LitRPG: Inclusive, Exclusive, and Gatekeepers

Discussion in 'All Things LitRPG' started by Paul Bellow, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. Windfall

    Windfall Level 18 (Magician) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    This does not contribute to the conversation in any way, but I just want to say that the business side of things depresses me.

    Sometimes I love the folks at RRL where it's all in the spirit of free. Not that I don't think writers shouldn't be able to earn money from their work, of course. I'm sure everyone starts out that way, like young music bands, who are there to explore and create, and are grateful for every gig, every fan, every clap from the audience. But then once you 'go pro'... well, then it gets to your head. Power corrupts. When you have nothing, you're fearless. When you have something, you start to feel afraid, and then you resort to underhanded tactics, and you maybe sometimes even wonder what has happened to that young artist who wanted nothing more than to please, but it's too late now...

    I don't use facebook, but I lurk, and they have somehow managed to create an atmosphere of censorship there (as well as 'self-censorship', which is really scary if you think about it -- because, uh, North Korea is like that, you know) Why is this bad? It kills conversation, and without conversation we're mindless sheep. But mindless sheep are good for consumerism, you see, if you're a product-owner.

    What can we do, then? Well, we can create conversations here. We speak up. We promote honestly and transparency. We be the change and fill the genre with the positive, constructive and welcoming energy it needs.
     
  2. Herko Kerghans

    Herko Kerghans Biased Survivor LitRPG Author Citizen

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    On the contrary, methinks it does contribute; but maybe that's just me. =)

    And aye, power corrupts; I have a hunch that, at the end of the day, that may be one of the main ingredients that, depending presence, absence and dosage, separates the good things from the bad.
     
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  3. Alexis Keane

    Alexis Keane Level 14 (Defender) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    [RANT]
    I started reading this genre ages ago, like a lot of you have, and what drew me toward it was the way that the authors weren't authors, they were readers. Somewhere along the road, this changed. Those who created communities, turned them into tribes and echo-chambers, perhaps unwittingly and unknowingly. And some authors (not all of them, but certainly some), stopped viewing themselves as readers and began to view themselves as authors, or more specifically, professional authors.

    What happened then is an old but familiar story, in which these people decided that in naming themselves professional authors (a rather pointless attribute that only indicates that one gets paid for their work, I might add - as in the Faleena Hopkins case, it does not necessarily indicate quality) and decided therefore that they must act like it. The result? Shameless power grabs and the sacrifice of principles for profit. And inevitably the LitRPG community loses, what was admirable about these authors was that they were primarily readers, not faceless entities hiding behind what they believe is their defining characteristic, vainly trying to thrust it into the world. What was great about them was that they were people, until they weren't. Until they decided that they were professionals and tried to reconcile to cognitive dissonance of being both aloof, inviolable, and "one of us".

    The thing about professional indie-authors is that it's such a smoke and mirrors scene. There are very few people who know what they're talking about, many who think they do, and an uncountable number who know they don't know crap but spout shit anyway because it makes them feel like they've made it in life. The whole idea of being a professional or indie author, I find, is an insidiously destructive concept, it's a tacit acceptance that good enough is good and that they're happy with being indie-authors or professional authors. What happened to wanting to be an author? Just an author. Like we dreamed of as we were kids. Being and indie/aspiring/professional author might be the reality, but it shouldn't be the goal. Because it represents stagnation, a refusal to innovate and keep on moving forward (something that is vital for LitRPG to develop). It's absolute hubris and pride (for those of you who like to think that "arrogance" is simply an attribution given by the inept and inferior - it is not) to decide that the shadow of the thing is the thing itself. And if you are that thing, then be better, no one's stopping you.

    And so, the final thing I'm going to rant about is echo chambers, and those who think that nothing separates indies from trads. And indeed nothing does, in theory. But not in practice. In practice the thing that separates indies from trads is quality (and those who insist on paying peanuts and hiring monkeys for no good reason when they get work done on their books are part of this problem - people who cannot afford to do so? fine. I wish them the best of luck and success. Those who can, however, and decide not to, sabotage the genre's legitimacy by presenting a poor image. These people are sharks and no better than any other write to market sharks, no matter what casuistry and mendacity they present to themselves - and no matter how much people around here dislike Aleron, I cannot dispute that his books - although not his behavior - don't make the genre look bad). Anyway... parentheses-micro-rant over... back to the gulf in quality. People like to talk about echo chambers. The gulf in quality between indie and trad is one of these. There's nothing wrong with reading indie books (I quite like them, they have souls), but there is a definite pitfall in becoming accustomed to them, to thinking that the lesser (I'm sorry to say this, I cannot name one book in the indie LitRPG world that is equivalent to one of the trad titans) quality of indie books is the norm, much less that it should be.

    I know this is all negative, etc, etc. It shouldn't be, everyone starts somewhere. I just vehemently disagree with those who think that being a good indie author is the equivalent to being a good author. Lets stop lying to ourselves and just write better.
    [RANT OVER]

    Now, as for the meat of the matter, inclusivity, exclusivity, and gatekeepers. Gatekeeping is necessary, it's called popular opinion, lie down with dogs rise up with fleas. Little else is needed. I fundamentally disagree with the idea of hiding drama from readers, it smacks of information control, and that's never a good thing. The readers deserve all the facts, they can be trusted to make the right decisions. Holier than thou ("The average reader is X" or "The average reader wouldn't understand") outlooks are unhelpful and destructive.

    Inclusivity/Exclusivity are the same thing at the end of the day (but at least exclusivity is honest... inclusivity is a a coward's name for exclusivity...) and they are generally irrelevant. The thing to note is that things are also inclusive/exclusive by ease of access and utilization. For instance, trying to move the LitRPG readerbase off facebook at this current point in time seems an exercise in futility at this point, it's just not big enough, and unless you can affect an 100% transition you will end up with split communities as happened the last there were two different litrpg groups on facebook. This is not good for reader cohesion. A group of 2000 readers is more effective than two groups of 1500 each. Not just because of the negative effects of overlap, too-many-groups-fatigue and increased chance of news-feed blindness, but because the effect of readers on communities are multiplicative. Once pages/groups reach a critical mass, and provided there are regular posts, the community tends to shift toward engagement rather than sole observation which increases relevancy via the facebook algorithm, which improves searchability, which improves engagement, you get the point. In the end, the goal should be to improve engagement, and the way to do that is via inclusivity. Any reaction is a good reaction as it promotes the liveliness and health of the group, even by unhealthy topics. Excessively unhealthy topics will almost always be gatekept by popular opinion. Which is not to say that rules should not exist, just that rules should be as non-restrictive as possible. Engagement is the lifeblood of any community. Attempts to artificially regulate it are futile and detrimental, even if they are clean and sterile.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
  4. Herko Kerghans

    Herko Kerghans Biased Survivor LitRPG Author Citizen

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    I can very much agree with your rant, mate (tone included; guess ranting is a genre I'm just drawn to, I'm afraid! =)


    I'll have to respectfully disagree with something in the non-rant part.

    I actually fully agree with this:

    ... but need to turn to vehement disagreement here (emphasis mine, where I disagree):


    Playing the facebook algorithm's game is, in my mind, not that far from forgetting that pleasure of being readers and helping each other, and transition into "doing this because market-based reasons". Aiming to have everybody in the same place because that gains us the favour of the algorithmic overlords is, for me, a bit too close to having the market dictate what we should or we should not do as readers, rather than passion.

    Add to that the fact that not everybody likes facebook (for a number of reasons), and that in this particular example the facebook group may have too much of an iron hand ruling it... there's little doubt, always in my opinion, that as of right now it's better to have several groups than just one.

    (By the way, need to add at this point: maybe I read've your post all wrong, mate, please be sure to let me know if I did! =)

    In short: I fully agree inclusivity is a matter of ease of access and utilization; lowering entry barriers, so to speak. But, IMHO, that's the reason several groups are superior to a single one: if for whatever reason the entry barriers to one group become too high for somebody, they may still get into the genre via other groups. Reiterating the example above, no matter how good and inclusive the facebook group becomes, there will still be folks that don't use facebook in principle.

    (In yet other words: I'd rather see an ecosystem of small groups, hopefully helping each other while each may be different in some way, than just a single, larger organism, if that makes any sense)
     
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  5. Alexis Keane

    Alexis Keane Level 14 (Defender) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I certainly agree that the facebook algorithm game is completely soul-less. I personally dislike it (and facebook to boot - on principle). However, in such a case, ignoring facebook algorithms is too much like cutting of one's nose to spite one's face. And yes there is nothing wrong with satellite groups of split-off groups, but right now the numbers of people using facebook are too low to support the divergence into two separate groups, especially since groups are generally run as halo-effect or outright marketing projects by forceful personalities... this leads to tribalism which the readers in general don't really need right now, which makes it more beneficial to have a cohesive base in the form of single facebook groups that serve the community's needs... people have attempted to create offshoot ventures, websites and the like, they will succeed eventually, but those who made them for the purpose of expanding market share will be disappointed with their current returns (with the exception of gamereads, that is viable due to the podcast/interview element through facebook)... why? because the litrpg community is too small and facebook is familiar and comforting... these dreams of one stop shop sites are wonderful, but they're also premature... imagine the groups are rivers, it's only sensible to drain off excess when the rivers are about to burst their banks... it might seem that it's late in the litrpg genre development, but it's unbelievably early (mid-end of the middle innovators phase if I had to stick a label on it)... the genre is still growing, the readerbase is still trying to determine its identity, and attempts to partition it will only hamper that by forming shrewish cliques that excel at internecine flame wars and little else... now, there's no issue with many different groups and websites, even now... the issue is that they're run by forceful personalities who directly benefit from leading the groups (soft power, hard power, halo effect, etc.) and as such it tugs the communities in multiple different directions and prevents it from achieving a normal equilibrium...

    Also, you noted the risk of iron hands ruling the genre, but that's more likely to work when there is a shared enemy to contest again. it's hard to turn a single facebook group against itself, it's far easier when there's a physical divide between groups...

    As for passion vs market practice, it's a delicate balance... there's nothing wrong with market practice as long as it's not done to the detriment of passion and the readers, indeed everything should be done in service of passion and the reader...

    One other thing to note is that failing to apply marketing practice to growing a group sabotages its growth compared to others that do...
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
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  6. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member LitRPG Author Shop Owner Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    So, who should run the group?

    I wonder if a group of readers shouldn't start a FB group to emulate (kinda) what the readers have done on Reddit?
     
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  7. Alexis Keane

    Alexis Keane Level 14 (Defender) Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Pretty much this
     
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  8. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member LitRPG Author Shop Owner Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    What MONSTER have I created?! If the readers run it, how will authors promote! /s

    I wonder why it's not happened yet. Because there's already three (or more) groups on Facebook?
     
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  9. Herko Kerghans

    Herko Kerghans Biased Survivor LitRPG Author Citizen

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    I guess it's a bit like bars, or cafés: on the one hand, there are a lot of places (and books, and movies, and games of course) that fall into the "Nothing against it, but not quite my thing" category. A place (virtual or physical) may have a certain vibe that is just not the vibe somebody prefers (I stress again: without that meaning that there's anything bad about that specific place). Just "not my thing".

    On the other hand, the place being popular is not always a plus for everybody: some folks prefer smaller communities where they know each other, rather than the large place where everybody goes to but where most folks are just annonymous.

    (And then you have the platform itself: some folks don't like facebook, some folks don't like reddit, etc).

    I guess in the end my point would be: there's no way to design it Top-Down (luckily, in my opinion!). =)

    Call me naive, but I think it's about being nice and open to each other, and as Alexis points out above, trying to avoid falling into tribes. I may like this bar better than that bar over there... so what? It's just my favourite bar; I don't need the other bar to do badly in order for me to enjoy this one. As long as newcomers to the bar scene can freely choose which bar to have drinks in, and as long as drinking in this bar doesn't mean you are no longer welcome to sometimes go to that bar over there, all is cool methinks.

    Yes: some bars will eventually thrive, and others won't. That's just how things are. But for the bar scene as a whole to thrive, methinks that "Let's have a lot of bars!" works better than "Let's all gather in just one place!"

    (Broadly speaking I mean, and crudely simplificating to illustrated the point! =)
     
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  10. Conor Kostick

    Conor Kostick Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I love that image. I do think I'm recruiting an exploration party. The map is marked El Dorado. Let's hope I don't turn into an Agguire!



    Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 20.09.32.png
     
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  11. Herko Kerghans

    Herko Kerghans Biased Survivor LitRPG Author Citizen

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    :D:D

    Yeah, exxxactly!! =)

    To be super clear for everybody (since the Internet is, well... the internet): I wasn't neither dissing nor endorsing your specific exploration party; just noting that some brave souls may be willing and daring to explore solo (and reap all the benefits of their discoveries without having to share them, no doubt!), while others may prefer to be part of a party. And, while I'd urge everybody to read the fine print of everything they intend to put their signature on, it seemed to me (without knowing anything else) that forming such a party to explore unknown lands was what your post aims to do (or, probably more accurately, to start chatting about the possibility to put together such a party, so to speak =).
     
  12. FrustratedEgo

    FrustratedEgo Level 11 (Thief) LitRPG Author Roleplaying Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    It seems like this genre, more than nearly ay other, has a on of readers and writers actively in the communities - where other genres don't seem to have that crossover. So, self promotion is a thing.

    As mentioned, RRL is a bit less drama free at times, but I've been there long enough to see more than a bit of drama as authors flail to their fans about ratings, comments, and so on. Thick skin isn't a requirement to writing. It' a good place to practice and hone and generally relax because money is less of an issue if you're making the work free. I, for one, am going back to a serial style for all draft/ rough versions and publishing cleaner versions to Amazon. This is the only thing that makes sense to me since I can't write fast enough to compete with those above me - and need feedback of some sort to keep going. This is where the community is great - their interaction is everything.

    When it comes to gatekeeping in general, the community (as Alexis mentioned) should always have an eye on it - but prospects aimed at writers will most likely be vetted, in any form, by writers. So, if the issue is Booooo publisher X or ad monkey Y or whatever, it's going to get vocal because money is involved. I, for one, prefer that those conversations stay within their target audience. That is t say, addressing Alexis, that we're not out to hide it - but make sure it only impacts those the service would have appealed to in the first place.

    I leave it to the readers to tell people they're tired of book X or author X - they've already gone a step beyond simply finding content and ventured into the community talking about it. They speak with their wallets and help write to market authors who don't get it flop hard with bad reviews and so on.
     
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  13. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member LitRPG Author Shop Owner Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    There's a lot of authors reviewing other authors (good and bad) which is also somewhat unique to LitRPG.

    At the end of the day, I'm having fun. While I'd love my books to sell better (and get less negative reviews), I'm still finding my audience which is harder these days.

    But yeah, there's a lot of things about LitRPG that are not seen in other genres. I wonder if that will change as it matures.
     
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  14. Conor Kostick

    Conor Kostick Level 12 (Rogue) LitRPG Author Beta Reader Citizen

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    I was a bit slow coming to the party, because I hadn't seen LitRPG was a genre. When I found the Facebook groups, I rushed in – think innocent, fluffy ewok – saying, 'hi, this is great, anyone remember Epic?' I was expecting a rousing cheer from the old-timers and a few, 'oh man, glad you found us, I loved that book as a kid.' Instead I got cold-shouldered. Banned from one, in fact, whichever one Aleron controls. I'd introduced myself to Aleron in a PM and asked could I mention Epic. He said I'd have to run it by the mods and they said 'no', because there was no levelling in the game system. Nor did I get a reply from Ramon when I offered a promo code for the newly released audio version of Epic. I'd have walked away – think bedraggled, ewok with tyre marks on its back – but for the fact I found this forum and the associated Facebook group. There's a sour, controlling spirit elsewhere that I'm sure is having a dampening effect on the growth of the community.
     
  15. FrustratedEgo

    FrustratedEgo Level 11 (Thief) LitRPG Author Roleplaying Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    The group Aleron is in is hugely against self promotion. Unless you're Aleron.
     
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  16. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member LitRPG Author Shop Owner Citizen Aspiring Writer

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  17. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member LitRPG Author Shop Owner Citizen Aspiring Writer

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  18. Herko Kerghans

    Herko Kerghans Biased Survivor LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Hum. Truly sad to hear, mate.

    I think the only applicable technical term here is "it sucks." Somebody reeeeally wants the tiny pond all for themselves, it seems... =/
     
  19. FrustratedEgo

    FrustratedEgo Level 11 (Thief) LitRPG Author Roleplaying Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Not terrible. Sales seem to have almost broken even on day 2, tail isn't great buy the buythrough should exist a little. Plus a few audio. Gained some more fans and exposure (according to Bookbub's site) and we're not sure where B&N is at.
     
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  20. Viergacht

    Viergacht Thunderdragon LitRPG Author Roleplaying Beta Reader Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    I can't believe they BANNED you for that! What a prick.
    I'm really glad I found THIS forum first when suggestions started popping up on Amazon and I wondered wtf this newfangled LitRPG stuff was (and it turned out to be a combination of two of my favorite things, portal fantasies and Dungeon Keeper).
     
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