Journal of RPG theory

Each medium has both advantaged and disadvatages. Blogs seem to be very good for thinking, for informal discussion and for spreading ideas quickly; but they seem to me to be pretty bad for producing polished, well though-out articles and storing such articles in an accessible way. There is little incentive to rewrite your blog posts in the light of discussion. Blog posts tend to disappear from view after a few days, or weeks at most.

Now it seems to me that it would be very useful if RPG theorists, after thinking about a subject and discussing it with each other, would write nicely structured, thorough articles about their conclusions; and if these were stored and made easily accessible at some central place. In fact, this seems to me more important than unifying all these theory blogs at one location.

So maybe we need an online journal of RPG theory? This would be a website that publishes thoughtful articles about RPG theory. It would encourage authors to first discuss the subject on blogs, so they can test their ideas and improve them. It would peer review articles, but probably in a rather informal way by the editors - the standard academic peer review process would be both impractical and pretentious, I think.

I am especially interested in your opinion about this. What do you think? Do we need an online journal of RPG theory, as an addition to the current proliferation of blogs?


  1. Yes.

    That's the short answer. I know Chris Lehrich and Thomas Robertson have both been thinking about solutions to this. Thomas' most recent post about that is here:

    Peer review is somewhat difficult to handle; though I think, personally, that word of mouth will soon lead to the more skilled article writers to be more frequented and considered more of an authority without some sort of board or peer voting mechanism.

  2. I think it'd be neat to try.

    The peer review bit is the hard part. If you can figure how to finagle that without (too much) bitching about bias, it'd be awesome.

  3. This is me, agreeing.

    I think the question is less who would people accept/not accept as peer reviewers, but who is going to step up and actually do it?

    I know that the guys behind things like PUSH and Daedalus put a ton of work into them, more than most would think. If three or four people with fair-to-good name recognition stepped up to be the review board, and there's others willing not only to argue that they should be on it but be willing to replace them, then there's a problem. The chances of that happening? I don't know, but they're probably not terribly high.

    But yes, if there was such a thing, with a dedicated review board and enough submissions to be relevant (a couple a month, maybe?), that would be very awesome.

  4. Ok, great. I am willing to put time into this project, and try to get it off the ground.

    What I need is at least two or three other people who'd be willing to put some time into this. First stage is simply brainstorming, talking to people, finding out about similar projects (we don't need TWO journals of RPG theory); we'll see about the work needed to build the thing and keep it going later. So, no strings attached: please tell me if you wish to spend some time trying to make this happen.

    By the way, I can provide free hosting for the forseeable future (excluding costs for a domain name, but that's so little that I'm more than willing to cough it up myself), so at least there are not financial barriers.

  5. [Sorry, I posted this over at LiveJournal last night.]

    I like this idea very much (if it hasn't already been done).

    I have to ask though, would there be a peer-review phase?


  6. Again, you may want to get in touch with Jonathon Walthon (his blog) and pick his brain about where he sees PUSH heading, and what differences there would be between what you're talking about and what he's doing.

    That said, I'm definitly willing to get the word out and float the idea to others. Am I willing to put in time after that? My heart says yes, but my brain says maybe. Once there's a clear mission statement and/or organized plan of attack, I think it would be easier for people to evaluate whether they can commit.

    All of is which to say, the zero-stage people and the people who actually take the reigns may not be the same people, which I think is fine.

  7. I'll throw my hat in, Victor.

    One thing we may want to consider, instead of a single artifact-magazine, is a continual content site using a tiki/wiki/slashdottish framework that allows people to post articles to gain credibility, and then use that credibility to rate articles as credible or incredible.

    My only question to either site or physical journal is: why will people submit articles when they could be writing their games?

  8. Joshua--

    Procrastination. It's a powerful force.

    - Christian

  9. It's not like we're not all blogging while writing games already. I don't see a big problem.

    Also, I'm of the mind of having a static Journal (in PDF, maybe POD via Lulu or something), but having open discussion online in the interim between issues. I mean, that would be the whole point of doing peer review, right?

  10. Fang, peer review would be good, if it can be done in an efficient manner. This has to be decided in what Nathan called 'stage zero' - the stage of brainstorming. I absolutely agree with Nathan that the stage zero people need not be the stage one (actual execution) people, and my current call strictly concerns stage zero.

    That being said, can I put Nathan and Joshua on the 'stage zero' list? If so, I'll send you an email soon. (Joshua, I hope I'm reading your "I'll throw my hat in" right - it's idiom I'm unfamiliar with.)

    I'll get in touch with Jonathan Walthon, and also with Chris Lehrich and Thomas Robertson (whom Xenopulse mentioned).

  11. There are ways to make blog archives more accessible, although I agree that the conception of "blog = immediacy" means that not everyone will think to go digging.

    Over on Treasure Tables, I de-emphasized the monthly archives (which aren't very useful), made the category archives display posts by title, and alphabetically (instead of chronologically), and put up a key posts page to get you to the juicy stuff quickly.

    There was already a search box, which is pretty common.

    Well-tuned categories (not too broad, not too narrow) and other things -- like plugins that show related posts after each post -- can also be put to good use.

    Not that a more static model wouldn't work well -- I just wanted to mention an alternative. :)

  12. Well, I'm willing to do my part reviewing and writing papers. And possibly with logistics as well.

  13. Victor,
    I offer space and infrastucture based on the indie rpg planet I am building at the moment. Since the planet is still in it's budding stage, it would give it more meaning besides collecting the feeds of indie game designers and theorists

  14. Heya,

    Consider my voice to be one of support. I'd just want those who are getting into this that it will take a very serious, patient, and dedicated mind to make it work. I don't doubt any of you. But I just don't want to see something really cool take off then burn out.

    I too suggest talking to Johnathan Walton and Clinton Nixon to see if their projects clash with this idea in any way.

    Good luck! :)




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