Here we are again, with another semi-service announcement. In a day or two I will post a new post that will gear towards the next Project. That post will require your replies, and without them it’d go nowhere. So please keep your eyes open, and once the post gets here, give me your opinions!
I must give you a piece of my meandering mind, that is, before I continue to do so with the body-text of this post. I have noticed something funny, as I gear up to write a post, that is, think of the post’s topic, I start noticing all sorts of things which support/relate to my topic at hand. Or people only start saying these things when I begin thinking of them? ;) Anyway, take a look at Michael Shermer’s Skeptic column on Scientific American’s July 2006(Volume 295 Number 1) issue, about fighting self-induced bias.
So, someone asked about Role-play in Cranium Rats, and I said it’s not an RPG, it’s a CSI Game. Role-playing is a possible side-effect, but isn’t the goal, or a goal, that I try to accomplish or facilitate. This brings up the horrible question(or debate) of “What is a Role-playing game?”
Add to this the piece of information I came across over the weekend on Ron Edwards’s Gamism article, which in turn is originally from the GM section of Arrowflight (2002, Deep 7, author is Todd Downing):
“The best games are those where everyone is playing a role, striving for a goal and working as a unit (that doesn’t mean that every character must like every other character, but player must at least properly play the role they’ve chosen).”
Now we reach the problem, at least, what I find as a problem. On one hand we have “Role-playing” and on the other we have “playing a role”. It seems like there is no mix-up, these two phrases, but then, let me present you with several cases: In Magic: the Gathering you portray the role of a planeswalker, in Monopoly you play the role of an investor, in Settlers of Cattan you play the role of the expedition/community leader. Do you consider these to be Role-play experiences? You do not, which shows a disparity of terms.
This disparity of terms didn’t come from nowhere. Language shapes thoughts, language shapes ideas. I posit that this is something of an Immersionist Trap, if you want to see some discussion of Immersionism, then Thomas Robertson is having an Immersionism Month on his blog, this very month.
The thought at the base of RPGs and the definition thereof is that Role-play is where you have a chance to immerse yourself. To act your character through and through it(for a short and simplistic meaning of the term). Then we reach games where the seperation through your character and you is distinct, or there is no character per se for you to portray(how does one “Feel” the Colour Red, how does one “Think” Cloud?).
If we do not treat these games as RPGs then our definition is exclusive, and we remain stagnant, with the same kind of games to draw from, whereas if we act in an inclusive manner, these borderline games are pulled under our umbrella, and then a pod is shot to the next-closest kind of game, pulling it under the umbrella as well. So that slowly but surely we expand the definition of RPGs. The Immersionist Trap defies time. We may call new games RPGs, but then the games they were linked to from, which had already been accepted, come under attack again, since they still do not allow for Immersion, or not the degree of which that these players seek.
I think that RPGs should be defined in a manner not dissimilar from Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees of Seperation. Some games are RPGs because they are “Like D&D”[Insert link with Mike Mearls saying that all RPGs are basically “Like D&D”], and from there we slowly connect the games, until each game that we can connect to with enough points and under a certain amount of steps is now also called an RPG.
Check out this thread where Tony Lower-Basch shares some wisdom from his wife. It’s all RPGs. It’s all worthy of discussion and inclusion. If you’re too cool for school, then go away. And if you don’t want us in your schools, because these “Aren’t RPGs”, then you’re the fool.