Something that was touched on in the last post is that the hobby of Roleplaying contains more than just the activity of Roleplaying, which may in fact not involve any roleplaying.
John Wick finally realised in his recent blog entry about D&D 4E (http://wickedthought.livejournal.com/) that not all roleplaying involves roleplaying. Some of it is not far from Talisman-with-talking. Some of it is only that kind of thing. I made this point before in 2000 here: http://ptgptb.org/0012/terms.html The hobby of roleplaying contains everything from skirmish wargaming to experimental theatre.
But there's an even more expansive definition, because that's the ACTIVE definition. That's the definition of "what people do when sitting around the table attempting to play an RPG". Although that also includes talking shit and making Python jokes.
But there are other parts of the roleplaying hobby. Things like making up lots of characters, and writing their backstories and drawing pictures. There's also posting about RPGs on forums. And most importantly, of course, reading games.
So here's a really useful and practical definition of what roleplaying is: it's EVERYTHING that people do that is associated with and surrounds and encourages buying and owning products which are labelled as RPGs. Of course, that leaves us with an undefinied concept of "things which we call RPGs", but we'll leave that for now.
The point I'm desperately trying to make is that from a marketting point of view (which for me is the most important one), it's vital we be inclusive about what RPGs are used for. Because the market is who defines that. If more people who buy RPGs read them rather than play them then that is absolutely what RPGs must cater to. Indeed, if more people who buy RPGs use them as doorstops rather than play them then RPGs better damn well come out with Unique Improved Door-Stopping Power and Adjustable Door-Catching Covers.
Of course, the big games out there already know this. White Wolf realised long ago that people want beautiful coffee-table books to look at when not gaming, and they succeeded because of it. D&D is a bit like a CCG: part of the game is deck-building, or rather character building, to produce the toughest deck/character. It's nice that the comparison to CCG design has already been mentioned re 4E. It's also reassuring that 4E is focussing intensively on What Players Actually Do too, rather than trying to design from any other perspective.
In short: customer focussed design is the most vital skill a game company can possess, along with good marketting. And RPGs are whatever our market wants them to be - whatever sells the most copies. And the more companies that think this way, the more likely we are to get more D&Ds and WoDs.
That perhaps, could be dubbed the Steve D Theory of Game Design: The Best Game Design is the Design that Sells the Most Copies.
Now let's hope I become notorious for that...