Keeping Abreast of Design

May 13, 2007

In the process of writing my most recent post on The Good Ship Revenge over at Secret Wars, I realized that part of the way I understand any work, including my own, is in the context of other similar works. I suspect this may be partially the effect of my academic background and day job as a researcher, where I often try to discover “the state of the field” in a given discipline by finding out who the top names in a particular subject are and reading overviews of the most recent trends.

I find myself wishing for a design-and-practice-oriented equivalent of Mendel’s RPG Theory Review, a place where readers could keep up with some of the more interesting recent developments and discussions in roleplaying design and and practice, whether it’s Rebecca Borgstrom throwing down some crazy stuff in her freelance work or Daniel Wood trying some interesting new mechanics in his Game Chef game or a poster on RPGnet talking about some neat thing they’re doing in their D&D campaign.

Looking at what other people are doing in their games, especially when it’s something new and interesting, expands our understanding of what roleplaying can be. Currently, design and practice are rarely considered to be “RPG theory” as such, though I think that’s more or less exactly what they are. New design bits and practices can raise or attempt to answer theoretical questions about roleplaying in a demonstrative way that is significantly different than critical analysis.

Am I volunteering here? Maybe I am. Like I need another blog. What do you think? Is this as much of a need as I suspect it is?

Edit: Wikipedia defines “bleeding edge” as representing either:

  • Lack of consensus — competing ways of doing some new thing exist and no one really knows for certain which way the market [or community, in this case] is going to go.
  • Lack of knowledge — organizations are trying to implement a new technology or product that the trade journals [or larger design community] have not even started talking about yet, either for or against.
  • Industry resistance to change — trade journals and industry leaders have spoken against a new technology or product but some organizations are trying to implement it anyway because they are convinced it is technically superior [this happens in rpg discourses too, I think].

I think that’s basically what I’m talking about, keeping track of where the “bleeding edge” of design is and practice is, new things for which there is not yet a consensus or even significant discussion about.

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