Monday, September 18, 2017

How To RPG: On The Mech Pilot Audience

If proper tabletop RPGs are really about strategic thinking played out at the warband scale, then what are the Mech Pilots looking for- and why do they, inevitably, abandon tabletop RPGs once given something that scratches that itch?

There are two things driving (heh) Mech Pilots. They want viscerality of experience, and they want as fast a pace of decision as they can handle, both of which conflict with strategic-level thinking and leadership skill exercises. If we shift over to movies, these folks are all about action films. They'll eat up John Woo, Tony Jaa, Bruce Lee, and even slower-paced films like the mid-'70s adaptation of The Three Musketeers. Their fantasy is to be That Guy, and they have a competitive streak about it; this is why Fighting Games (e.g. Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Samurai Showdown) are favorites as are combat vehicle sims.

It also explains two other things: an obsession with Theorycrafting and Rules. The rules set the context within which competition takes place, and Theorycrafting uses those rules to figure out how to maximize performance while minimizing weaknesses. Since being the best means nothing without a scene to dominate, the draw towards large-scale and centralized play experiences is no accident either, which we see in every medium where Mech Pilots have a significant (if not dominant) presence.

This is why you have Mech Pilots dominating Fighting Games, MOBAs, CCGs, any form of PVP in RPGs and pushing for competitive PVE (such as the Mythic Dungeon Invitational for World of Warcraft, and the oft-done note-comparisons for Organized Play in tabletop games). Individual character builds, group compositions, complaints about nerfs and buffs; it's not that different from the guys going on about their fantasy football teams.

Quite frankly, it is long past time for the tabletop RPG scene to shit or get off the pot about this. Since there is no way that any tabletop game can provide the satisfaction for this audience segment that videogames can, they should be shown the door instead.

IP holders, such as Wizards of the Coast, are better served making videogame counterparts to their tabletop RPGs with Mech Pilots and their psychology in mind because they are a separate and distinct audience with its own psychology. Refocus tabletop RPGs away from Mech Pilots, and towards the original--and still faithful--strategic thinker audience, and thereafter maintain product distinction so this confusion never comes up again.

Yes, this means that companies like Paizo will have to wholly reinvent themselves. Good. They should, if they want to survive what is otherwise an inevitable, and permanent, collapse of the category that's on the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. I think Dramasystem (the Hillfolk RPG) was invented purely to drive those folks away.


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