Should we abandon Kvothe for the good of Tak?
|| Tak was born in the imagination of Patrick Rothfuss, author of the fantasy series The Kingkiller Chronicle. As an imaginary game described in a fantasy novel, it only came to life years after The Wise Man's Fear was published. Almost every Tak player knows this history before they pick up their first Capstone . . . and perhaps that is a problem.
It is well-known that the height of Tak's popularity (so far) is behind us. But many in the Tak community also agree that it doesn't have to remain this way. Simply put: Tak is fun. It's easy to learn and play. Its complexity is deep, and (like chess or Go) may be explored for many years to come, even with computer assistance. There is no obvious reason why Tak should not be popular enough to sustain a large and active community of players of all skill levels. Despite this, our community remains small.
The diagnosis for the Tak community's stagnation has many contributing causes. The lack of easy and enjoyable mobile gameplay (we need an app!); the defeating cycle of losing players because they seemingly can’t find other players; the high cost of purchasing a board and pieces commercially; and the list goes on. There is consensus that these are problems (among others) inhibiting growth. What is not agreed upon, and what I am suggesting, is that we must also one day leave behind the trappings of the Kingkiller mythology for Tak to truly break free from its status in the eyes of some as a fantasy novel spin-off game.
We owe much to Rothfuss and his worldbuilding. Without his writing and later endorsement of James Ernest bringing Tak to life, we wouldn't have this game we love. His readers and fans make up a strong portion of the Tak community. But Tak's potential extends far beyond a base of Rothfuss fans. The core group of players who make up the active Discord community is evidence of this. You don’t need to know Kvothe and Bredon to love Tak. Appreciating the beauty and simplicity of the game requires no knowledge of Temerant. But some players in the community - understandably reveling in the joy of seeing a piece of a story they love come to life - still view Tak and the Kingkiller mythology as intertwined. Greater Than Games clearly does. Their newest reprint of Tak incorporates much of the Tak: Companion Book’s fictional history of the game.
Stripping Tak of its ties to Kingkiller entirely would be impossible and foolish. Admittedly, the Companion Book gives the game a historical and cultural depth (though fictitious) that is valued by many who play it. But looking towards the future of Tak and its potential, we must continue to strengthen the appeal of the game on its own merits and confine the Kingkiller parentage to Tak's youth.
Nevertheless, Tak is still in its youth. And now may not be the time to move too quickly past the Kingkiller mythology. Having faith (that many would argue is unwarranted) that a third book, movie, and television series is on the horizon, there is promise of a Tak revival, solely on the backs of fresh Kingkiller fans. We can embrace these new players and appreciate why they joined the community. But the pressure to turn Tak into a mere piece of promotional merchandise will be strong when (or if) the third book and movie/television series are released. Tak’s future does not rest on new players who primarily appreciate the game because it came from a fantasy story they enjoy. If it does, then Tak may simply fade with time.
We wholeheartedly welcome the support of Rothfuss and his fan base (of which I am a dedicated member) but we must continue our efforts to move beyond it, so Tak stands on its own, known simply as a beautiful game.
Do you agree or disagree? Should the Tak community recruit more players from the Kingkiller fan-base or try to distance ourselves from the Kingkiller connection?