Lindy Games and Stories

If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life! 

Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The above quote is from Nassim Taleb about the Lindy Effect. The Lindy Effect refers to a group of show biz people who gathered at Lindy’s Deli in NYC to discuss the action. They theorized that the longer a show was playing, the longer the show would play. A new show was less likely to have a long run than a show that already had a long run.

My game of choice is Swords & Wizardry. It’s a clone of Original Dungeons & Dragons. The original rule set is nearly 50 years old.

50 years and we’re still talking about. We’re still playing it.

If Taleb is right, we can expect some version of the original game to be around another 50 years.

Did Gary intend or expect people would still be playing his game 50 years after it was published? I don’t know. Probably not.

I’ve been reading The Elusive Shift by Jon Peterson. He describes the dialogue about the original game in the zines of the 1970’s. You might recognize some of the topics.

  • Alignment for and against.
  • How lethal should the game be?
  • How much information should the game master give players?
  • Should character creation be totally random or should players be allowed to pick every aspect of their character?

The reason you probably recognize those topics is we’re still arguing about them.

My guess is that gamers will be arguing about them 50 years hence.

A frequent practice of mine is to ask myself the following question…

“Would this have been relevant in 1975?”

I stole the concept of this question form Taleb. In his book Antifragile he suggests that if writers want their work to stay in print a long time they should create works that would have relevance to people in the past.

Following the concept of the Lindy Effect: If a topic is relevant today and was relevant 50 years ago then chances are it will be relevant 50 years from now.

Gamers today are talking about the same topics gamers were talking about in 1975. Some questions have been answered and are perhaps settled. If you pay even a little bit of attention to Twitter or Reddit there are a whole lot of people that seem to be asking those same questions.

They didn’t see it coming.

I don’t think Gary and Dave expected their game to get as big as it did or last as long as it has. They didn’t make a game that would last 50 years on purpose.

What if you created games and stories with the intention that they would still be enjoyed in 50 years?

100 years?

How can we do that on purpose?

How can we intentionally create games and material for games that people will enjoy in 50 years?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

My hypothesis is that we make things that would have resonated with both the audience of 1975 and today. That is very hard to do. It is a simple concept but difficult to pull off.

One thought on “Lindy Games and Stories

  1. Interesting thought. One thing about the 70’s/80’s was that people were more tolerant of big blocks of text. They were accustomed to reading books with ideas spread out over multiple pages. These days I think people read more and for that reason are less tolerant of wordage. If you can’t express a complete idea in one paragraph you’ve lost a large part of your audience. So I think it’s best to stick with the audience you have. The bit about books having inverse life spans was quite interesting. That is spot on!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s