I am not a Jeep.

Moving through the most obscure realms of postmodern entertainment, we find the identity politics and artistic branding of Scandinavian roleplaying subcultures. While these have little importance outside of the rarefied circles of the game designers of the utmost North, to them, these things can sometimes seem to have meaning.

So, yeah. I’m not a Jeepformer.

Sometimes people will explain my games, or my friends’ games, by saying they’re Jeepform. But they’re not. None of us make Jeepform games.

What does that even mean?

Well, you see: Jeepform is a brand. It’s not, I believe, a unique design philosophy (nor is Nørwegian Style, or games conforming to the Hippie Method Manifesto). These are mostly just subsets of the huge monstrosity called “freeform”, and not very stable subsets at that. If I were to design a game that was, word for word, a remake of a Jeepform game, I wouldn’t call it a Jeepform: It wouldn’t have been made by a member of the Jeepform community – a jeeper. In the same way, if a jeeper wrote one of my games, it would be a Jeepform, by definition.

I don’t know what the Jeep policy on, or attitude toward, all of this is. There’s a lot of games being labeled “jeepform” these days; in Poland, they run “jeeps”, which appear to be improvised freeform games, though I couldn’t say for sure.

So, yeah. While I steal liberally from anyone, from any school of game design; and while some of my designs are probably compatible with the design goals of the jeepers, and might look like Jeepform to an outsider – I get slightly annoyed when people claim I’m part of a collective I’m not in. The jeepers I’ve met are cool people, and the (very few) Jeepforms I’ve played are good. If I were a jeeper, I’d happily confess to it. However, I’m not; and just like a catholic probably won’t like being called a protestant, I prefer it when my games aren’t called Jeepform.

2 thoughts on “I am not a Jeep.

  1. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep saying that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    What I’m essentially saying here, Matthijs, is that while I accept and understand your irritation with having your designs be conflated with jeepform, I don’t really see it as necessary or productive.

    Many analogues can be drawn to your situation with regards to product identity and branding. For example, in the US, if you ask someone for “an adhesive bandage,” they’ll know what you mean, but it’ll take a moment to register and process. Conversely, if you just ask them for a Band-Aid, they’ll give you whatever adhesive bandage they have lying around their medicine cabinet (unless they don’t have any, or they’re just a dick). Why? Because the Band-Aid brand is such a household name in America that we’ve come to simply codify all similar objects (small plastic or fabric adhesive bandages) as “Band-Aids” because they are so well-known that it makes the idea easier to convey through use of the brand name.

    As another example, in Ireland when they see an SUV ( Sport Utility Vehicle) drive down the road, they’d say, “Hey, did you see that Jeep?” It makes no difference whether it was a Ford, Chevy, Toyota, or Subaru. To them, “Jeep” is not so much a brand as it is the identity of all such vehicles.

    So I hope I’ve made some sense of why Americans consider your work to be “Jeepform” even though it has very little to do with jeepers, if anything at all. It isn’t a dig, it isn’t the jeepers stealing the Norwegian Style thunder (Thor’s hammer? I wouldn’t want to steal that), it’s simply a label we can give that style of game in order for us as a culture within the gaming culture to make sense of and categorize what we’re seeing, the same way that the non-gamer layperson (in the US, at least) often conflates all tabletop RPGs with Dungeons and Dragons, because of the strong brand recognition.

    The point I really want to make is, that it isn’t really something worth railing against, because those same people that conflate D&D with RPGs as a whole get drawn in by D&D’s promise of adventuring in the life of someone else and we as a community get to share with them and enrich their lives through introduction of the rest of the hobby. So in the same way that many small makers of adhesive bandages and RPGs wouldn’t have a chance without Band-Aids and D&D respectively linking them to their target audience, Norwegian Style and other structured freeform just gets that much more exposure to the gaming populace as a whole by being, however erroneously, conflated with jeepform.

    Food for thought.

  2. Pingback: Bechdel-testen « Imagonem

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