-C has an interesting post up today, talking about my recent musings on consensus-oriented play. Melan makes a comment that is worth reprinting in full:
I am really frustrated by a lot of game discussion on the net - particularly on RPGNet's d20/D&D forum - where posters assume that typical gamers will be acting in bad faith in situations that depend on human choice. There is, I don't know, a complete lack of generosity towards roleplayers, and some sort of almost paralysing fear about bad experiences.
As a conclusion to these assumptions, the discussion then shifts to how a game's rules should limit or outright prevent the potential for human error by limiting human choice; moreover, the experiences of posters who come from a different point of view are written off as atypical or downright wrong. I see these assumptions as damaging - used to argue against them for a few years, but I have mostly given up because I just ended up attacked over it.
So, yeah, sportmanship. A mutual commitment to group enjoyment. That's the point. That's the entire point, and I don't want to play in a game that doesn't give me that.
This absolutely hits the nail on the head. There is something poisonous about discussion of RPGs in online forums - a cynicism, a meanness of spirit, a failure to understand basic human decency in game contexts - which I find genuinely worrying, and it does seem to flow from rpg.net's d20/D&D forum, although you see it elsewhere too. It's not the majority of the forum-goers (many of whom contributed excellently and pleasantly to my Monstrous Manual thread, for example), but a large minority of fevered egos, tainting our collective subconscious.
I don't find it worrying in any sort of WE'RE ALL DOOMED sense; rather, I'm anxious because it seems to me that the Powers That Be in the RPG world take what goes on in forums very seriously. I can't help but feel that a lot of what 4e tried to do in "fixing" D&D was in response to what a large number of the fevered egos in places like rpg.net were saying was wrong with gaming, but that this was ultimately a quixotic goal because it wasn't properly understood that people who are very vocal in forums are not really very representative of the majority, and are pretty much by definition guaranteed to be odd, not to mention socially inept and angry. Their concerns are not the concerns of normal gamers, but the concerns of cynical mean-spirited people who do not understand basic human decency in game contexts, and readily assume bad faith at the drop of a hat.
It's related to the problem that is experienced by TV-show makers, radio broadcasters, and media personalities the length and breadth of the world: you get complaints about something and try to make changes in response, forgetting that people who are bothered enough to complain are by definition rather strange and also tiny in number in comparison to the unoffended masses - so by effecting changes in response you are in fact chasing wild geese.
Which is a roundabout way of saying, I really wish people like Monte Cook and Mike Mearls would lock themselves away from the internet when designed D&D 5th edition and just make a game that they think normal people would enjoy, and play-test it the traditional way by just playing it a lot without input from the "fan base".