Thursday, March 29, 2007

Editorial: Types of Types

Part of what makes the fields of theory as complex as they are is the difficulty in categorizing theories. Even if you have a complete set of categories, its nearly impossible to argue why that set is better than another. So instead of typing out a specific way to organize RPG theory, I figure its better to look a few different ways of doing so.


You can classify theories based on the subject. Some theories are very narrow, theories of conflict or setting. Others take a broader stance, describing the coarse structure of play, or small scale details. It can help to classify a theory this way, since it describes the limits of the theory in question. By knowing where it applies and where it does not, you can better understand the context behind its assumptions and seek ways of using the theory in your own play.


You can classify theories based on how they work. Some theories are taxonomies, classification schemes that delineate between different types or situations. Others are active models ofroleplaying , allowing you to (even as a thought experiment) simulate the play using the model. Other theories are bodies of practice, focused on achieving some specific goal, design theories specifically fall under this category. Beyond the correct use of the theory, by knowing how a theory operates, you can learn what the theory means more clearly - avoiding the common pitfall of assuming a theory makes broader judgements about play than it actually does.


Another way to classify theories is their accessibility. This comes in different flavors from personal theories of RPGs, not even entirely apparent to ourselves to simple well-known assumptions that are often a stumbling block for people new to RPG communities. In the midst are formal theories, communal theories, and even implicit theories, the later arising from games or methods of play that suggest a different way of looking at RPGs. Being aware of how accessible a theory is can guide communication and can help avoid jumping to conclusions about the less accessible theories.

1 comment:

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