Throughout the history of games, the rules and the pieces have all been set by a few for the many to enjoy. Or so it may seem, anyway. Among the folks creative enough to enjoy games involving the imagination, whether they be boardgames using abstract tokens to represent troops and armor storming the WW2 battle lines, miniature wargames using models on a terrainscape of sand and styrofoam, or the people represented by penciled in sheets in a candle-lit living room; among these the lines blur considerably between the producers and the consumers. Whether it is a simple house-rule that makes sense to everyone around the table, or the DM’s long hours of effort to create an evening’s destruction and mayhem for her friends to carve their way through, or the player who has an idea and throws something together to sell to other players.
My creations are many. As yet I have only ever published one item, a sheet of stick figure miniatures that I made up for the Deadlands Reloaded game my friend ran us through.
Time to turn left on that side road. I had to wonder why my stick figure miniatures struck a chord with my friends and others. For the same token, why is it that I can be so much more immersed in a pencil on quad ruled paper dungeon adventure than I can in a more richly modeled environment, whether it is a detailed layout on a table top or the amazing world of the Elder Scrolls games? I think that while one shows me stuff, I am limited to what it shows me, see, while the more simplified makes me engage my imagination to fill in almost everything. It is the same thing as the difference between reading the Harry Potter books and going to see the movies. Am I the only one who thinks that however pretty and talented Miss Watson was, Hermione should have been curlier?
The same advantage holds for the recent spate of indy and OSR games that seek to pare down the rules complexity instead of getting every last thing nailed down into a table or chart. It is really cool to have five hundred pages of awesome new world to adventure in, but when I get one of those things, I find myself afraid to get some detail of the setting wrong; or worse, calling my GM on some detail they got wrong. I have been that insufferable know-it-all turd that dragged a game to a screeching halt over a detail that any GM should have felt free to alter at their own table. Sorry, Ted. (He won’t even play with me anymore, and who could blame him.)
Back to the topic, I guess, though I suppose I was more about the stick figures and rules light stuff.
Unlike a gallon of gas or a taco or a box of detergent, what we do with games almost immediately takes us from being a mere consumer of products to creators. Reading the first paragraph in a game should send pictures blazing through my head of ideas I had never seen in that way before. Even when the game is a lush world on the computer screen, my creativity goes into the experience in the same way a book is not complete without the reader’s participation. In short, we are all producers and creators. We always have been.