13th Age (and to an extent, Numenera) have left me feeling very strongly aware of the limitations of the term “Story Games”, especially in light of the question of whether these are Story Games. In the sense that all RPGs are story games, they are. In the sense of games which give players strong authorial power in play, they are not.
But what’s notable is that both games include rules and structures which do serve towards narrative ideals of focusing on the player’s characters as protagonists of the setting, not merely interesting occupants. There’s also a non-trivial element of player contribution before play begins.
These are things I like very much, and in fact they are things which I enjoy in play more than authorial power, which I find more of an intellectual exercise than compelling experience. This is not a criticism, just an expression of taste, but it highlights something on my mind. A lot of ideas that were revolutionary in RPGs a decade or more ago have pretty thoroughly permeated the soil, and the terminology of those new ideas makes poorly fitting clothing for the games I see today.
This is not a call for new terminology – I don’t think we actually need more jargon – but it is forcing me to rethink a lot of assumptions.