The story of New Worlds Project: #8 – Rethinking roleplaying
By Kim Smouter, Co-Founder of New Worlds Project. See part 1 of the story of New Worlds Project here.
One of the things which we’re experimenting within New Worlds Project is a concept we’re calling 360-degree creativity, and I see it as a real experiment that I can only hope will prove successful once we get underway.
Now my publisher, David Ball, suggested I park this discussion to another setting and I considered for a while what I could replace the chapter with, but I think it would do a disservice to my expose of the journey of New Worlds Project if I didn’t use one of the chapters of the story to explain further the experiment and pick your brains on its value. I think we went through an interesting journey of conception and I wonder if others agree that this is the type of thinking our community needs.
Ditching complicated staff structures
Maybe before I go any further, it’s useful to explain how we used to organise our community. We used to have what we called Administrative Operations Managers (AOMs) who were responsible for all administrative tasks that faces any role-playing community. We then had New Worlds Community Leaders who were veteran players whom we trusted to write new storylines and bring players to write alongside them. Back in the days, not everyone had Skype, not everyone necessarily had a webcam, and Facebook didn’t exist so it was rather difficult to organise meetings and things. We were loosely knit and it was easy to feel lonely in the job! All of this was one of the things we identified we wanted to change in the Reboot.
Re-thinking the role of staff – A Support Team
So one of the things we’re doing moving forward is rationalising the structure and creating an out-of-character Support Team whose role it is to facilitate the creativity process and to do all of the administrative tasks that keep the place running. All our players will know our Support Team’s real life first names and the Support Team is there to support roleplayers get the most out of the community.
The idea is to be as hands-off as possible on the setting itself and on the actual creative process that is role-playing. Also, moving away from an authoritarian structure where the game-masters decide everything, and the players slot in where the game masters have decided seems to us to be a much more attractive offer in this day of social media where everyone is an actor in their own right.
Moving away from game-masters, community leaders to a collaborative model
So what we’re going to be trialling at New Worlds Project is rethinking who owns and runs the game. We’ve decided to ditch the idea the New Worlds Project staff being the benevolent dictators and are trying to do something more inspired by the open-source movement.
We’ve developed a concept of project teams led by a project leader. Each role-play is a creative writing project that a user can develop and finish either on their own, or using a project team of other writers.
Any user, new or veteran, can become a project leader, all they have to do is submit to a project outline to the support team, who checks it for consistency, and then lets it move forward. It’s a very exciting prospect for us to essentially turn the setting into a much more open-source development exercise.
Making it easier to join with tutorials and simplicity
When we decided to move forward with the Reboot, we had spent quite a few meetings exploring why New Worlds Project had stopped being fun and why we had all walked away from the project. We also explored why people stopped showing up to join storylines, etc. and perhaps in part it was because we failed to apply the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle.
The outcome of that was a real piece of thinking work around making joining New Worlds Project an easier process. We’ve decided as part of the Reboot initiative to really cut down on the steps you need to join the game, and really needed to up our game in terms of communicating the basics one needed to be able to move forward. You login, you have tutorials telling how best to craft a character, and then you join. No cumbersome review processes.
Ditching role-playing specific terminology and going universal
We also are trying to appeal to a broader audience than just role-players, you’ll find our new approach and promotional direction underlines that we’re a creative community, not a role-playing community and that the objective is to encourage writers, artists, musicians, and fans of science-fiction generally to come together. It’s mean we’ve reconceived the website in a way that has more universal resonance, and we’ve tried to keep on the website a navigational structure and terminology that speaks to a broader audience. Whether it will prove successful, only time will tell, but we believe that it is important that role-playing games start considering how to broaden the audience and reach of our communities.
Integrating multimedia and social media
In the previous chapter, I talked about how we’re integrating art more in the project, taking a page off the Star Army of Yamatai inspiration book, but we’re also going multimedia. We’re using YouTube, the social media outlets as both channels to promote what we’re doing but also as an integrated part of how we do business, keep interest, and let everyone know about each of our role-players’ activities. Also, as part of our site development, we’ve asked our designers to really integrate our own site in a way that the site news, etc. can be automatically published to the social media outlets. Our communities can ill afford not being on the sites where we know people spend most of their time on.
Celebrating what we do so well – better.
Role-playing communities don’t seem to be extremely good at actually celebrating to a wide audience the great content we produce each and every day. Our 360-degree creativity loop begins with our inspirational setting and its resources which sparks the creativity, but the final stage of the cycle involves us actually taking finished role-playing projects and releasing them to a wider audience in the forms of publications. We’re going to give this our very best, turning New Worlds role-plays and putting them in a place that generations of new readers can get access to them. We’re really excited that in a not too distance future, there may be people across the world reading New Worlds Project anthologies with the best stories our role-players have produced. I can’t wait!
But what about you? What are your ideas?
These were the things we came up with when we re-imagined our role-playing community – but what about you? What would you do, do create a Web 3.0 Role-Playing Experience? I look forward to poaching your great ideas!