Thursday, August 03, 2006

Editorial: Definitions

Communication has been an underlying goal of RPG theory, and at the core of communication are the terms we use to discuss and present theory. These are the first line of communication, the issues that must be resolved before fruitful discussion can occur. The danger of terms is when they acquire a certain fetishism, the fame (or infamy) of the term lends it prestige, and suddenly a discussion about how to communicate becomes a debate over which perspective is more valuable.

To make things worse, this debate occurs before the common ground has been finished, leaving reducing even reasoned debate into a simple argument. No side can give in, because in all likelihood everyone's arguments are equally valid. It simply comes down to authority and ownership.

But to foster discussion, terms must lose their prestige. And properly this is the task of those with the greatest authority for those terms. Both in action and words, keep your terms from becoming fetishes. Otherwise, they will elicit only passionate support and revilement, neither of which aids understanding.

Definitions are the most dangerous weapons of discourse. If you want to welcome others to talk with you, then you should both tell and show them that the definitions you carry are not loaded.


Rich said...

I think there is an even-more fundamental problem with jargon within the RPG theory community. For whatever reason, most discussions about RPG theory are bloated with specialized terms. As a relative newcomer to the subject, I often find it difficult to even find a single definition for the terms, never mind conflicting definitions.

I think the sheer volume of jargon presents a barrier to entry to many people.

algi said...

I think that's because this isn't jargon, but slang. Some people call some phenomenon by some cool name without defining it, or without any clear definition, and then everyone sticks to it without any questions.