Friday, April 07, 2006

Monthly Review March 2006

The strongest underlying theme in theory this past month was describing and charting the barrier between RPGs that challenge, and RPGs that facilitate. This distinction was given a new perspective early on by Joshua BishopRoby when he presented "Design What Matters" and "Design What Doesn't Matter" RPGs. In particular he points out that "design What Matters" games are not safe, as they can push you to types of play you would not otherwise have attempted.

A little while later, discussions of control developed on this very same divide. On one hand, Vincent Baker asks the question of how to ensure that risk is not contingent on other players, who might flinch at the responsibility of inflicting emotional or social harm. On the other hand, in the context of character death and closure, Moyra Turkington talks about how people can respond to risk, and the importance of people getting what they need.

At the tale end of the month, Ben Lehman suggests another way of looking at "unsafe" games. He suggests that we should instead focus on being safe in the context of dangerous games, rather than simply seeking as much emotional or social risk as possible. Time will tell where this debate goes, but it is certain that "unsafe" RPGs will continue to be an interesting topic for theory and design.

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