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Soapbox: About the Industry

Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money

by Sandy Antunes
December 13, 2001  

  • Why can't we call just get along?
  • Why do people think RPGnet and [favorite site of the week] are automatically competitors?
  • Why do people copycat ideas rather than teaming up?
  • Why do flame wars erupt on forums?
  • Why do some companies make lots of money and others don't?
  • Conflict. Competition. Like it or not, it's the root of gaming. Our entire industry is devoted to developing conflict resolution systems! We clearly realize agreement isn't easy. No, it requires 86 pages of rules to resolve.

    It is impossible to expect people to agree when the entire focus of RPG design is to create these conflict resolution systems. Since we can't even agree on the best way to resolve conflicts (regardless of what the conflict is about), the idea that we can come to any sort of consensus on an actual matter is moot.

    Put another way, we can't even agree to a single set of Rules of Order, thus we cannot expect to debate to a conclusion. Then again, with one organization I proposed we follow Robert's Rules of Order and was effectively dubbed a fascist for that suggestion. So there does seem to be a rejection of reasonableness on a variety of industry levels.

    On chat, I commented that noted designer Gareth-Michael Skarka seems to annoy people because he 'changes his mind'. Yep, he's stated one thing, then later (ye gods) done something else. Imagine! He's willing to debate something-- then sometimes change his mind.

    Ridiculous! Everyone knows the purpose of a debate is to Win, not to actually reach a consensus!

    As said by Saranjeuhal, "Let's argue and prove that you or I are right. Then we'll still uphold the same beliefs anyway ..."

    Myself, I used to infuriate people the same way. I'm afflicted with "Certainty" (2 pt disadv). I am totally certain my way is correct-- until another way that is better than offered, then I have no problem switching. In my field, that's the scientific process (keep a theory 'til disproved). But a lot of people hate that-- they want to see you suffer a crisis of faith, not be equitable and reasonable.

    Admitably, it can sometimes be slightly passionless to not be flexible. To be 'reasonable'. Because reasonable is a fiction. And one reason we can't agree is that there isn't one best answer for everyone. That's something that is really important to remember.

    That is our strength-- that we can choose an almost arbitrary path then insist it is the One True Way. It's a fundamental of society. It's the reason we have multiple television channels. It's why the winning soccer team can still be deemed sucky even if they win the world cup-- because, gosh darn, if it's not our team, they suck regardless of their win/lose record.

    Heck, variable and inarguable points of view are the reason we date and marry people our friends might not like. Difference can be good, and debate has a limit.

    So the real issue is not "should there be differences" but "are there some meta-rules we can agree on, even if we disagree on specifics?" Let's look at, oh, religion or politics to see if there are any role models for this.

    Err, nope.

    What about business? What about that mythical free market? Surely it has meta-rules. We gamers should be great a business! We live for rules! We're great at following the rules!

    Boy, that's a disadvantage in business. See, there are two schools of business ethics. School A says "do what is right". School B says "you should break the law if the penalty for doing so is less than the profit you make through the illegal act." In essence, cheating can be good.

    In games, cheating usually means you can 'win'. The only downside is whether the victory is worth doing. In a game, maybe it does cheapen things. In business, where cheating lets you get $$$, well, that's another story.

    Which leads to a neat situation. Say you do follow the rules, and deplore cheating. Perhaps you're even reasonable and try to understand that there can be multiple points of view. Are you doomed?

    Nonsense! We are rule-makers, we humans. It's time to apply that heuristical expertise to the real world.

    Imagine this situation: you are facing an opponent in the arena, a fight to the death. You believe in honor. But that's no reason to act as if your opponent does. A prudent warrior would assume their opponent will cheat, will use every base trick in the book. No reason to stoop to that level, just defend and focus on your strengths.

    So we can sit here in the game industry and make rule books. But we should always remember that there is more than the rules, there are meta-issues about conduct that also matter.

    For business, the meta-rule can be "maximize profit and avoid actual jail time". Or it can be "do well, and sleep well at night". Your choice. For politics, perhaps "get re-elected"; in religion, "reap the benefits of the faith" (which alas may require converting others). For internet-y and forum thinges, "abuse of common courtesy will result in loss of privileges for everyone" (the 'pissing the pool' rule). For playing an RPG, the meta-rule is "following the rules is actually more satisfying [unless your GM is a prick]". Boy, this stuff can get subjective, eh?

    Choose your favorite set of rules. Assume everyone plays differently anyway. Win. And have fun. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

    What do you think?

    Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
    "; } ?>

    All Soapboxes

  • See What Sticks by Sandy Antunes, 06jan06
  • Simple Gifts for Pre-Gamers by Sandy Antunes, 09dec05
  • Col vs Blog by Sandy Antunes, 04nov05
  • Running a First RPG for Kids by Sandy Antunes, 07oct05
  • Making It Pay by Sandy Antunes, 02sep05
  • The Hazards of Non-Combat Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 05aug05
  • Just-in-Time Pre-order Hell by Sandy Antunes, 01jul05
  • Cassandra's Industry Report by Sandy Antunes, 03jun05
  • Fiction or Non-Fiction by Sandy Antunes, 05may05
  • I am not a Storyteller by Sandy Antunes, 08apr05
  • A Better Job by Sandy Antunes, 01apr05
  • Advice For Working Writers by Sandy Antunes, 04mar05
  • Startup Fever by Sandy Antunes, 04feb05
  • Why Blogging is Lame by Sandy Antunes, 07jan05
  • Being a Pro Writer by Sandy Antunes, 10dec04
  • Viral Marketing Invitational by Sandy Antunes, 05nov04
  • The 24 Hour RPG Challenge by Sandy Antunes, 08oct04
  • A Decade of Distilled Advice by Sandy Antunes, 03sep04
  • Go Ahead, Hit Me! by Sandy Antunes, 06aug04
  • Promoting Yourself by Sandy Antunes, 09jul04
  • 10 Hurdles to Selling Your Game by Sandy Antunes, 11jun04
  • Let's Team Up! by Sandy Antunes, 07may04
  • Beyond Role and Pla(t)y(pus) by Sandy Antunes, 08apr04
  • Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon by Sandy Antunes, 05mar04
  • Paradox Redux by Sandy Antunes, 06feb04
  • Mad Scientists and the Kilgallon Paradox by Sandy Antunes, 09jan04
  • It's Not Your World, It's Mine by Sandy Antunes, 05dec03
  • Murphy's Law for Adventure Writers by Sandy Antunes, 07nov03
  • Eigentesting by Sandy Antunes, 09oct03
  • Atomic by Sandy Antunes, 05sep03
  • Is Writing a Commodity? by Sandy Antunes, 06aug03
  • Designing Amidst the Tides of Gaming History by Sandy Antunes, 08jul03
  • Buy This Book by Sandy Antunes, 05jun03
  • Hobbies by Sandy Antunes, 08may03
  • The Websites That Wouldn't Die by Sandy Antunes, 10apr03
  • The Path to Atrocities by Sandy Antunes, 06mar03
  • Cattle Mutilation: The Game Design by Sandy Antunes, 06feb03
  • Gaming With Children by Sandy Antunes, 09jan03
  • How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1 by Sandy Antunes, 05dec02
  • all i game with, i learned from kids books by Sandy Antunes, 19nov02
  • TCG: The Total Cost of Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 10oct02
  • Game Publishing & The Law by Sandy Antunes, 06sep02
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Sandy Antunes, 01aug02
  • Buying Time by Sandy Antunes, 04jul02
  • April 10, 2002 13 New FAQs
  • March 1, 2002 Give Me A Closet
  • January 2, 2002 Let's Go Shopping?!?
  • December 13, 2001 Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money
  • November 13, 2001 Secret RPGnet Operations Document Leaked!
  • October 16, 2001 Leadership and D&D
  • September 4, 2001 Leading Industry Site Reports Secret: Sex Sells!
  • August 7, 2001 Any, Anyone Can Be an Internet Success-- Why Aren't You?
  • July 3, 2001 Fine Print, Part U
  • June 5, 2001 Fine Print, Part I
  • May 8, 2001 Pushing Limits
  • May 4, 2001 RPGnet State of the Union special feature
  • April 6, 2001 The Other Magic: Niche Hobbies and Other Markets
  • May 9, 2000 Running a Business as an Old Style D&D Party
  • April 14, 2000 First to Market
  • March 20, 2000 Labor Pains
  • February 15, 2000 One Trick Pony
  • January 6, 2000 Creativity is Bad, Hard to Sell, and Great for Business
  • December 14, 1999 Oranges versus Bananas: Entertainment Costs
  • November 2, 1999 Why Editors Lie
  • October 5, 1999 How to publish a quality game, accept criticism gracefully, and lead a happy life: Pick Any Two
  • September 7, 1999 It Takes a Village (to publish an RPG)
  • August 3, 1999 All Gamer Money Isn't Equal
  • July 6, 1999 Tides of Cash Flow
  • June 1, 1999 Ad-itudes
  • May 4, 1999 Who, What, Give me a Guiness
  • April 6, 1999 The GAMA Trade Show '99
  • March 2, 1999 Roleplaying would have saved Millions
  • February 2, 1999 Games That Won't Suck
  • January 5, 1999 Dangerous Games
  • December 1, 1998 Making Gamers the Old Fashioned Way
  • November 3, 1998 The $1K Company
  • October 1, 1998 So You Want to Start Your Own Company...
  • September 1, 1998 Holy Grails and Marching Morons
  • August 4, 1998 Gamers Must Die!
  • July 7, 1998 Profit versus Prophet
  • June 2, 1998 Acquire! Acquire!
  • May 5, 1998 Power
  • April 21, 1998 The GAMA Trade Show Report, Part 2 (eventually)
  • April 7, 1998 Schroedinger Games, or, the GAMA Report
  • March 3, 1998 Culling the Herd
  • February 3, 1998 Horatio Hornblower's RPG Company
  • January 6, 1998 Double Feature (Us and Them/A Clash of Images)
  • December 2, 1997 "How to Scam Games for Free"
  • November 4, 1997 "Women in Gaming?"
  • October 2, 1997 "Fear of a Gaming Planet" (Welcome to the RPG ghetto?)
  • September 2, 1997 "Rush" (fame and adoration in lieu of pay)
  • August 2, 1997 "For the Money" (convention mating rituals)
  • July 2, 1997 "Good Deeds" (the dearth of evil game companies)
  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
  • May 2, 1997 "Communications Breakdown" (company and player schisms)
  • April 2, 1997 "The Quick and the Dead" (dying companies versus new ideas)
  • March 2, 1997 "It's All in the Timing" (on hype and late deliveries, and on genres)
  • February 2, 1997 "Insiders and Outsiders" (who's who and who uses the web)
  • January 2, 1997 "Fits and Starts" (web presences, print runs, live roleplaying)
  • December 2, 1996 "Procastination Season is Over" (delays and new products)
  • November 1, 1996 "Best of Times, Worst of Times" (on rumors, survival, and larps)
  • October 1, 1996 "Post-Con fallout and not that many new games"
  • September 1, 1996 "Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPS"
  • Our reason for existence

    Other columns at RPGnet

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