Cue bugle music
As Ken and others have intimated recently, we’ve been making some big decisions behind the scenes here at F:AT of late, under the auspices of the mysterious Gabbo. I’m now in the privileged position to be able to tell you what, exactly, is going on.
We’ve decided to kill off the Fortress Amertriash blog.
I missed out on being the first one to post on this blog when it opened (that honour went to Malloc) so I’m sure as hell going to get the last post in now that I’ve got the chance. Being a person of precious little imagination I couldn’t think of anything better to do with this illustrious space than to spend some time reflecting on what F:AT came to stand for during its existence.
Well, it stood for Fortress : Ameritrash for one thing.
Beyond that it’s sometimes difficult to see what united us all and what common threads there were running through the material we posted. After all, even within our shared embracing of the term “Ameritrash” for our favourite games there was some extraordinary diversity – look at Mr. Skeletors top ten games and contrast with mine if you don’t believe me. I’ve always viewed this as a great strength because the result was a blog which varied wildly in terms of style, content and coverage and as a result had broad appeal and the potential for lasting interest. But we’ve had our little fights behind the scenes as well – I’m sure you’d expect nothing less from people who like conflict-heavy games about backstabbing and treachery. All the infighting is one reason we’ve decided to wind down the blog.
So what’s left? Is this a blog about theme-heavy games, as many people have suggested as the unifying factor behind the AT badge. I don’t think so – we’ve had some great gossip columns on the general gaming scene, some wild raves about subjects only distantly connected to games and even devoted space to wider trash culture.
So maybe we don’t have much of a shared reference point at all, as a number of critics charged when the AT phenomenon first took off. But, inevitably, I don’t think that’s true. I think that out of the smoke and chaos that accompanied the birth of F:AT something very clear and very important has emerged – a growing group of people who want to help everyone remember that games, gaming culture, talking about games and playing games are, above all, supposed to be fun.
This realisation hit me when I noticed that there were a small group of die-hard Eurogamers who were using the comments here on the blog and many other channels to voice the message that hey, they might hate our style of games, but the tone of what we were posting was still striking a chord with them. They remembered that a lot of the early Eurogames – the games that helped change the face of our hobby for the better – were basically light to medium-weight games with simple but appealing themes and which mixed traditional mechanics based on randomisation and strategic movement with more novel, inventive, tactical rules. Games which are still considered classics by fans of many genres today – Settlers of Catan, Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande and Ra. How the hell, they seemed to be wondering, did we go from simple design principles such as easy rules and short playing time to a world where theme is considered sinful, lightweight or random games are held in disdain and grown men spend inordinate amounts of time fussing and fighting, often with quite stunning levels of personal venom, over trivial analyses of balance and symmetry?
I’m well aware that what one person considers “fun” can be another mans’ tedium but the term here is meant broadly as in “not serious”. We don’t think games are an art form. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying we don’t like a game because it’s hard work. We don’t care if other people think that sci-fi and fantasy games, books and films are for children. We don’t care about being judged just because we go all weak-kneed over a box full of brightly coloured plastic toys. We don’t care if games involve pretending to be violent, or pretending to be immoral or pretending to be treacherous and backstabbing your friends because we know that it’s just pretending. We don’t care if people think that we’re being rude, disrespectful, sexist or divisive because we like to swear or speak our minds about things or people. We don’t care because in spite of the inordinate amount of time we lavish on our favourite games and our favourite themes we know that in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter a rats’ arse. They’re for having fun, not for taking seriously and so no amount of insults or rude words traded over them should be remembered or taken to heart. We can be serious adults if we want to or need to. After all, there are many, many things in the world which need serious consideration and serious solutions. But games aren’t one of them, and they never will be.
We maybe started to take F:AT too seriously, which is another reason why we chose to wind the site down.
So that’s my take, in a nutshell, on what bought us together as a group and what F:AT was all about. So now it’s time to sit around the campfire for a while, crack open a bottle of good (Scotch) whiskey, toast some (vegetarian) marshmallows and sing sad songs until the dawn, in between drunken reminiscing about the good old days that we all spent together.
Or instead we could keep the whiskey, say fuck to the rest of it and break out some kick-arse monster games to play way past the dawn and right into the point where people start collapsing from exhaustion and alcohol poisoning. And at that point, I’ll stagger up, raise a glass and lead everyone in a toast:
“F:AT is dead. Long live F:AT!”