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”?