Sunday, November 02, 2008

I am a dirty thief

So I was just reading some old posts at Lamentations of the Flame Princess, James Raggi's awesome blog. Unfortunately, I just realized that I totally stole some material from him. In the middle of his long post I Hate Fun he takes a moment for this aside:
Stop right there! Tangent time!

Never let anyone say that the game has “evolved.” It hasn’t. Ever. Maybe the way you play it has evolved, maybe, but the game itself hasn’t. You could say it evolved if you took the same book from the shelf and suddenly a rule was mysteriously different here and there, more and more, as the years go by. That doesn’t happen. The game is changed, intentionally, for better or worse. Changed, by people doing the changing. It’s not an accident, it’s not an evolution. It didn’t have to happen. It’s willful alteration.

Got that? Don’t let people get away with the “evolved” line. Always confront and correct. Sure, you’ll be seen as an asshole if you do, but it seems to me that it is better to be an asshole for challenging this wording than it is to passively accept being sort of genetic throwback Neanderthal freak since you haven’t kept up with the “evolution.”

Not evolution. “Intelligent” design.

Back to your previously scheduled rant:
I'm sure I read James's post the same day it came out or the day after, because I always keep up on his stuff. But by the time six weeks later when I posted my own item Please note: Games don't evolve I had totally forgotten that I had gotten the idea from him. James even dropped a line in the comments "This argument seems familiar somehow.:)", which at the time totally went over my head.

So James, please accept my deepest apologies. I apparently took your observation to heart but plum forgot it came from you.


  1. Games do evolve. In a process of natural selection, the games which satisfy their players live based on sales and popular consciousness of their rules and themes - the rest die. Death being defined as a departure from common knowledge and a lack of support from either the parent company or dedicated fans. Evolution never refers to change in any specific generation of animals, it refers to changes over generations as traits which survive well are passed down. Therefore, if a new edition of D&D (for example) has inherited certain traits deemed most likely to succeed, that decision wasn't plucked out of thin air. It was influenced by the successes and failures of previous RPGs. No, the metaphor isn't perfect; there is little apparent randomness, unless you consider that games are often designed by teams who communicate imperfectly, and who have at best incomplete knowledge of what their audience wants - and that is stretching the point. I don't find the term a bad one to describe the process at all.

    Like the alligator and crocodile, though, some beasts remain the same over millions of years. D&D as first printed is by no means dead, fitting this metaphor to the T. It has not evolved; though small changes have been made by the fan community, it remains viable in its original form. This is an incredible strength in a medium where most competitors don't last a single year.

  2. Hell Jeff, I probably did the same with some of your stuff quite a fewe time in the last 15 months.

    Good Show.

    Games don't evolve, of course, however the thinking behind their design changes.

  3. Anonymous4:08 PM

    Why does every thing on the internet devolve to insults and pressure asshat political tactics. This sucks. I wish it would stop. Saying rules evolved isn't, necessarily insulting old schoolers.

  4. We've been saying that on K&K Alehouse for years. James knows that. But, I guess it would only be an original idea if it came from a blog. :shrug:

  5. I've been correcting people's incorrect use of the word "evolve" forever. It never sinks in. There will always be those who think "change" and "evolve" are synonyms.

    Individuals cannot evolve. A set of rules is an individual item. A new edition is not a new species of rules.

  6. gordon, it's because "evolve" has several definitions, some of which are casual and decidedly out of synch with the pedantic/scientific senses of the term ... some of which are purely metaphorical and which have little connection at _all_ with them.

    That's the way language works, and all the pedants in the world can stamp their little feet and wring their pocket protectors and when the next day dawns, that's still the way language works.

    That said, Jeff's original post (or not entirely original post, as the case may be) had a very valuable point hidden behind the obscuring semantics, which is a shame :/