Appeal to Authority
Well, this morning’s blog reading has been interestingly recursive for me. Cuppycake tossed a pebble in a pond and the ripples have been more or less predictable – bloggers have been discussing the merits of blogging about game design.
I’m going to toss in my tuppence here. Cuppy refined her original post by saying, “design bloggers….you’re all full of shit, and relevant people in the industry making kick ass content aren’t reading a word of what you say (and if they are, they’re laughing).” This saddened me because I can’t help but think less of her for her elitist attitude, and moreso for the classic appeal to authority fallacy. We should only listen to what professionals say, because they’re professionals! Nonprofessionals have nothing to contribute!
The fact that someone works as a game designer doesn’t mean they’re good at it, or every game would be devoid of design flaws. Similarly, the fact that someone doesn’t work as a game designer doesn’t mean they’re not good at it, which I had thought until this morning was blindingly obvious but I gather isn’t. Game design is a multifaceted art, and a broad range of skills in other fields can contribute to success at game design. Game design can be influenced by psychology, sociology, economics, history, linguistics, math, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, and countless other fields; by extension, people with interest or skill in those fields can contribute to the field of game design. Moreover, the video games industry is notorious for paying poorly and offering insane working hours, which simply doesn’t compare favorably to other industries; many of us are influenced by such meta-concerns despite our love of and potential skill at game design. Then, too, there are doubtless some very skilled people out there who want to break into game design but haven’t yet… they’re trying though, and perhaps someday they’ll succeed. Should we ignore or marginalize their input now since their foot isn’t in the door?
There’s also the fact that game design, as a field, includes more than just computer game design. I’ve never launched a commercial computer game (only done CRPG design for hobby ventures and one failed startup) but I have coauthored game supplements in print. Does the lack of industry experience in one aspect of game design make my input meaningless? I gather that CRPGs sprung wholly formed (a modern Athena) from the minds of Raph Koster and Richard Bartle… and weren’t based on anything existing in other areas of game design. This came as a surprise to me frankly; I had always labored under the misconception that CRPGs were based heavily on the design of RPGs, which in turn derived from wargames and other games. I guess it simplifies things to know I can stop studying other aspects of game design since they don’t apply to CRPGs. 😉
OK, sorry, heavy sarcasm. It’s a Monday and I’m dragging (sick all weekend). I’ll try to tone it back a bit.
The insular approach Cuppy seems to favor is self-limiting; if people working in game design only listen to other people who are working in game design, then they tend to create a system of shared expectations and limitations that can become quite a rut (witness everyone’s attempts to clone WoW). Cross-fertilization is so obviously desirable in this of all fields that I’m puzzled how someone can claim with a straight face that hoi polloi like yours truly are ignored or at best mocked for our tawdry dilletantism. Even if 90% of what game design blogs discuss is nonsense, reading things you don’t agree with can spur insights and tangents that are of value. Then, too, there’s that other 10%, which I think it unwise to ignore.
I ~loved~ “Designing Virtual Worlds” by Richard Bartle, but I didn’t agree with all of it. I still found it valuable though, even when I disagreed, because it led me to some interesting thoughts about how and why I disagreed. I re-read it every few years still, visiting it with a fresh perspective. I still don’t agree on some points, despite Mr. Bartle’s impeccable resume and indisputable authority. Go figure.
But then, surely Galileo was wasting his time doing that pointless research, since the Church already had all the answers? 😉