Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Retro-Pretension

So, the other day, Jeff Rients called 'bullshit' on the foreward to the 1e Dungeon Master's Guide.

This got me thinking.

On the Internet, the retro-nostalgia gaming movement has been gaining a lot of currency lately. I think it has clearly gained momentum from an anti-4e backlash (and, sadly, the death of Gary Gygax), but it was also fairly clearly growing before then (see Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Mazes and Minotaurs, Encounter Critical, ZeFRS, etc.)

With some exceptions, I tend to prefer newer games over old one... but I game with Jeff, and he's pretty much at or near the forefront of this whole thing... so I'm far from ignorant about the movement, such as it is.

I'm rambling. On to the point of this post.

Jeff has this here threefold model thingamajig. It classes games as retro, pretentious, stupid, or some combination of all three. Jeff's aforementioned post on Mike Carr got me thinking about the validity of the retro / pretentious divide. In particular, are retro games simply a subcategory of pretentious games?

Well, maybe.

As I understand it, the defining aspect of Pretentious games is that they know that they are better than other games.

The retro-nostalgia movement seems to have this attitude about retro games, at least to some extent. Some people seem to think that new games have lost a lot of the wonder that early games had, depending upon rules over imagination. Others claim that it isn't a true RPG (whatever that means) without classes and levels and hit points.

Moreover, retro games are often written in a pretentious voice (I'll point to Jeff's post that got me thinking in this direction for a prime example... but, really, anything Gygax wrote will do). They don't, strictly speaking, present themselves as better than other RPGs... but when they were written there really weren't any other RPGs. What about new retro games? OSRIC and ZeFRS may not sound pretentious, but neither would an open-source clone of Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, or Vampire.

Maybe the problem is the definition of Pretentious. What if we were to change Pretentious to Sophisticated... and say a Sophisticated game is one which takes itself seriously and often has
unique rules?

I'm not sure. Thoughts?

6 comments:

Jeff Rients said...

On a completely unrelated note: do you know how to properly prepare "mustard-cooked" hamburgers?

szilard said...

Like an In-N-Out animal-style burger?

Intruder_W said...

That's what brought this about in the first place.

Edsan said...

Is this post serious?

I was under the impression Jeff's "threefold model thingy" was just a joke at the expense of the folly that is GNS "theory".

szilard said...

That's a good question.

Jeff Rients said...

What started as a joke seems to have a bit of a life of its own. Mearls' EN world .sig declares him to be "Retro Stupid". He includes a link to the original post, so I get a scattering of hits every time he posts there. Levi Kornelsen's new blog is subtitled "Retro, Stupid, Pretentious, Open, Aggregate, Free." Levi's even written a small d20 class supplement that's explicitly Retro Stupid.

So no matter how silly the origins, my threefold model has struck a chord with a few people.