There has been a thought that I have been fighting with lately. Instead of coming up with an original gaming system, why don’t I simply use one of the many systems that have an open license? That way, I can skip the work in creating the system. I might also attract fans of that system into my camp. It’s a very tempting thought: Adaption instead of Innovation.
Why would I consider this after making so much noise over the years about innovation in game design? Simply because it’s easier to move with the herd.
The Same Thing, Only Different
Have you ever wondered why Hollywood very rarely makes anything new? Their movies are usually continuations of franchises, reboots of old hits, or adaptations from other media. The reason for this lack of innovation is simply that they want a return on the money invested. Making familiar movies is a safe way to insure there is an audience to see them.
It works the same way in the gaming industry. Why are there so many games where the main activity is fighting monsters in a Tolkienesqe setting? Why do so many of them use dice? Because that is what the first roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons did. Now it is the standard for all other roleplaying games. To wander away from that standard is to risk failure. Even D&D’s 4th Edition, with all the changes it made to the rules, failed because it was too different from what it’s audience expected.
Still don’t believe me? Then check out the protests that go up every time a fresh version of the Star Wars or Star Trek franchise comes out. Just look at the ugliness that arose because they introduced a female Doctor Who.
So, to succeed in my game design, the smart move is to make a game that uses one of the popular roleplaying systems. All I need to do is add a bit of new content to make it appear fresh. It would be so easy.
It would also be wrong. Why should I go to the trouble of making a halfhearted try at writing a game? My job is to deliver a unique and powerful experience to the players. I’ve seen it before. I know it can happen. It’s just not going to be easy.