Posted on 16 April, 2013


A Sad Display

I don’t know Raph Koster, but this story makes me kind of sad.  It makes me sad because of how pointless this debate is, and because the people who I generally would have sympathy for are coming across as childish, defensive, hateful, and cliquish.  Maybe someone can explain to me why this was necessary?  From Raph Koster:

[. . .] In fact, the height of cognitive dissonance was having a lovely conversation about design with Cara Ellison at a late night party – about many of these same topics, in fact; and finding myself sort-of-namechecked the next day when Anna Anthropy read a modified version of Cara’s poem “Romero’s Wives” aloud [. . .]  I literally had one indie developer whose work I admire run away from me in the street. [emphasis mostly mine, talking about Anna Anthropy and merritt kopas fleeing from Raph like he was a subway molester at GDC13]

From Anna Anthropy’s twitter feed:

And Robert Yang points out in his interesting reply to Raph’s open letter:

These authors argue that “apolitical formalism” is inherently political, that the worst politics pretends it’s not politics. Porpentine tweeted that she prefers “blatant bullshit over honeyed poison.” (Uh, she was talking about you, by the way!)

I hate this.  I hate it so much.  I hate it because I really like Porpentine’s games, and I think that DIY, lo-fi interactive experience creation is important, regardless of whether someone wants to have an interesting but ultimately meaningless debate about “What is a game?”

have at you

But it’s attitudes like that which are harmful to the entire community.  Raph Koster having and sharing an opinion in the context of formal and structural game criticism isn’t going to destroy narrative-focused, personal gaming.  And I’m pretty certain Raph isn’t a groper (at least, no one has accused him of it that I can find), so the vaguely sociopathic glee Anna Anthropy takes in publicly fleeing from him when he (seemingly?) sincerely wants to talk about their shared craft seems the height of classlessness.

What is poison about having an earnest interest in formal definitions of games?  I don’t personally have much interest in it, but in the same way, you might as well call trainspotting or stamp collecting “honeyed poison” for all the practical and political purpose the activities serve.  And let me be absolutely clear about that: When Raph Koster tries to decide what is or isn’t a game, I consider that a pointless, but ultimately harmless, waste of time.  It’s a silly argument on its face.  However, when zinester game designers personally – and with malice – treat him shabbily and levy highly personal attacks because of his nerdy obsession with rules, systems, and mechanics, that is pointless, cannibalistic hate.