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The RPG Theory forum: what it's for

Started by Ron Edwards, February 15, 2005, 02:45:35 PM

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Ron Edwards


What is "theory?" Don't answer that. I will, for purposes of this forum and for the Forge in general.

Theory = makes the most possible sense.

Point #1: the specific topic is entirely up to each thread.

We could be discussing history, or comparisons among games. Or we could be discussing play-processes, or both.

Or we could be discussing ideas, in which case there are two ways to go. We could be discussing common-sense or clearly-observed role-playing events or processes, in hopes of finding principles. Or we could be discussing principles and seeing how they apply.

Or whatever, as long as it relates to aspects and contents of role-playing in any form.

This point also applies to degrees of abstraction. That is completely a matter of the interests of the person who starts the thread. Some of you may be surprised that "theory" may concern itself only with extremely concrete things. Nothing about the word implies abstraction.

Point #2: the "makes most sense" part is a communal concept, and a communal effort.

That means that arguing against a position or idea must always be treated, by all parties, as an attempt to reach mutual understanding rather than an attempt to win or to stake out turf. We aren't creating subcults of agreement or disagreement; we are seeing where our individual "sense of things" are not matching up.

Discourse usually helps all parties to adjust how they see things, although it is also perfectly good when some folks arrive at where their perspectives are incompatible. If (say) both people in such an exchange now understand their own and the other guy's perspective better, then it's all good.

Another aspect of this point is that a significant number of people who are not posting, in a particular thread, are indeed reading it and thinking about it. Your thread ("your" including folks who respond) is an archive - make it as insightful as possible, because it may spawn something amazing, some day. These other people are still part of the communal effort, so live up to their needs as well as those who are directly participating.

Point #3: the "possible" part means that we often have to say, hey, maybe we don't know enough. We've exposed a crucial or fruitful zone of ignorance, assumption, or need to investigate further. That's good!

Your task is always to watch out for that possibility, to recognize that a given single thread has a long-term role beyond the immediate discussion, and to avoid extending a debate just because your ego or your sense of "my thread" or whatever is involved.

Point #4: no single person is going to be interested in every topic raised in this forum. It's not going to happen. That means that when you check it out, get ready to sift just by being here. Your "oh my God it's crucial" thread is someone else's "more of that babble" thread.

But the corollary to that is, when you are interested in a thread in this forum, then make a special effort to use it. Read it carefully. Post to it if you think you can contribute to improved and shared understanding. Perhaps more importantly, apply it to some other discussion, either a contemporary one or perhaps far in the future. If it interests you, if you think it's relevant to role-playing as you see it, then internalize and utilize and reference that thread whenever it's appropriate.

There. I'm done. My basic definition, my four points, and what you should do about each of the points. Effective now.