Thursday, December 11, 2008

Missing The Mark

Before jumping back into my definition of ideas, I wanted to rant a bit on a topic that I think WotC has just missed the mark on - enabling the creation process.

There is something special about creating something. I think the urge to create is in our DNA. But it is more than just an urge. There is something that dwells deep inside of us that takes extreme satisfaction to be able to make something with our own two hands, to be able to hold it up, to be able to say I did this and it is good. The ability to ponder, design and construct is a special gift that has been given to us, and I believe that this has been hard coded into our DNA. It is the only conclusion I can come to that explains why we have the incredible urge to create and build.

With the game of D&D, playing the game is only half the picture. The other half is in the creation of the adventure. I think this is the part that WotC is missing. With a tightly controlled GSL and a limited SRD, that effectively prevents 3PP from taking full advantage of all the published material. I have always thought that this was a fundamental misstep in the management of our hobby. To me, it feels that on one hand WotC is trying to provide a wealth of material to use, and on the other hand it is taking away our ability to create and share with others in our gaming hobby.

I do agree that IP is important to a company. Without a doubt, this is the sustaining energy of many corporations, including the one I work for. It is the corner stone on which companies create value and compete in the market. No argument on this. However, creative games, which reply heavily on the creation process, I think there needs to be a built in process to allow sharing of material. That has to be built into the business model. It is easy for corporations to get hung up on revenue and costs. To be honest, I do not want this in my hobby. I do not want the heavy hand of corporate America in my hobby. I want the business aspect out of my game.

There are some positives about having a company be involved in the hobby. I do appreciate having a centralized rule organization, that works to provide a high quality reference database. I do appreciate having the strong presence in hobby, in create overall interest, to generate organized events, and to basically infuse life into the hobby. There was another game system that I liked, ASL, and when Avalon Hill was bought out, there was fear that the game system would end. As it turned out, MMP licensed the game from Hasbro and now serves as the guiding force behind ASL. Without MMP, I am convinced that ASL is a dead game. I clearly do not want this to happen to D&D, or any other game system that I enjoy or others enjoy.

To circle back around on this idea. I like having a company that serves as the guide to keep the hobby up and going. This is a good thing. I fully endorse the idea that companies should protect their IP to compete in the market. However, in the gaming hobby, and I will open this up to any game system that allows for user creativity, I think that needs to be built into the design of the game. This includes the promotion of fan sites, fan created magazines, fan created support material, and the full endorsement of others to create. As I stated earlier, it is easy to get fixated on the numbers, but that is not really what the enthusiasts want. They want to create, because it is in their life blood and because I believe that the life blood of the game depends on it. We should be supporting the creative process not forcing it into submission. I think where a lot of folks miss the boat is that playing the game is only half the story. The other part is in the creation of the sandbox. For once the creation is done, there is the urge to share. I believe that it is in our DNA to create and share with others. This is fundamental to the continued success of our hobby, and this is where WotC misses the mark.

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