Normally I don’t repost something that another person has written on their blog. First, I don’t want to steal their thunder or piggyback on their bandwagon. They deserve all the credit for what they created. Second, usually what I find is very interesting and useful to me, but not all that useful for the goals of this website. However, every now and then I’ll come across something that hits me right in the face and makes me go, “New designers NEED to know this!” I have just had such a cases.
Over on his blog “Deep in the Game” Chris makes an excellent post regarding how RPGs should appeal to youth, specifically young people of color in America. But I actually think that what he says appeals across race and across gender. Here are brief tenets he wrote on this:
1. Games should deal with things familiar to the players.
2. Games should acknowledge the power fantasies of youth.
3. Quicker to play, quicker to action
4. Your role [as the designer] in this [is to fade into the background so the kids can express themsevles in their play].
Don’t just read my summary here. Go read his Article and learn from it yourself. He is dead on when it comes to what younger people are looking for not just in games but all forms of expression and entertainment. If it’s not relevant to their life, feh, they won’t care about it. If it’s not something they make their own and express their individuality with, then they’ll take two looks and forget about it.
I’m not saying that you as the designer don’t have something important to say. Not at all. But the way you say your Important Thing will be different from the way a kid in Detroit will say it, which will be different from the way a kid in Birmingham will say it, which will be different from the way a kid in San Diego will say it.
“Pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit precedes destruction” is a universal truth and something that can be seen in every culture in the world. But the way it plays itself out in each culture is wildly different. That’s important to keep in mind when you design.
So what is all this stuff above boil down to? KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. That’s the first rule of writing. Know who you’re targeting with your game and know who you may potentially target. You won’t ever write a game that will appeal to everyone. If that idea is in your head, the sooner you get it out the better. There is no such thing as a Universal RPG! Use your target audience to your advantage and design a game that will appeal to them and empower them to express their own thoughts, ideas, dreams, and goals.
Chris closes with this: If you want to know why hiphop has taken such a hold on people, it's because it's a form of self expression that kids can do at the lunch table, on the bus, anywhere they go, and it automatically conforms to whatever they want to make of it. A freestyle cipher is identical to an improvised game, in terms of expression, input, and even stories at times. For [my gaming group], rhyming and roleplaying were not much different.