The Discourse of Player Safety in the Forge Diaspora, 2003-2013
The idea of player safety – a concern for the psychological well-being of the people who play role-playing games on the part of those who design and run those games – has within the past several years emerged as a rubric for a whole host of pre-game, in-game, and post-game procedures intended to address that concern, particularly in larp but in tabletop RPGs as well. However, considerations of player safety sometimes produce skeptical responses on the part of those who fear, for instance, that player safety mechanisms will somehow dilute the experience or stifle their creativity. Examining the dynamics of conversations produced by these countervailing concerns can provide insight into the nature of RPG participation. A full understanding of these dynamics, however, will benefit from an investigation of the historical underpinnings of the discourse of player safety. To that end, this essay explores conversations around safety-related discourse within the online sphere known as the “Forge Diaspora.”
The Forge was an online discussion site for tabletop RPG design, publication, and play that was active in the first decade of the twenty-first century, serving to champion creator-owned “indie RPGs” and game design innovation during that period. In addition, it inspired a panoply of blogs and forums where further discussion took place. Among the considerations related to player safety discussed within the Forge Diaspora were the tools Ron Edwards called Lines and Veils and Meguey Baker’s complementary principles of Nobody Gets Hurt and I Will Not Abandon You. This essay uses techniques of rhetorical analysis to reconstruct frameworks of narrative and argumentation about these and related ideas with the goal of providing historical context for contemporaneous conversations about player safety.
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