So I got to hang out with some kick-ass "story game" designers a couple days ago and, to my shame, have discovered that they don't like the term "story game":
* It's divisive. Players of traditional role-playing-games are probably saying, "What do you mean my game doesn't do story?" Any rpg can do story.
* It's vague. What about games like exquisite corpse, Once Upon a Time, Dixit - aren't those story games? But those are different from what I've been talking about lately.
Which leaves me in the lurch. "So what am I supposed to call these things?"
"Role-playing games," they say.
"But ... I have a totally different experience playing Lady Blackbird, Geiger Counter, or Fiasco than I have playing D&D. How do I tell people about that?"
And they shrug.
So I'm thinking about this, and I can't point my finger at any specific thing about one role-playing game that makes it a "story game" in my mind that doesn't rule out some other game that I also think of as a "story game."
GM-less? But Apocalypse World and In a Wicked Age aren't GM-less.
No prep? But Dogs in the Vineyard requires prep. And Paranoia and Toon, a couple games from my youth, didn't require prep. (Paranoia did have modules but my experience was they were irrelevant to the fun, as my friends would start shooting each other in the first room. Kind of an ancestor to In a Wicked Age in that way.) Maybe "story games" have been around forever.
Rules-light? Annalise and Burning Wheel and Universalis are actually pretty complex. And there are a lot of rules-light RPGs out there that don't scratch the itch for me.
So, okay guys, I give up. I will stop using a blanket term for a bunch of these games, and in the future talk about them one at a time on their own merits.