Gaming, Experience, and Aesthetics

I promised a response to 'What the Old School Reformation is Fighting For and Against" some time ago.  I'm still working on it, or rather working through it, as the post promoted one of those rare moments where my academic, political, and personal lives all come together in a big snarling ball of thoughtful awesomeness that I am still sorting out.

I try not to academicize my RPG hobby too much, as I am somewhat afraid that doing so will both distract me from other, work related things (writing, teaching, reading) that lead to (other) necessary work things (publishing, teaching, promotion, etc) and dampen my enjoyment of the hobby.  Sometimes, I just want to kill orcs.  I am still wary, but drawing upon my experience with comics -- I've begun to read and write and present about them in a professional way -- engaging with RPG's in an academic way has the potential to enhance both my hobby and professional life, especially now that the tenure hurdle has been crossed and I don't have to worry so much about being opportunistic with my research.

Tavis' post generated two "a-ha's!" for me.  I'll lay these out now, briefly talk about them here, and probably return to them in the future for longer posts.

1.  The OSR has a political component.  By political, I don't mean Republican or Democrat.  I mean there are, I think, values embedded in the OSR that speak to how people ought to do things with and for each other -- certain ways of living are better than others.  Tavis gets directly at this with his idea about fighting against transmedia and comodification of imagination by offering an alternative gaming culture and table-top experience facilitated by Old School sorts of games.

2.  Table-top RPGing as a unique aesthetic component.  As such, they can be looked at in an aesethic way.  We talk all the time about the unique sort of "experience" provided by TTRPG's in general and Old School RPG's in particular.  As a social  experience facilitated through the presentation of a particular medium (the game itself), that experience can be looked at with the language and concepts that are applied to other art media.  One of my academic interests is American Pragmatism and, in particular, John Dewey's aesthetics.  He focuses on experience, particularly the idea of "an experience", which is experiences that stands out and stands alone.  It has it's own rhythm and comes to it's own end (as opposed to most experience, which is fractured and scattered by all of the demands of life).  There is, I think, and nice marriage here: using the idea of "an experience" to talk about games, gaming, and the sorts of experiences they facilitate.

Just some initial thoughts about Tavis' great post.  I'm sure there will be more.


  1. This is precisely the kind of thing that has been occupying my mind lately with this pirate game I am working on.

    I am trying to take what I feel is a really great experience and convert that into a digital interface via the PDF that can connect to people who do not feel the same connection to books that most roleplayers feel (myself included).

  2. Good points, Professor!
    - Tavis

  3. Looking forward to more of your thoughts and comments!


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