If you know me personally, my political preferences are well known. But what I refer to today is my preference in game design.
I’m a big proponent of change in game design. If something isn’t working, don’t just patch it, teardown and rebuild. This puts me in opposition to what I will respectfully call the “Conservative Gamer” contingent, who prefer that games preserve much of their makeup from edition to edition. Their reasons are certainly strong ones: ensuring backward compatibility with existing products, keeping the game familiar to previous fans, and so on.
But, that’s not for me. I prefer to see innovation in game design. I’m all for taking an existing game in brand new directions, especially if the end result is new and interesting, but- here’s an important part of a successful redesign- while maintaining the core feel of a game. Not only that, but the tastes of audiences change as time goes on, and new editions should take that into account. I also feel quite strongly that in ANY kind of design, be it game design, graphic designer, programming, what have you, the fact that something is traditional is not enough justification by itself to keep an element in.
This all probably will not surprise many of you with my support of D&D 4e, Fallout 3, Twilight Imperium (despite my negative experiences with it) and more recently, the newly announced Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay edition. In every case, they took an existing game, and decided to take it in a new rules direction, often featuring new components and styles. I’m quite happy they did: in each case, they tried to bring forward the essence of the previous edition or editions while introducing new gameplay and appealing to a wider audience beyond those who already had the previous edition. To put it more bluntly: a new edition with minimal changes or only superficial changes is unlikely to bring in new players. Many gamers unfamiliar with a game aren’t really going to care that “Class X or Card Y was broken” in the previous edition, but now it’s fixed, so you should really play. They’re more likely to be brought in by “the combat system was streamlined” or “there’s a really neat new set of options.”
Of course, not all revisions are successful, and are going to always be judged on various personal criteria both by existing players deciding to switch and the new audiences they want to appeal to. Ultimately, I’d rather them try something new and fail then play it safe and have moderate success (though a game company’s accountants may disagree.)
Am I picking on fans of older editions? No, not at all. In fact, I think there’s a fair number of retro-clones that are doing exactly what I’m talking about, and are trying to bring forward the essence of an older game by emphasizing those aspects that they enjoyed and trying some new things in other areas. Nor am I completely an adopter of every new edition (Mage: The Ascension 2e forever!) but I don’t ever begrudge new editions of games coming out.
In fact, that gets to the heart of my main complaint about the other site of this argument: you can still play your older edition, or older edition with house rules and other patches… but if I don’t get a new edition, my only recourse is to make a new innovative game myself, which is a lot of work. And you know how I hate that.