Wednesday, May 20, 2009
One of my favorite games of all time is HeroScape. It's endlessly expandable, magnificently customizable, and tactically brilliant. You can add cowboys to make it an Old West game, or power armored guys to make it sci-fi, or mutants and shotguns to make it all apocalyptic. It's an amazing game, and I've spent countless hours of my life enjoying it.
And somehow, it's going to die.
Well, OK, that was a little dramatic. We're hearing about a new August release of some expansion stuff, but a lot of people are pretty sure that it will be the last one. Letter-writing campaigns are in the works to save the game, but many people are already planning the funeral. So many fans are furious at Wizards of the Coast for killing their favorite game. What will they do once the game is dead?
Here's an idea - play it. What are you, retarded? If Wizards quits making expansions, are they also coming to your house to take it all out of your storage closet? Are they sending out secret hidden remote signals that will cause all your game pieces to spontaneously erupt? Is the game suddenly less fun because you can't spend all your money on it?
Here's the thing. A game is not dead until people don't play it any more. It irritates the piss out of me to hear people deciding they're not going to play a game any more because no new stuff is coming out. When a publisher quits producing expansions for a game, it doesn't die. It dies when you get all disgusted and shove it in a closet. And that's stupid, because if a game is fun, play it. Who gives a crap if it ever gets expansions?
There are lots of examples of this happening. Like, when is the last time you heard about a Mage Knight tournament? How about Dreamblade, or Doomtown, or Seventh Sea? Let me guess - you haven't heard about those tournaments because everyone quit playing the games. And the big tourney gamers quit playing the games because they couldn't go get a bunch of free crap and a national rating. And frankly, if you can't muster the gumption to get together with a bunch of friends and play a game that you enjoyed for several years, then you deserve to be disappointed, because you're a whiny, self-pitying douche who depends on some big company to tell you what to play.
But you don't have to be a douche. You can still play your games. Look at Squad Leader - this game has developed a huge international following, and the last time it had anything published, I was still in high school (for you nitpicky jackasses looking for a reason to get your shorts in a twist, I'm not counting the ASL starter kits. They're not exactly official releases). Somehow, the people who enjoyed Squad Leader for ten years figured out that they could still have fun even if nobody ever published another Squad Leader expansion.
Or we could look at HeroQuest, which hasn't had new stuff released in nearly twenty years. And yet somehow, there are huge fan websites, and people playing this game all over the country. They're not crying into a bucket of beer about how Milton Bradley ran out and stabbed their game to death, because they're not crybabies. They somehow manage to have the intellectual fortitude to decide for themselves which games they want to play, and not depend on a company to tell them what's fun.
I could go on, but you probably get the idea. It's asinine to accuse a game company of killing a game. The fact is, your ability to enjoy a game has ZERO correlation to the number of expansions that came out last year. You only think it does. If you can't have fun with a game unless it is constantly churning out new stuff, then you're a fad-following drone. I'll bet you had parachute pants and feathered hair, too.
Of course, mindless fanboys are not the only things that drive people to particular games. People are really, really stupid. They'll pay astonishing amounts of money for figures just because they could only have scored them at a tournament (which is especially insipid in the case of HeroScape, where the exclusives are just repainted figures, and you could just print out the card and play the exact same game). And when those exclusives come around, greedy jackholes start seeing dollar signs rolling up behind their eyelids. Plus every idiot fanboy just has to have one, and they'll sign up to play just to get away with a figure that they can show to their friends.
Then there are the big-time hot-shot gamers who only play games if they can go out in public and prove their prowess against people they never met before. These people are often the first to jump ship like rats when a game looks like it might not see more expansions. Because apparently, if Upper Deck or somebody doesn't reserve back rooms in game stores to entertain these fickle fans, it means these chest-thumping assholes can't play any more.
And that's stupid, too. To return to the original example, the entire HeroScape tournament scene started out in a movie theater lobby in East Dallas. First place got two boosters (provided by one of the playtesters) and a foamcore dice tower. Second place got two boosters. Third place got to spend the day playing games with his friends, which means he came away with a win, too. HeroScape's publishers have never officially endorsed the tournaments, and yet there still exists an incredible tournament scene that rivals - and often dwarfs - lots of officially organized events. People still come out in droves to play this game, and probably will for a long time to come, even if Wizards never creates another thing.
So if you've got a game that you think is fun, you can keep it alive. No publisher can ever make your game dead. In fact, no publisher can keep your game alive, either - that power lies entirely with the fans who play it. Take a little responsibility for your own entertainment. If you like a game, play it. Get some friends together and show them how to play. Make your own pieces, and your own rules, and your own figures. Quit being a punk-ass little bitch and just play what you like.
Posted by Matt Drake at 10:06 PM