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October 21st, 2011, 13:10
Jay Barnson has an excellent post about the cultural impact (or lack) of magic in RPGs. The intro:
No, this isn’t a post about mixing guns, phones, and magic in the same fantasy setting. Though as a fan of urban fantasy – I’m 100% for it!
This post is actually about attitudes towards magic in fantasy worlds. Specifically RPGs. It’s something I’ve touched on before, and will again. It’s about the impact of “magic” on a fantasy world and the characters in it.
In most RPGs, magic is fairly mechanical. In many action-RPGs, a spell-casting player character spam-fires so much magic that it makes Tim the Enchanter look positively subtle in his application of the arcane arts. There’s not a whole lot “magical” about that kind of magic, really. Magic is like a gun… you pull the trigger and it goes off, though perhaps not always with perfect accuracy or reliability. And yet this incredible power seems to have little impact on the game world, which seems to just shrug it off and treat it as a tacked-on appendage to the culture. Which I guess it is.
More information.
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October 21st, 2011, 13:10
I fear that this cliché of "Ultima = Unplayable" partly comes from the fact that several very diffrent ingredients must be collected prior to conjure "magic" … This is the direct opposite to the use of magic as a "gun" …

Combined with a lowered attention-span which is supported by moern action RPGs, I fear that this is heavily frowned upon by the younger generations of players.

Yes, this "short attention thing" is even there in the field of movies ! I was talking to friend this month who has a faible for old, really [i]old[/i9 movies (like Nosferatu, for example, or Metropolis), and he clearly ees that the "way of watching movies" has drasticall changed - especially in terms of movie cuts (he is a movie professional).

I see it myself . When I was Dinosaus documentaries on NTV, I see this strange "wishy-washy" kind of cutting through the movies - almost every 3 seconds or so, cynically saying (I read somewhere that the reality is 3 seconds long", because 3 seconds is the minimum attantion spn the humans mind has, because it must process everything it senses), hard cuts, with even interviews cut through every … 5 seconds or so ? No still standing, always in movement the reality is, no room to breath, no room or/and space to ponder upon things … because there MIGHT - even at the smallest, slightest rate - the perhaps possible chance that someone out there might get bored …

"Magic as a Gun" is in my opinion a direct result of this "Age Of Action" thing.

From Jay's article :

Another analogy – the telephone (and cell phones). Communication in the modern western world is so constant and ubiquitous that it’s more notable when it is not there.
In Tery Pratchett's Discworld, the Wizards say : "It is important NOT to use magic !"

I guess that the opposite might one day become true in the REAL world : It will (or might) become a sign of power NOT to be connected …
“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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October 21st, 2011, 18:52
About the short attention span thing - it's me, too, not just those durn kids. As I mentioned in a previous article, I wasted three hours trying to jump in and play Might & Magic 1 without reading the manual, when all it took was 20 minutes RTFMing to be able to play the game quite well. It's actually not THAT complex of a game.

What took me so long? Why didn't I just read it from the get-go? I guess 'cause I'm used to not having to do that, and I felt my past experience was somehow enough to let me coast.

I think that's part of what's contributing to the homogenization of the entire mainstream games field, too. Players don't want to take time to learn something new… they want to jump into a game and immediately feel comfortable playing it. So they want games that all look and play the same, but with a different coat of paint, and a maybe one new toy to play with.

Man, am I turning into a grumpy old man, or what?
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October 21st, 2011, 19:01
I am at the age of 35 and I'm already telling those damn kids to get off my lawn So I think we are all grumpy old men where our precious gaming is concerned.
Despite all my rage.
I'm still just a rat in a cage.
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October 23rd, 2011, 21:34
Some of the most fun I've ever had with fantasy RPGs has been in low-magic worlds. This goes back ages to several of the gold box games, and exists somewhat more recently with games like the first Witcher and ToEE. When magic is too commonplace, it feels just that: commonplace. If anything, it becomes burdensome and uninteresting. Diablo, as much as I enjoyed it at the time, was really the first game to give us "magic overload". It was a great time, but if every game tries to do something along those lines, what's special about it? I remember that getting a suit of decent plate mail (+2 maybe) in the gold box games was a huge event, and it really made a difference in combat encounters. In most games now, something like that is found off of the lowliest rat in the first five minutes of gameplay, and it really doesn't affect one's play style or strategy at all. If every five minutes I get something 1% better, who cares? It just feels like a grind.
I have as short of an attention span as anyone, but I'm still able to appreciate this crucial difference. Make magic spectacular, but infrequent enough to be a significant occurrence.
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