Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category


Atypical character development in RPGs

In Essays on 2010-04-02 by Kyle Maxwell Tagged: , ,

Stereotype by bitchcakesny

Real cultures are not monolithic, overarching creeds that define every single member. Individuals and sub-cultures break from the mainstream and create little pockets of different traditions, regional cultures, and countercultures. This is how the real world works, but most fantasy world-building treats an entire race or nation as a single culture. Digging deeper makes the culture more interesting, and exploring sub-cultures counterpoints the mainstream culture and makes it more interesting as well.

Roleplayers can fall into this quite easily, both in traditional tabletop as well as in MMORPGs. Truth be told, so do ‘professional’ writers, which explains why minority actors frequently have trouble getting non-stereotyped roles.

In some games, players restrict themselves even further: not only must a Wookiee excel in hand-to-hand combat, he must fight for the Rebellion and call himself a madclaw. The most interesting characters, of course, transcend this. I recall reading advice many years ago about playing characters from ‘monstrous’ races, to the effect that while your character doesn’t have to share the characteristics or exhibit the behavior typical for his race, he should have thought about the fact that his race does have that reputation and have an opinion on it.

Do your characters fall into stereotypes because that seems easy? Not that playing a ‘typical’ character is somehow wrong (as if that even could make sense), but if you do so, I suggest that you do so as a conscious choice rather than as a lazy default.

via Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?, originally linked from gameplaywright.


Towards development of an Internet Operating System

In Essays on 2010-04-01 by Kyle Maxwell Tagged: , ,

Alien Organics (Smoke "Art") by PixelPlacebo

This follows on my link yesterday to Richard Hamming’s talk on research and the idea that, to do great work, you must work on great problems.

I read with great interest Tim O’Reilly’s extensive and thoughtful essay on The State of the Internet Operating System.

(The rest of this post just consists of my own musings on his article.)

Moving away from the operating systems for individual computers (e.g. Linux, Windows, Plan 9, etc.), he talks about higher levels of abstraction needed for the sorts of infrastructure services we build today. O’Reilly outlines some needed subsystems, like:

  • Search
  • Communications
  • Identity and the Social Graph
  • Payment
  • Activity Streams
  • Time
  • Image and Speech Recognition

He also rejects the idea of the browser as OS and muses on additional things this sort of infrastructure platform might need, like synchronization and garbage collection.

I wish he’d addressed privacy and security a little more explicitly, though a few of his issues touch on this tangentially. But the concept — application developers using APIs or some analogue thereof to accomplish these tasks rather than redeveloping over and over — has obvious worth.

Do the things I do contribute to the development of the “new world infrastructure”? Or am I just tinkering with irrelevancies? The stuff I do tends towards the operational rather than developmental, but I don’t know that I will stay in this mode. My immediate future will stay in incident response and security, since that pays the bills pretty well and has lots of value in itself.

But I’ve also started chewing on Hamming’s idea to slightly shift fields of focus every seven(ish) years, and this article just fed right into it. I need to go brew this stuff in my head together with everything else I’ve dumped into my brain lately so that I can figure some things out for my own future.