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I've often encountered the term 'badwrongfun' used in discussions about role-playing games, and I see that it was already in vogue in the early days of this site judging from answers like this one.

While I think I get the gist of what people are saying when they use the term, I am looking for a definition that includes not just what the term refers to, but also when it is appropriate to use it. I notice that it often gets used to dismiss one side of an argument, as in, "Don't listen to people who say 'that's badwrongfun!' ... there's no such thing as badwrongfun."

I am also curious whether the term originated within the RPG community, and if not, where does it come from and how did it make its way into the language of role-playing games?

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RPG.net lexicon defines it as:

Illegitimate enjoyment. Saying that a game is "bad wrong fun" indicates that the game is somehow broken, unplayable, poor quality or weak - in ignorance of the fact that many groups are playing and enjoying it regularly. As such, this is not normally something that a person will say themselves, but something they will accuse other people of having said. For example, "John said that d20 is bad wrong fun" indicates that the speaker believes John's criticism of d20 to be foolish given the large number of groups playing and enjoying it. Rifts is often cited as a "bad wrong fun" game. Often written as a single word, badwrongfun.

"Bad wrong fun" is also often used in a more light-hearted sense to indicate the gamer equivalent of a guilty pleasure. "I know it's bad wrong fun, but I loved every minute of it!"

The earliest reference I can find to its usage is from RPG.net in 2004.

The question interests me as it is clearly a concept that is not peculiar to role playing games. For example, football matches could be badwrongfun for people who prefer opera. As such I have posted this question on our sister site English Language & Usage to find out what other terms exist for the phenomenon.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suspect part of the origin is a play on George Orwell's Newspeak, as well, with the combination of simple syllables (though Newspeak doesn't actually have the words "bad" or "wrong"). \$\endgroup\$ – JAB Jul 21 '17 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel this definition is missing out on the "playing the game differently from me" usages. "Badwrongfun" is commonly invoked when people (for example) complain about DMs fudging rolls because that's "not how the game should be played" \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jul 21 '17 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik that definition is contained in this one, as far as I can tell. I agree with JAB, the word is clearly both thematically and grammatically similar to Newspeak. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 21 '17 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook where is it contained? A game doesn't have to be broken, unplayable, poor quality or weak for people to complain it's being played wrong. Maybe I'm missing something. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jul 21 '17 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik, a houseruled game is arguably a new game, and as such can be called broken without calling the original game broken. So Bob could be calling my 3.5 houserules badwrongfun because he thinks my houserules break the game. \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jul 21 '17 at 18:01
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Via exhaustive research (a google search query)1 the term appears to be a phrase first used on RPG.net (July 2004) and ENWorld (December 2004) to show that 'you shouldn't be having fun with [whatever you're enjoying]', especially the earliest entry regarding an argument over character portrayals on Law and Order.

As someone who's been lurking on a few, but not all, D&D-centric RPG boards for roughly 15 years, I don't recall seeing it personally until roughly 2008 or later. But I'm not a very good robot, either, not having actually read, nor retained, all threads on any boards.


1: I recognize that Google is not the final arbiter on research data, but it's relatively extensive, and an unrestrained query found little useful, nor has a search of the stuff on secretsofthearchmages.net (a Wizards Boards repository)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For me the google query yields no result. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Jul 21 '17 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme That's personalisation at work. DuckDuckGo doesn't have this problem (but doesn't crawl pages as many times per second because it's smaller). Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the search engine; I just use it. \$\endgroup\$ – wizzwizz4 Jul 21 '17 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme Hopefully this fixes the search issue. It was mostly there as lazy bibliography anyway; showing how I got my results. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jul 22 '17 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme Well, that search yielded only the two links that I added in, so that's what I meant when I said I hope it's fixed now. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jul 24 '17 at 13:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Key parts of RPG.net (where I believe the term arose) are not indexed, or indexable, by Google. In this case, therefore, I am unconvinced that Google is useful for determining the origin of the phrase. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Aidley Aug 1 '17 at 14:02

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