Ben: Let me kick the conversation off with some history and dry facts. Bones of Contention grew out of our discussions about the current state of review culture in the classical/OSR/Post-OSR space. We were all dissatisfied with the limited review culture, which consisted mainly of boosting products, and a couple of long running single authored critical review blogs and youtube channels. Ava suggested that any real alternative would need to be a multi-authored collaborative review site perhaps modeled on video game review sites. We debated the practical complications of reviewing in a small scene where everybody knew everybody else, how to handle conflicts of interest, how to select products to review, whether to require playtesting for all products to be reviewed, and the tone we wanted to maintain (critical where merited but respectful). We had some ideas we set aside like making all reviews anonymous and doing video reviews. We hit eventually on our principles, outlined here.
Ben: You know, I think I agree with you all that the real strength of Bones has been the collaborative energy that is most on display in the more conversational reviews in the Folie a Deux, Rashomon, and Cryptic Signals series. It’s important to learn about the perspective of individual reviewers in their own series, since this gives us a sense of their pre-occupations and critical orientation. But it’s even better to see those individual perspectives come together in dialogue. For me, the high-point of the blog came in the recent Folie a Deux review of Luka Rejec’s Holy Mountain Shaker. It was especially interesting because Luka was trying to do something new and interesting in adventure design. Gus’ perspective on the centrality of space to procedural dungeon crawls gave him a critical perspective on the attempt, which contrasted with WFS’ interest in procedural and improvisational play that led to entirely different evaluation. In a sense the disagreement was really about what a dungeon is in the relevant sense. I found it absolutely fascinating. In the future I’d guess I’d like to build on that strength by experimenting with more of these dialogue style reviews. I think a book club would be a great idea as one new format we could experiment with. I also hope that as our critical perspectives become more developed, there will be a lot of cross-pollination between individual reviews, in the spirit of Ava’s Wheel of Evil review that brought together so many different threads of OSR relevant theory, including by Bones authors.