How to End a Scene

September 28, 2008

Paraphrasing a somewhat drunken conversation between myself, Dev, and Nathan Paoletta last night. Nathan was somewhat miffed that people are going apeshit over Matt Snyder announcing the closing of Chimera Creative, when nobody seems to have noticed Nathan’s recent announcement about Hamsterprophet Productions.

  • Ron has been clearly doing his own thing (Spione) for an explicitly non-scene crowd for the past several years.
  • Clinton is busy being a ruby rockstar and has always hated the “scene” portions of the post-Forge community.
  • Matt just announced his retirement from publishing.
  • Paul has never joined IPR and has always done his own thing.
  • Vincent is making an explicit effort to make games for audiences that are not members of the post-Forge indie crowd.
  • Jared has always given the finger to the scene.
  • Luke makes his own scene, more or less.

Hopefully this means that the trendy scene portions of the post-Forge community will gradually fade away and be replaced by something else. Seems like the obsession with the “new new thing,” what Malcolm Sheppard (who did have some good things to say on occasion) called the indie games interpretation of the supplement treadmill (must buy newest indie games!) is still persisting, but maybe some shifts are beginning to happen? Who knows. Too early to tell yet, I think, but it does seem like major shifts have been going on over the course of the past couple years.

12 Responses to “How to End a Scene”

  1. Matthijs Says:

    Why “hopefully”?

    The trendy scene is a small part of the post-Forge scene (combined with people from other scenes), which is a small part of the role-playing scene, which is a small part of the gaming scene. If the trendy scene continues to spew out new new stuff, like some tiny generator of random games and ideas, I think that’s a good thing – even if trendy scenes always have some stupid/strange/dysfunctional social dynamics going on.

    I’m not even sure if I know of many non-professional environments of creative people that don’t have social status games and trendyness factor as a major element. Perhaps the two are inseparable?

  2. Fred Hicks Says:

    *squints at Nathan’s website*

    Wait, that’s an “announcement”? It doesn’t have the tone or content of an “I’m quitting” announcement ala Matt; it has one of “Hey, I’m sleepy, talk to you later”. I’m not shocked folks aren’t worked up about the latter.

    I definitely think shifts are happening. I think they’ve been happening for a while, but it’s taken a while for the hugely overlapping part of the Venn diagram of things to narrow enough for folks to really perceive it.

  3. Matthijs Says:

    (Yeah, Nathan said “I’m taking a break for a while, all my stuff is still available, check it out here”, as I understood it – while Matt said “I’m quitting completely, my stuff will no longer be available as of right now”.)

  4. John (Jenskot) Says:

    I had read Nathan’s blog post a week ago and perceived it as a very temporary statement. I think posting off vs. on Story Games is another factor.

    I’m unclear what defines the various scenes vs. what parts are trendy and so on.

    To me, the scene has always been defined by:

    – self publishing
    – explicit and implicit rules matter
    – games for adults
    – games for non gamers
    – games that emulate great stories
    – games that emulate competitive and elegant euro games
    – people who love to share their knowledge publicly
    – people who love to question the status quo
    – punk rock sensibilities
    – people who help each other at Gencon
    – story-games’s forum
    – and more and more, people who fall into the above that love to organize local communities and house or weekend conventions

    For me, when I think of the new scene I think of names such as Emily Care Boss, Andy K, Graham W, Luke Crane, Euro, Vincent baker, John Harper, Jason Morningstar, Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, Brand, Mo, Shreyas, Jonathan Walton, Levi Kornelsen, Paul Tevis, Christopher Kubasik, Ryan Stoughton, TonyLB, Matthijs, Eppy, Nathan, Thor
    Kevin Allen Jr. , Jared, Gregor Hutton, Malcolm Craig, Paul T. , Ben Lehman, Judd, Meg, Josh Roby, Ryan Macklin and a few others.

    I’m not sure what the trendy scenes are. But I would love for us to keep the think tank aspects, the open sharing, and the drive to meet offline as well as online.


  5. brandrobins Says:

    For those confused, where I am is where the party is. I am the trend master. I am rock awesome in a bottle.

    Also, every 5 to 10 years there is a shift in the movement of the moment in RPGs — not just the various indie scenes or whatever. Its been happening for as long as I can remember, so its really not shocking that its happening again. Though, I suppose everyone in history is surprised at the moment they find out they’re actually still in history and have not actually made the one new thing that will last forever. That’s pretty much the whole point of Fukuyama, right?

  6. Not really “miffed,” more like “obviously, the only way for anyone to notice what you’re doing is post it on Story Games.”

    Personally, I think the scene I’m interested in right now is the one where I see people face-to-face. It has been enabled by the internet scene, of course, but it’s my meatspace activities that energize me, so I’m focusing more on them.

  7. Meserach Says:

    The thing about the meatspace scene(s) is: I hear it’s in every way superior to the online scene, except that the online scene is right here on my computer and the meatspace scene is, well, mostly in a whole ‘nother country to me. Even the British meatspace scene seems to be mostly in London.

  8. Matthijs Says:

    Meserach, quite 🙂 If the scene is defined by “playing cool games with fun people at GenCon” – well, I get a picture of the Soup Nazi in my head, saying “NO SCENE FOR YOU!”

  9. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Hey Brand: Any clue what the “new hotness” in roleplaying is going to be, if it’s not the post-Forge indie scene anymore? Or will we not be able to recognize it until it’s here? Has it already arrived in the form of 4th edition and the major disruptions in the d20 scene that are happening because of it? Seems to me like 4th killed the Green Ronin / Crafty Games d20 innovation scene too, but it’s not clear what the Third Party D&D scene will become yet, especially with the GSL debacle.

    Honestly, the only cohesive emerging trend I see is games that are strongly influenced by boardgames and other products that require a lot of specialized physical components. Stuff like Agon, Zombie Cinema, Empire of Dust, Mechaton, It’s Complicated, Transantiago, Project Donut, Vincent’s new board game thingee, all those board games White Wolf’s putting out, everything Jason Morningstar is working on (Medical Hospital), etc. Even 4th Edition, really, with the required battlemap. Pretty, fiddly physical components are definitely one form of the new hotness. But there have to be others.

  10. shreyas Says:

    Jon, is that a trend like a new thing that’s becoming fashionable, or is it roleplaying game designers hitting a crucial point on the making-games learning curve? You can see the same shift in emphasis from numeric/text data to tokens and icons in modern boardgame design (that is, post-literate games; the stuff that happened near and after Monopoly, rather than the much older generation of games like Go, Chess, Mancala, etc). Clover’s rpg-action games have data representation that looks a lot more like Zelda or Mario than a traditional RPG, too.

  11. Shreyas: I was going to blame it more on technology getting better and cheaper, allowing us to produce components that we couldn’t before. But there’s probably something to your point as well.

    I think there’s definitely signs of back and forth shifts between, like:

    (text-free games) (text-heavy games)

    With RPGs starting out as text-free things, local practices based on people’s unwritten house miniatures rules. And then the move towards text-heavyness and comprehensive rules. And then a shift towards rules-lite things or a shift back to local practices. And it may be that a shift away from texts is current happening simultaneously in various roleplaying scenes.

  12. Elizabeth Says:

    I dunno about all of that. I mean, the two top sellers at GenCon were 3:16 and Houses of the Blooded; the latter has got to be at least ten times as long as the former. I think there aren’t so much back-and-forth shifts as there are people who write as much or as little as their game calls for. There have been a ton of short games released every year, and there are always some really heavy ones as well.

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