Finding like-minded gamers and game designers/thinkers online! Times have changed...

Over in the "predictions" thread, someone wrote:

"The indie games community will continue to lack a clear online center in the vein of the Forge before 2007 or SG in years past. Twitter and G+ will be the way, making it harder for new people to plugin except through local face-to-face communities."

I found this to be a very interesting observation.

When I was looking for alternative ways of thinking about RPGs, I was able to find and read Usenet (rec.games.frp.misc, I believe it was) and then Forge and Story Games.

Is it possible that so many of these conversations are now moving to social media that a person in my position today is out of luck? You can no longer simply browse and search; now you have to know the right people?

If so, that's a very interesting (and potentially unhappy) development.

What do you think?

Comments

  • I think this is largely true.
  • edited January 2016
    I've been scanning around with this exact thought in my mind for the last month or so and I think you're right.

    Once it was exciting for me to be able to discuss stuff with lots of people. Trolls be damned. Now access to lots of people is less important than insulating myself from people who lack the ability to disagree in a constructive and rational way.

    To be clear, this is not a reference to people's inability to adhere to the lexicon of the Forge but an indictment on how much less time it takes for people to "lose it" in a discussion.

    It's also important to note that I wish it weren't this way.
  • I managed to find a nice RPG design community in fb, sadly there's no way to maintain a proper deep discussion there, nor properly search back into older discussions for reference. I got invited to a G+ group of designers some time ago, but I never got accustomed to using it, nor found there enough discussions or material of the kind I enjoy, to keep going there. Posting mine among so few people with different tastes than mine made me feel bad, so I kinda let it die. Also, I don't think I've ever received more notifications from that group.

    Forums are up to the date still the best tool for the kind of discussion I enjoyl, though I haven't seen but only one or two more like SG and I'm not even sure they are active anymore. Also, it's kinda tiresome to lurk again in forums I don't know until I get what they are taking about and have enough input to participate. And trolls.
  • The very word "community" has been hijacked. It now means "corporate content-acquisition and personal data collection venture".

  • edited January 2016
    Sadly yes, I think it's largely true. I'm not sure it's necessarily a matter of 'knowing the right people' however: Yes, the NW and NE gamers' circles mentioned in another thread still exist, but I haven't found it hard to have conversations with those people online, and they 've been pretty welcoming to me in the spaces we both inhabit (mainly G+, to some extent FB). And yes, it must be frustrating for someone who's not hugely into social media to find that that's where a good deal of the cutting edge convos are taking place, but that does seem to be the way of it.
  • On the plus side, you get to do your own thing in this world without an international scene. For example, the Finnish indie game design community has generally been detached from the American one after last decade's close ties now that the public fora have lost in relevance. The result has been positive for the smaller local community overall, I feel, as there's more mindspace available for independent thought and doing your own thing without merely reflecting the glory of the global leaders. Also, the people with the chops for doing international level work are more likely to stick to the local circles when there's nothing like e.g. the Forge attracting them, which further improves the quality of the local culture of play and design.

    I might estimate that if the consequences of the shift have been similar in e.g. half a dozen national/local rpg scenes of similar scope, then we're basically producing as much if not more of thoughtful, progressive rpg design work as the Forge community ever did. It's just that we don't know about what the others are doing because of, well, the non-existence of a shared international community. Perhaps there is some duplication of effort, but I think that the massive avoidance of groupthink probably off-sets that; I would be highly surprised if the local innovations, lessons and design trends over the last five years in your local community, wherever that is, were the same ones we have here. We don't even play Apocalypse World around here, practically speaking :D

    So I guess my answer to Paul's question is that while he's probably right about the newcomer being out of luck in terms of grasping the rpg world in their finger-tips via a highly visible international community, the upside is that the local culture may today be much more competent to actually act as a legit background for your hobby and work, even with the big-Internet opportunities diminishing. That is, of course, if you happen to come from a non-insular local community that's actually been capable of improving and amassing the cultural capital to remain competitive.

    A random idea related to this: it might be an interesting thread if we asked some people active in the diaspora to come in and report on the recent developments in their own corner of the rpg scene. This could be about some web platform that not everybody is reading, like G+, or a nation thing like the Finnish scene largely is, or whatever. Could be interesting, particularly if somebody's invented that philosopher's stone I've been looking for while I wasn't paying attention. Being as how e.g. I practically only follow the Finnish developments these days, all your excellent stones are being lost on me up there in the clouds or wherever it is that the kids keep their facebooks nowadays.
  • edited January 2016
    I managed to find a nice RPG design community in fb
    Where's that? The only one I could find while rummaging about the other day (apart from my local UK-based ones) was one that despite being called Indie RPG (which would suggest an international flavour) is inhabited entirely by Portuguese speakers.

  • The Indie RPG FB group is pretty good, and pretty international.

  • RyRy
    edited January 2016
    I think this is largely true.
    Yup. But it's a consequence of:

    1) the theory work is considered done by the originals that could be mentors of the next cohort.

    2) many in the next cohort still think that there is lots of theory ground to break, but encounter silence or disinterest rather than resources to bring them along.
  • I think I broadly agree with this assessment, but I would optimistically venture that gaining access to the "right" social media circles is not as difficult as it seems. Let's say someone new to the world of indie RPGs hears about Dungeon World, they start following the official DW Twitter, they notice that the designers are quite prolific on Twitter, they start seeing tweets about other games, and RTs/at-replies to other designers... you get the picture. As a player/enthusiast, at least, that's how it's been for me outside of Story-Games. Now, breaking into the conversation as a designer and gaining access to the actual discourse is another matter entirely.
  • edited January 2016
    The Indie RPG FB group is pretty good, and pretty international.
    Do you mean this one? Because I couldn't find any posts on it not in Portuguese.
  • Oh, I've just discovered this one, which is in English, and I know many of the members.
  • edited January 2016
    I think "find like-minded folks" and "find Forge-style theory and experimentation" are two different issues.

    Re: the latter:

    I can't tell whether Forge-style wisdom is now harder than ever to find because ongoing conversation is decentralized, or easier than ever to find because it's vaguely disseminated out into the larger RPGosphere. I mean, you can bump into people on RPGnet who reject 1990s RPG assumptions without even hunting for them.

    RPG theory is a weird beast. On one end, there's general "question assumptions" and "think about the real people" type stuff, which I think is generally circulating out there. On the other end, there are specific details of how specific types of games work, which are harder to find but also relevant to many fewer people. So if you'd benefit most from chatting about how to give your premise-supporting conflict escalation mechanics social and mechanical traction, then yeah, if you don't know the right people, that sucks for you; but if you'd benefit most from knowing that not every RPG needs hit points and levels, then the general RPG chat world has you covered.

    Maybe. Just a theory.

    Re: "like-minded":

    I no longer consider "vaguely Forge-like" to be meaningfully "like-minded", not the way I did when the only RPGs I knew carried the same set of '90s assumptions. What I look for now is narrower, and thus harder to find.

    If I had the energy, I'd probably launch communities (FB? G+? Forums? I dunno) dedicated to my interests, and then do what I could to recruit people who shared those interests until we had critical mass for reliable conversation. That sounds like a lot of work, though, so for now I try to express my interests as best I can in my Story Games thread titles and hope that people who share my interests see them.

    If I could stand to be active enough on G+ to start popping up in people's feeds regularly, I'd do that, but I can't. My online brain still moves at the pace of email. For anyone who can keep up the pace, though, I suspect that Circling a few people who make games you like and are active on G+ and then contributing to their discussions and Circling others who do likewise might get you some audience for your own posts. Maybe? I'd be curious to know what Jason's observed on that front.
  • edited January 2016
    For anyone who can keep up the pace, though, I suspect that Circling a few people who make games you like and are active on G+ and then contributing to their discussions and Circling others who do likewise might get you some audience for your own posts.
    This has definitely worked for me.
  • edited January 2016
    Yup, me too. The Communities are pretty useless if you ask me, except perhaps as a launching point for more finely-tuned relations ("cruising"), and for scattering a message across a lot of eyeballs. But direct interaction within individuals in my circles, including comment threads that pull in other people, has been very good.

    Fast paced, short exchanges, non-searchable and hard to find later, but good.

  • The Indie RPG FB group is pretty good, and pretty international.
    Do you mean this one? Because I couldn't find any posts on it not in Portuguese.
    Yes, that's the one I mean.
    I also once found a forum called indie-rpgs.com, but all the posts were in English.
  • The quotation in the OP matches my own experience. Of course, my personality doesn't help ;-)

    I've also found a minority of people in face-to-face communities prepared to parrot garbled versions of online debates for lack of anything else to say.

    These platforms were designed for viral marketing rather than for discussion. I find it rather sweet that we expect them to create social cohesion.

  • edited January 2016
    I agree with the problem of "communities": searching, building/following a topic over a longer time is not it's strenght.
    You don't see "classic forums" much these days.

    I have the impression that personal blogs have taken up the duty of creating a certain 'permanence', at least for certain sub-topics.
  • edited January 2016
    The Indie RPG FB group is pretty good, and pretty international.
    Do you mean this one? Because I couldn't find any posts on it not in Portuguese.
    Yes, that's the one I mean.
    I also once found a forum called indie-rpgs.com, but all the posts were in English.
    Oh ok, I think I see what you're doing there. Nice-smelling bait, but I'll pass on it thanks ;)

  • While social media can be a great way to connect with people, it certainly doesn't afford much to the casual searcher who is not connected to the "scene" in the first place.

    With a forum, you can hear someone talking about it online, do a search for it, and then read through the archives, picking whatever topics of discussion are important or relevant to you. The discussions are searchable, persistent, and public.

    With social media, it's generally impossible to find anything (and people generally like to make the most controversial or interesting discussions private, if possible), and only the most "current" topics are even available - and even that, for a short time.

    My experience is that blog posts are the only way these days of sharing "persistent" information with people outside one's social circle. Is that correct?

    Like David, I enjoy being involved in online discussions, but social media discussions move so quickly that I can't meaningfully keep up. (And on most platforms it isn't possible to bookmark a link and forward it to a friend, or some such.)


  • So I guess my answer to Paul's question is that while he's probably right about the newcomer being out of luck in terms of grasping the rpg world in their finger-tips via a highly visible international community, the upside is that the local culture may today be much more competent to actually act as a legit background for your hobby and work, even with the big-Internet opportunities diminishing. That is, of course, if you happen to come from a non-insular local community that's actually been capable of improving and amassing the cultural capital to remain competitive.
    I hope you are right, Eero!

    I have not seen that, myself, in my (fairly small) circles. The people I used to have regular discussions with on central fora are now more likely to simply play games with their friends and occasionally publish completed designs. In order to have conversations with them I now have to contact them individually. It certainly isn't easy or accessible to me anymore.

    On the plus side, the social media approach does seem to make it easier to "meet" lots of new people for conversations, so long as they are connected to you through some social relation.
  • edited January 2016
    The Indie RPG FB group is pretty good, and pretty international.
    Do you mean this one? Because I couldn't find any posts on it not in Portuguese.
    Yes, that's the one I mean.
    I also once found a forum called indie-rpgs.com, but all the posts were in English.
    Oh ok, I think I see what you're doing there. Nice-smelling bait, but I'll pass on it thanks ;)

    It's not "bait", it's calling out your ethnocentrism.
    The Facebook group "Indie RPG" is about exactly that, even if it's "only" in the world's 6th most popular language instead of the 2nd.
  • The Indie RPG FB group is pretty good, and pretty international.
    Do you mean this one? Because I couldn't find any posts on it not in Portuguese.
    Yes, that's the one I mean.
    I also once found a forum called indie-rpgs.com, but all the posts were in English.
    Oh ok, I think I see what you're doing there. Nice-smelling bait, but I'll pass on it thanks ;)

    It's not "bait", it's calling out your ethnocentrism.
    The Facebook group "Indie RPG" is about exactly that, even if it's "only" in the world's 6th most popular language instead of the 2nd.
    Oh dear, upset that I didn't rise to your bait? Well, I told you I wouldn't.
  • @catty-big I meant this one
    Ah ok, this one seems to be more about design. Good, that's in my wheelhouse, thanks.
  • edited January 2016

    Oh dear, upset that I didn't rise to your bait? Well, I told you I wouldn't.
    OK, maybe I wasn't being clear enough. Check your privilege, as the saying goes.
    Whatever sentiment you were trying to express with your first post, it came out very Little Englander.

    You could have just said "I found a group called Indie RPG, but it's in Portuguese, so it's not much use to me."

    But criticising the members of that group for speaking their own language - not so cool.


  • Speaking in Moderator mode to catty_big and Coalhada, whether you are right or wrong please don't mess with the Zen. Just walk away.
  • Hmm... Interesting points here. As I deactivated all social media a few years ago I feel further and further behind the times.

    I'm not really active on it, but isn't Reddit basically a bunch of little forums that you maintain a constant user profile across? Seems like that could be a good platform for discussion that is searchable and allows for the sort of one stop shop appeal that social media has. Because I do think that it's sort of tedious being a member of a bunch of different forums and that if they were all linked somehow it could lead to interesting cross-pollination of discussion.
  • I've always been more of a lurker. Still, I really liked the kind of archived discussions I saw on the Forge, and the ones going on here when it was more active. The story-games G+ community hasn't really taken off from what I can see (nor do I like the G+ format).

    I find it harder now to stumble upon these discussions on G+ (for example), even though I'm following a bunch of the people whose games I enjoyed or whose posts I liked in said forums. I get the impression that a few of those folks aren't too interested in discussing game design. Perhaps they've moved on, or I'm not in the right G+ circles.

    On the plus side, G+ allowed me to create a solo gaming community which has gotten bigger than I ever dreamed of (even if tiny compared to other groups). I've even seen a few folks come by who I think were active in the indie scene, which has been good because I'm seeing more ideas that break the trend set by Mythic. I like that diversity of thought.

    Of course, I can't claim that it was because of the existence of the G+ group, but I'm glad it's gotten on their radar in such a way that they have decided to share their ideas there as well.
  • Yesterday I decided to search the groups at GoodReads.com for discussions on RPG books, and I found nothing but fic-chat. I.e., the literal act of roleplaying, but no discussions about roleplaying books. And this on a book-centric site.

    So I started a group up there. Recruitment-wise: I think GR might be a good place to search for RPG newcomers or come-backers - it's a place where you can find cerebral people who enjoy the act of reading, especially fiction. This touches on issues of not only "community" and marketing (obvs), but also literary merit and authorial intent. For those of us who view our work as a type of quasi-literary art, it should behoove us to place our work where it will be seen by the literati, no?

    So anyway, it's here:
    https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/181912-rpgs-storygames

  • As if we needed another example, not 30 posts in and already people have lost their shit over benign comments. Guess what? Pointing out that posts on a fora someone called 'pretty international' are in one language does not require a 'privilege check'. And even the comeback for that perceived slight was clever and amusing enough to let slide. Seriously, this is exactly the kind of misunderstanding between people who don't share enough context and read in bad faith that keeps people from reaching out.

    Internet culture has become toxically political and overly literal as of late, which boggles me for a medium built on symbols and interpretations. Where you post and who you associate with carries more weight than what you have to say, and many have a disproportionate idea of just how much an impact game design has on social change (or that it should be used for such in the first place). The major 'social' platforms cannot be searched effectively or used for nuanced discussions, which makes it less likely for meaningful ideas to find genesis, and more likely for harmful misunderstandings to occur. Context has become nonexistent, or rather only one context is ever considered, and bad faith readings are the norm. And game systems (which even include Fate and Apocalypse World) are being used to aggressively establish tribal affiliations as opposed to further design. It's no longer about discussing ideas, but enforcing tribal boundaries.

    And those Facebook pages had nothing in the way of legitimate design discussion. The RPG Design Network was especially bad, consisting of nothing but ads, or worse, ads framed as design discussions. The closest they got were inquires such as 'd6's or d8's?', and a poll on which existing systems track damage 'best'. In addition they require you to post at least once a month to 'keep the list active'. If that's not a commercially driven directive that will lead to posts of no substance, I don't know what will.

    The sad truth is that most people are not worth listening to and not willing to listen when it comes to, well, most things. Even I may not be worth listening to, but I still listen, and I'm going to seek out designers who have a culture of communication and understand how mechanics influence human behavior, (regrettably) not complete unknowns, or folks who keep reinventing the same damn game over and over again (usually because they've never bothered to read or play anything beyond some form of D&D).

    Honestly, this is about the last forum on the internet where any meaningful tabletop RPG design discussion takes place. Beyond this I'll just have to engage with the designers whose insight matters to me directly. And while they're not exactly inaccessible in their virtual ivory towers, the current medium still revolves around the designer and not the ideas being discussed.

    And I think that's where most of us are.

  • I've been on G+ for years, but it took a long time to find and connect. Epidiah's public "get to know" posts last year were very helpful (and triggered a flurry of activity and new connections).

    So even if it's a bit more Byzantine, I like it: I get to do my own moderating, and tune signal-to-noise the way I prefer.

    Also: it seems people make an effort to use plain English when explaining concepts, avoiding specialized terminology or referring to ten page forum discussions from 2002.
  • Aaand now the 'new' Google+ is hiding previously public content without a login, making it impossible to archive and more difficult for new people to become involved.

    Wonderful.
  • Aaand now rpg.net is banning users for asking questions like these, calling them unhelpful and aggressive. When did questions like those become either? How is it even possible to engage in design discussions in such an environment, let alone connect with individual designers?

    So scratch rpg.net for being a viable alternative for design discussions, at least for me, because these are exactly the kind of questions I'd be asking and expect to be asked. Seriously, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm running out of environments online where ideas can be safely and productively challenged and refined.
  • Bummer about G+. I'm always logged into Gmail anyway, so that shouldn't matter for me, right? Which is probably exactly what Google wants...

    As for RPGnet, it's a week suspension, not a ban; and although I don't love the way the moderators wrote the explanation for it, I do get it upon reading the original thread. The real problem isn't aggression or that these are bad questions to ask, it's that they were completely out of place in that particular thread. Being asked "what are you looking to achieve?" and "why should anyone give this a second look?" when you want help with your setting details is a complete derail. I think those are good questions to ask in a game-holistic or marketing discussion, though, and I hope the mods wouldn't censor them then.

    My perception is that I can challenge ideas in plenty of places, Story Games included, but only within the parameters of the idea-offerers' goals. I can't make someone else care about something just because it seems important to me. So I kinda have to just wait until the right confluence of my interests and others' arises. That doesn't occur as often as I'd like, it's true, but I don't really see a better option.

    When I first arrived on the RPG internets, I was massively derailed from my design efforts when people with a point to make about something else jumped into my threads and I thought that they knew best and I should listen to them. So I certainly wouldn't recommend the "everyone provoke and challenge whatever, whenever!" approach.

    I wish I had an answer about "productively", though. Where do ideas actually get refined? It seems pretty scattershot to me. Maybe more in the reading and thinking than in the workshopping? I don't know.
  • Aaand Facebook's 'authentic' name policy is keeping a large segment of minority voices (including Native Americans, transfolk, and targets of harassment) out of the conversation entirely. Really, they claim they're fighting harassment by requiring name verification, yet they're enabling it by forcing people to divulge their authentic names publicly.

    The mind. It boggles.
    As for RPGnet, it's a week suspension, not a ban
    It's 'Infraction: 5) Seven Day Ban'. That's what rpg.net calls it. But since the terms are synonymous in this case, why imply there's a meaningful difference?
    The real problem isn't aggression or that these are bad questions to ask, it's that they were completely out of place in that particular thread. Being asked "what are you looking to achieve?" and "why should anyone give this a second look?" when you want help with your setting details is a complete derail. I think those are good questions to ask in a game-holistic or marketing discussion, though, and I hope the mods wouldn't censor them then.
    Fair enough. I guess I got more hung up on the fact that the questions which received the 'warning' were reasked just three posts later with no problem. And the only difference I can possibly imagine would be tone.
  • Didn't mean to nit-pick terms; I just saw your description, "banning users," and thought that meant "forever." So I wanted to mention "seven days" when I discovered that was the case. To me, "ban" sounds permanent whereas "suspension" sounds temporary, but maybe that's just me.

    As for the different standards for different posters, I don't know. I see a difference in content between those two posts -- requesting justification for a procedure rather than for the whole game -- but I agree that there are a lot of similarities too. You might be right on tone!
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