Archive: May 6th, 2008

Theory and Roleplaying

[General] (05.06.08, 11:18 am)

The other day I came across a peculiar Wikipedia page on Roleplaying Theory. In my previous post about theory and practice, I came to the conclusion that in building models of something, it is better to focus on the practice than a written theory. Don’t get me wrong: I like, use, and appreciate theory. However, the actual application of it tends to have enough variation that it is too broad for implementing a model that can be simulated. Roleplaying theory is interesting in that the gaming group that I am most familiar with, as far as I know, has never touched any of the authors described on the page.

Instead, what has happened, as is the case in most any domain of practice, is that the style of roleplaying developed by this group is very closely related to the “simulationist” approach. The style seems to have been developed from exposure to drama, film, computer and console games, knowledge about the real world, and experimentation with other roleplaying systems. The result is an amalgam, but it also clearly falls within this simulationist category. What strikes me as odd is the idea that there can be anything else. From my exposure to the theory of models leads me to conclude that every domain is a simulation, the difference is just a matter of what is being simulated and how. A “gamist” game might simulate something with high mechanical interest, and a “narrativist” game might simulate existing genre conventions.

What is interesting to note is the fact that this practice does not derive from the theory. The theory may be best interpreted as a derivation of the practice. What is interesting further is that the practice is, in turn, a composition of simulations of other practices.