In the early 70's, three things arrived on the scene:

1) Roleplaying games
2) Video games
3) Me

A lot of my time is spent thinking about and obsessively over-analyzing videogames. Consoles. PC games. Web-based games. Old-school games. Technology, piracy, DRM, and quick time events. No subject is so tedious that I can't spend a thousand words deconstructing it as long as I can find someone who will endure my ramblings and give me a half-listening nod every couple of minutes. If I ever lost my web audience I'd probably look for passed out hobos and tell them my thoughts on how advancing graphics hardware has been detrimental to gameplay mechanics over the last decade.

Some people have wondered why, if I'm such a fan of tabletop roleplaying games (I run a site called "Twenty Sided" after all), I spend my time talking about videogames until someone gets fed up and knocks me unconscious with a bust of Gary Gygax. The short answer is because I like to post pictures and videogame screenshots are a lot more fun to look at than photographs of guys sitting around a card table eating Doritos and pretending to be wizards. But the real answer is that videogames are where all the interesting work is being done because that's where we have the most holes in our knowledge.

Technologically, roleplaying games are pretty much the same as they were thirty years ago. Paper, pencils, and plastic dice. During that same span of time the videogames industry has gone through so many technological revolutions that they're almost coming out with new devices and controllers before it's time to replace the batteries on the old one. The evolutionary chain that led us from Pong to Prince of Persia is like watching a zygote grow into a twice-divorced Molecular Biochemist and American Civil War enthusiast in the space of time it takes to microwave a Hot Pocket. But while videogames have evolved beyond the imagination of anyone in the early days, our understanding of the medium - what they are and why people play them - is light years behind their simplistic tabletop counterparts. Sometimes it even seems like our understanding of games is regressing, but maybe it's just the fixed save points talking.

Part of the reason is that it's pretty hard to sit at a table with four other people and not notice how different their goals and motivations are. Anyone running a tabletop game is a game designer on some level. And unlike videogame designers, you aren't working within a loop of development, playtesting, and feedback. If you're running a game, you can look across the table see how people are reacting right away. You can change the game at any time and see how players react to different elements. More combat? More story? Less travel? More loot? More intrigue? Less comic relief? You can observe behavior and fine tune the experience as you go, crafting the best game you can for everyone else.

Contrast this with videogames. A game designer makes a game without much contact with the audience. Then players get the game, and a vast majority of them play it in isolation. The most active ones might hop onto a forum later and argue with each other about different parts of the game. Maybe some of that feedback can be applied to the next game, but often that sort of feedback is more dross than insight. "Quick time events suck" isn't nearly as useful to the curious developer than "quick time events aren't rewarding because there aren't any interesting decisions to be made."

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