In my welcome back post I asked folks for suggestions for future posts. I'm going to start today with Ark's question "howsabout sharing something you've learned as a grad student and how it related to gaming?"
My first thought on that point was that people should really wholesale rip off Charles Dickens for locations, characters and plots to fill out their steampunk games. But that's probably not a new idea.
But here's something I've been thinking about for a while. When you're an undergrad on the first day of class the professor probably asks you to stand and say your name and what your major is. As far as I can tell this serves no purpose other than to make the Undecideds feel bad, because it hardly ever comes up again.
In my grad classes though, we're all studying some form of English something or other so we dig deeper. I introduce myself as being interested in English lit with a focus on literary hoaxes. Sam tells us he's into how trauma theory can interrogate postcolonial literature. Other Jeff says he's a creative writing dude really into hybrid texts. Etc., etc. Note that I'm also Other Jeff. That's hilarious in a world where everyone reads Edward Said and/or Jacques Lacan, trust me.
What I dig about this is that we all get a good foothold up front about where we are coming from. So like the other day in class I called out Sam on his insistence that pre-colonial texts are "authentic" cultural artifacts. He knows I wasn't trying to harsh his groove, but that I'm the vaguely postmodern dude who insists that Fake Literature Is Real Literature. We were able to have what I thought was a fruitful conversation and part of it was due to the fact that we both knew the other guy's priorities.
So you can probably see where I am going with this. One thing I think good ol' Ron Edwards got right back in the day was the simple recognition that different gamers want different stuff and we should clearly articulate these differences. I don't fully follow his next step, that we need to craft games to exaggerate certain priorities and minimize others. Rather I think we can mostly all participate in the same sort of game and see what happens when these priorities push and pull each other during play.
Obviously this requires a little self-reflection on our parts. When we give a table full of new people a line or two describing our interests, what should we say? For example, "Hi, my name is Jeff and I'm here to get my PC into trouble" may really help the other players when my dude starts acting stupid.