Linearity: Games vs Conversation
Friday, September 17, 2010 at 9:07PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid)

"The one thing harder than playing games is talking about them" ~ KirbyKid

Continuing my examination of how people and gamers communicate over the internet, I recently turned my attention to the forum/message board format. 






Remember, I have a strong belief in the intelligence of the average, avid gamer. I've presented my point of view clearly here. 


With those ideas in mind, I want to use a thread from the neogaf forums as an example to illustrate that there are quality conversations and insightful comments made about games on a public forum. At the same time, I'll show how the cons (namely the strict linear presentation) of forum posts restrict and limit clear communication. 


Here's the thread. Why does linearity in get so much criticism? Go ahead and read the first post/page. If you really like the topic, read the whole thread. When you're done ready try answering the following questions. 


Answering most of these questions is actually pretty difficult. After all, you'd have to read through all 364+ posts (or at least half of them) keeping track of the different conversations and various games mentioned while evaluating the arguments and rebuttals throughout. In other words, you'd have to do some work. 

My theory is by restructuring the linear format of the thread and adding a few labels, the heart of all the conversations can be convey significantly more efficiently and clearly. With a new structure, instead of reading through the text looking for the posts, posters, or comments that interest you, you can quickly find what you're looking for with the labels while avoiding everything else. 


See the new version here.

So take a look at a simple restructured version of the same thread. I originally reorganized the thread in a mind map with expandable branches like the image above. Unfortunately, I can only share it via an expandable page of text. The names and the avatars have been removed (because of the limited software I used). The bolded lines are topic groups. Click on the + or - to expand and collapse the branches. Some of the entries are linked to their original posts, but most aren't.  The +# or -# notes at the end of some posts indicate when other posters agreed/disagreed with that particular post. 




Interestingly, there are a few important posts made in this thread that bring up very important points. 


In general there are a few things forum posters can do to improve the overall quality of their online gaming conversations. 


Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
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