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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are We Killing Ourselves?

I'm taking a bit of a departure from my usual fare today, so apologies to the regulars here (all three of you).

This article in the New Scientist RSS feed caught my eye. It's only a brief summary of a longer article in the magazine, but the basic premise held forth by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger of the National University of Singapore:

"The over-abundance of connections reduces diversity and keeps radical ideas from taking hold."

My first thought when I read this was "That's the gaming world!"

Three thoughts followed:
  • Consider if you will the vast amount of energy expended in the blog-sphere defending various styles of RPG play. In the end has it added anything to our hobby? Many of the proponents of various play styles can't even agree on a definition of what they're arguing about. Other than generating an endless stream of blog and forum posts, has the debate added to the industry?
  • Speaking of forums, are these gathering places providing value to our hobby or are they creating armed camps of monolithic thought? I don't frequent many forums these days, so I'm not up on what sites are defending which flavor of the month, but the fundamental question "Is the debate adding to or detracting from our hobby?" is worth asking ourselves.
  • Lastly: old-school vs. new-school, not as a style, but a mindset. While there are certainly differences in play-style between the two groups, I think there is also a fundamental mindset difference. In the early days of our hobby, most players, GMs and developers worked in vastly greater isolation than today's always on, Internet-connected society. My own roots are in the pre-Internet era. When I started playing our "game store" was a KB Toys, and our gaming group was three people who all lived in a small rural town in Maryland. Is it any wonder that our play developed a unique character and that we, the players, gained a strong sense of personal ownership in that play style? Does today's new-school player have the same personal investment in their gaming style, or has the proliferation of connections homogenized the gaming world?
So what conclusion can we draw about this subject? I'm not sure one can be made. But maybe someone will read this and the next time someone posts up an idea for a campaign or system modification, readers will be inspired not to suggest changes, debate the old/new school flavor, or flame the idea. Maybe they'll offer up a word of encouragement and push the original poster to develop the idea further.

“Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth”
--Bernice Fitz-Gibbon
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