On Rules

On Rules

By and large, I am a rule-liking kind of person. I like to make rules, and I like to follow them, and occasionally I like to break them. They create limitations, define spaces, and help reduce giant ideas into more easily defined projects. Arguably, games are collections of rules from which arise all sorts of experiences. Computer programs too. Language, physics, cooking, on and on.

Rules create interesting situations by helping to define the things we can and cannot do. Achieving something becomes all the more impressive when it is done under some limited conditions. Alternately, pushing against the rules can be just as expressive as carving out a niche within them. Performing some action may be mundane until it is forbidden. Now that action is transgressive, youthful, even dangerous. Very punk rock.

Not every rule is worth following. Some rules can be harmful. Many are foolish. More still are simply arbitrary. Then there are rules that meant well once, but have aged poorly. Rules that pointed to something larger, but were limited by the times into which they were born, or the parents who bore them.

One of the more useful places to enforce rules is toward the beginning of a new project. They can give form to an idea, or scope to a grand vision. They can provide a point from which to begin, or a destination to reach. They can also add flavor to a project that is otherwise too bland or ambiguous. A series of essays about the relative merits of Shakespeare’s early comedies will almost always be more exciting than My Favorite Plays.

Rules that begin projects, particularly informal ones, also have the benefit of being malleable, replaceable, even disposable. They are ultimately just pieces of the project itself, and thus every bit as much of a work in progress. The further along a project progresses, the more firmly they become enmeshed with its identity, and the more difficult they become to remove. But, at the beginning, anything is fair game.

It may come as some surprise, then, that I’ve decided not to lay out a set of initial rules. Over time, I expect an implicit set of rules to emerge, and I might even codify them, but I am starting with only a rough sense of direction. I plan to write primarily about games, but not exclusively. I am not setting out to write reviews, but some posts will veer further into that territory than others. I am neither setting a target post length nor committing to a voice, though I imagine that I will settle on both over time. For now, we can enjoy the luxury of taking one of everything, and deciding what to keep later.

In summary, not every singular rule is a good one, but rules on the whole are for the best. They should be followed generally (by spirit, not letter), broken occasionally, and updated regularly (when you have the freedom to do so). You will not find them here yet, not explicitly, but someday you might.

Until then,