On screwdrivers and nails

Think of it this way: We have a screwdriver. it’s great at getting screws in to wood. Then we realise we also want to put nails in, and as such we use the blunt end to pound in nails whenever we need to. Over time someone comes up with a screwdriver with a larger flat end on the blunt side so that it’s easier to get nails in to wood. it works, but it’s not particularly efficient. Some people learn that you can add a handle on to the modified screwdriver to better work with nails, but the adaptation never goes any further. Now we have screwdrivers produced with handles with a flat end and a culture of people saying “if you want to use nails, here’s how you can build a handle that helps. Oh, and here’s how you can modify the screwdriver bit to be able to pull out nails if they go in the wrong way.” Lot’s of people are perfectly ok, there’s fun being had, but some people say “I really only work with nails, but the best I’ve got is this screwdriver – and- handle extender mechanism, so I guess I’ll make do.”

Someone along the way starts making hammers. All the people who have been using the screwdrivers start protesting “But you can’t get a screw in to the wood with that thing! what the hey?” To which this new person, Bob let’s say, shrugs his shoulders and says “So? I never wanted to deal with screws anyway.” Some people say “Hey, that’s true, I’m not going to do that anymore. And I’ve been having trouble with these nuts and bolts as well, maybe we can make something that helps with that rather than dealing with just a screwdriver and my fingers.”

I can’t really extend this any further, because… well, this is where it got really weird. Lots of people got invested and upset and shouty from all sides, and next thing you know we’re in the middle of a full on cultural cataclysm, and it doesn’t really make a

lot of sense in terms of the metaphor. But what do we think up to that point? Does that sounds somewhat right, sans the emotional upheaval?

5 thoughts on “On screwdrivers and nails

  1. I like the analogy. Put simply, “Use a tool that best fits your fun. If one doesn’t exist, create it.”

  2. I think it’s a fine metaphor. It illustrates your point that the different systems are designed to achieve different results, and you could even say that later editions and systems that are more user-friendly or achieve results more efficiently are the “power tools” being developed. However, your model implies that the modifications to the base system, or adding new elements to that base system (including RP) created a distortion that would make it harder to achieve its original function, which I don’t think is valid. Also, you’re presenting game systems as tools to fix a problem or achieve a specific task, where I tend to think of them more as items on a menu to satisfy a specific appetite. So, let me throw this one out there and see how you feel about it:

    Imagine the first traditional systems are pepperoni pizzas, the only ones available. They are yummy and fill you up, but right away you have folks that feel like something is missing, so they still buy the pepperoni pizza, but when they get it home they sprinkle their own green peppers, Canadian bacon, etc. on it as they see fit. Opinions on toppings vary, and soon you have people sharing advice for the PM (Pizza Master, who is seen as the final word on what goes on a group’s pizza) on how to come up with the “perfect” set of toppings, or how to deal with a group of eaters that have different tastes in toppings.

    Eventually, independents develop pizzas to fulfill different tastes, so you have Veggie Pizzas, Supremes, Deep Dish, Cheese-in-Crust, even Hawaiian Pizza (Kagematsu?) and Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza (there’s a restaurant that sells these near us, true story.) Inevitably, some of the old pizza lovers claim that these aren’t “real” pizzas, just as some claim that the new pizzas are superior to the old. Some embrace the new as the pizzas that they wanted all along and discard the old completely, while others cling to the old and never give the new a try.

    I’ll stop before the metaphor degenerates into a pizza fight, but my main point is that the choice of game is important not just for its functionality, but to satisfy the individual tastes of the participants, Some folks will enjoy it more to buy a pizza designed as they would have it right out of the box, while others might prefer to add their own toppings to an existing pizza, despite the additional effort required. Some will have more than one favorite and will jump between them, and of course some will enjoy making their own pizza from scratch.

  3. Meanwhile, the majority of screwdriver-weilding, pepperoni-eating people, who had no idea anyone was arguing about new tools and pizzas, just kept using their screwdrivers and eating their pepperoni (until they discovered MMORPG and Magic and/or gave up tools and pizzas to start a career or have kids).

    And there are always the people who glance briefly at the screwdriver and hammer instructions, then throw them away so they can use the tools as paperweights, or lawn darts, or cooking implements. (Don’t even ask what they do with the pepperoni.)

  4. Ha! Well, obviously what a man chooses to do with his own pepperoni is his business, but I’ve tried MMORPGs, Magic, a new career AND having kids and through it all I’ve kept a hold on my tool box and pizza pies. I wonder, does that put me in the minority? I can’t think of another hobby where giving it up for other factors is so readily assumed. Is a stamp collector supposed to give up the hobby just because he finds that he also enjoys collecting coins? Is a man ever expected to stop being a baseball or football fan because a new child has arrived?

    Uh oh, just opened the door for new analogies… So, imagine that GURPS is the Chicago Cubs…

  5. I think there’s a couple issues with the time suck of life. One is that the trend is longer hours and longer commutes, so just doing one’s job takes a bigger bite. Then there’s the time and energy it takes to game, versus stamp collecting or watching a ball game. Hard to find the time, then bring the energy when you have the time.

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