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Do I Have A Point?

by Jeff Freeman


I have a confession to make. It's time I put my cards on the table. When I do, you'll notice that they are not Magic: The Gathering cards. I may have to pay Wizards of the Coast a royalty anyway, because they have a patent on the "Trading Card Game Method of Play".

Now WotC can sue other CCG companies for royalties. They promise not to, or at least not for back-royalties, or at least not from those companies that start paying royalties now, voluntarily.

Fortunately, WotC isn't The Evil Empire. Far from it. WotC is less a bully and more like a big, lovable, easy-going friend that just also happens to have the evil powers of Darth Vader. He points at the cake on your plate and suggests apologetically, "That's mine." Then gently adds, "Give me a bite and I'll let you keep the rest."

You bet, pal. No problem.

Well, okay... one problem. WotC is nice (now) for one reason and one reason only: Peter Adkison is a gaming goob. He likes you, all of you. He wants you all to come over to his house and play with him. Well, maybe not all of you and certainly not all at once, but you know what I mean. It's just that his lawyers keep poking him in the side and telling him, "It's yours! Claim it! Defend it!"

At least he does it nicely. Remember pre-WotC TSR's "on-line policy" and their draconian measures to "defend their property." Along comes Peter Adkison and it's a kinder, gentler TSR. A compromising one. One that'll only take a bite of your cake instead of taking the whole damn thing.

Companies change `attitudes' depending on who's at the helm. When Gary Gygax was in charge of TSR, they encouraged people to create their own D&D *stuff* and to share it. When a gamer is in charge, you get a gamer-friendly company. It isn't a coincidence.

Peter Adkison will probably always be a nice guy and an RPG fan. But Wizards of the Coast isn't going to be controlled by our kindly and good friend Peter Adkison forever. Eventually it's going to be a company owned and controlled by non-gaming-types that are interested more in The Bottom Line than in anything else. Enjoy that cake while you can. TSR's draconian policies will be back, and they'll be applied to CCG's as well, I betcha. They might even stop calling them `Trading Card Games' and start referring to them as `Collectible Card Games' like everyone else.

But all that aside, I said I was going to "put my cards on the table". Actually, that's just a figure of speech. Sorry about the tangent. I do have a confession to make, assuming I can get to it before I'm suddenly reminded of something else and start writing about that.

Sort of getting suspenseful, isn't it?

Which reminds me, the word `suspenseful', I mean, due to lack of same: Have you noticed that television shows basically suck? I mean, something that looks like it might be halfway decent comes along once in a blue moon, and then the Powers That Be do it all wrong. They take a great idea - like that Space series that was canceled a few seasons ago - and then kill it with horrible implementation. Looked good on paper. Space marines. A Starship Troopers-ish sort of show, or `what the Marines in Aliens II do when they aren't fighting the capital-A, Aliens'. Great concept, lousy show. It's unfathomable why in the world more people don't game. Sure, it's easier to just plop in front of the tube and attempt to digest whatever rubbish the network suits are serving up... but it stinks.

And anything that doesn't suck outright is just cloned to death until we're all sick of seeing it anyway, in every permutation and variation.

It's no wonder there aren't any sit-com style role playing games. Give the consumer the opportunity to determine the format, content and genre of their own entertainment and one doesn't wind up playing Rosanne: The Role Playing Game. Meanwhile, a very popular RPG genre, fantasy, is a relative newcomer to television and still MIA in prime-time. Hercules is moderately popular and, case in point, being cloned to death. Hello, Xena, Sinbad, Conan, and so on, so on, so on. They'll keep doing it until we're all sick of them and then they'll *all* be canceled. And we'll be grateful.

Which brings me back to my confession. I regularly describe myself as a beer-drinking, cigarette smoking, Why-Are-You-Even-Playing sort of clue-deficient, walking repugnance, but in fact, I am a game fan.

Not to say that the two are mutually exclusive, of course.

Honestly, it's been a while since I played anything at all face-to-face. But I want to. I buy games that I know I'll never play, just because I *want* to play them. And the worse television gets, the more I want to do something that involves a little bit of creativity and human interaction. And believe me, television is bad, bad, bad.

So I'm only a casual game fan, an occasional-gamer, but I am a fan. Maybe I'm not the dedicated gaming whacko that you generally find doing things like, for example, writing a monthly game column. But I *do* write a monthly game column. Sometimes I even talk about gaming in my column.

Mostly, though, I make fun of gamers and criticize the industry, which is a lot of fun for me, but causes a few of you to take things that I say just a tad too seriously. A couple of people have gone into fits over the Chicks In Gaming column, claiming that it was too subtle to be ironic and assuming that I really am that much of a sexist pig-headed moron. I'm not sure who is at fault for that - me for writing it, them for being too sensitive, or you for being such a sexist pig-headed moron that what I assumed was patently absurd was actually too close to the truth to be funny. And by `you', of course, I only mean the sexist pig-headed morons out there. Not literally `you', understand, but rather... well... your friends. You know the ones.

One complaint about Chicks in Gaming was just that it wasn't humorous enough. Well, okay, so actually there was more than one complaint along those lines. Anyway, Samantha Cooper thought that I should have also pointed out a few of the stereotypical male gamers' faults. Specifically, a total lack of any notion of physical conditioning, the mistaken idea that, as she puts it, `slovenly is manly' and along those same lines, male gamers' hygiene in general.

Sorry, fellows, on that last point she's right and there's no denying it. I've been to a few `gamy' conventions in my day. It wouldn't hurt for you to lather and rinse before gathering as a large crowd in a relatively small space.

One guy wrote to correct a comment I had made in RPGs: THEN AND NOW. I said that you won't be able to find people `already playing' whatever you just bought, because if anyone *is* already playing it, they live in Alaska. Well, B. Charles Reynolds wrote from Alaska to deny that anyone there is already playing anything either. My apologies to anyone that wasted the trip (unless you happened to run into Charles).

As I was saying, though, I'm not really a pig-headed moron, but I am a gamer. And no one knows. What I mean is, most of the people that know me don't know.

Truthfully, I am just like the majority of people that play role-playing games. The vast majority, I have observed, don't ask and don't tell. They're closet gamers (and don't ask how I can observe people *not* doing something, just take my word for it).

Meanwhile, computer RPGs, although not *real* role-playing games, have mainstream appeal. Lots of people play computer RPGs that wouldn't be caught with a dead character in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, and they aren't afraid to admit it. With Ultima Online and other such games, those computer RPGers are moving to a `real' role-playing game.

Maybe Ultima Online really doesn't offer enough personality development and interaction to be considered a real RPG either, but even if it doesn't, it will someday, and probably pretty soon. Or something like it will. And that will be more mainstream than any traditional role-playing ever has been.

But the question that comes to mind is this: Even assuming that someday there is a mainstream RPG, computer-version or otherwise, will anyone admit to playing it? Will anyone know that their co-workers are also gamers? I wonder if we shouldn't have some sort of secret sign or signal. Something innocuous enough not to frighten the non-gamers, or even make them suspicious, but that would still be a dead-giveaway for those of us in the know.

Maybe a little window decal or bumper-sticker with no words printed on it. It won't mean anything to non-gamers, but would be a flag for us. I wonder, if the idea took off, would we start to see gamers at every traffic light? Or spot them up-close due to a ring or necklace? Would Charles Reynolds manage to find a fellow game fan in Alaska?

Well, it's an idea, anyway. Personally I don't wear jewelry, tie-tacks, bumper-stickers or window decals, but I'm flexible. I will if you will (well, you and most of your gaming friends, I mean). I say we go with dice. Apart from fuzzy-dice hanging from a rear-view mirror, just assume that whenever you see a person with some sort of dice thing stuck to their car, clothes or body, that person is a gamer (maybe even a gamer that doesn't use dice, let's say).

Some gamer-friendly company will print the decals. Maybe they'll be in stores in time for you to get them in exchange for the non-gaming crap that your goofy relatives are going to buy you for the holidays.

Comments? Feel free to email them to

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What do you think?

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All of Jeff Freeman's Acks

  • The One True Way to Roleplay, Online: July 20, 1999
  • What Were We Thinking? September 8, 1998
  • Random Thoughts August 9, 1998
  • Run With It! July 14, 1998
  • Background: I'm Evil! June 9, 1998
  • Who Wants to Role-Play? May 12, 1998
  • Playing Without Brains Apr 8, 1998
  • Ultima Online Looked Good Off March 10, 1998
  • The Perfect Game February 10, 1998
  • "INTRO TO RPGs" January 6, 1998
  • "Do I Have A Point?"
  • "LOOK BEFORE YOU LARP" November 11, 1997
  • "RPGs: Then and Now" October 7, 1997
  • Chicks in Gaming", September 9, 1997 (and its Danish translation)
  • The FUDGE review that inspired it.

    Other columns at RPGnet

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