I do not personally find this kind of stratification useful. The reason that the Forge exists is that a bunch of people decided to reject conventional wisdom about the way games do and can work, rather than laboriously learning the received wisdom about their craft from their elders and following in their footsteps, hoping someday to move from apprentice to journeyman to master.
Everyone is an apprentice by some standard of measurement and in some contexts, a journeyman in others, and a master in still others.
These terms come from the guild culture of the Middle Ages. I love the Middle Ages, but good lord, the Middle Ages in general and guild culture in particular were not about innovation. They were about doing things the same way they had always been done.
Historically, the Forge has been a haven for indie creators in general, people who did their own thing for their own reasons. That's the opposite of what this guild stuff was supposed to be all about.
I've only worked on one real indie RPG and I haven't finished it. But I'm not going to get all worried about how I'm barely a mere apprentice and I have another 5,000 hours to slog through before I have a hope of producing anything worthy. Screw that. I love games that aren't "masterful" by Guild "put in your time young one and someday you will be worthy" standards. Give me The Pool and WuShu, man! They are sweet games. And their authors had not "put in their time" and earned their Mastery.
I look at stuff like this from Ben:
I'd like to note that the numbers that we are throwing around (2400 hours, 5000 hours) are...and I just want to bang my head against a wall. Cause everybody's learning all the time, including people who have put in however many thousands of hours you want to arbitrarily call "mastery."
2) With competent instruction
We don't have competent instruction in game design yet. Any field of it.
I have been designing games all my life. I have been seriously designing RPGs for fourteen years.
I'm still not very good.
And Paul Kimmel's thing:
An art example: I enjoy American "primitive" paintings. They have a directness and "honesty" that's appealing to me. But the artists who painted them made them look that way because they had no choice. I can love these paintings in spite of their limitations or even because of their limitations, but I can't deny that they have limitations. These artists never learned to overcome their blind spots.Learning can help you overcome blind spots. It can also create blind spots. Instruction can kill or blunt ability as well as enhancing it. It all depends on the person, and what they're doing, and whether the instruction is what they happened to need at that particular moment.
Those primitivists could not have painted the good things they painted if they were packed off to art school and devoted themselves to slogging through the basics that somebody handed down to them from above, instead of going their own way and doing what they loved and cared about.
That's what "indie" is all about.
Sometimes it results in things you don't like. Sometimes it results in things you like. But if you try to institute a program of rigorous instruction that will eliminate all the shit, you are going to eliminate much of the good stuff too.
Sometimes people do good things despite their lack of instruction at the hands of the Masters. Sometimes they do good things because of their lack of instruction at the hands of the Masters.
That said, I agree with Brand's original point that it is worth while refining as well as innovating, learning how to do a known thing more effectively as well as trekking into the unknown.
Ack! I just found out via email that Vincent was commenting while I was revising this post for yet a third time. I hope I haven't revised it into unrecognizability. I'm gonna post this and let it go.