RPG on its own terms?

Various authors urge the study of RPG “on its own terms,” rather than as a form of (or at least in comparison to) something else, such as other types of games, psychodrama, or – of course – theater.  So arguably my project is heretical or at least objectionable.  But what exactly does “on its own terms” mean?  How much of anything do we understand outside of its relationship to other things in the world?  If the point is that one should not efface RPGs’ specific characteristics, that scarcely entails seeing any discussion of its relationship to other modes of performance as reductive.  Discussions that seek to ward off comparison with theater often seem to have a very narrow view of what theater itself is.  Marjukka Lampo, for example, has a very traditional concept of theater in mind when she objects to the idea that RP is similar to it.  But saying that RPG is a particular form of theater does not eliminate its specificity.  A goldfish has its particularity, but it remains a particular type of fish.  The trick remains in how one defines theater; but also in how one defines RP.

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