Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's Wrong With NERO?

I figured since I still have this outlet, that I can use this to express my distaste with what's going on at NERO, and the reason why NERO is having such a hard time.

And surprisingly, it's not Joe.  He might be a catalyst for what happened.  But the problem is with the NERO player culture.

Yes, the players.

NERO has been running, in some form or another, since 1986.  That's 27 years. Let's talk about things that happened in 1986.

- Ferris Bueler's Day Off hits Theatres
- Falco's "Amadeus" hit the music scene, and Run DMC introduced white kids to Rap music with their hit "Walk This Way", available on cassette!
- Compaq releases the FIRST 386-based PC
- Bethesta Softworks (makers of video games) was created.
- Phones were attached to walls

Now look where we are today.

- Ferris Bueler's Day Off is considered a classic.
- What the hell's a cassette?  We operate on DVDs and devices that are smaller than a cassette, yet are capable of storing thousands of songs and playing them at the same time, with no fear of skipping!
- Our computers have 4 cores and literally more than 10,000 times the processing speed and memory of their 386 breatheren
- Bethesda has come out with Duke Nukem Forever (named because it felt like it took forever, after the original game's 1991 release), and has moved on to complete other projects as well.
- Cell phones allow people to stream movies, navigate roads, talk and text a number of people, and are fairly ubiquitous at this point.

Simply put, we do not live in a world governed by the same rules we had in 1986.

Now, it's not as if we're playing the same game as we used to.  There have been some changes to NERO since it's formal debut in 1989, including things like base 5, memory after death, and obliterates that aren't quite as obliterate-y.

But functionally, this game operates very close to the way it's always operated.  All changes to the game have been band-aids on a system that is extremely old.  There are studies out there regarding mental capacity that didn't exist back then.  There are lots of other LARPs that have succeeded and failed since that time, with plenty of lessons to be learned.  Stuff we could all learn from.

But we don't learn anything, because we, as a culture, aren't interested in learning anything.  NERO suffered for a long time based on a couple of things, but it can probably be boiled down to this simple analogy.

Everyone is a victim.

We've grown into a culture where everyone's got a right to have a say in everything, and compromise is completely out of the question.  Joe has done a lot to drive away talent helping the game, but so have the chapter owners and the players who belittle literally hundreds of hours of work without even reading the changes.  And we're somehow fine with people who are downright rude, as long as they're only being rude to national staff.

People say it a lot, but I don't think they really understand the implications of this statement.  NERO is a game.  Have you ever played a game and changed the rules in an attempt to make it more fun?  And when you found out that the new rules weren't as fun, did it somehow ruin the original game for you?

But we can'd to that to NERO.  Our culture HATES change.  Even if someone wants to try something, they must be taking something away from you.  Better kick and scream as hard as we can.  We have some players that will go so far as they can't even be bothered to platest something.  What kind of macho bullshit is that?  That's like a kid saying "I like swiss cheese, but I refuse to try cheddar because I can tell it's awful."

I'll also point out that it's a game that probably isn't doing too well, if the rumors regarding the economic state of national is to be believed.  Yes we keep talking about the success of the game, because individual chapters may experience some limited success.  But have you ever thought about how much of that success can be attributed to the mechanics of NERO?  Probably very little.  Successful chapters have friendly staff, tell good stories, and try and give players what they want.

But I think the culture is even worse that one might expect.  I think this culture has a need to be a victim.  This is the same culture that has been screaming about getting 9th edition rules out for over 10 years, and then when it finally came out, complained that things changed.

Our culture insists that Joe is somehow trying to destroy the game.  As misguided as Joe may be, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to run the game into the ground.  But this culture needs to be the victim. OH WOE IS YOU.  If it was really that bad, then why are you or your chapter leaving national and playing/running your own game?  There's plenty of games out there that are as successful as NERO.

I am fully convinced that NERO isn't going to succeed (re: grow) because of this ridiculous culture.  You don't actually want it to grow.  You want to be able to claim the victim card.  You want your word to mean something, even if you didn't actually do any investigation into what other LARPs are around, what worked for them, and what didn't work for them.  You like to hold onto your ideas, and rather than looking at things in a rational way and try something different in order to stop the game from hemorrhaging players, you insist that you run a good game and that is somehow tied to these archaic mechanics that are sorely outdated.

So I'll leave you with this parting message.

Dearest Nero Culture, you're a fucking disgrace.  Do us all a favor and get your act together.