Sunday, July 19, 2009

Screw, I'm done

I've been reading and posting material (not at a very high rate, for reasons that will become clear) on rpgnet for five years now, and it has consistently been the most frustrating online experience I can imagine.

Here's the thing: nobody ever replies to my posts. Ever. I will take the time to think of a reasoned reply to one post, linking to outside sources, often incorporating a response to more than one prior poster's comments, and I will get nothing.

Here was the latest sample of my efforts to communicate:
Originally Posted by Son of Kirk View Post
It's like Comment or opinion pieces in the Guardian. Bold claims and assertions are made because that's often the best way to get an article noticed.

Let's face it, an article that says '4E is alright, it has some issues and it has some good bits' just isn't going to draw as much interest as 'OMG 4E is the Reaper and our hobby is it's target!' because, facing it again, we all love a trainwreck and we all like a bit of confrontation.
"Very true. I think there's also an element of attraction to extreme blogs based on what Farhad Manjoo calls "weak dissonance"--a poorly argued viewpoint or idea that is the opposite of one we hold. Everyone likes to knock down a straw man argument, as it makes us feel better about our own views and intelligence. I suspect it is particularly satisfying when that straw man seems to be especially obnoxious.

Look at how many people have checked out Mishler's blog based on this thread. I think the degree of draw and the level of reaction (on these forums, at least) are based largely upon the ease with which people feel his arguments can be refuted in a satisfying fashion, not so much upon the idea that his blog is influencing gaming trends. (Though people have indicated that they feel too many older gamers share his views already.)

That said, all the hyperbole and histrionics in the blogosphere can certainly wear thin. I found the squareman blog entry interesting, though I am always suspicious of claims related to the "new economics" of the Internet. Chris Anderson has made a career out of preaching that everything we thought we knew about economics and commerce is now wrong, but he still has to acknowledge in his latest book that YouTube does not make money giving away its services. (And it will cost you $27 on Amazon to buy Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Apparently too radical to charge it for his own work.) Certainly there is a market for micropayments and the like, but tabletop RPGs are not quite the same thing as video games.

I eventually gave up and just skimmed the profanity-laced, teeth-gnashing silliness of RPGPundit's blog entry and read Ryan Dancey's comments at the bottom, which were much more sober and coherent. Dancey's point about paying RPG writers based on the quality of their content--say, a very good 32 page adventure--versus paying by the word was interesting. I've been a freelance writer and editor for eight years now, and I am paid by the chapter, by the component, etc., never by the word. And most contracts include a revision clause."

I thought that was a thoughtful response that added something new to the conversation. Did anyone else think so? I have no idea, because it has been ignored for three days. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Even the guy whose post I basically insulted as a childish rant couldn't be bothered to rant at me in reply.

Earlier this year a guy started up a thread about alternative technology and setting tweaks for a Star Trek universe. I had done the same thing the previous year and had fewer than 20 replies, maybe 100 views. This guy Shadowjack had some similar ideas, some different--but he added these little cartoons. I thought they were nice. He got a few HUNDRED replies and more than 2,000 hits.

I sighed, sucked up my wounded pride, and made a few comments in the spirit of the discussion. One of which involved replacing Klingons with Neanderthals (either carried offworld by mysterious Progenitors or, in an idea of mine that I particularly liked, resurrected through DNA samples to serve as soldiers during the Eugenics Wars, only to escape into space).

I did get a reply to that, from a self-styled Paleontologist who took issue with my suggestion that a Neanderthal culture might find cause to blame homo sapiens for being responsible for the extinction of Neanderthals on Earth. He said there was no evidence whatsoever that ancient humans had anything to do with the end of the Neanderthals. I replied that (a) I thought he was being kind of precious not to think that ancestral humans would not have come into conflict for resources with Neanderthals in close proximity, since we do that with every living creature we encounter and exterminate the competition [and why wouldn't early man eat Neanderthals, to be blunt? We eat other primates.]; (b) it doesn't matter if it DID happen that way, it matters if resurrected Neanderthals could reasonably be expected to THINK it happened that way; (c) Space Neanderthals are just fucking cool!

And the guy just says "whatever," everyone else ignores the post, and it's another waste of time and ideas on my part.

The ironic thing is, when I've actually contacted a number of game designers over the years, they've liked my ideas and how I described them.

So screw! I don't roleplay more than once in a blue moon anyway. I just wanted to try out the whole social networking online concept in a hobby that I thought was small enough and felt knowledgeable enough about to make a decent contribution to the conversation while educating and entertaining myself reading other people's ideas.

All it did was leave me feeling even more isolated.

I would have made this post on rpgnet, but nobody would give a crap. Or worse, they'd finally pay attention just to poke fun and be assholes.


Aaron DaMommio said...

Here I was wondering 'why is it that Doug has the patience to deal with and I don't?' and it turns out you were just quietly boiling... :)

But hey you probably learned about a bunch of rpg industry happenings along the way, right?

I do find that net-based communications rarely work well if you've never met the person ever.

Doug said...

Rpgnet is pretty informative, though I found that it was likely to encourage me to buy stuff that I wouldn't even have heard of otherwise, which was simply not always a good thing. :-)

Hopefully leaving it behind for a while will help me concentrate on other stuff.