Tropes and the comfort of the familiar
Playing Firefly this weekend and actually enjoying myself — I’m usually deathly allergic to license-based games — got me thinking about my very, very mixed feelings around the omnipresence of tropes in RPGs.
My feelings are so mixed that I’ve tried to write this post like 10 times and have argued myself out of all 10 positions! So here are some various mixed feelings, devoid of any particular argument for/against any of them:
* Tropes are lazy
* Tropes are accessible
* Tropes are what’s wrong with gaming these days
* Tropes are what’s moving product these days
* Inverting tropes is a great source of creative ideas
* Inverting tropes is lazy
* Spending all our time faithfully executing the familiar squanders the vast possibilities of RPGs
* There’s no squandering, good grief, they’re just games
* RPGs will always be just games as long as we constrain ourselves to the vocabulary of other media, forever destined to be derivative
* I’m actually okay with the laziness; who the hell has time to create, learn or teach something truly new?
* The trope thing might just be where the $$$ is, but there are plenty of examples of non-trope-focused design and play happening (far-afield small press design, larp, etc.)
* I wonder what design looks like that makes no effort at all to model fiction that’s “like” what you find in other media? (Answer: probably something like The Clay That Woke)
* Like all good things, tropes can be used well and they can also be misused
* What does “misused” even mean when it comes to make-believe, you goofball?
This is what happens when I have an unexpected day at home with a sick, sleeping kid. Stupid brain!