Saturday, February 23, 2013

Research article on OSR/ConstantCon


Just in case you didn't see this post over on Google+, here it is:

Okay, so here's a thing I might be doing in the very near future. I was contacted about a retro-gaming panel for a professional conference. Basically, I am to write an article (in the area of rhetoric/media studies) about the OSR generally, and ConstantCon in particular. If I'm going to do this thing, I clearly will have lots of resources available from blogs and the various new publications like Playing at the World. What I'd also like to have is some support from this community.

I'd really like to be able to put together a list of questions for you about the G+ hangout communities, your relationships to them, what you get out of this, and so forth. I post them, maybe more than once, just so they get seen, and you send back your answers.

The answers will be included in a larger body of data which I'll sort and code and more or less put into some sort of taxonomy of responses. That way I can determine some sort of structure of meanings that feed into what people collectively are doing/feeling/experiencing. I also probably will quote particularly poignant or interesting points made by members of the G+ OSR community (very broadly defined).

The payoff, for me, is the ability to talk about how this particular community has taken something old (retro games of various sorts), something new (social media and other technologies), and used them to do new an interesting things. I'd also like to start getting a sense of the history of this thing, and how it came about. Part of that is about origins and originators, I guess, but the bigger story to me is the fact there was fertile ground for such a phenomenon. It got pretty big, pretty quickly, and has been remarkably resilient and flexible. It's a Cool Thing, and I'd be incredibly honored if you would help me in this endeavor?

So, who's in?

Here's a prospectus for the article.

Title: Welcome to ConstantCon: New Media and The Old School Renaissance in Tabletop Role-playing Games

Since 1974, the table top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons has gone through many different editions and iterations. In 2000, the copyright holder, Wizards of the Coast, established the Open Game License for the third edition of the game. The OGL allowed third-party publishers to use the games rules and product identity as open source content for the production of game modules and other derivative works. The OGL not only covered the third edition of the game, but all previous editions, leaving open the possibility of creating new products for what was, for all intents and purposes, a defunct product line. One largely unanticipated result of that move was the rise of what is now called the Old School Renaissance (OSR), which marked a return of old school gamers to older editions of the game, but also to production, through the OGL, of new “retro-clones” of the original Dungeons and Dragons editions. Retro-clones like OSRIC, Swords and Wizardry, and others were successful both commercially and in establishing the basis for a whole new gaming community, one particularly suited for emerging trends in social media and online publishing.

These developments also have fueled the emergence of a variety of blogs dedicated to old school gaming, and opportunities for members of the community to become publishers in their own right. The success of these publishers has been driven, to some extent, by use of Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaigns to pay for art and publication, and other costs of new projects, though with varying degrees of success. Now, what is called the OSR is a loose affiliation of gamers and publishers. Recent moves by Wizards of the Coast to reissue their original products has spurred some to proclaim the death of OSR gaming, but the community has been able to maintain strong connections between its various factions through adaptation of the table top style of gaming to new media, especially on the Google+ social media platform, and gaming applications like Roll20. The result has been the birth of Google+ Hangout gaming, which some members of the OSR community refer to as “ConstantCon,” a reference to face-to-face gaming conventions like GenCon and DragonCon, which have traditionally been the means for gamers to gather, to mingle with publishers and vendors, and to game with strangers. This paper explores the development of the OSR on Google+, as well as the means by which OSR community members have used new trends in media production to produce new games, gaming platforms, and gaming supplements for the OSR community.