Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Introvert or Extrovert? Both!

Every wargame designer, or writer needs two personalties. He must accept the isolation and solitary rewards of research and writing, which demands the discipline to sit alone with a LCD monitor staring at you as you write for hours on end. This is followed by edits and re-edits until you think you have it right. This is the part of rule design that no one sees. It is unglamorous, demanding, tiring, and requires persistence and a dogged determination to complete the project. Many gamers do not have these qualities and that is why there are infinitely more rule sets that are going to be written than those that are written. The advantage of these unwritten rules is that they are always better than any written set. They are without blemish, fault, or error as they only exist as a perfect object in a single imagination.

But the designer who must write the rules in some passable form of English, knows when he starts the project that, other than the playtesting with friends, he is consigning himself to hours of solitary confinement. Even the playtesting is not really gaming and a real interaction, since the designer must keep himself apart from the gamers and observe the game being played, and the playtester’s body language and actions, as objectively and dispassionately as possible. He is, even in these brief social moments, apart from the group.

But this is only half the equation. For the minute the rules are published a whole different set of skills are required. As introverted and solitary as the creation is, the marketing and interaction with customers is just the reverse! It is highly social and requires ample amounts of flamboyance, patience, a love of people, and not a little bit of show biz and calculation. You literally jump from the monk’s cell to the middle of a boisterous party where you are expected to be a cheery, benevolent, funny, friendly, and a good imitation of a frat brother. It can be shocking!

This is made all the more demanding as each person you meet treats his interaction with you on the basis of that moment, and he’s totally unaware of your tiredness, the often long string of the same, identical, questions that get asked, or even of the truly ridiculous statements that are made to you. No, you are in the sales mode and the smile must never leave your lips! The little easily misunderstood ironic remark or flash of warranted cynicism? Not Allowed!

Rule writing and publishing demands you be BOTH the guy that toils alone in the Ivory Tower, and the hale fellow well met at the basement party! That’s a tough task. Some designers have chosen to shun the social side, and NEVER go to conventions or appear much on their websites or forums. Some can’t stand the solitary part and therefore don’t write much, or fool themselves into thinking rule design is a group project to be created by collaboration. Some form working relationships where they ally with someone with the “missing” skill; A reserved designer allies with a great marketer or public face, or a designer with great concepts that really like the public to and fro, allies with a reserved copywriter that can execute his ideas in written form. Just as in musical partnerships such as Rodgers and Hart or the Gershwin brothers, such linking of the introvert/extrovert skills can be very productive, but they are rare and seldom last long.

But most rules designers are a mix, and how that mix influences what they choose to create, and the nature of the games they design, can be a fascinating reflection on the hobby and the people in it. When you look at the rules created by Sam Mustafa, Jim Getz, Frank Chadwick, Brent Oman, Arty Conliffe, Rich Hasenauer, Rick Priestly, or me, or especially when you meet them, you see this mix of introversion and extroversion, of the two personalities every designer must balance, but each is unique in his fulcrum point, and this is reflected in the way the rules they write are written, the way the rules play, and what mechanics they choose to use. There is a rich variety of approaches that parallels literature. Who’s a Hemingway? Who’s a J.D. Sallinger? In any case, the result gives wargamers some fascinating choices.