August 21st, 2004


Dicing with Dragons

Today Radio 4 broadcast a programme, Dicing with Dragons, looking back at thirty years of roleplaying. I've just listened to it on the BBC web site, and it was fair enough but a bit depressing to listen to. As a retrospective, it mostly spoke to people who played then but thirty years on aren't active players. The impression given was of a hobby which has declined, which is fair enough, but it would have been nice to hear some recruiting propaganda rather than a balanced report! :-)

Someone who's recently taken roleplaying up was interviewed briefly and, positively, she was female. The other interviewees were, unsurprisingly, predominantly male. However, Louise Yeoman was involved in researching it and Cheryl Morgan was also interviewed.

It presented reasonably, if not compellingly, why roleplaying appeals to its players, and it also covered some of the history. The only significant flaw in the programme is one that I wouldn't have picked up myself, as I'm not involved, but reaction mailed around after the programme aired suggests that a more positive view of roleplaying's current state would have resulted from looking at the phenomenon of roleplaying online.

On The High Wire

The first of our internal monthly articles responding to questions about our development direction, rather than being written at our own instigation, was submitted to the company newsletter yesterday.

We didn't get all that many questions in answer to our appeal, but the ones we did get were good ones and hopefully the answers will help people understand what we're up to.

The readers could reasonably be referred to as being part of an international Insights franchise, so quite a lot of them are really customers as well as part of the organisation. As such, we have quite a real responsibility to involve them in what we're doing, as it can affect their businesses. We're also stepping up the communication for our own benefit - as the Insights training organisation grows, it's ever more important to work at maintaining a reasonable level of awareness of the work that is going on to provide the software that supports that training in order to avoid being flooded with other demands.

Some aspects of presentation prompted a lively discussion within the development team, and it has still to pass the editorial team in the marketing side of the organisation before actually being published. The discussions were about the balance between establishing interest and involvement in what we're doing and getting people over-hyped about something that will take some time to deliver.

The majority of the people who will read the article are not very technically focussed, so it sometimes seems like a balancing act worthy of Blondin to both avoid boring them to death with technical stuff they don't need to know and intrigue them with the potential of technology to support their business. If we make the work sound too interesting, we run the risk of creating unrealistic expectations: if we tone it down too much or make it too technical, we won't be read.

On the whole, though, the introduction of the monthly columns from the software development team seems to have gone well so far. Let's hope we can keep the equilibrium.