Never. Stop. Making. Games.

Today I stumbled upon a blog post that basically asked all indie and amateur game designers to stop doing what they love. As the author of said blog post put it: “Stop. Making. Games”. And as an amateur/indie designer myself I call bullshit. If you haven’t done so, please go and read the article. And then please come back.

You’ve read everything? Good.

One sentence in particular made me angry enough to start writing down my thoughts on the matter:

“These feature hobbyists, players, people who have no goddamned right to be making a game, touting themselves as ‘designers’ and putting out endless iterations of the rules that please them.”

I think there’s more than one thing that’s wrong with that article. In my humble opinion the whole premise of the blog is wrong. I don’t think the gaming industry is in a state of decline or even “rotten” as the unnamed author puts it. In fact I believe it’s more healthy and vibrant than ever. As an avid RPG fan I enjoy having the choice between hundreds of different games and I am glad modern technology makes it so easy to release your own stuff on the web. But the author of the aforementioned article thinks that is actually hurting the RPG industry. So his solution is to advise people to stop making games.

In his opinion as soon as you have to ask people for advice how to market your game, you should stop what you’re doing, because you need more money, more time and more experience than you have. In my opinion this is the worst thing that could happen to the RPG hobby and the industry. And as we all know, neither having money or experience ensures that what you do is in any way “good”.

Often the most creative and unique new games were created by amateurs and idea designers. Being inexperienced can actually help you to think out of the box and come up with new ideas, more seasoned designers never would have thought about. Of course there’s a lot of crap out there, but there are also a lot of very cool games that are worth our while. And as I said before I prefer to have the hard choice of picking the right game for me from hundreds instead of being limited to a few choices.

A world in which there are serious hurdles to overcome before you’re allowed to make your own game is a sad world indeed. In such a world, a lot of very cool games would never have been made. Luckily Mr. “Yourbusinesssucks” doesn’t have authority over all those creative amateurs out there! My advice: Never. Stop. Making. Games.

When you first think about it “We need less but better games” sounds like it makes sense, it actually doesn’t. Innovation is not achieved by limiting the choices consumers have. Having access to dozens or even hundreds of games may feel like a burden sometimes. But it’s actually something that empowers you. And it’s good for our hobby. And what is actually better? “Better” is something highly subjective. As the old saying goes: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. You might not like that Fantasy Heartbreaker someone has written, but perhaps the next roleplayer does. Who decides what is good and what is not good? And who decides who has the “goddamned right to be making a game“?

Ultimately I think that nowadays we are much better off as ever before. If you take some time, do some research, ask a few people on the ‘net or in your circle of friends, and I am sure you’ll find the one game you like best. We might still have to figure out a way to make the hobby more accessible to newbies but limiting ourselves is not the way to go.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

22 thoughts on “Never. Stop. Making. Games.”

  1. Yeah, I read that article and rolled my eyes and moved on.


    I think we need more people designing, more people making games. The more people we have doing this is really the only way the industry grows. You get more people excited about what you’re doing.

    I know I complained about this with Rob on twitter too.

  2. And there’s one other thing that I just thought of. There’s no way to study roleplaying game design. Everyone who designs games just started doing it without any formal training. So basically all game designers started as amateurs. So asking inexperienced people to stop designing games is actually robbing us of the only way new designers are “made”.

  3. I think that poster was missing the point. We live in a world of Print-On-Demand, Self-Publish, Design-Your-Own [insert thing here]. It’s some sort of evolution from being a consumer, part of our western society, and I don’t really see any problem with it.

    A lot of these ‘amateur’ designers and publishers have made some great RPGs and modules, often better than the ‘professionals’, and if you stop that, you’d be losing out on a lot of great talent.

    Besides, what’s wrong with wanting to be creative and putting yourself out there so that people know who you are. Isn’t that part of the reason we live the sort of lives we do, for recognition and acceptance, to be part of something greater than ourselves?

    Or maybe I’m rambling.


  4. If anyone knows of a good Game design course that will get me an accredited degree in Game Design, let me know I would be all over that like a shark in an amputee clinic. Feh. I have no interest in this moron. Another troll for the cave trying to boost his blog hits with a controversial subject based on nothing more than his own slack jawed opinion.

  5. I do believe the game industry is rotten to its core, and becoming increasingly irrelevant to all but a shrinking number of hobbyists. Falling sales numbers, stores closing, and the diminishing number of companies larger than two or three people tell me that.

    OTOH, I agree that he labours under the assumption that gamers owe him, the industry, or a broad and ill-defined “community” something. What would he say if I suggested that he stop playing the games he liked for the collective good of gaming? He would call me an idiot. And he would be completely right.

  6. The industry isn’t the hobby. It may well be true that all the indie and amateur game designers out there make it harder for Hasbro to make money. The rational response to that is either “So what?” or “Good!” depending on how much you care about consumers.

  7. So what does this guy think started the “industry?” Does he think D&D started as a well produced, slick, million dollar product right out the gate. Does he think anything starts like that.

    A lot of games started with a bunch of geeks sitting around saying “this would be cool.” A bunch of normal people thinking they know better or have a good idea that they want to share, all because they believe in their hearts of hearts there has to be others out there who feel the same way. “Someone else would love this, too.”

    Not everything that comes out is gold. Not everything is even playable, but I still look at a lot of the independent stuff. I look for new ideas, innovations, and those little gems that will inspire me.

    There are a lot of things we take for granted in role-playing these days that all came from independent games, from no-nothings who were ignorant of the “industry” when they started. I think if it was up to people like this we would still be using THACO, be required to use miniatures, and be playing slightly more advanced board games… I am sorry fantasy combat simulators.

    1. Agreed. It seems that many RPG trolls have come out from under their bridges in the dark corners of forumworld to give us the gift of hate and stupidity.

  8. I read that a while back, and find the author’s opinion worthless. The hobbyists and enthusiasts are all that are keeping our hobby alive. Declaring that they should all stop creating and start consuming — in a hobby that is ALL ABOUT CREATING — is so blinkered and asinine that it barely seems worth rebutting.

  9. If this is true, I have two words for him:

    “You first”.

    Seriously, if you’re going to go out and consciously make shitty games just to turn a quick buck, then please do us all a favor and find another more productive hobby. Heck, take that correspondence school taxidermy course you’ve always wanted to take.

    I’m pretty sure, though, that any hobbyist who has ever put pen to paper, or key-press to screen has not set out to make a shitty game. Everyone, I suspect without exception, tries to make the best game they possibly can. Now, true, there are some folks who unleash their product much in the same way that a poor coffee-house folk singer unleashes their music (loudly and painfully). Not every game design works, and I’m sure every game designer out there will tell you (after being sufficiently lubricated with alcohol or other means) about the one design that just never worked out right. Does that make them any worse of a designer? Should they have quit when they pinched off that stinker? Of course not.

    The only way to get better designers in this hobby is for folks to put out their best work. Since the only barriers to publishing in today’s RPG industry is actually considering the work done enough to publish, I think the bar is high enough already. Those who are indeed hacks will eventually give up and move along. Those who care enough to put out good work, and are rewarded accordingly will keep it up, and improve.

    Kudos to those who finish. May you keep finishing.

  10. I’d like to imagine that at one point, other entertainment industries were in a similar spot. Someone would say, “STOP MAKING MOVIES” or whatever. Heck, maybe back in the day someone out there said, “NO MORE PLAYS. Looking at you, Shakespeare”.

    Variety is the spice of life.

    Don’t stop.

  11. Way to miss the point. The problem with the RPG industry is that there is no next big thing. Our “Big Successes” are paltry compared to the big successes in any of the other industries that you all are fallaciously pointing towards.

    Books and Movies get by because one hit makes up for 10 flops. People don’t read as a hobby or even watch movies as a hobby. They simply read, and watch movies, period. Boardgames even have this luxury, you will be hard pressed to find an adult in America (using it because its where I am, sorry if its different where you are) that has never played a board game.

    Now look at RPGS. The average person when asked about RPGs is going to ask you “oh those video games right?”, maybe if they are a little nerdier you will get “oh like final fantasy / skyrim”. It is a very small subset of the population that will first jump to D&D, and a smaller still subset that will jump to any of the other fine RPGS that are out there.

    For RPGs to strike it big and stay out of the “model train ghetto” things are going to have to change, RPGs are going to have to do things we aren’t accustomed to seeing rpgs do. The fact that there are a million and one retroclones and d20 fantasy games that to an outsider are functionally indistinguishable really doesn’t help.

    If your game is “A low fantasy dungeon crawler with the advancement rules from D&D Basic Box Set without the useless modifications made by Moldvay.” more power to you. But honestly the hobby doesn’t need it.

  12. RedMageSA:

    …But honestly the hobby doesn’t need it.

    What the RPG community probably really needs is less people pointing to each other and claiming they’re products aren’t welcome or necessary and more people paying attention to and trying to understand why these unnecessary products are being created.

  13. The average person who is thinking about getting into the hobby is not going to a game store (sad to say). They are not going to even search the internet. They are going into some place like Barnes & Noble, or looking on Amazon. They will see a wide array on Amazon, but more then likely they are going to try D&D (whatever the newest iteration is) or something as prominently displayed as Pathfinder.

    A lot of these games they are talking about (that fall in this group of independent or “redundant” D&D retro clones) are going to be under the average person’s radar. There is a large group of players who are only vaguely aware of any games outside the two big ones at any one time.

    I think the real problem here is that people inside a sub-group like Gamers live in bubbles where they start to think everyone plays games, cause that is what all the people they know do. They think if you play D&D you must know about this page, or, or Drive-Thru RPG. I don’t think I am bursting anyones bubble when I just state, for the record, that most people don’t play tabletop RPG’s. Most tabletop RPG players are not hardcore, dedicated, “trying every system they can” people. The majority of players I have known over the years are not even aware of half the games available on-line, coming out, or even ones we as hardcore gamers all have tried (exp. GURPS, Savage World, ORE, Runequest, Role Master, etc…).

    That being the case, how can a billion D&D Retro-Clones hurt. If there were only three big games going, and one new “innovative” game released a year the industry would be just like it is, in the “model train ghetto.” I bought my first Red Box in one of those ghettos. I will probably buy more stuff there.

  14. I must have missed where it was specified WHY actually RPGs NEED to “make it big”.

    Seems to me every time that happens, the RPG line deteriorates into a morass of splatbooks, getting crappier and lazier as time goes on and the pressure to keep a consistent output is maintained.

    Seems to me the hobby would be much better off with product that was created by people who were enthusiastic about it, even if it’s “low fantasy blah blah”, rather than trying for some lowest-common-denominator corporate big mainstream breakout success that’ll never actually happen.

  15. Publishers are welcome to try and break into new markets. I think it would be swell if RPGs became popular with people who aren’t currently playing. These grand ideas seem to fail when they are tried (remember how Spione was going to make it big and prove once and for all Ron Edwards was right?), but maybe there will be one among a thousand which will catch on like wildfire, a bit like how M:tG created a brand new market in hobby gaming.

    Wishing people who play games you don’t personally approve of to go away is just sad, though.

  16. Not to get all Milton Friedman, but if a game were truly head-and-shoulders above the rest, the market would choose it. D&D became a huge success despite an unimpressive first edition, and even AD&D had second-rate art and less-than-clear writing, by today’s standards. The Next Big Thing will likely conquer the market whether these so-called “unnecessary” games exist or not. After all, a successful game is ultimately one that’s PLAYED, often and widely … not the one with the best art design, most advanced theory, or biggest marketing blitz.

    As a side note, I recently bought the latest two offerings from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and if the dead tree versions live up to the PDFs, they will look gorgeous … despite being unnecessary retro-clone trash that shouldn’t be published. (One of these books is the infamous Carcosa, revised but not censored, which according to some discredits the whole hobby in the eyes of People Who Matter.)

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