'C', go somewhere else"

But there never was anywhere else.

Story-Games likes to think of itself as the next evolutionary step (well, certain members do anyway...), but their too busy playing status games, hacking other peoples stuff or idolising Vincent Baker toreally be a driving force of innovative thought the way The Forge was during it's heyday.

Maybe I'm just deluding myself, maybe The Forge was never like this and I'm just attaching a sense of false second-hand nostalgia, like the romantic notions some people have about the nobility of the Napoleonic era or the dynamism of the birth of rock-n-roll.

Still, it a shame to see the passing of such an influential institution within our hobby. It's not like the sudden axing of a TV series, or the petering out of a game that has jumped it's shark and doesn't have any where else to escalate. It's more like a well planned finale, where you don't quite know how it's going to end but you hope it will be good, and you hope that an appropriate sense of closure will be achieved before something beautiful and new blossoms.

I guess this is a note to say good luck to Ron in all his future ventures.
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