RPP-401: RPG Community

Roleplaying Philosophy Series:

Recent discussions among the online RPG community I follow and associate with has been focused on social theory. No doubt many readers will already be familiar with the post(s)[1][2] that spawned the intense debate, so I won’t revisit the topic here. However, an interesting corollary of this recent trending topic is the question of what constitutes a community?

The Issue

Specifically, is there an online RPG community that consists of you, me, the RPG blogs, RPG fora, etc.? Some do not consider the relationship between bloggers, or bloggers and readers, or general fandom to be a community. Some also seen to believe the word community carries connotations of interaction of towards a common purpose. I disagree with these points and consider roleplaying blogs a community.

Academics of Community

It is certainly not the first (or last) time the definition of community was pondered and argued:

“In sociology, the concept of community has led to significant debate, and sociologists are yet to reach agreement on a definition of the term. There were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the mid-1950s.”[3]

That’s quite a feat considering that there wasn’t much social science literature focusing on on community until 1915 when C.J. Galpin[4] completed his Social Anatomy of an Agricultural Community. A work on rural studies where the term community was used in terms of delineating rural socio-geographic areas (i.e. rural communities).[5]

Definition of Community

The theory of community, while rooted in geographical context, has expanded to identify groups of living organisms that share a common characteristic. I’ve compiled a list of attributes that a community possesses:

  • Consists of more than one living organism
  • Share at least one identifying characteristic between members
  • May be nested within each other and may overlap
  • The Universe is the top level community

Mad Brew’s definition of community:

A community consists of two or more organism that share at least one identifying characteristic. Communities can be nested and may overlap. They are always part of a larger community unless that community is the Universe.

The only membership requirement is to possess the identifying characteristic that all members of a community share. This is where things become complicated and where most previously mentioned disagreements about community happen. There are different assumptions about what the key identifier actually is, because no one has taken the time to clarify it.

For instance, interaction between members, while is frequently present, is not necessarily a membership requirement unless such interaction is an identifying characteristic. Many people assume interaction to be a default characteristic while others do not share that assumption. How can these assumptions be reasonably dispelled?

Naming Conventions

Should a community not have an official name, such as the RPG Blog Alliance,[6] then choosing a concise, yet descriptive name can be problematic. However, some choices are better than others. For example, what is the difference between the RPG blogger community and the Roleplaying blog community?

The former identifies a person while the latter identifies a type of website. Many would have the assumption that since the former identifies a specific individual, a person who writes web-logs about roleplaying games, then that community is limited to those people (i.e. not including readership). While the latter includes anyone who is engaged with roleplaying blogs, passive or active.

RPG Communities Defined

The above academic exercise is nice, but did it solve the issue of determining if there is an online RPG community that consists of you, me, the RPG blogs, RPG fora, etc.? Yes, by the definition provided. I would call it the Online RPG Community, the members sharing the characteristic of engaging in roleplaying culture on the internet. It includes both passive consumers of online RPG content and active developers of content published on the web.

Of course, there is no expectation that anyone will accept the provided definition. This is mostly for my benefit, allowing me to organize my thoughts and record them. However, I surely wouldn’t be opposed to other members referring to this article in their discussion about RPG communities (especially if they agree).

I have identified several roleplaying communities, which I present below:

The Roleplaying Community

  • The parent community of all other roleplaying communities
  • Includes anyone who has an interest in roleplaying games
  • It’s parent community would be The Gaming Community
  • Sister communities include The Wargaming Community and The Board Game Community

The Online Roleplaying Community

  • Includes anyone engaged in roleplaying culture on the Internet
  • Child communities include Roleplaying Game Forums, Venture Captain[7] users, and Twitter users following or involved in RPG discussions.

The Roleplaying Blog Community

  • Includes anyone engaging roleplaying blogs, including readership
  • Child communities include the above mentioned RPGBA, the RPG Bloggers Network,[7] and the Savage Bloggers Network[8]
Listening to: Silent Civilian – Rebirth of the Temple – Divided

References

[1] Player Alignment Shift: Being Chaotic Good at the Gaming Table on This is My Game.
[2] You Don’t Have a God-given Right to my Friendship on The Angry DM.
[3] Hillery, George A., Jr. (1955). Definitions of Community: Areas of Agreement. Rural Sociology, 20 (4) (via Wikipedia).
[4] Galpin’s short bio via the Wisconsin Historical Society.
[5] Harper, E. H. and Dunham, A. (1959). Community Organization in Action: Basic Literature and Critical Comments. New York: Association Press (via Infed).
[6] The RPBA is a new community for RPG bloggers I recommend you check out.
[7] Venture Captain is the online Pathfinder RPG character creator I’m developing.
[8] I’m a long time member of the RPG Bloggers Network.
[9] The Savage Bloggers Network is an aggregator for Savage Worlds blogs.

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