Not you, Gentle Readers– the title of this post is directed at one “fugaros” (who shall hereafter be known as “wise fugaros”, for reasons which shall be apparent), who runs a new blog called “How Not to Run a Game Business” which you will find newly ensconced in my “Blogs I Read” list over to the left; I make a point of reading points of view with which I disagree. Keeps me young.

With his wealth of experience running a just-broke-even lemonade espresso stand and a failed weekly newspaper, and armed with his sophomore year textbooks in Business Administration at county college, he has taken it upon his acned shoulders to tell the rest of the gaming hobby/industry YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

And thank the heavens he has, or else the folks at Amarillo Design Bureau, one of his favorite punching bags who have been, apparently by sheerest happenstance in their ignorant bumbling, selling enormously successful and popular products for more than three decades, wouldn’t know just how bad bad bad they’ve been. Now that they have wise fugaros to point them in the proper direction, I’m sure they will actually prosper, as opposed to… well… selling enormously successful and popular products for more than three decades.

What occasioned my notice of wise fugaros (whose blog address has the charmingly endearing URL “yourbusinesssucks.wordpress.com”) was a post of his entitled “STOP. MAKING. GAMES.” Thanks to Stargazer’s World for his much-more-temperate-than-my reply, “NEVER.STOP.MAKING.GAMES” for pointing it out, or I would never have found Mr. Marketing Expert wise fugaros’s blog, despite being both a gamer and one of the despised self-published-gamers who is, presumably, his intended audience.

Apparently, having a large number of options for a beginner is a Bad Thing:

There are over a hundred products in my local game store that bill
themselves as core or introductory. I didn’t even check the
clearance/closeout/used shelves. This is a ridiculously dangerous fact.

Dangerous indeed; the unwashed and unprofessional masses are harming the elite few whose wares are actually worthy of customers by putting so many alternatives out on store shelves that the good stuff gets drowned out in the noise. And the internet? That’s even worse:

Anyone with a copy of OpenOffice and two fingers can create a game.  


THE HORROR! The hoi polloi, having escaped the well-defined and god-intended boundaries of the 1980’s, doing an end run around Professional Editorial Review, dare to inflict their ham-fisted musings on a helpless populace that can’t tell the difference between their moose-droppings and the results of Professional Designers. Much like, it seems, anyone with an Internet connection and a gmail account can start a blog about game companies. But I digress…

Wise fugaros has something to say about the OSR as well:

What’s more, we have various “movements” in the hobby causing even
further factionalization. These feature hobbyists, players, people who
have no goddamned right to be making a game, touting themselves as
“designers” and putting out endless iterations of the rules that please
them. Storygames vs. anti-storygames, D&D vs. Pathfinder vs.
AD&D vs. OSR, you could probably fill a landfill with the shit these
people put out.

AD&D vs. OSR?

That’s right– OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, LotFP, Adventures Dark and Deep, etc. etc. is all shit fit for the landfill. Writing games to please ourselves? How DARE we!? We have no goddamned right to be making a game.” There’s a special circle of Hell reserved for such miscreants as we. We should, presumably, be writing games to please other people, and those games better be pretty. Because wise fugaros seems to place a high value on glossy paper and pretty pictures. The text itself is, well, boring. It’s eye candy that makes a game, damnit; we’ve got to get people BUYING those euludically-perfect games. And hex maps? Surely you jest.

Because hobbiests-turned-publishers, amateur posers that they are, don’t understand that the goal of doing all this isn’t to have fun and share their work with fellow travelers, even (especially!) if those travelers are in a niche-of-a-niche and you end up with tiny sales that might cover your pizza bill for a month and a small measure of satisfaction. THOU FOOL! The goal is to have a successful business, and if you are a gamer, you’re almost certain to be an inept boob when it comes to the Real Goal of publishing games. After all, Lorraine Williams proved that, right?

I fear nothing more than that I shall ever be a disappointment to wise fugaros. Am I not one of the Fallen? Am I not a gamer with not a whit of business sense, who has fallen into folly and have started my own game company? Worse yet still, I’m not making edgy, cool, “indy” games that are surely the future of not only the hobby by the very race of men itself, but just another “fantasy heartbreaker.” More the fool I! Nobody should ever make another fantasy RPG. Ever. It’s been done, to perfection (by 4E, no less), so any attempt would be a useless gesture. And the fun I’m having doing it? Scales upon my eyes which have not yet fallen to reveal the utter emptiness of my labors and the destitution of my vision.

Thank goodness I’ve got wise fugaros to guide me through this rough patch, when I fancy myself a designer, and fool myself into thinking that I could actually have fun doing it, and that that would be enough.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

35 thoughts on “GO. SCREW. YOURSELF.

  1. Who is this guy anyways? I didn't dig too hard but he doesn't share his credentials anywhere.

    Whatever, in my opinion the gaming industry is even better than it was back in the 80s. I like that there are more options especially from the indie games rather than only stuff by Hasbro and GW.

    As one who hopes to eventually break into the gaming industry I say the more the merrier!

  2. Meh, we're RPGrognards. Nothing this fugaros boob espouses is anywhere near our way of thinking. Let him babble and froth.

    I've come full circle back to my beginnings and found something new, and better, in the older style of gaming and game design.

    This hobby started with hobbyists-cum-professionals and it's circling back around. The internet allows the hobbyist gamers a lot better communication and organisation than in the past; without the creativity and DIY ideals, the rpg hobby will stagnate.

    I really liked the sentiments that Zak S. summarised in his recent post about making stuff. People playing games, making their own stuff and sharing it. If they make a buck or two, and get some feedback that helps them create something better, I think that's goddamn awesome!

  3. Would it be frightfully awful if I wish that he contract a painful case of dentus-punchus intercranius, preferably a terrible recurring case if possible?

    Ah well, being merely a disciple and man-at-arms for those false prophets of the OSR, I suppose the only thing for it is to drink heavily and sob while reflecting on what failures both my life and hobbies are! Anyone else for an ale?

  4. If I wasn't constantly using those two fingers to flip the bird at folks like that I might be using them to create a game. I guess I'd have to download OpenOffice too.

  5. Ah, the venerable case of the student-who-took-a-101-level-class-and-now-knows-everything-about-the-subject-especially-more-than-a-proven-30+-year-success-in-the-industry-like-ADB. He can't write right now, he's got finals!

    OK, fun aside, I don't see anything in there which indicates why I should bother to listen to him. I'm not interested in business models and whatnot, I'm interested in gaming. As a hobbyist, his ideas are completely alien to my needs. I prefer to share my ideas with other gamers, not with consumers. I don't play games with consumers.

  6. There are far more books printed yearly than games–great giant landfills of truly terrible paper and hardbacks of all stripes–but think how absurd would it be to write a post titled "Stop Writing Books".

  7. I disagree with his comments on telling the little guy to quit before he starts and his personal rants on various companies, but his marketing plan and ideas are accurate if someone wants to be another Paizo or FFG and only if they want to shoot for the stars. You need to have a good solid business model, a good marketing plan, high production values, and a large investable sum of money to be put into the business just to get past the entry barrier. Then it's up to the customers to judge your written work worth the time and money.

    However, for the indie publishers or someone who just wants to put their love on DriveThruRPG, then I wouldn't follow his advice and it doesn't really apply here. It's almost like beating up the 10 year old kid who wants to operate a lemonade stand when one should be going to the local Quicky Mart and buying lemonade there.

  8. It's almost like beating up the 10 year old kid who wants to operate a lemonade stand when one should be going to the local Quicky Mart and buying lemonade there.

    That would be a super good analogy if this had run in some fanzine in the early 80s. The thing is that lemonade stand is now being run by someone approaching 40. The hobby is 38 years old, and TBQH is still stuck in its mothers basement. Video Games have been around a comparable amount of time and look where they have ended up.

    Like I agree he is totally telling someone not to start a lemonade stand, but if you read on, there's a logical reason why, the block is full of lemonade stands, so unless you are offering something new, you are going to stay a tiny lemonade stand forever.

  9. To all Publisher-Gamers from the Old School Renaissance to the New and Cutting Edge Indy Press:


  10. "unless you are offering something new, you are going to stay a tiny lemonade stand forever"

    So what if you do? People don't open lemonade stands to Take Over The World or Make A Living. They open them to quench some people's thirsts and make some money for a couple of toys. If they get big, then they're just forced to make crappier lemonade. Stay small! Make good lemonade and a couple of bucks! Don't be seduced by idiots with MBAs trying to make you into something you aren't!

  11. People should understand that OSR products fill a different market niche and have different market dynamics than the RPG products that Paizo and WotC hawk.

    Paizo and WotC can't fill this niche because their marketing departments would get downsized if this sales model takes off.

    So they get the ape to fling shit once in a while to get the kids off "their" lawn.

  12. I defer to the (analagous) wisdom of Homer Simpson:

    "What's with these new bands? Everyone knows Rock attained perfection in 1974, it's a scientific fact!"

  13. "Because nothing popular is ever good. I cannot roll my eyes hard enough"

    Don't sprain them while you're doing so. You might try thinking before doing that, though.

    The problem is not popularity (and why would you think that's the argument I made?), it is mass-production. A well-crafted item is not mass-produced, and can't be. Just ask an Army cook – you can have the best recipe, but when you make it for 500, the quality inherently drops. The ingredients fall toward the lowest common denominator.

  14. No, what I'm saying is that creating something from the point of view of business priorities first is a sure way to make crap. Red Box was created as a way to clarify the very hobby-oriented OD&D.

    I'm not saying that production values are meaningless. What I'm saying is that they aren't the most important thing, and to treat them as if they were, as the blog that occasioned this post states, is destructive to the hobby. To give priority to business concerns (such as the request to minimize competition in the specific post to which this one is a response) is absolutely detrimental to the specific type of quality that is important to gaming.

  15. The dude just seems like a bonehead, he contradicts himself in his articles and seems to think everyone shares his opinion on indie games, D&D, SRD, small-imprint publishers, etc. Just seems like a good old-fashioned troll with no idea how the industry works and nothing creative or constructive to say.

  16. I weighed in on this when the blogger in question was posting to RPGNet, but you've covered the salient points far better than I did. Basically, dude's blog is little more than directed aggression at businesses and games he does not like, rather than objectively bad business (ADB being a prime example). It's a waste of space.

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