How do you learn what gaming is?
The first time we discussed this, we looked through the various games that I happen to own, and we discovered that of all the games and editions, only the 1980 "red book" edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules explicitly described the basis and goals of the game in any detail. The very first part of the Introduction is titled, "What the D&D Game Is All About," and even in the Foreward, the editor of that edition (Tom Moldavy) states, "This edition was designed to be easily read and used by individuals who have never before played a role playing [sic] game."
Most of the other games I own are predicated upon the idea that everyone already knows what role-playing is and how to role-play. Some of them give a cursory overview of the concepts, but even then, it seems expected that the players will really learn what role-playing is by participating in a game. That is to say, they are taught through an oral tradition, brought in as new players by long-time gamers who lead them through the "rites and rituals," as it were, of gaming - and, incidentally, pass on all of their particular prejudices, quirks, and preferences regarding what the game is and how it should be played.
On the one hand, role-playing does seem to be the kind of activity that is best introduced through participation. On the other hand, the "oral tradition" perpetuates the vague conceptions and misconceptions about RPGs that lead to frustrations and misunderstandings among players. Would it be enough for more games to follow the lead of the 1980 "red book" D&D Basic Rules, and spell out the concepts and goals? Can games afford the page count to do that? Can games afford not to?