The Threat Of Intellectualism

Smart people thinking complex thoughts.  Do they hate you personally, or do they just want to ruin your life for their own abstract, probably atheistic reasons?

At least, that’s how the discussion seems to be framed sometimes whenever someone wants to think about RPGs at a level deeper than “Is my lucky d20 really lucky” or “But why *can’t* I kill the goblin children?”  Seems like if anyone tries to talk about RP theory it brings the pro-tard forces out of the woods.  “I just likey the fun!  How dare you try to analyze it?  Bulk Smash!”

If you agree with Bulk there, then you’ll hate the new International Journal of Role-Playing, which has just released its (free) first issue.  It’s a pretty stock academic journal in format, and includes articles like “A Hermeneutical Approach to Role-Playing Analysis.”  But if you like rubbing the occassional two brain cells together, you might like it!

In the same vein is the slightly older Push: New Thinking About Roleplaying.  Volume 1 is available free in PDF and there’s allegedly a Volume 2 in the works. Less scholarly but still fun.

The Finns are heavily represented; for whatever reason they are all about the RP theory.  Go Team Nordic!

All this isn’t really new.  Even in other geek circles, there’s loads of books that do nothing but philosophize about things norms enjoy for fun.  Take Star Wars On Trial, a collection of essays (David Brin stars) about the politics, gender bias, etc. etc. of Star Wars.  Heck, books like that especially for Star Wars and Star Trek are a whole genre.  Firefly can boast two essay collections, Finding Serenity and Serenity Found.  Orson Scott Card weighs in!  Heck, here’s a representative list of books in the “Smart Pop” series with serious essays on Angel, Buffy, Spiderman, the Matrix…

It’s rare in the RPG world, except for the marginalized FORGE/Edwards wonks, probably due the the “D&D Ghetto” effect.  But I think it’s worth thinking about RPGs more critically and analyzing them at a level higher than “what about the probability distribution of 3d6”?

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11 responses to “The Threat Of Intellectualism

  1. I like reading the articles (though do not agree with everything) from the FORGE, but I don’t dare tread the forums…

    I am working on my own series concerning what you might call critical thinking about RPGs, and I found John Kim’s site pretty good.

    If you can find any articles from Interactive Fiction (formerly Inter*Active), those are decent.

    And speaking of the Nordic contingent, their annual Knutepunkt/Solmukohta conference has produced a book on RPG theory for the last six years or so. They are spread all over the web though.

  2. That’s pretty interesting, thanks for the links. I’m a sucker for scholarly journal articles. I waste so much time using the University resources for things I completely do not understand. Simple man at heart (and brain) I suppose.

  3. Most interesting. I’ll read it.

  4. You might be interested in checking out the (now mostly defunct but showing signs of resurrection) RPG Theory Review blog, which is mostly focused on the “Indie” scene, but is quite good for something someone had done during his free time.

  5. Thanks for the links, I’m looking forward to reading those journals after I’d done with getting over this semester…

  6. “probably atheistic reasons” Huh?

  7. Hey all, good additional links, thanks for weighing in! Yeah, I have John Kim’s site in my blogroll to the right already! I’ll have to check out the RPG Theory Review.

  8. @Donny – sure, anyone smart is automatically an atheist, everyone knows that.

  9. LOL! Sorry, I misunderstood 🙂

  10. Oh, and socialist too. How could I forget?!?

  11. How sad is it that after your first paragraph I assumed you were talking about American political discourse?

    Also: stop being such a godless elitist commie.

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