Kafka and His Precursors

This is about games, trust me.

The poem “Fears and Scruples” by Browning foretells Kafka’s work, but our reading of Kafka perceptibly sharpens and deflects our reading of the poem. Browning did not read it as we do now…

The fact is that that every writer *creates* his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Kafka and His Precursors”, 1964 (maybe?)

Emphasis mine. I read this ages ago and even though it’s about literature, I’ve always pondered what it meant for games.

When you read an old game, you are not seeing it the way it was seen when it was released. Your understanding has been irrevocably changed by all the games that came out since and how our thinking about role-playing has evolved. And every time you read or play a new game, the way you see every previous game is transformed.

And the weird part is that we often don’t realize this is happening.

When you go back and try to play original D&D “by the book, as they did back in the day”, you are attempting the impossible. You cannot unlearn what we’ve all learned since the mid 70s. The millions of games since, and all the popular culture that goes with it, irrevocably color how you read every line of those books, and what you think role-playing looks like and should be.

    Ben Robbins | May 15th, 2024 | , , | show 6 comments