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Don't Start Nothing Won't Be Nothing

Interesting conversations on video games is not easy to come by. It seems to me that the entire video game "corner" of the internet is a chatter box of comments, yet not much is being said overall. The NeoGaf forums is one place I've been reading for years for an endless source of interesting topics/conversations. Though I've written on the inadequacies of  the linear presentation of a multi user conversations, this post isn't about the organization of information. Rather, this post is about what may be the prime reason why threads derail or fail to develop substance. I'm talking about OPs. 

The OP (original post) is the start of a conversation. It sets the direction for what and how people will contribute. The larger a thread become the less likely a reader will read every post. Regardless, in my experience, most readers will take the time to read the OP if nothing else. 

Most hiccups in discussions stem from language issues. If the OP doesn't state necessary terms clearly up front, the thread will typically move into as many divergent directions as there are interpretations of the terms(s). Or the thread will struggle trying to focus the discussion on a single interpretation. Instead of discussing the issues, such threads get derailed debating definitions. Personally, I love getting down to the nitty gritty of  language including tracing the evolution of terms and deriving/defining terms. However, when a discussion on language isn't the purpose of a thread, even a constructive debate can derail everything. 

For this reason, it's imperative that the OP defines all gaming terms. If one needs to refer to a dictionary the Critical-Glossary should be the ideal source. Otherwise, make up definitions as you go along. Being on the same page language wise is more important than stressing over having the "correct" definition (if there is such a thing). In other words, clarity is king. 

But we can do better than just present a dictionary of terms. It would very constructive for the OP to outline the best way for others to contribute to the discussion. Though far from 100% effective, a suggestion does go a long way to encourage posters to play along. 


Let's look at this NeoGaf thread for example: Franchise that defines this generation?

This is a great idea for a thread, but the topic is too big to leave the template for response with "thoughts?" What's worse than not being able to find others to discuss a topic of interest, is to start a conversation and watch it fall. Not only do most the first 50 posts suggest the same set of games, but the responses are just lists of game titles. Furthermore, DaBuddaDa brings up this point:


  • "You're gonna have to elaborate on what "defines a generation" means or this thread will just turn into "post your favorite game this gen."
  • And Dilly: "Isn't this pretty much the same as the 'no classics this gen' thread?"
  • And jett: "We've already had this exact thread. The answers are Call of Duty and Wii Sports, it's not even up for debate."


This thread needed to start with a clear template. Instead of encouraging posters to fail at wrapping their heads around thinking about the entire generation of gaming thus far, weighing trends, and predicting what qualities/features/innovations will be most important going into the next generation, it would have been better if the OP focused the discussion on specifics. We can't be experts on all games, but surely we can be experts at our favorite game(s). You know, the ones we may spend hundreds of hours with every hear. So perhaps the OP should have looked like this:


Games that define this generation. 

Question: What game exemplifies a unique feature or growing trend of this generation?

Here's a list of trends. Pick one, pick a game, explain, and repeat as necessary. Feel free to come up with your own examples of additional trends. 

  • DLC
  • Episodic Content
  • Achievements/Trophies/Awards
  • Social Network Integration (Twitter Facebook)
  • Motion Control
  • Touch Controls
  • Buttonless/Touchless Controls
  • Fitness Games
  • Microtransactions
  • Matchmaking
  • User Create and Share Features (PC/Console/Handheld)


With an OP like this, if there is one game that defines the generation, it should come up in many of these categories. Also, based on the games and tends posters submit, we can better gauge the range of games NeoGaf users have experience with. To me, there's no point faking a conversation on a topic that's too big for anyone to tackle. Keeping things focused on individual games and specific examples will yield more fruitful conversations. I hope you now see the importance of a good OP. As the history shows, if the OP doesn't start a quality conversation with a solid foundation, it's likely that there won't be one. 

If you feel inclined to submit to my revised OP feel free to do so via twitter or leave a comment. Limiting responses to about 140 characters or should give you just enough room to compose one cogent comment per trend. 

« Investigation: Shadow Complex | Main | Why Game Writers Need To Be Specific »

Reader Comments (2)

I would add several additional suggestions based on your article and some of the examples:
1.) Make it clear that the agreed upon definition is limited in scope to this discussion. While people may disagree whether it is the right definition for this discussion, they don't need to be considering all possible discussions. Note how important scoping is to the list of trends you gave.

2.) Reference previous discussions, their conclusions, and how this discussion should be different.

3.) Update the OP with relevant conclusions and links from the debate.

While I much prefer this style of discussion, I recognize that there are people who would find it too difficult or prefer a less clearly defined format.

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Rosander

@ Bryan Rosander

Exactly. Nice suggestions.

I know people might think it's too difficult, but as long as the interface/presentation is simple/intuitive, I think people will find clarity quite addictive. I just can't get enough of the stuff.

November 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterRichard Terrell (KirbyKid)

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