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Industry Insights: The RPGnet Interviews

Tribe Gamer

by Jared Nielsen
August 31, 2001

For an extended version of this article, complete with figures and a more detailed analysis, feel free to read the PDF essay provided by Jared.  

I have been enjoying a debate about "who is right" regarding marketing tactics... should the creative writer determine the outcome of a game project or should the marketing department set the design/strategy?

I recommend you watch John Marshall's "The Hunters" which is an ancient film about bushmen in South Africa (I know... I am insane). This is an old black and white but you can get it at the Harvard Film Study Center.

The book I'm reading discusses W. B. Yeats' model of psychological opposites (quoted from "At the Edge of History" by William Irwin Thompson, 1972) where the only true, effective organization has as balance of two opposing forces in constant conflict with two "facets" of these two sides.

Ideational and the Operational are in constant struggle to be "right" in the leadership of the tribe. Ideational members are the "Shaman" and the "Clown" where Operational members are the "Headman" and the "Hunter"

quoth William Irwin Thompson

"Headman and Hunter realize the possibilities that Shaman and Clown do not, as Shaman and Clown realize the possibilities untouched by the others. Together the four form a stable group in which all the skills are balanced."

In a tribal culture (read startup game company), there is not much specialization so each one of the members is required to still participate in common tasks such as hunting/gathering/combat and as such learns to value the talents of the others with more mutual esteem.

As the tribe expands and becomes more advanced, this central quadrant expands into specializations where the Shaman forms Religion, the Headman forms The State, the Clown forms the Arts, and the Hunter forms the Military. Each one of these specializations now must include its own set of four opposing forces... the Clown, the Shaman, the Headman and the Hunter. However this independent, specialized group now collectively strives against the other spheres of specialization, even though within their midst they contain aspects of them.

Most interesting to me was the now specialized sphere of the Arts which now had its own version of the members: Shaman = Celebrant, Headman = Publicist, Hunter = Artisan, Clown = Satirist/Critic.

When I look at things from this perspective, I wonder if it's not absolutely critical that we get satire from the Clown (no offense) Steve Jackson, who at times criticizes the actions of the Hunter Ryan Dancey, who both chafe at the discipline applied by the Headman Rick Loomis, while the "good of the industry" is proselytized by the Shaman Sandy Antunes, etc.

When someone in a thread rages that they are "right" in their strategy or perspective while another rages that they are "wrong" I sit back and think that the conflict must be the truth and the only good result can come from the efforts of those that participate in or witness the conflict of ideas.

Welcome to Tribe Gamer


Jared Nielsen is an occassionally contentious figure in the industry, and currently operates www.GameCodex.com. This article was expanded into a longer PDF version after Jared graciously agreed to let RPGnet print his original private industry list post.

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What do you think?

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All Industry Insights

  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews China Mieville, April 24, 2002
  • lizard's Condensation of All Game Fiction, April 18, 2002
  • Sandy's "God or Whore?" GTS'02, March 26, 2002
  • Allan Sugarbaker with GAMA Trade Show '02: An Inside Report, March 22, 2002
  • Aldo of Impressions on the GamePlay CD, January 3, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Ken Hite, February 8, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Tim Powers, January 18, 2002
  • Aldo Ghoizzi on Inside the Making of GamePlay, January 3, 2002
  • The RPGnet Awards Cabal presents the RPGnet 2001 Awards Results!, December 5, 2001
  • Ken Whitman teaches us with A Note About Creating a Good Promotional Campaign, October 12, 2001
  • Sean Jaffe on The Fallout, September 27, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • Sean Jaffe on Interesting Times, September 21, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • GodLike: Dennis Detwiler and Greg Stolze, September 14, 2001
  • Jared Nielsen on Tribe Gamer, August 31, 2001
  • Mark Bruno teaches about Copy Editing, August 16, 2001
  • Ratings not just kid's stuff for RPG industry, reported by Matt Snyder, August 9, 2001
  • GenCon '01 News, reported by Matt Snyder, August 3, 2001
  • Origins Report: Would you send your mother to buy from them?, part 4 of 4
  • Origins Report: Booth Babes, part 3 of 4
  • Origins Report: Overview, part 2 of 4
  • The Origins Awards, part 1 of 4, reported by Jason Paul McCartan
  • Gary Gygax Interview, part 1 of 3, by Scott Lynch
  • Why I Write Gaming Materials by Greg Stolze, November 16, 1999
  • Blowing out the Nostalgia Candle by John Wick, October 19, 1999
  • Interview with Sean Pat Fannon, Shards October 5, 1999
  • Portuguese is not Spanish! by Thad Blanchette, September 14, 1999
  • Intuition and Surprise by M. J. Young, July 27, 1999
  • Fear and Loathing in the Wizards of the Coast Game Center by John Tynes, January 26, 1999
  • Breaking In,, on how to break into writing for RPGs, by Steve Kenson, December 22, 1998
  • ALT.RPG, first of a series looking deeply at what gaming is all about, by Matt Miller, September 1, 1998
  • The Night They Tore Old Mecca Down, GenCon report by Randy Porter, August 20, 1998
  • GenCon Fun: con, city, and even housing tips from Randy Porter, June 30, 1998
  • GenCon Lore Vol 3: Program Books, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 23, 1998
  • The Missing and the Dead, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 2, 1998
  • The Definitive Count on who is and isn't attending GenCon 98, by Randy Porter, April 28, 1998
  • How to Scam Games Part II by Steve Johnson, March 24, 1998
  • The Perils of Penniless Publishing by Aaron Rosenberg, February 3, 1998
  • Polyhedral Dice & Mirror Shades, by Greg Costikyan (or, the death of paper).
  • Ken Whitman: A Love Hate Relationship by (of course) Ken Whitman
  • Interview with Sean Punch, GURPS line editor, by Bob Portnell, October 1997
  • YOU DID WHAT? Perspectives On Becoming A Full-Time Writer In The RPG Industry, by Steven Long, September 1997
  • A Resurgence of Role Playing, by Gary Gygax, August 1997

    Other columns at RPGnet

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