Friday, January 18, 2008

Editorial: Why Theorize?

I work on RPG theories because I play RPGs. In order to do so, one must devise an understanding of what playing a RPG consists of. And personally I'm uncomfortable sitting on my first attempt and assuming I'm right. So I constantly revise and reexamine how and why I play. That is the basis of theory. Lot's of people say theory must be based on a foundation of play. This is inaccurate. You can theorize without play, but you can't play without crafting theory.

But that doesn't explain why I theorize about other people's play... That's because I'm very interested in design. I want to communicate ideas and methods. I want to produce dynamics in games which will surprise, amuse, and enrich the players. To do that I must understand how RPGs work - both the practice and the potential of them.

But that doesn't explain why I discuss theory and involve myself in communal developments, or why I spend so much time helping other people develop and communicate their theories... That's because I'm convinced that actually understanding RPGs is difficult. It's easy to make a bunch of assumptions and discover a few surprising things, but it's harder to examine those assumptions and face the real possibility that some or even all of them are blocking you from a better understanding.

But that doesn't explain why I feel RPG theory is worth doing even when it is very difficult... That's because I'm convinced that RPGs provide a deep glimpse of social constructed phenomena. Any good, solid theory of RPGs must extend beyond it's borders, and RPGs sit very close to activities that are much more critical to our world. Working on those directly is hazardous because their very importance lends them biases and restrictions. Thus RPG theory presents a real opportunity to effect change. But that takes time, not the months of design, or the years of publication, but on the scale of decades. Personally I think its worth it.

*Excerpt from a post of mine from I would knife fight a man.

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