Back in 2012 I was attending the ENnie Awards ceremony held every year at Gen Gon. I was incredibly nervous because the RPG I’d created, Cosmic Patrol, had been nominated for Best Game. I knew the chances of actually winning were rather long—Cosmic Patrol was brand new, had “indy” mechanics and was up against Savage Worlds Deluxe and the Marvel RPG—but I still had butterflies in my stomach. I hadn’t even thought about what I’d say if CP did win something and that oversight suddenly felt really, really stupid.
So while my friends and I waited in the very back row, I tried to distract myself by listing what all the winners had in common, thematically. Could you boil them down into core themes/memes/hooks? Turns out you could (for that year anyway) and the list has always stuck with me.
Themes Most of the Winners Seemed to Have
(As according to Matt Heerdt’s Poor, Inconsistent Memory
(and added to over time))
- Lovecraft/Cthulhu: If you want to be taken seriously, you have to have a Lovecraftian product in your catalog. It’s like a college prerequisite.
- Zombies: Almost as mandatory as a Cthulhu Mythos product.
- Dragons: This one is understandable. When you say “roleplaying game” to someone, their first thought is probably D&D or another sword and sorcery game, where dragons play a big part.
- Wars/Tactics in the Title: Take a game and add “Tactics” or “Wars” and you’ve got either a smaller version of a large game or a larger version of a small game. Good to go.
You can keep adding to the list as different buzzwords become popular. “Euro-style game” was a keyword for a while, and probably still is. “Dice” is another. According to this list, the end-all, be-all game would be something like “DragonThulhu: ZombieCraftWars!” Once the main game is released, you just follow the list for sure-fire sequels/expansions. “DT:ZCW Tactics!” “DT:ZCW Dice!” or even “DT:ZCW Wars!” but at that point, the meme has folded in on itself.
But I digress…
That list has always stuck with me, and as time went by, the sarcasm of it faded a bit and I decided that if I ever had the opportunity to start a new gaming business, I’d make sure to hit at least one of the top four right away. So now that I have that chance, and I want to throttle Warning Label LLC into the big time, I’ve started work on our Lovecraftian project. We’re right at the beginning, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail other than to post a pic and say the line will probably be titled something like “Hand-Crafted Lovecraft.”
Thanks for reading! -Matt