Well, that is certainly fair. Seeing it, I decided to adventure into Google with a search for methodical, academic, education.
And turned up this interesting document. Well, interesting for me, at least. Perhaps a little high hat for many folks. Fundamentally, it is a breakdown of techniques used to enable the professional training of graduate students, with the intent that they acquire "intellectual competence." Following the paper's definition of terms, purpose and general relevance, which must be done with every thesis, the content turns to several lists for projects, features, content and decisions taken in order to promote the described purpose: to give exactly what JB is asking for: a methodical, academic approach to any subject in which one might like to acquire intellectual competence.
Such as, say, role-playing games.
Now, obviously, there isn't word one in the paper specifically directed towards comprehension of RPGs ... but we do have a solid formulation for how the comprehension might be acquired. Take this short, but highly relevant list, regarding "collective nature of decisions taken, the nature of communication and mutual assistance, complementarity of the project's participants;"
1. establishing of the necessary and sufficient depth of penetration into a problem, bringing of knowledge from other areas;2. conclusiveness of decisions taken, ability to substantiate the findings, conclusions;3. the aesthetics of the results’ presentation;4. the ability to answer the questions of opponents, conciseness and validity of the responses of each group member;5. project sustainability: the transition to a new project, integration with other projects, the dissemination of the project to other levels.
Before I take this another step, however, the reader needs to ask a question of thyself: is the importance of understanding what we're doing as role-playing DMs and GMs deserving of real, legitimate academic investigation, or will we dismiss the above recommendation for "what matters" based on the content's use of exact, dry, even to some degree incomprehensible phrasing, because it happens to be written by a hand not limited by grade 10 vocabulary and grammar? Because where it comes to pushing the boundaries of "working in our field of study," there comes a time to dig in, drag out a dictionary and get serious about the content.
The reader ought to know by now that I can easily "dumb down" the content above, and of the whole paper, point by point, in an effort to make it accessible ... but the deeper point I want to make here is that some of us need to "smart up" to the content as written. The reader ought to be able to look at point 3 and see exactly what that means. And then the reader ought to be able to sit down and sketch out a list of what are the aesthetics of the presentation that the reader has decided upon, how far the reader has taken in terms of communicating those aesthetics and how much mutual assistance the reader has marshalled among the various project's participants. I shouldn't have to walk the reader through that thinking process, now that it is written out in point form, nor in what decisions the reader has made regarding their project's sustainability, ability to answer pointed questions, the conclusiveness and substantiality of findings produced about the project or establishing how much penetration was needed into the project in the first place, based on what knowledge was gained from what sources.
Some of you, I know, have university degrees. Which meant that, once upon a time, you read papers like this and wrote answers to questions based on such papers, in order to have a degree that now hangs on your wall. What was that degree for? To make a pretty hanging for your office or den? Or was it to teach you to be ready for a project that really mattered to you, beyond just dabbling?
Want to improve your methodology, your academic prowess where dealing with the fundamentals of role-playing? Take some time, translate a few random paragraphs from the paper and then explain, for yourself, how you're increasing or improving your competence in managing this particular effort of making a world or running a game. Because it's all right here. In black and white.
It's just not written in crayon.