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Flashback Friday - Titan

Rants & Raves

Getting It

T Updated
Getting It
There Will Be Games

In a recent conversation I had on Twitter I was told I didn’t ‘get’ the Star Trek Adventures RPG, my review of which is pretty negative. This did two things. Firstly it annoyed me, as I’d played the game for a good number of sessions before committing my thoughts to paper. Secondly it got me thinking about the idea that any game can be definitively ‘got’. Let’s dive into it.

This was the first time I had been personally subjected to the idea, but I’ve seen it countless times as a defensive reaction to a game you like being criticised. To me it always comes across as dismissive, short sighted, and rude. I get that seeing a game you enjoy being criticised can feel like a personal attack, but good critics will never think of it that way. All we are doing is sharing our thoughts on this particular game: how we felt about it, does it do what it proclaims to do etc.

In these times where the majority of our interactions are taking place online, we owe it to ourselves and all those we interact with to police ourselves and be mindful of the impact words can have on others. I thought it might be worth starting a conversation about how I try and interact online. This is specifically about platforms like twitter and Facebook where the primary form of interaction is the written word.

Don’t

First and foremost you can just not. If someone doesn’t like the same thing you do, then agree to disagree and move on. If you find yourself the subject of trolls then block and mute are your friend. I would hope that such things would never get to the point of police involvement.

The other side of Don’t is that you should not tag the designer/company in your defence of their product. Likely they know about the review already and aren’t really interested in getting pulled into an online firefight.

Talk Softly

If you have passed through the don’t stage and honestly believe that you have a solid point to make, talk softly (the big stick is not required).

For starters get names and pronouns correct. Loads of people on Twitter have their preferred pronoun in their bio, and on many platforms real names will be obvious. Showing people this little bit of respect will go a long way to having your voice heard. If you can’t be bothered to go as far as these basic courtesies then why should anyone listen to anything you have to say.

Keep in mind that we are talking about an enterainment here. Me not liking the game you adore doesn’t invalidate your feelings. I know it can feel like that sometimes, and you want to bang the drum for your game, but if all you want to do is get angry then see our first point don’t.

Games will always be a subjective art form and the very idea that a reviewer can be entirely objective is fundamentally flawed. I expect people to disagree with me, it comes with the territory of being a critic. I welcome those disagreements and I am always happy to explain my reasons to anyone who asks. Sometimes we are just going to plain disagree though, and that is fine. You aren't going to convince me of the merits of this game and I am not going convince you it isn't any good or vice versa.

Always Add

I think one of the things I always keep in mind when crafting a reply is “What am I adding?”. If the answer is nothing, then I just don’t reply. If I am coming across as detracting from the original poster, then why am I bothering? I’ll just be making someone feel bad.

We should always aim to add to a conversation: a different point of view, a story about a time we enjoyed this game, an anecdote that makes you have fond memories of it. Talk softly, read your reply before sending it. Those few seconds of reflection can be the difference between a nice conversation and a hurled insult.

Context is King

We are living through extraordinary times, the situation changing daily as each of us struggles to respond to the new pressures of day to day life.

During this time, games will still be made and played, and of course the critical apparatus should keep on turning. At all times as critics that our hates, are another persons loves. We can criticise without taking joy from those who admire what we do not. Our word is not sacrosanct, nor should it ever be considered so.

As readers and consumers remember that critics want to engage, we want to hear that you enjoyed where we did not. It gives me hope that the hobby appeals to a wider and wider audience, day after day. We must always remember that we all love the hobby, just not always in the same way. Add to the conversation, talk softly, and where we can do neither of those things, just don’t.

There Will Be Games
Iain McAllister  (He/Him)
Associate Writer and Podcaster

Iain McAllister lives in Dalkeith, Scotland with his wife Cath and their two dogs, Maddie and Gypsy. He has been a keen member of the local gaming scene for many years setting up and participating in many of the clubs that are part of Edinburgh's vibrant gaming scene.

You can find more of his work on The Giant Brain which publishes a wide range of articles about the hobby including reviews, previews, convention reports and critique. The Giant Brain is also the home of the Brainwaves podcast, a fortnightly podcast covering industry news that Iain hosts with his friend Jamie Adams.

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Articles & Podcasts by Iain McAllister

 

Iain McAllister
Associate Writer and Podcaster

Articles & Podcasts by Iain

 

 

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Agent easy's Avatar
Agent easy replied the topic: #310560 23 May 2020 08:55
I agree with most of the article, except the way it begins.

“Getting it” means a few things. Mostly, it means coming to it with the right expectations and being open to the experience it offers. Being told that you don’t “get it” is a short hand way of saying you are not approaching it correctly, you are not looking for the right thing, you are trying to make it something it’s not, etc. It might also be another way of saying the game (or movie, or whatever) isn’t for you. I don’t think it’s rude, unless you add unspoken words (or, unless the person who said it explicitly is being rude and/or speaks certain words): if you take “you dit get it” as, you are too dumb to appreciate it, or you would like it if you just tried, Etc, then that might Not be the intention.
thegiantbrain's Avatar
thegiantbrain replied the topic: #310583 24 May 2020 04:21
Sure, not all games are for all people. In this case it was very much 'I don't think you understood some of the mechanics' which kind of annoyed as I spent a lot of time diving into them.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #310584 24 May 2020 09:18
I certainly understand the "you don't get it" thing. As a big fan of Friedmann Friese "math games" I have to resist saying this all the time when trying to get other players to play, and more importantly, enjoy, the game. Folks enjoy some things and not others, be it theme, mechanics, or even just the art aesthetic.

I used to play Catan with a player who was so conflict adverse she would put the robber in a place that affected the LEAST amount of players. She "didn't get it", or just had her own play style. She played the way she wanted (with in the rules) and the rest of us just accepted it or didn't play with her if a more cutthroat game was desired.

Star Trek seems like a tough RPG to play. So much of the show is either pure negotiation or elaborate technobabble, neither really translates well to dice rolling rules IMHO, while combat certainly does. Plus the naval command structure implies one player is "in charge" while everyone else is playing support to some extent.

Maybe I don't get it either :P
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #310612 25 May 2020 12:13
I once played BSG with a group that included a teenager. We had strong suspicions she was a Cylon by the halfway point and trusted her with nothing. Every skill check was a nightmare of paranoia. It was one of the best sessions of the game I've ever had. The accusations, arguments and plotting didn't stop until the moment Galactica went down.

At which point we discovered she wasn't a Cylon at all. She was just pretending because she thought it'd be fun.

For a moment I was furious to have had the whole game subverted: the human never have had a chance if one of their own wasn't playing along. And then I remembered what an amazing, exciting game we'd had.

She definitely "got it". Just not in the way most players might be expecting.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #310613 25 May 2020 12:40
I have played a lot of RPGs over the years. Sometimes a game was very successful and I ran a campaign that lasted years. Sometimes a game failed on the very first session. Sometimes a game worked really well on a trial basis, but the campaign didn't have any legs. But I think that either playtesting or reviewing an RPG is too involved a process to come up with more than very anecdotal information. It's entirely possible that a GM didn't run the game in a way that worked well with either the rules or the setting. Or the GM did fine, but one or more of the players didn't get into the proper spirit of the game. Conversely, a group could "get it wrong" and still have a great time playing it their way.

I actually have a particularly relevant anecdote regarding the FASA Star Trek rpg of the early '80s. As Jason pointed out, some players might have a problem with the military rank structure that leaves a specific character in charge. Our GM decided to make the Captain an NPC (I suspect this was recommended in the rulebook), so he could keep adventure on track by having the Captain give orders to the player characters. The PCs in turn were all officers, so they could order around redshirt NPCs on missions. But the players resented the Captain and staged a successful mutiny. That didn't go over well with Starfleet, so they became a rogue pirate vessel. The GM scrambled to adapt, since this derailed all of his plans for the campaign, but we had fun for a while. One PC even got rid of his phaser and went out around killing people with his newly acquired Klingon disruptor pistol, which was about as powerful as a phaser but had no stun setting.
thegiantbrain's Avatar
thegiantbrain replied the topic: #310656 26 May 2020 16:56
It is hard to review RPGs, I generally only do it after running something for a good few sessions: Blades, Scum and Villainy, and Star Trek are the only ones I have done.

I think with Star Trek Adventures it places way too much weight on combat and doesn't even really attempt to address negotiation and scientific stuff. Well it does have research but the rules for that are so piss poor as to be useless.

I switched to a Fate Accelerated hack for a few sessions at the end of our campaign and that worked a lot better. Technobabble can become aspects players can tag, you can quickly create minor characters that players can inhabit for a scene or two, and the fate chip system allows them to get their minor characters into trouble only for the main cast to come and save them.

I ran it as written, with no deviation to try and get a feel for the intention as much as possible. I just didn't like what I found.