Sunday, April 13, 2014

Demented and sad... but social
(a.k.a. "A True Renaissance")

While it's not uncommon to be browsing the RPG blogosphere and see posts beginning with thoughts stemming from something seen on the History Channel or the Smithsonian Channel, how often does one begin with an inspiration or insight gleaned from an interview on the Bloomberg? Well, you may now count at least one among that number.

Early Saturday morning, I happened to catch a replay of an interview with Twitter founder Biz Stone on Bloomberg West (Bloomberg West's content is particularly tech-driven, compared to the company's other various viewer/reader touchpoints). In this interview, Stone talks about a peer relationship with Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter and founder/CEO of Square). He talks about Dorsey being an abstract thinker, and how Dorsey sold the concept of Square... "Payments are a social activity." At 6:30 a.m. CST on Saturday morning during this replay of a interview from days before, that statement blew my mind. That's really a big thought. Think about it. When you buy that cup of coffee at Starbucks, or buy that pint at the local pub, or buy a product from one of your OSR/RPG cohorts... that's a social activity.

I think at the end of the day, that's the reason I preferred the Square platform for the New Big Dragon storefront. I really understood that inherently about Square. My original goal with Square was to be able to take in-person payments at cons, etc. To find out they had a storefront capability was a bonus. By comparison... once I'd made the mistake reaching out to Bank of America to express an interest in their mobile payment options, they were relentless about trying to get me to sign up for their payment device and merchant services (i.e., storefront). If there's one thing I understand about BoA after having been with them since they were NationsBank, it is that they are NOT about people.

I know what you're thinking, "Well that's not really any kind of mind-blowing revelation. In fact, this sounds more like a shameless plug for your storefront." You're right. In an of itself, that statement wasn't a mind-blowing revelation. Everyone knows BoA is not about people, and it's pretty obvious I'll push the the New Big Dragon storefront whenever I get the chance. The mind-blowing thing really came as a result of having recently been privileged enough to spend a little time in Tim Shorts' recently-inaugurated OSR BS Hangout on Google+.

For a while now, people have constantly tried to re-examine the OSR and attempt to make sort of definitive statement about what it is (or is not). Don't worry, I have no plan on doing that here. But the Stone interview mentioned above made me realize that there is one facet of the OSR that is unmistakable... it is inherently social.

We touched on this during Tim's hangout. We each had out own stories about how we discovered the OSR (and what was happening "out there" beyond our individual gaming worlds) and how, in turn, others discovered our blogs/books/etc. I can honestly say, that the reason the d30 Sandbox Companion exists at all, is because in the early days of my blogging, my d30 charts were easily the posts that garnered the most attention and favorable reaction.

The history of role-play gaming is just as social... a group of folks with common interests, gathering week-after-week in an inherently social gaming activity. Blogger and G+ are social mediums that support that. What I'm getting at here is this... we cannot underestimate the impact that social platforms have had on bolstering this OSR community. They have brought us together, forged new friendships, and continue to bring us closer together every day. They allow us to share ideas, insights, and resources. They have bolstered a renaissance not only in gaming style, but in creativity as a whole. And as new platforms become available, the ground for creativity and innovation is going to continue to become more fertile.

Due we truly appreciate that this renaissance extends beyond the old-school slice of that pie? We're not just in the middle of an old-school renaissance. We're in the middle of an everything renaissance.

I have no doubt that the invention of the personal computer is akin to the invention of the printing press. In the last 25-30 years, the computer has put the power of creation and connection at our fingertips (literally). Ironically, though, the internet in-and-of-itself is not much more than a big library. In fact, modernist designer Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (better known as "el Lizzitzky"), actually augered the invention of the internet in his manifesto "The topography of typography" in 1923. (Yes, you read that right... 1923.) He envisioned a infinite, interconnected series of books. But, like I said, at the end of the day, the internet is nothing more than one big-ass library.

The internet is not the true innovation, here. The true innovation is the concept of social interaction over said internet. That is unlike anything the world has ever seen... ever! in the last 5-10 years, that ability to share and support socially (support is the biggie here) has produced the kind of flowering of creativity the likes of which have never been seen in history.


Now do you see why what Stone said impacted me so much? Not just because "Payments are a social activity," but because almost everything we do these days is a social activity.

(BTW, if you +1 this post, you'll only be proving my point.)


  1. Actually having read the history of Bank of America, when it had its big breakthrough granting loans to people to rebuild after the San Francisco earthquake, it was about people too! However, that was a long time ago.

    1. That is a good point, but I remember when NationsBank (formerly NCNB) acquired Bank of America. NationsBank was all about mergers/acquisitions and cost-cutting (buying up little thrifts, etc.) IIRC, it was NationsBank whose leadership persisted in the acquisition (even though took on the acquired BoA's name and operates under their charter... the BoA headquarters are now in Charlotte, not SF). So what we think of as Bank of America is actually carrying on the history of NationsBank (and NCNB before that)... cost-cutting and expansion. Honestly, I bank with BoA because they've always been very conscious about fraudulent use of my accounts, and I feel like my money is safe with them, even if I truthfully feel like they have their own interests at heart, and not mine.