Friday, June 10, 2022

Building community by citing each other's games

This post is part of the On the Shoulders of Cloud Giants series, studying citation practices in tabletop roleplaying games.


We've seen in previous posts that the earliest citation practices in tabletop role-playing games were primarily for the purpose of paying tribute or giving thanks. They appeared in prefaces and other introductory texts of games.

This early practice has been seriously undermined by lawsuits from major players like TSR. For many years, this type of citation has declined sharply. I am in the process of gathering data to quantify this phenomenon.

Since the birth of TTRPGs the fanzines (ALA publications, etc.) and specialized magazines supported the most interweaving work of referencing between games with critics, comments, comparisons, etc. 


The Forge

Around The Forge community, many role-playing game designers and contributors have devoted one or more paragraphs, even sometimes entire sections, to citing other role-playing games. Very often, the games cited are part of The Forge community. Again, I am gathering data to quantify this phenomenon.

It seems that the game Sorcerer (1996) holds an important place:

  •     In number of references (roleplaying games, fiction, people, etc.);
  •     In the number of citations by the community;
  •     In the diversity of types of references (bibliographies, acknowledgements, epigraphs, sourced notes of intent, etc.).

OSR blogosphere

The 2000s saw the advent of many amateur publications in the form of blogs, such as the community of gamers practicing so-called OSR (old-school renaissance) gameplay for example.

Blogues OSR
OSR Blogs and theirs links

Here is a graph of citations between OSR blogs. It has been published on Discord. The author is unknown to me. The method is unknown but it seems that the citation links come from the menu of each blog. Given the graphic appearance, it was produced by VOS Viewer (a very good free tool by the way). According to Josh, who relayed the information, it appears that red colors a "grognard" trend in the movement, while green colors an "artpunk" trend in the movement.

We can see that citations between blogs are important. In order to draw interesting conclusions, we would have to analyze the citation strategies (perhaps a questionnaire?). However, at first glance, I notice that the most visible blogs are also the ones that are original, or relevant, or erudite (and counting several years of existence).

Citing for Community Building

Zedeck Siew, a Malaysian role-playing game designer, recently emphasized the importance and duty of citing his sources, especially to prevent memory loss in a creative community :

According to him, « Interlocking chains of citation reinforce a creative culture for all working within it. An immune system against the attention economy, that: Has us bunkered / broken up by social media; Causes creators with less access to online time *appear* to stop working. » 

Very interestingly, he adds that « Plus, awareness of citation politics generally helps creators from less privileged contexts- Women; queer folk; non-White people; people from outside the West; people from non-English-language contexts; etc Who for a myriad reasons are often left un-cited. »

He witnessed that some designers mention their inspirations early in their creative process but that list diminishes as their work progresses. 

He concludes his loving ode to quotation [touching my librarian values] by saying that « Citation helps you understand your own work, too. (...) If you have nobody to cite- cite someone anyway. (...) You excavate unconscious antecedents. Situation it in an ecosystem. No work lives in a vacuum. »

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