In the creative cauldrons of our pastime there has always been a simmering of artistic ingredients. A bit like Buddhists there are those who task themselves with the constant rewriting of systems chipping away at previously undiscovered roleplaying nuggets and perspectives for repackaging an experience that is either more highly tuned or more narratively relevant than a previous incarnation. I am unsure as to whether there is a fashion apparent here as that would imply the coming and going of familiar rule sets and I get more the impression that its an iterative process at work. Certainly there are more formal editions of a system and I would hesitate to guess which product line has the highest version - perhaps Cthulu in its seventh would outrank D&D in its 5th but lets not forget the noble and single minded Astartes than now stride across 9th edition terrain. To be fair though, the fantasy specific adaption is somewhat younger that the formal wargame so perhaps we wouldn't count board games as such.
Certainly Kisckstarters abound with new games as well as revised takes on older systems and the creative juices that bring people into the somewhat armature dramatic hobby also fuel its development as an art form in its own right. But my question is whether its a matter of appeal or whether there is actually value in many of these reimaginings. This is not to rain on anyone's passion but as there is real authenticity in critiquing art I do wonder how we should judge new offerings.
I have an old friend for example who has a passion for the philosophy of religion and is bursting with ideas for a new system based around the deification of alien artifacts. Without going into too much detail, an alien mother ship crash landed on a world thousands of years ago devastating civilization at the time. The alien survivors from different crew divisions went their separate ways and using the technologies relevant to their division established power bases and religious followings in that regard - command created warriors, navigation created rangers, security created rogues, medical created clerics and engineering created mages. Its s simple backdrop but in creating effectively a technological pantheon mythos, as millennia rolled by with access to occasional 'magic' technology, narrative quickly writes itself. So the question is whether this is just a re-hash of old ideas or is it an original and exciting new perspective ? I am unsure how to critique it an unlike a pure art, much of the answer lies in the play of course but perhaps roleplaying is something more personal as its not art created by one person but an emergent experience created by many players, the system being just the paintbrush.
In one sense I don't like to judge but when it comes to playtesting and investing time in a campaign there are only so many hours in the day so there is a choice. I wonder whether we are headed to a sort of MasterChef critique as our sector matures - or perhaps something more like the on line Steam game management systems - perhaps we have so much fun these days we only have time for speaking in emoticons.