Sunday, July 31, 2016

Is Story Hyphen Games Dot Com Hostile to the OSR?

A significant kerfluffle (those two words do not belong together) recently was raised when a person in the "story games" or "indie game" "community" ("scare quotes") called on that community to be more open and welcoming to the OSR "community". They're the last two posts on the Magpie Games blog.  Anyway, if you're reading this you definitely already read those posts because there's only 6 people and 2 dogs that read this blog and all of them also already read that post.  Before I start, a quick note about those scare quotes.

one of my beloved readers
First of all, it isn't clear to me that either of the two groups the poster was talking about is actually a community.  A community shares resources, risks, needs, intent, beliefs, and preferences - not absolutely identically, but with sufficient overlap that we can identify those in and out of the community.  Liking a particular type of game isn't a basis for a community, no matter what Google and Facebook want us to feel.  On social media, you won't see workable tools created to form and police actual communities because that would get in the way of the purpose of social media - to destroy communities, relationships, and in the end, identities, through commerce.  Letting Facebook convince us we are a community doesn't make us a community.  We're still just people that like things, and sometimes click buttons to tell Google that we do, in front of others doing the same thing.

There are several possible responses to this critique. "Well, JD, there's a community, but you're not in it." Fair enough, I am a filthy hermit living alone in a cave in the desert, so I can't deny that it's possible there's a RPG community somewhere out there.  Or, perhaps, there's a community, but not of game-players, but instead of game designers. Designers! Those godforsaken creatures! But even beetles love other beetles, if they can.

Similarly, my other scare quotes around "story games" or "indie games", exist because those conflate many things together.  "Indie games" doesn't even say anything about the content of the games, just whether or not the creator owns them. Unquestionably almost all OSR products are "indie games", for example.  But enough of the scare quotes for the rest of the article.  "You know what we mean, JD," they say, and I begrudgingly mutter that I do.

completely accurate picture
of me getting mad on the internet
(uh except for this guy has hair)
The general thrust of the Magpie blogposts describing these community problems was the perception that the story games community was hostile to the OSR community, and asking them to be kinder.  And my instinct when reading the post was, yeah, I can see that.  We live in a RPG cultural moment where D&D and its ambit hasn't been this dominant since the mid-1980s.  And I can remember back to those days when those of us who played games other than D&D-and-its-ilk were little shits about D&D.  There were even games that put opposition to D&D's dominance in their texts, back cover copy and advertisements.  So it made sense to me that since the OSR is a significant part of D&D's current almost complete dominance over RPG culture, those that are in its margins might be resentful, as we were last time.

But as the days since the (first) post passed, I started to question this. Yeah, it makes sense that story game people would be resentful and negative towards OSR people because the OSR people are part of the wave that has completely obliterated every non-D&D-ish thing in sight (along with Paizo's success, 5e's success, the 4th edition people who are still playing through all the free material, and the prolonged success of many indie d20 properties), but is it actually happening?  Forget for a second whether a just-so story about two communities clashing fits your hazy 9th grade memories of the last time it happened, JD; you were too interested in the girls playing Vampire to really be objective anyway.   Does the available evidence actually bear your feeling out? Are story gamers really hostile to the OSR?

So I thought I would actually do a survey.  I would look at the forums of and determine the extent of the hostility of the posters of that forum to the OSR.  That forum was for several years considered the center of "story gamers" (by those who thought there was a center; "You know what we mean, JD!"; yes, ugh, I do.)

So if there is a lot of hostility against the OSR we should be able to find it there.  Now, eventually a lot of people migrated from forums to social media.  I can't think of a good method to sample most social media spaces, except for maybe being nice to people and trying to get them to share things with me on social media.  As you might imagine, this is impossible.  However, story gamers, by and large, went to those spaces from (where most, though not me, landed during the waning years of, so if there's a community-wide feeling towards the OSR, it makes sense to me that we should be able to spot that feeling at  (I don't know where OSR people discuss shit, so can't gauge feelings from the OSR to story gamers; perhaps someone who does could replicate this methodology...I'd read it!)

If you're not into inside baseball of this kind, skip it, and if JD Shows His Math seems boring to you, cool. But let's see exactly how bad things have been between story hyphen games dot com, and the OSR.