Almost a year ago, I asked the open question about whether Google Plus would overtake rpg blogs and forums in significance. I deliberately framed the question polemically—at the time I didn't think they would so much as supplement them.
But that was then this is now.
Do I think G+ will overtake forums and blogs for DIY rpg hobbyists? In some ways, it already has. This draft post has been sitting in around for over three months and it's quite clear witnessing recent threads like this that there is a shifting of the tectonic plates for a number of us.
To be sure there's a whole lot of old school (and just about any other school) gaming going on over there. I run the Hill Cantons there once a week for a group of 12 core players (idiosyncratically called the Nefarious Nine) and a larger floating group of “guest stars”. I've run numerous sessions of Empire of the Petal Throne, TSR Conan, Boot Hill and now even a (mostly) weekly Traveller mini-campaign. And importantly for a guy usually stuck being a GM, played in any number of other people's campaigns. Previously I had been playing with my home group about once a month, now I play roughly twice a week.
But it's the discussion—the over-arching conversation that shapes this side of our hobby—that strikes me as having shifted. Most obviously a certain range of discussion-focused or more casual topics has almost entirely ported over for a number of us—direct queries, half thoughts about the effects of house rules
So what's the balance sheet? Is this a good or bad trend? Unfortunately like most things in adult life it's not either/or but a mixed development. To wit from personal perspective:
All That is Solid... Longtime readers will remember how much I bemoaned the content on a blog that just floats away into the ether. This is even more pronounced in G+ with it's lack of robust archiving and the nature of the conversation. With many people in your circles things will in a space of hours slip right off your feed.
I have, however, found that setting up discrete special pages on G+ for the Hill Cantons and the Space Cantons has helped ameliorate that somewhat by giving a space to share campaign news, special items, maps, and the rest of the content that a campaign builds up.
Home Group Blues. Adult life being what it is, it's been hard to keep my face-to-face group going. Frankly the supreme ease of the Hangout games which I can play at night during the week means disincentives me somewhat to stretch to make time. And that's a loss as the virtual gaming is at best 80 percent as satisfying as face-to-face and I miss my friends here in San Anto.
Content Depth. Linked to the flighty nature of the content on G+ I notice that my own posts there tend to lack the considered depth that they do here on the blog. For instance the longer, more considered analysis pieces like that of this week, simply do not come to me there.
Walled Garden. The G+ discussion is not a broadcast one. It is only semi-open and highly-selective. This can and does have positive effects as mutually-selective social organization often do but it is inherently a more inward-looking scene.
Dynamic conversations. I enjoy the back and forth between readers and me here, but there is a certain stilted quality about the discussion. It feels sometimes more like the question and answer session following a lecture than it does a real conversation. My discussions on G+ however do and as such they tend to generate way more discussion (commenting there even on links to blog posts is routinely 3-8 times more frequent in quantity there)--and the frequent, interesting tangents feel more like the zig zags of real conversation.
Tighter, trust-based community. Again while the medium is a walled garden, this does have advantages. I have built deeper relationships with people based in actual play and repeat content—and they are for the most part people with distinct, real discernable identities. This works wonders in weeding out the anonymous idiots and pathological elements that the Internet is infamous for (though it can still produce it's fair share of idiocy too).
More egalitarian and fluid. One doesn't have to be a first and second-tier blogger to have real voice in those discussions. I like the leveling on principle, but it also brings forth some voices that are truly interesting. I have also noticed that it tends to encourage new folks to write more themselves.
More cross-fertilization. I feel like I see and understand more about other people's campaigns and thought processes from discussions there—and this inspires and influences me. Likewise discussions on books have opened up all kind so new authors for me. Big plus.
Open World gaming. FLAILSNAILS and Constantcon more broadly have meant that many of our game worlds have become increasingly networked together in a larger multiverse, a virtual return to a an old, fascinating style of play—and a HolyGrail for me.
It's about the play, stupid. We write, breathe, and talk about gaming, so shouldn't this just be the ultimate metric? I play now not just more frequently but with a wider range of people scattered across the world.
So neither entirely positive nor negative, but I feel looking over the list that the positive outcomes tip the balance that way. The negatives ensure that I will continue to blog—if a bit less obsessively—to continue to develop content here on the blog.
How are you feeling about this? Do you see a similar trend? What's your balance sheet look like?