by Greg Costikyan, writing as "Designer X"
Not for under 18s
In a reasonably well known sketch on America's Saturday Night Live, William Shatner told a group of Loyal Star Trek Fans to "Get a Life!". This Game seems to be Greg Costikyan's equivalent.
I say game because it's written as one. Ostensibly one where the Characters are members of the modern underclass, Gang Members, Junkies, low-lifes, ripping off the "decent, normal folk" but most often other folk without any money to spare, grannies, minimum wage workers and other gang members.
However a game is not what this is about. Instead it is an essay criticising the way games companies rip their customers off, the state of modern western civilisation with regards to such things as casual violence and the rather regrettable attitudes some gamers, OK allegedly most gamers, have to women, NPCs, normal social enounters, physical fitness and hygiene.
The general points are not new, gamers have been saying such things for years. Ed Simbalist exhorted that "Monsters are People" too back in 1978, but nobody much listened then, and since "Violence" assumes that the PCs are more than capable of gunning down Grandmothers, college kids and children alike, then inserts "Orcs" as one more category to be callously disposed of without a qualm he points out the "gun bunny" attitude to many players have.
To quote from the section on Orcs (swearywords edited out)
Many players just take what they're given, even down to scenarios with no question or challenge as to the playability of value for money of the product. That this isn't new can be seen from the fact he quotes two old SPI staff (Eric Berg and Jim Dunnigan) expressing a certain amount of contempt and despair for gamers.
This is to introduce his premis that Violence sells, pure and simple, to illustrate his point that folk will blindly buy anything, not all, but there will always be some who will, some mechanisms in the game cost money.
Real money. Character adjustments can be paid for. All experience must be paid for, and proven using certificates bought direct from "Designer X". OK it's a joke, but the reality is damn close sometimes> moreover the "What you need to play " list contains a plethora of "Violence TM" branded stuff, from special dice to fake blood. Only bough and officially approved character sheets need be bought, no photocopying allowed.
You know, the impression he paints of an RPG company remind me of the way a certain other company, whom he once accused of killing Coard Wargaming, was (correctly or incorrectly) perceived. The sort of company that follows the business model of the RG companies in "Knight's of the Dinner Table".
The rules are full of insulting passages aimed at the players, ots all on-target satirical stuff, but some of it IS sick and twisted, if I saw people actually playing the game in this I'd be concerned, because ripping off folk to finance your drug habit is extrememly anti-social.
How about killing those 20 ineffectual orcs to get that bit closer to another experience level?
The humour is good. You can persuade yourself that that is "other gamers, not me" and I'm not sure exactly how far Mr. Costikyan wishes to divorce himself from gamers with this. Everything from unwashed, overweight male gamers whose only sexual encounter would ever be in a game to the ludicrousness of random dungeon crawls gets a side-swipe (or occasionally a full assault) here.
Drug use gets tackled in a "you want to kill yourself go ahead, but here are the drawbacks" kind of way, for example the possibily of ending up in jail as some big guy's "special friend" at one extreme to the risks of death from heart failure from use of metamphetamines. And there's always the crime fallout from having to buy the bloody things. You rob from the poor because the poor have no real protection from you.
Bullets just don't stop with a neat hole in the arm, they can continue and kill the innocent, and you might be packing Teflon-coated "Cop-killer" bullets.
The production quality is fair, reasonably well laid out two-column format though my copy had three or four slightly smudged pages.
It's a good pieve of work but it's not a comfortable one.
Style: 3 (Average)