(blog post) You Don't Have A Tabletop RPG Community (Probably) - Part One

I wrote a blog post nobody wants to read about a subject nobody can stop discussing. Aren't you glad I'm back? Here's the link.

Comments

  • This shit is solid gold, JD. Thank you.
  • I'll be honest, I zoned out about halfway through, but only because I already agree with (if I didn't misunderstand you) the points you're trying to make about consumptive and/or virtual identity formation? But I mean...I do agree (probably).
  • edited October 2018
    Nice to online-see you again, Jason. :)

    I think tabletop RPG communities are temporary phenomena that exist more strongly or weakly in the lives of specific individuals. That is, anyone might choose to stake their resources, satisfaction, and/or sanity on some RPG endeavor which has communal aspects.

    Not sure whether you'd agree?

    I do agree that "all gamers who talk to each other online" is not remotely a community.

    Based on your points about how certain platforms with no shared values/priorities make community impossible, I wonder if you think of this forum (with its gentle but IMO relevant attempt to moderate some shared values/priorities into the place) as a community?
  • I've also observed the lack of organizing-to-pursue-a-goal that you have. I've never quite understood why that's the case. I think you make a solid argument for why social media is not naturally suited for organizing, but I'm not sure why people haven't found ways to organize regardless. To me this smells like an issue of modern American culture, but maybe the same issues of platform apply. I'm really interested to see if we'll get better at this -- I don't see why a "make D&D refuse to work with abusers in the future" Kickstarter or GoFundMe or something couldn't be effectively promoted on social media, for example. Maybe that "or something" is a community initiatives website not yet born...
  • I mean, it's a community if you use that word very loosely.
    It's not a community I would want to help me raise a barn.
    But, I mean, people have raised money for people.
    It's a shame much of the good is money instead of acts. I guess clicking the PAY button is easier than helping someone move out of their apartment because of an unhealthy romantic relationship.
  • Kickstarters and GoFundMes are storefronts/charities. They might live in a community but they aren't a community and can't form the basis for one. There's a reason that there's no "community initiative" type of website or app and that reason is because doing so would threaten any revenue stream that might develop. The history of the Internet is one in which communities are repeatedly targeted by monied interests and eliminated one by one. To an Internet entrepreneur, a community is a thing that can be sold to Facebook.

    Organizing is not easy and it can fail. You can't fail to post your opinion on social media. So social media is more attractive, and nothing will happen. Hail Satan.

    As far as Story Hyphen Games Dot Com goes, I think there are times when perhaps everyone or nearly everyone has the same goal, usually the improvement of play of tabletop RPGs. (This is one reason it's never been any good for designers talking about design. Alternately, when it's good for designers talking about design it's not good for people trying to improve their play.)

    Structurally, which is the chief point of my post, an enthusiast web forum is a more conducive environment to community than social media. But even a web forum can sell ad space, and once there's a crack in the dam, there's a lot of water pushing at it...
  • That blog post is spot-on
  • edited October 2018
    I mean, it's a community if you use that word very loosely.
    It's not a community I would want to help me raise a barn.
    But, I mean, people have raised money for people.
    It's a shame much of the good is money instead of acts. I guess clicking the PAY button is easier than helping someone move out of their apartment because of an unhealthy romantic relationship.
    To be fair, the giving of money is an act that nowadays transcends distance. And if there is one thing the "RPG community" IS, it's geographically dispersed. You might be my dearest friend and staunchest ally in the world, but no way am I flying across the country to help you move your apartment. Yes, if you are having some sort of crisis where my presence would make the difference I would, but those are few and far between.
  • edited October 2018
    I can't believe it's 2018 and I'm on story-games dot com. I feel weirdly emotional right now.

    I didn't even know about G+ getting shut down; I haven't been there in any real sense for years. I just got a bug up my ass today and googled an old post and saw that, wow, people are still here.

    Anyway, it's good to see that Jason is still saying the same things (and I mean that genuinely). I don't know what to say other than that I agree.

    Both in tone and (somewhat) in content this post reminds me of the best novel I've read in the last five years, I Hate The Internet.


    As far as Story Hyphen Games Dot Com goes, I think there are times when perhaps everyone or nearly everyone has the same goal, usually the improvement of play of tabletop RPGs.
    It would be kind of nice if it could be that again.

  • There are times when it's more design-heavy, and it's like, UGH, fine, designers, I mean, TECHNICALLY they're fine, some of them seem like, I don't know, nice, I guess. :)

    Nice to see you again too.
  • this is good make gamers communist pls

    But also: i think there is an alternate reality where ppls complaints could be useful in ways that are not enumerated here. The reason they aren't is because, as described, the social media entities and the publishers and all the other powers of the market have redefined criticism to be about personal preferences (when it's not about personal attacks), since that's what's important to them. But criticism, even in this specific example, can serve alternate causes than getting a publisher to change their mind!

    Wo maybe that's one thing that could be actually done but i'm not sure if it would work.

    The very idea of a sustained critical approach to something like d&d 5 doesn't exist in any form except for like, ppls direct engagements with trying to make the game work well on places like this. Anyway that's probably why i like reading this forum even if it's an inadequate solution it's as close as we've got?
  • Yeah, I definitely think there are elements to all fandoms, even more passive fandoms than ours, that are enhanced by our communications technologies and which are good, and which can form the basis for communities. Fan fiction, for example, existed before the Internet of course, but many communities around its creation have blossomed. Note that the purpose of these communities is something other than commercial preferences - they exist to promote the form, to promote fan fiction of a particular type, to critique and improve fan fiction, to encourage fan writers, and so on.

    (And where do fan fiction communities go wrong? When, instead of responding to the commercial production, they start to feel that they own it, that they are entitled to the source material to be a particular way - when they start to try to make their communities about their commercial preferences rather than their creative process.)

    Certainly there could be an organization which could try to achieve some political or moral goal in the field of tabletop RPGs. And I even will grudgingly admit - if you really press me - that social media could play some role in the operation of such an organization. But it wouldn't look anything like what we have now, which is a sequence of overlapping personal broadcasts of individual preferences. And it wouldn't, I have to emphasize this, it wouldn't be a bunch of friends who like each other or who like each other's games, or even a particular type of game.

  • I didn't understand much of this. It seems there are a few main themes. One theme is about the definition of the word "community". That the way most people use that word is wrong? I'm not a native speaker, so obviously I'm not an authority, but looking up definitions, I get things like "a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the)". That seems to apply pretty well to RPG players. It's of course fine to argue that we should all use a word differently, to mean a different thing, but it's rarely effective.

    The other part seems to be that social media is horrible in some respect, though I'm not sure I understand the problem here, either. I'm an outsider again, since I haven't tried social media, so perhaps it makes more sense to people who have.

    Then there's the D&D controversy. I haven't heard of this before, but these things happen from time to time. It seems to me that the thing about it all being driven by money means that people have lots of possibilities to affect. If you don't like what Wizards are doing, you don't give them money, and if enough people don't like it, Wizards will either have to change it or get financial problems. And if the problem is that you don't like that others like it, well, I must admit my response is mostly "well, too bad".

    So, it's no wonder I'm confused, I guess. I'm a non-native English speaker who's never used social media and don't know about the D&D controversy, who's reading a blog post about the definition of an English word, how horrible social media is, and about the D&D controversy. I guess I'll just shrug and move on, but at any rate, it was an interesting read and an image into a world (or a community?) that I wasn't familiar with before. Thanks!
  • edited October 2018
    With the same background, I can tell the post denounces an illusion of righteousness from people who are, in fact, merely consumers. You can relate to this even if you don't use social medias, provided you don't live in the woods.
    I wonder how this thread is not political, though.
  • So, it's no wonder I'm confused, I guess. I'm a non-native English speaker who's never used social media and don't know about the D&D controversy,
    Same here! (Well, I've never used mainstream corporate social media, I've tried some less successful fringe ones) Despite that, the OP blog post immediately resonated with me. Might be that we are coming at it from different political backgrounds?
  • If you don't recognize what I'm talking about, great! The problem is not all-consuming and doesn't encompass you. Ignore everything I said.

    As far as an illusion of righteousness, again, I feel I must emphasize this, don't blame the victims here. There's nothing wrong with taking a political or moral stand on an event in the hobby. There's nothing wrong with organizing to accomplish a political or moral goal. And there's a billion dollars a year screaming in people's ear that they can effect moral change if they only share their commercial preferences just a little bit louder and a little bit more often. To say I'm simply observing people embracing an "illusion of righteousness" erases the hucksters who are frantically selling them that illusion in increasingly aggressive and threatening ways. Even your grandmother is on Facebook now. (Facebook would prefer you relate to each other as fellow consumers, of course, and stop loving her, if you can.)

    Simon alleges: "If you don't like what Wizards are doing, you don't give them money, and if enough people don't like it, Wizards will either have to change it or get financial problems." But boycotts simply do not happen that way. Not historically, not now, and never in the future. There must be something more than just shrugging your shoulders and walking away if you hope to accomplish a political or moral goal. But sharing your preference is enough for social media success! In fact, it's been intentionally constructed to reward that more than anything else. That's why the people who thought WOTC had done a wicked thing came away sickened and unsatisfied. Because they did what they had been directly and repeatedly told was sufficient to "support the community" and it accomplished not a single thing.

    The D&D consultants controversy was only one of the many, many examples of moral and political paroxysms that shake the "online RPG players community" routinely. But they all share the same outcome: absolutely nothing whatsoever. The point of my post is that this is by design - not by the design of RPG players, but by the design of those that control the communications channels they operate in.
  • Might be that we are coming at it from different political backgrounds?
    That's probably it. To me, "Other people are producing a thing I don't like and other other people are buying it" doesn't seem like something I should get upset about, and me not being able to stop them from doing that sounds like a feature, not a bug. A world where there's an "RPG community" that could force Wizards to change their hiring decisions or whatnot sounds like a terrible place to me.
  • @Simon_Pettersson I would +1 those exact words if we were to replace "Wizards" with a human person. But WotC is an arm of a corporation, and corps aren't human - even if they inhabit a swarm of humans for a body. They are, in fact, the enemy species to ours. This is not a joke, BTW.
  • If corporations are a hostile species (a hostile meme, rather?), though, then what does that make a "community"? Sounds like another being of the same ilk, consisting of a human swarm with a cultural superstructure.

    Maybe one of these swarm entities is better than the other due to how it treats its human components, or due to its goals, or for some other reason. However, it's not clear to me that their simply being swarm entities makes them evil.
  • Well, the specific things corporations in America get is adjusted means of fixing liability for improper actions. While not inherently wicked (liability in general being a moral and ethical morass that I happily have been sinking in for the last three years), certainly that power can and has been misused. It's a little orthogonal to my point, but it is a bit relevant in this way:

    Sometimes a corporation or other business enterprise is an important part of a community, or a target, or an enemy. There are those that think that WOTC is or ought to be a significant part of the "tabletop roleplaying community". On the other hand, extremely smart and good looking people like me think that the profit motive makes WOTC inherently untrustworthy and we should keep a close and suspicious watch on them anytime they get too close, and if they get too chummy, show them the door and fast. That ultimately the financial incentives for tabletop roleplayers and publishers aren't just different - they're in direct conflict and always shall be.

    But that's not how most people see it.
  • If corporations are a hostile species (a hostile meme, rather?), though, then what does that make a "community"? Sounds like another being of the same ilk, consisting of a human swarm with a cultural superstructure.
    Nah! A "community" is made up of humans - a network, or symbiosis, at the cultural-body level. A corporation isn't - it's more like a demon in Sorcerer - it just happens to inhabit swarms of humans as a temporary body sometimes.
  • edited October 2018
    If corporations are a hostile species (a hostile meme, rather?), though, then what does that make a "community"? Sounds like another being of the same ilk, consisting of a human swarm with a cultural superstructure.
    Nah! A "community" is made up of humans - a network, or symbiosis, at the cultural-body level. A corporation isn't - it's more like a demon in Sorcerer - it just happens to inhabit swarms of humans as a temporary body sometimes.
    Based on what I read in marketing books and books about building organizations, I think you highly misunderstood how a company is created.
  • On the other hand, extremely smart and good looking people like me think that the profit motive makes WOTC inherently untrustworthy and we should keep a close and suspicious watch on them anytime they get too close, and if they get too chummy, show them the door and fast. That ultimately the financial incentives for tabletop roleplayers and publishers aren't just different - they're in direct conflict and always shall be.

    But that's not how most people see it.
    Gotcha, that makes me understand the blog post better. It's very far from how I see things, but I understand it better now. Cool.

    And as Rafu said, it's probably down to political differences and I don't think anyone would be well served by airing those on SG.
  • It will be a central point of part 2 that politics isn't improper in our hobby or even our discussions, but that people aren't actually practicing it - they're just saying what it would be like if someone did.
  • edited October 2018
    I think in the international DIY scene it is (somewhat) different, but in my country if you publish something for free, it is considered by the mainstream as amateur. Its more or less the same for RPGs. Gabor Lux (Melan) published some terrific OSR modules with high value but outside of our small circles roleplayers only started to talk about his thing when he published a boxed set.

    I think PWYW is a smart idea because it communicates for me that:
    1. Your stuff is for money
    2. So maybe its a professional work
    3. So maybe it has high value
    4. Which I can check for free legally
    (5. And if it good, eventually it will bring you some money!)
  • I think free and PWYW publishers/designers do indeed occupy a different space than those working for the profit motive, but I'm not sure the incentives for them are more aligned with RPG players than their for-profit colleagues.
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