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The Six Cultures of Gaming

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I thought folks might be interested in this well-written article explaining a taxonomy for different kinds of RPG play both contemporaneous and historically. I found it fascinating, even if I might quibble with a detail or two, and realize that most players probably straddle these different categories, it is useful lens, I think - a point of self-reflection on what a person wants/expects from a game.


I never visited this site before. Just happened on a link to it, but the writer's style is up my alley, clear but rigorous. Will definitely check out more.
 

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Agreed.

Really fantastic blog post.

I think I'm agreed across the board except for "Storygaming." I think the blog author would have been better served using "Story Now" instead in his taxonomy. He captures much of the central ideas, but riding right alongside coherence around premise/dramatic need is the "Play to Find Out" priority. That is absolutely fundamental and right there as a/the core tenet from Baker's Dogs in the Vineyward (Forge) to his post-Forge Apocalypse World. Sorcerer, My Life w/ Master, Blades in the Dark etc etc all feature this is the co-apex play priority (along with coherence around premise/dramatic need). The Forge was basically a reaction to "Story Before" gaming culture so "Story Now" is, in my mind, the most quintessential Forge offering.
 



CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I find there is a real cognitive issue when the author says, "here are the cultures of gaming" but then notes that most folks don't actually exist within any one culture.

I am pretty sure "cutlure" is really the wrong word.
I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought this!
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
That's an interesting blog post. Some of the cultures listed I've never seen, either in person or online as a unified concept with a dedicated following; I wonder if there are regional differences and I have just not been exposed to them.

As others mentioned, I could quibble (I'd probably break up the last OC/Neo-trad into more than one bucket), but if you are looking at this as descriptive not prescriptive and that hobbyists make take aspects from more than one it's pretty interesting.

Either way, it's a thoughtful enumeration of elements of gamers that are often found in tandem with each other.
 



I mean you could sub zeitgeist, play priorities, or even potato for culture and still get the thrust of the piece. It’s a well-done, extremely thoughtful, extremely accurate piece in my opinion. Even where I disagree (as above), it’s only a small corner of the whole work.

The nexus of TTRPG Zeitgeist and Play Priorities is sort of like the “is culture downstream of biology” question. Yes, of course it is. When biological creatures with primordial imperatives speciate from “culture-impossible” conditions, culture must be downstream of biology. But at some point, culture and biology becomes a feedback loop (therefore it becomes upstream and likely amplifying as well at some point).

The author deserves full marks for the research and formulation in my opinion.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That's an interesting blog post. Some of the cultures listed I've never seen, either in person or online as a unified concept with a dedicated following; I wonder if there are regional differences and I have just not been exposed to them.

The problem with one guy deciding to create pigeonholes is that you get their idea of the pigeonholes.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I mean you could sub zeitgeist, play priorities, or even potato for culture and still get the thrust of the piece.

Yes. The problem with "culture" is the connotations, which people will tend to apply whether you want them to or not.

It’s a well-done, extremely thoughtful, extremely accurate piece in my opinion.

The accuracy is the thing I wonder about. Folks used to think the Forge's Big Model was accurate, until they thought otherwise.

Frameworks like these can be good for teasing out thoughts, but we should stop a few steps short of taking them as accurate depictions of reality - especially given that he himself noted that for any given person, they do not cleanly apply. If we fail to keep attention on that constantly, the human mind will tend to slot people into stereotypes that fit their desired narratives and we end up with yet another way to divide Them, and Us.
 

Frameworks like these can be good for teasing out thoughts, but we should stop a few steps short of taking them as accurate depictions of reality - especially given that he himself noted that for any given person, they do not cleanly apply. If we fail to keep attention on that constantly, the human mind will tend to slot people into stereotypes that fit their desired narratives and we end up with yet another way to divide Them, and Us.

Don’t disagree with any of that. That all looks good to me.

I still think the analysis and research are strong. Given that he is an OSR enthusiast, I’m “supposed to be” situated such that I’m cynical over the issues I noted upthread in his Storygames entry. But I’m not going to be. Just because he hit a routine fly out to Center on his (imo should be) Story Now section, I’m not going to dismiss the piece. Doing that would prevent me from admiring the “Jacks” he hit elsewhere.

We’re never going to get anywhere interesting and enlightening if we dismiss every piece of analysis for a stray (and not terribly impactful) wart (even if it may be a little bit partisan-inspired).

EDITED FOR CLARIFICATION
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Frameworks like these can be good for teasing out thoughts, but we should stop a few steps short of taking them as accurate depictions of reality -
Pretty sure no one, not even the writer himself, said that (or even suggested it). Even in my original post, I said - "Good for reflection" not "the ultimate guide for pigeonholing yourself and others." Seems like a weird place to jump to given what and how it was written.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Pretty sure no one, not even the writer himself, said that (or even suggested it). Even in my original post, I said - "Good for reflection" not "the ultimate guide for pigeonholing yourself and others." Seems like a weird place to jump to given what and how it was written.

Weird? Being concerned that humans will apply stereotypes? That's weird, to you?

Please, what paradise do you live in, where this does not happen with alarming, painful regularity?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Weird? Being concerned that humans will apply stereotypes? That's weird, to you?

Please, what paradise do you live in, where this does not happen with alarming, painful regularity?

The paradise of the generous reading and the limited use of the skeptical reading without any evidence save "something other people do," I guess. If he leaned on gamer stereotypes to make his points, I think that skeptical reading would have a lot more utility.
 


Arilyn

Hero
I also really enjoyed the article for the bits of history entwined in it as I love reading RPG history.

I don't think analysis is problematic. It can help us find the style of game we prefer, or get into the spirit of a less familiar one.

And maybe an understanding of differing styles can help reduce the US vs. Them?
Okay, maybe way too optimistic...
 

Campbell

Legend
Weird? Being concerned that humans will apply stereotypes? That's weird, to you?

Please, what paradise do you live in, where this does not happen with alarming, painful regularity?

Even as someone who thinks there were some significant mistakes here I still would rather have visibility and acknowledgement of different cultures of play (a phrase I have always liked) rather than the erasure of my play priorities through the use of normative language I usually encounter. We can work on cleaning up misconceptions once groundwork has been laid. My experience has been without a way to talk about different ways to play only the dominant play culture's priorities get taken seriously.
 

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