I had intended the previous post to be just a few paragraphs to lead into the heart of the post, but I kept on thinking of stuff to say and when I feel that, I don't resist. Feeling however that I've established to some degree why D&D fails as a game - an argument that could go a long time but belongs on the previous post - let's talk about what could make it better. And let's all understand, O Gentle Reader, that I will set aside my conception of D&D, and you will set aside your conception of D&D, long enough for us to talk about a bigger picture.
Shall I tell you first what I hate equally about visual artists and computer programmers? It is quite simple. They are virtually useless to me.
Let us consider a person of a completely different artistic temperment: a musician. I am having a wedding, and I think it would be lovely to have music at that wedding. No problem. I contract a musician, I negotiate a contract, the musician shows up and plays for the wedding, everyone is happy. Moreover, there's a long-standing tradition with musicians that enable them to realize that playing for a wedding party is not the time to try out your a-tonal experimental material. They don't seem to mind terribly playing tame, easily recognizable tunes, bland though they may be, because for some reason they seem to be able to remember for a whole five hour period that they are working for other people and that their personal bullshit isn't appropriate. It is even possible to go to a musician and ask them to play something you would like to hear - and incredibly, they don't spit at you and call you a meddling asshole for daring to suggest they use their talents for your benefit. It is as though they recognize that not everyone who appreciates music has the ability to actually be a musician! How bizarre is that? I simply am not able to recall going up to a musician, suggesting they play a bit of folk music, and getting the response, "You want to listen to folk music, why don't you learn to play a fucking instrument you obnoxious freak?"
Let me carry this example one step further, though the reader simply won't believe me. Did you know that sometimes a musician will even play a song you like for free? I know. Unimaginable. It is as though they just like being musicians, and they don't care what they play.
Now, I have to admit that I have on two occasions demanded that people pay me before telling me what to write on this blog and how to write it. But for those who are paying attention, I have many times written on subjects when I was asked to do so. I am not above working for free ... if I am asked. It is the whole being TOLD to write a certain way that gets under my skin.
Okay, let's get back to artists and computer programmers. What a fucking pissant lot of self-righteous little shitholes we have there. My god, asking one of them to slap a little paint around or write a few lines of code, you'd think you were asking them to rip out their soul, jab a stick through it and roast it in the rich flames of a gasoline fire. Holy shit, just imagine someone who is not a computer programmer having an idea about what kind of programs could be designed for a particular thing. Heresy, that's what it is. Fucking outrageous heresy. Rest assured, every idea in the universe that will ever be worth having will ultimately and in the end be had by computer programmers ... and if it isn't, well, it was a shit idea to begin with, wasn't it?
Now, I don't deride the necessary skill and effort it takes to write code. On the contrary - it is quite beyond me. I used to do it way back in the age of Basic, but Cobal and Fortran were babblage to me and I really couldn't stir myself to write it. Thankfully, some idiot proved that I would never have to, by stupidly making it possible for code-illiterate slobs like me to actually use a computer for things like, oh, writing and stuff. What a dark fucking day in the age of IT that was.
Just for the record, the guards in the famous 1984 Apple commercial were assholes who taught Fortran for a living.
In case there are any programmers out there reading this and taking great umbrage at this diatribe, I have a message for you. Go fuck yourselves. There are about a million things in the world that are hard to do, but which people are willing and able to do for others who can't do it. Being a doctor or a lawyer is hard too, but I can still go to one or the other and get advice without being told I'm an asshole for not learning everything there is to know about medicine or the law. Doctors and lawyers manage to somehow describe things to me in language I can understand, they don't seem to mind that I need them and in general they're not stuck up suffering little pricks. I've seen them smile now and then.
This is another one of those situations where I've gone on longer than I intended. The opinion, however, is off the chain and I feel like hammering it home. I've worked in the oil industry, for a high-tech utility, for the statistics branch of the government and in both the publishing and film industries ... and everywhere computer techies are the same. You have to beat them and beat them to make them produce what you want them to produce ... and even then it doesn't work.
Here is the situation. D&D needs a butt-load of really complex programming to lift it out of the pen-and-paper age and move it into modern times. Computer programmers, by and large, have proven themselves to be absolute shit at doing this. They are rather simple minded creatures, who think absolutely everything in the world needs to be automated and absolutely fail to understand that being able to manipulate something on the screen like I would hold a hammer or saw a log would be incredibly useful. Programmers, however, being 2-dimensional thinkers they are, presume that the only important thing about manipulating anything is the final result. In 50 years they have zero-conception of the zen of doing things yourself, and given another 50 years they will continue to have the same level of comprehension.
If we are going to talk about computer games and computer graphics and their addition to D&D, what I need is a space where the only changes that occur are those that I have made myself. I need tools like waldos that enable me to personally shape and fashion the world of my desire, without pre-programmed "time-saving" crap and garbage. Don't save my time. Don't decide for me what I need. And when I tell you to do this, SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT HOW YOU THINK IT SHOULD WORK. In this particular case, given that you don't know a fucking thing about what I'd like to do with this environment, just make it work like I want it to work.
In this particular case, I am going to write the music. You're just going to play it.
Hey, it won't be that hard. Musicians play music written by other people all the time.
Okay, deep breath.
Fact is, the arrangement I'm describing is never going to happen. Take any element of the game, from DMing to game design to the maps of the world to the trade system that runs it to the monsters that inhabit it and their behavior and so on and so forth, and put it in the hands of a programmer, and you are going to get back a pile of shit that the programmer decided in their infinite wisdom that YOU were going to need. It never occurs to a programmer that these biased ideas about what is needed and what is not is smothering the creativity of everyone who isn't a programmer. They know best and you can't tell them anything. It's like talking to a priest.
There are spectacular potentials for computer-interactive D&D. It has to happen on some level where the computer is not a stand-in for the DM, but a literal tool in the DM's hands. At present, the only real computerized tool that is 100% DM-controlled is Microsoft Office. This is pathetic. We cannot play on the next level until the next level is built. Which it won't be with the priests in charge.
Oh, if I had been a programmer, what might I have accomplished. But I was too busy learning about a lot of other things besides computers ... completely useless things, obviously, because I should have spent the last twenty years invested in this one skill that other people already know how to do. If only I could take advantage of that expertise, the way I might with a broker or a cabinet-maker. Oh well. At least Jobs invented Office. Best thing that ever happened to D&D.
Pause a moment, O Programmer Priests, and before you scream at me recognize how really, really shameful that is.