Follow-up to “My Scene is Dead”

There’s been a LOT of talk about my previous post. On G+, on Facebook, on blogs and fora and in person. I wanted to follow up with some key points. None of these are direct quotes from anyone (I think), but they’re meant to sum up arguments that I see here and there.

Bear in mind that I’m summing up only my personal perspective, from what I see going on. From where you sit/stand, things may look different.


1. People are still playing games

Yes, they are. I am, too. Right now I’m in two campaigns and one semi-regular group, and we’re talking about setting up a new thing for one-shot games. I know my friends play a lot, too. But the visible, communal discussions and design are pretty much gone. Which is too bad, because we’re not sharing our thoughts and ideas. If we’re just the same gangs, sitting in the same basements, playing the same games, the hobby is dead when we die.

2. That scene was just you (Matthijs) and your buddies

Some were my buddies, some became my buddies. I think we were all open to making new friends, and many of us did. In a tiny scene, you get that – people become friends because they share passions and interests. It was me and others who had the same (sometimes obsessive) interests. This is what art movements are.

3. That scene was insular, elitist and made people feel unwelcome

(This tends to come from people I’ve never met, or from anonymous posters).

We’ve tried to make people feel welcome. We’ve tried to bridge gaps. I don’t tell people that their play preferences are wrong or stupid. People have told me that, though. We tried engaging people in discussion, to find out where all this came from, but it was like sitting in a bright room while people would spit at us from the fog outside. This whole “fight” between “camps” is pointless, a waste of time, and something nobody I know wants. Still it keeps coming up from people I’ve never met.

At my “elitist” con, complete strangers stayed at my house for days and played Draker & Demoner or Street Fighter or GURPS. At the “elitist” fora, people discussed Vampire and D&D4 and talked about why traditional games were awesome and how we could make ARCON (the major mainstream gaming festival) even better. In the “elitist” competitions, people won without anyone knowing who the hell they were.

It feels as if people wanted me and others to play and design and discuss for them. We didn’t. We did it for us. We didn’t design the games you wanted us to design, because they were already out there.

4. There’s lots of shit happening right now

Yes, there’s things going on. But not as much as before, and not by new people. My impression is that some of the people from the scene will continue doing things until we die, but still, I feel that the majority has dissipated.

5. Here’s what you should have done: (…)

You’re not really helping.

6. Here’s what you should do: (…)

Thanks. I, and most people I’ve talked to, know what we should do/have done to keep things going. However, the things we never did, we’re not doing now, and I’m not sure we ever will (in my experience, people don’t start doing things they’ve never done). So I’m not very optimistic.

7. I’m going to do some shit!

YES! Do that!

8. Scenes come and go

Yup. They do, and I think that’s just the way it is. And this one is gone now.

9. The scene is still influential abroad

I know it is, and that makes me very happy!

10. The scene was very tiny, and not representative of what the rest of us were doing

We were representative of us, and what we did was pretty amazing. I’m not representing people I’ve never met or spoken to. I do wish you’d popped by and spoken to us, though.

11. We’re all growing old, and don’t have as much time as we used to

Tell me about it! Again, cycle of life. Scenes come and go.

12. I tried to do things for the scene, but nobody listened to me

We all feel like that sometimes. I’ve felt like that A LOT. I know people won’t believe me, since I talk and talk and sometimes people answer, but yeah. The games I’ve made that nobody’s played, the magazines I’ve made that were only read by the people who made them, etc etc etc. People DO listen, even if they don’t cheer you on or answer when you talk to them (strangely enough). But then, nobody’s responsible for cheering you on, either. You do what you do, you see what happens, nobody owes you anything.

13. The things you did weren’t interesting to me or my friends


14. I’m doing LOTS of shit ALL THE FUCKING TIME!

Tomas, I love you, you’re one of a kind, our biggest inspiration, and please keep on rocking.

15. You’re just a bunch of guys excluding all the girls

No. Ask the girls.


6 thoughts on “Follow-up to “My Scene is Dead”

  1. Funny story: Point 15 seems to be founded on some sort of weird misunderstanding, related to point 3. Some gamers appears to have decided that the “Norwegian Style” gang was an elitist boy’s club based on a collection of scenarios sold at Arcon some time in the mid 2000’s – a small booklet with a green cover, claiming to contain “the best norwegian RPG modules” but featuring only male authors – even though several women have actually won the “best scenario” awards at Arcon and Hexcon (and probably Regncon?)

    Which illustrates the importance of community, and simply getting together to talk about things rather than keeping a state of quiet, anonymous resentment. Because I’m pretty sure none of us had any such booklet printed? I’m not sure if there were any female game makers represented in the (large, red-covered) R.I.S.K anthology (actually, I think there were, but I can’t find my copy to check), but as the winners were selected from anonymous candidates by vote, it’s hard to accuse anyone of sexism on that count. We also made a brick-thick, green-covered compendium of scenarios by Danish authors; the gender balance in it is currently unknown to me. I guess it’s also fair to mention that the gender of the people who sent stuff to Imagonem or contributed to the discussions have never been something I paid much attention to (after all, many of the online signatures involved are genderless anyway). That’s no good – given that we’re not living in a completely gender-equal society, gender is something we should pay attention to wherever it makes itself relevant.

    Feels a bit unfair to be judged on something you can’t even remember doing, but I guess you could say that these are simply the consequences of failing to maintain an inclusive dialog in the gaming community as a whole?

    • Let’s see:

      The red R.I.S.K. book, which looks like a magazine in A4, has only male game designers. Probably because all the winners of the competition have been male, and at the time, I think there were very few women in the competition. I can remember one, maybe two, out of the thirty-something people that had participated at that time (if memory serves right). That changed later, when people like Maja and Dina came along.

      The Nørwegian Style book, which is a small nearly-square softcover book, has one game from a woman, Margrete Sommerville’s “The Trouble with Demons”. This anthology was open to everyone; the only requirements were that the game had to be playtested at least once, and translated to English. Again, if it had been published a few years later, there would certainly have been more games from women.

      The RPG theory compendium… I don’t remember exactly what was in it. Pretty sure there was some ritual stuff which might have been from Meguey Baker or Emily Boss.

      The compendium of Danish scenarios was just all the winners we could get from the previous few years. Alex Uth was one of them. The Norwegian scene had no influence over the Fastaval decision process, of course, and there was hardly any connection between us at that point. That’s changed, too.

      Personally I’ve started to actively seek out female designers, theorists etc the past few years; if nothing else, because they sometimes go under my/our radar. For Playground it was a big point to try to get as good a gender balance as possible. We didn’t completely succeed (and yes, we tried pretty hard to convince some people), but I think it made the magazine better and more fun to have a few more women on board.

  2. Go Matthijs!
    Elitist and insular – all societa seems to look like this from the outside. There’s no chance in hell to keep it other way, all-accepting-arms-spreading group is somewhat suspicious and at least sectlike.
    And yes, Norwegian Scene influenced a lot of things abroad – I can tell for myself – I’ve learnt a lot and ran a lot of your games.
    Keep up the good work and hopefully see you in Norway soon!

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