Saying “system matters” is almost never useful

Saying “system matters” is almost never useful, at least in a public forum where you don’t know everybody in your audience and what jargon they understand.

If the reader doesn’t speak Forge, they’re likely to read it as “rules matter”. And that’s true, and worth saying … but there are enough Forge-speakers still in circulation that one might crop up and read it in a different way. Or, worse, derail your thread by starting a fight about what it means.

Such Forge-fluent readers are likely to read it as something like “there are a wide variety of factors that shape your play experience, including, but not limited to, explicit rules, and this can be investigated, described, and deliberately changed”.

But they might also read it as “the most important thing in gaming is that the whole group is on board with how you play — explicit rules, implicit norms, habits, and assumptions”.

Or as “rather than try to force your game concept into those rules you always used, you’d be better off trying a ruleset built for that kind of concept”.

(If you go to the Forge Provisional Glossary or the Big Model Wiki, you can find out the Forge definition of system, but slotting that into the phrase doesn’t help get to (1). You end up with ““The means by which imaginary events are established during play, including character creation, resolution of imaginary events, reward procedures, and more, matters”, which is pretty opaque)

So, if you want people to reliably understand what you say:

  • If you want to say “rules matter”, then say that.
  • If you want to say “there are a wide variety of factors that shape your play experience, including, but not limited to, explicit rules, and this can be investigated, described, and deliberately changed”, then say that.
  • If you want to say “the most important thing in gaming is that the whole group…” … etc

As ever, if in doubt, be concrete and specific.

Just don’t say “system matters”. You’ll just obscure your own message.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s