Roleplay As A Form
Posted by Nathan P. on October 20, 2005
aka It’s about damn time I did some more blogging
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recentely – I feel like there an everpresent danger, with RPG theory/analysis/whathaveyou, of coopting too much “stuff” from other forms of entertainment.
First of all, at the end of the day, RPGs are entertainment. Can they be deep and meaningful? Yes. So can a university class. So can watching people in a park. So can a TV show. Is the purpose of roleplay to be deep and meaningful? No. I don’t think so. The purpose of roleplay is to have fun making shit up with your friends.
(In case anyone is thinking otherwise, I absolutely think that this is the fundemental point of The Forge, despite the rep its gotten as an arty-farty or pretentious bed of theory.)
Now, I also think that, because RPG theory is so underdeveloped, we’ve had to borrow a whole lot from extant disciplines in order to talk about what we want to talk about. But. RPGs are not cinema. They are not myth (with apologies to Chris Lehrich). They are not TV, or novels, or narrative arcs. They are something else.
Regular readers (i.e. Joshua) will know that I’ve been trying to pin down what, exactly, we do when we roleplay. But I’m constantly afraid that thinking about RPGs in reference to film (which I do a lot) and theatre (even more), I’m obfuscating what makes a RPG a RPG.
This is the only real weakness of PTA, and one intrinsic to the game, in my mind. It concentrates so much on replicating another medium that it may be in danger of drifting from its own. I’m not prepared to defend this statement at this point – its more of a thesis proposal than an argument. But I want to throw it out there.
I’m starting to lose my train of thought, so I’m going to wrap this up. Basically, I’m really going to make an effort to avoid comparing roleplay to other mediums for a while and see if that impacts my play and design. I want to write RPGs, not vehicles for the replication of other media.