You know how everyone is always saying “sandbox this” and “sandbox that”? Where did that term come from, and when? What’s the earliest recorded mention?
I’m asking because Ron Edwards asserts (PDF) that “sandbox” is one of those terms that everyone throws around, mostly by way of example–“Oh, you know, like Keep on the Borderlands!”–that probably could use some more examination, and I think he’s right. I’m wondering what it was originally coined to encompass.
My own exposure to the idea behind it, if not the term, is the “Techniques of Story and Campaign Design” in the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (TSR 1986) where Doug Niles compares Linear, Open, and Matrix style games; this advice was rehashed in the 2e era in the Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (TSR 1990 by Jaquays and Connors). I’m presuming if the term had been around in 1986, Niles would have used it, if only as a touchstone.
But I’m wondering if there are earlier mentions of these ideas, and specifically the term “sandbox.” Any thoughts?