Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 12
Ōkami - second chance at love

The genius of the enthusiast

Scholar19 I reported a few days ago on my progress sorting through all the responses I had received from readers about my RPG syllabus. Since then, Maggie Greene at Kotaku kindly linked to my series, and I have been inundated with comments and emails from dozens of respondents offering valuable recommendations and constructive suggestions for the course.

I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for this overwhelming response - I've certainly never had so much fun preparing a course. But aside from that, I feel as if I've stumbled upon something that's forced me to take a hard look at a set of long-held assumptions. 

Aside from the utility of many eyeballs generating many responses, I think there are lessons to be learned for educators on the value and promise of sharing ideas, identifying resources, and generally brainstorming with a broad community of people with vast knowledge and personal experience.

For most of my career as a teacher, a clear and nearly impenetrable divide has existed between those of us designated "scholars" and those of us known as "enthusiasts." While I can understand how and why this separation functions and persists in highly specialized fields like molecular microbiology, other disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences, for example, may have erected more arbitrary barriers separating  scholars and experts from enthusiasts and devotees.

In the case of the course I'm working on - a history of role-playing games - the community devoted to the subject currently outpaces the traditional scholarship developing around it. Certain scholars like Jeff Howard (Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives) and Matt Barton (Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing Games) have written rich, analytical, and well-annotated books on the subject, and I will use both in my course.

But I would shortchange my students if I insisted on assigning only academy-approved published texts and journal articles. The number of valuable online resources devoted to role-playing games is immense, and many of these (such as Hardcore Gaming 101) contain in-depth features and analyses of important games virtually ignored elsewhere. Of course, not every article found online is rigorously researched or well-written...but I would venture to say the same might be said of many published texts as well.

The so-called academy has traditionally resisted recognizing online articles and essays as "scholarly" mainly due to the lack of a peer-review structure and the fact that most online writers have not been properly certified with a university terminal degree. This needs to change. As an educator who holds a terminal degree in my field, I can say without qualification that if I restricted my resources to only those traditionally approved by the academy, I would find myself woefully unprepared to offer the course I'm preparing to teach.

I look forward to continuing to explore the wealth of online knowledge and information related to role-playing games, and I feel certain my students will benefit from this process. I certainly have. Once again, many thanks for all your help. I'm moving on to other subjects for the blog now, and I'll return later with a preliminary syllabus and reading list as soon as I can plow through all the stuff you keep throwing at me. ;-)