When I’m not playing RPGs, (which is most of the time), sometimes I think about them. I think about the games I am currently involved in, and the ones I am running. I think about the sessions and the interactions and the events of those sessions. I think about the characters and about the setting. I think about what might happen next or what I would like to see happen. I think about how the sessions went and if we can make any improvements. I also think about games I would like to be involved in or would like to run. I think about what I might prepare for the next time or the time after that. What kind of character would I like to play in a particular genre? How would I like to run that?
When I read new games and when I play new games I think about how they are different from each other and about the procedures and mechanics involved in them. I think about how they feel and why they feel the way they do. I think about their design and about the premise, genre, or idiom that the game involves.
When I watch myself and others play & when I reflect on the game sessions afterwards I think about our different intentions and different methods of playing. I think about how the specific games help or hinder that. I think about why we play. I think about what happens when things go right and what happens when things go wrong. I think about how different intentions or desires require different games and mechanics and actions. I think about all the different ingredients that make up the RPG experience.
Sometimes I think about designing or modifying games. What would I do differently and why? What would my intention be? How can I use an interesting mechanic? How can I produce a particular feel? How can I emulate a particular genre?
There is nothing new under the sun. As the book The Elusive Shift shows, before me, before the people and groups that one normally associates with RPG theory, and in some cases even before games that were properly RPG’s at all, people have been thinking about and talking about these very things. Even so, I have found there is real value in coming to conclusions for yourself. Not just a matter of theory, one must be involved in experimentation. You have to apply what you have thought about and play the games. And then you can think about that experience.