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May 01, 2004

A practical approach to RPG criticism

Adam Tinworth: "The roleplaying industry lacks any serious attempt to review RPGs well... In the absence of a core of good, respected, regular reviewers, they have to turn to the screeching howler monkeys of the internet, screaming their low value opinions into the digital world."

Adam argues for "a single source of good, edited, commissioned reviews run by skilled people and provided by a team of experienced gamers and writers." I'm not sure this is practical. It takes time and effort to deliver the kind of analysis that Adam wants, something that few experienced gamers and writers, with many other calls on their time, would be able to commit to.

That's not to say that few people could or would deliver good reviews or criticism. The problem with Adam's proposal, I think, is that it puts the onus on a small circle of people. If the community wants "Basements and Bugbears" reviewed, the editors have to commission someone to review "Basements and Bugbears." This is hard work for both the editors and the reviewer. Whereas I might pick the game up on the off-chance, and post a review because I think there are points of interest, or just because I want to warn people off.

Unfortunately, if I post that review here, Adam won't know about it because he won't know to come here. Whereas if I post it in a well-trafficked forum, he won't know about it because he wisely avoids screeching howler monkeys. There's little incentive for me to write a review nobody will read, and there's no value to readers in reviews they can't find.

How do we provide a common location where trusted writers can find an audience, and readers can find a source of trustworthy writers? Aggregation.

Specifically, moderated aggregation. There clearly needs to be editorial control, otherwise the screeching howler monkeys just hurl their faeces down the aggregated feed instead of in their nasty little forums. But aggregation steps the role down from commissioning to moderation, and with a suitable definition of the feed the traffic should remain fairly low. Sure, from a critical point of view it's not as good as a rigorous editorial process, but it has the benefit that it might actually maintain a flow of content.

Will the howler monkeys screech like crazy about elitists and exclusion and so on? Hell yes. Do I care? Hell no. I've read Slashdot. Nothing the screeching howler monkeys can do or say will impress me now.

The technology is out there. RSS enables the establishment of centralised aggregator sites and aggregated feeds, and the principle of moderated aggregation has been demonstrated by conference aggregator sites like pdcbloggers.

My goodness, I'm almost enthused to start writing about RPGs again. Make room for one more screeching howler monkey, Adam.

May 1, 2004 in Games | Permalink


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Tracked on May 2, 2004 5:43:29 AM