I have never had more mixed feelings about a game in my entire life. I’m literally dizzy with conflicting signals.

I have never had more mixed feelings about a game in my entire life. I’m literally dizzy with conflicting signals.


* I mostly love the game design aesthetic out of Sweden. Even though I knew Symbaroum wasn’t for me, I could mostly see what they were going for. And the Fria Ligan crew (not involved with this game) are batting close to 1.000 for me.

* I have a long history with the genre and subject matter.

* The production of this game looks lavish and amazing.

* The art direction looks like they’re doing all the right things representation-wise.


* Nearly everything else, including some of my upsides.

Like…I’m sure Swedish writers and game designers are perfectly capable of dissecting the Western genre. It’s well explained, well documented, fairly straightforward at least as a surface read. But then I have squirms in my stomach about the inevitable cultural problems, appropriations, whatevers that come along with the genre, especially if you’re going all-in on it. You can’t do the Western genre without your noble savages and whores with hearts of gold and wily Chinese mystics and stoic Buffalo Soldiers and proud sinless Scandinavian settlers.

But every time another Western genre game comes out, my horror grows at how utterly fucked up the genre is. Every single game is a horror show of one kind or another. I hate feeling complicit in the relentless erosion of our country’s actual history and the buttressing of a national creation myth that, frankly, strides right across the line into straight-up evil propaganda.

I hate feeling helpless as a maybe-designer to express these ideas and fears and worries. I hate pretty much knowing that any effort to offer anything that isn’t the genre and isn’t fun gunslinger time and straightforward morality will ultimately be a waste of everyone’s time, especially mine.

I want to own this game. I want to back their effort. I want to hate it. I want to scream at everyone who wants good guys with guns to put down bad guys with guns, starting with me. I want to know how to approach serious subject matter and not instantly discard the effort as trivial.



0 thoughts on “I have never had more mixed feelings about a game in my entire life. I’m literally dizzy with conflicting signals.”

  1. It’s like this game is from an alternate universe where the first RPGs were about gunslingers and fantasy is a niche interest. Which is kind of neat, honestly. It’s interesting to see this genre get the kind of treatment I’d expect for the Forgotten Realms or similar.

    Hey, it has a shooting overlay, just like Aces & Eights! Is that not a deal-killer for you, Paul?

    This game definitely seems to be treating US history as a fantasy landscape, which is kind of interesting. Maybe this is what it feels like to be European and see us dumb Americans write games about feudalism.

  2. Also, I have no idea what to make of the mechanics as-described. It sound super-trad at its core, but I also know that the Swedes seem to be able to do wonderful things with trad designs. The shooting template and admonitions like “you can tweak the rules to be as simple or complex as you like” are kinda red flags for me.

  3. No thank you.

    Paul I would love to see a Deadlands reboot with a BW core…. One that remains sensitive to the horrible issues that existed in that time. You gonna write it?

  4. I will never write anything even remotely related to Deadlands or anything like it. No. Sorry.

    My Deadlands work is the source of everything I feel about the Western genre.

  5. I don’t think loving the actual history and loving the myth making of the genre are incompatible drives.

    All societies make myths that represent an idealized perspective of their own history. The Greek tales of gods and heroes aren’t history, and certainly celebrate many problematic things that suited the agenda of their intended audience. Can we not enjoy them?

    Mallory was certainly not providing an accurate depiction of chivalry and knightly duty, even for his own time. Are we not allowed to take his romances for what they are?

    The modern world has not outgrown myth or myth making. I suspect we’re not even meaningfully more self aware about it than they were. I highly doubt Homer’s contemporaries were unaware of the mythmaking he was engaging in.

    I see no problem in enjoying both for what they are.

  6. All myth is active disinformation. All of it.

    All myth is targeted at reinforcing the status quo of the culture that created it.

    All myth.

    Just because it’s old doesn’t make this less true.

  7. So, you’d be game for the Birth of a Nation RPG, then?

    (Context has to matter, doesn’t it?)

    Crap, that was too provocative. I was only trying to offer an extreme example to test Ralph’s assertion. My apologies.

  8. I would imagine the difference is that the US has an underserved minority population that is still being persecuted in no small part because of our illusions of “manifest destiny.” I admit I haven’t been to Greece, but I don’t think the Odyssey or the Iliad or Bull!Zeus fucking people has a comparable impact.

  9. I think the answer is pretty easy, a designer should simply choose whether they’re emulating movies (insert alternative media here) or history, and if history, then whose history. Answer those questions, make your intentions clear and stick within them, you shouldn’t have a problem, and your audience will be able to decide for themselves whether they’re in or not.

  10. I feel everything you say, and agree with almost all of it. Which is not surprising at all.

    However, I just have to say, with all that meaty substance, the thing my brain keeps getting caught on — in a stupid fashion — is the name.

    I’m like “Fantasy The Roleplaying Game” “Post-Modern Magical Realism The Roleplaying Game.” and just noping.

    Like, my brain keeps telling me I hate the game because its named GENRE: THE THINGAMABOB.

    … I dunno. I’m a monkey.

  11. As If unfortunately, and I take this very seriously, Americans are prone to conflating their creation myth with their actual history. This is a myth that causes measurable harm to people, and to the governance of our nation.

    I loved playing King Arthur Pendragon but I’m having a hard time drawing a useful parallel between The Matter of Britain and this bullshit we keep feeding ourselves.

    I may be alone in this. That’s fine, whatever, I’m pretty much worn out banging this drum. I’ll shut up about it soon enough.

  12. In this particular case I think going full Peckinpah gets the point across. 🙂 In other words, if you’re gonna tell a cinematic story, you gotta really bring the cinematics.

Leave a Reply