A Decision and a Review of Retrostar

If you just want to read the reveiw of Retrostar, skip down.

I was wrong

I made an incendiary post over the weekend that dredged up old issues in the game design community. I wrote it in a tone meant to entertain and make a point. I decided at the time that I wouldn't take it down no matter what. I've realized, though that there's no honor in keeping something up just to prove a point, especially if it's going to drive a wedge between me and other gamers. 

Now, these issues I dredged up are small in the big scheme, but I inflated them, thinking it would be more entertaining to do so. Here's what happened, in general: 

I accused a group of gamers of cultlike behavior. I made an effort to be an entertaining jerk, but was still a jerk. I was playing the jerk as a character, but I was drawing on exaggerated versions of my own prejudices. 

I did it in an attempt to let certain people know I was all right. "I'm cool, you can talk to me, even though my game is like those games in some ways." 

In doing so, I also used what I've found to be false information to back up my "case", and ultimately insulted a large number of people. It was a long, rambling post, which I wrote to get fired up emotionally, in order to have the energy to work. 

I've realized though, that I don't need to be controversial for its own sake, (even if that's not what I think I'm doing), especially here, where I plan to publish a project that means so much to me that I've spent 13 years on it, day in, and day out. If you see it, you'll wonder how so few pages came out of that amount of time, but most of it was research and experimentation. 

I'm not trying to hide the post in question. I believe it has been quoted at length online, and it's clear that I made a fool of myself. I've unpublished it, but not deleted it. I want it as a reminder. 

I'm sorry to those I personally insulted, even when I claimed I was talking about a movement/group of game designers, and not individuals. A group is composed of its members, and by attacking the group in the way I did, I was attacking its members- even if I didn't see it at the time. 

I haven't been intimidated into taking the post down, and some of my friends railed right there with me. If you think this is a cop out, I'm sorry.

However, I've learned that I serve no one in pushing away people for no reason, and by trying to cultivate my audience out of fear of ultimate rejection, I will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

From now on I'm going to focus on the good things in gaming here, as much as possible. I don't need to fill my life with unnecessary conflict, and I hope to bring people to my site who want to have fun, rather than fight old fights. 

There was one good thing about the article that I need to make sure people see. Included was a section on a good friend's RPG, Retrostar.

Warning: Major tone change

Here's the Retrostar Reveiw, in its entirety: 

Retrostar: A review and Reccomendation

Take my good friend Barak Blackburn’s game, Retrostar (an incredible 70’s TV Scifi game. Buy it.). The conceit of Retrostar -and I mean that in the writer’s shop talk way, not as an insult- is that the game play is actually a TV show from the 70s that focuses on the kinds of Sci Fi they made back then, and covers the hot button issues of the 70s, like “women’s lib”, “race riots”, “mustaches”, “latchkey kids”, “single moms”, “The drug epidemic”, etc.

I put those topics in quotes to indicate that I was speaking 70’s-ese, if that wasn’t clear. Retrostar's game play requires that any action you take fall into the categories of Adventure!, Thought!, or Drama!. In other words, actiony stuff, cool science technobabble or solutions, or melodramatic B-list over acting (just kidding, but kind of not). These three things are called “Intentions”, and are part of the “Intention System”, which is currently being adapted to other kinds of stories (which may have different sets of Intentions). The Intention System is really cool, and has informed my way of presenting Tribute.  

The thing is, in Retrostar, if you can’t find a way to make your action use Adventure!, Thought!, or Drama!, you might not be doing the kinds of things the game is about. It serves to help you stay in genre, and create the kinds of stories that Retrostar focuses on. It works amazingly, and without forcing you to tell the exact Stories the author wants you to. In fact, in Retrostar, you’re not "telling a story" at all, per se. What happens is open-ended, but guided by certain GM tools towards a logical, 70s appropriate end. These mechanics are beautifully done, as are all of the ones in Barak’s games. Barak… will you marry me?

I'd call Retrostar a Story Game with Traditional elements, in that the Story rules don't force you to a specified kind of conclusion. It has pacing mechanics based on 70's TV's five-act structure, but as long as you get everything in under time, with commercial breaks, anything can happen. 

Final Thought

One last thing. It's not up to me to determine how my game is received. It will be what it will be, but I'll have done it the way I intended, without any whiff of pandering. I lost sight of that. 

I'll remake the positive and Tribute-related points I made in the post I've taken down in the future, without directing bile at anyone. 

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