Friday, September 29, 2006

Editorial: Playing with Theory

RPGs cover a range of arbitrary extent, and can only be defined in ambiguities. In the midst of this, it should come as no surprise that part of how we play is by constantly learning and refining how to play. And right in the middle of this is theory.

I'm not talking about formal theory, overt models, or technical jargon. I'm talking about theory at its root, the understanding of what it is we do when we play RPGs. Theory is both asking and answering "am I doing this right" or "what do I do next".

Often this basic form of theory is unappreciated. But it is developed and refined just as its more formal brethren. And, it is at the root of more overt theory. Even more important it informs and determined how we play, as it evolves through and around our play.

Theory can be practiced without play, but play cannot be had without practicing theory.

This suggests something else. We create theories simply by playing, seeing play, or even thinking about it. We refine theories in the same way. This is the easy part.

The hard part is to communicate theory, to recognize one's own theories, and to make them static enough to test. The value of formal theory is to be clearer and more definite. But this is important, because only in the form of theory can you relate how you play.

1 comment:

Jiituomas said...

Actually, some of us (myself included) are intentionally making games to test theory - from basic assumptions to advanced concepts. So there is some significant progress being made in the field.

In my opinion, the real problem is that the results are not reaching the public well enough.