Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sandboxes, Paradigm Shifts, And The Fake Lamborghinis They Sometimes Contain

There's a thread on The RPG Site about sandbox-style games. "The Sandbox - Real Or Illusion?" asks Seanchai. "Personally, I don't get it. From what I heard, sandbox style play seems to be, well, just like regular ol' play," he says. "It seems to me that the differentiation between sandbox style play and any other type of play is largely semantics."

I thought my reply was relevant enough to the blog that it ought to be cross-posted. Don't worry, it's in English.

For me, there is a distinction and it's very important.

Mainly, it's because I let myse-- no no, no, I suckered myself into the notion that a good RPG was fun, but a great one had plot, mise-en-scene, mood, themes, pacing...all the things that make a great movie, say, or a great book, or a thrill ride.

At one point, an influence came at me from an unexpected angle, and I set about rethinking my playstyle, my GMing, my...my everything.

The catalyst: Grand Theft Auto - Vice City.

I got really into playing that game, and became enraptured with the free-roaming, exploratory nature of it. It was an open world, with a few ground rules; it had definite plot threads to follow, sub-plots and side-plots, mini-games and great tunes.

I started thinking of Vice City as a fun (if not exactly safe) place to inhabit, and started thinking things like, "Why not do this on a table-top?"

Then, I noticed my Intercomputerweb gamer cronies talking about "sandbox"-style gaming, and I heard that GTA:VC's designers took a "sandbox" approach, and then I went, "Aaaah, sandbox. Yes, this is an idea that I like."

Then, on a trip out of town, I bought this solo RPG at a discount bookstore, and it had a map in it, and the first part of the solo said, "You wash up on shoe; which way do you go?" And I was, like, "HOLY CATS, THIS IS WHAT I, AS A GAMEMASTER, HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT ON."

The idea of sandbox-style games, therefore, is definitely of importance to me because although it's not new or revolutionary or even all shiny and neon and light-up and thumpy like New Order's "Blue Monday", it's the idea that re-energized me as a GM.

I'm gonna cross-post this to my blog.