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Pistols at dawn.

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Levi Kornelsen:
Excellent.  My starting positions, for the purposes of this debate.

Self-Respect is better than vitriol.
What you spread in your rants and diatribes is vitriol.  Certainly, outrage has it's place, but if you believe that what you're creating is a stable center for any kind of movement, you're fooling yourself.  I say this as one Egomaniac to another - the only thing you'll create in this way is a cult of personality, and that's not even close to being the same as a movement.
If you want to bring gaming closer to being attractive to the majority of people, then what you need to do is teach self-respect to the gamers who don't have it, and encourage them to teach it, in turn to others around them.  Not everyone that needs to learn it will be willing to, instead choosing to bask in whatever miasma they've chosen - and by doing so, they'll "out" themselves far more effectively that you could ever do by getting your hate on.

Roleplaying Games are art.
Yeah, that's right.  When we play these games, we are taking part in the performance of art.  Art isn't some kind of elite title - If I draw two squiggly lines on a page, and manage to convey something by it, I've made art.  The problem isn't with people trying to make games into art, which has been your standpoint for a long time.  The problem is the idiotic pretensions that often surround and have grown over the process of making art itself, and that problem is in now way one that comes from RPGs or the players of them - it may have infected a few players, but it's not part of some "greater complex" of shit that deserves to be classed with all the other things you lump into your category of "swine".

Roleplaying Games create stories.
Stories.  You bet.  If I write a piece of fanfiction about how Harry Potter grows a set of wings and his rival Malfoy finds them irresistably sexy, that's a story.  If I write something kin to Huckleberry Finn, that's a story.  Most jokes are stories.  Movies are stories, most histories are even stories.  Story, story, story.  And, hey, people like stories, even crave them to some extent.  Stories that speak to their lives, stories that help them escape their lives and catch a glimpse of something else, stories that let them walk along with someone else for a time, real of imagined.  Journeys of wonder.

These stories *can* contain meaning.
Not *do*.  But *can*.  Sometimes, where a character in a story makes a choice that has meaning, morally, socially, politically, or in whatever other way, we notice.  We pay attention.  And sometimes it speaks to us.  We aren't necessarily converted by it; we may find their choices interesting, or loathsome, or any number of other reactions.  And when we are, for however short a time, cast into the place of that other person, the impact is potentially even greater.  From these choices, and our reactions, stories can take on meaning; they help us define who we are.  This isn't to say that games "need to teach".  Fuck that.  On those occasions where I'm interested in engaging with a roleplaying game at this level, it had better not be trying to force me around or control my reactions; games are *not* parables.

...Enough to get started?

RPGPundit:
My main argument:

Roleplaying Games are GAMES
the most basic and inherent quality of an RPG is that it can be defined as a "game". It is primarily meant to serve the purpose of a game: a set of rules for play in a group for entertainment. Any other values one might derive from an RPG are purely secondary to that, and trying to make one of those secondary values have too great of an emphasis in the hobby of RPGs will only harm RPG's popularity and viability; since the MAJORITY of gamers are interested in RPGs as games, and the majority of those who would join the RPG hobby would be interested in RPGs at the level of "games".

My Rebuttal:

Pragmatism must be the first order in improving the gaming hobby
Its perfectly nice to say that the best thing to do would be to help the social rejects to feel self-respect. The problem is that in the vast majority of cases that ship has long since passed. Likewise, saying that "vitriol is counterproductive" can really be code for "we're going to talk a bunch of sweet words about understanding and self-respect and do fuck all".
If the goal is to help the gaming hobby, taking an aggresive stance is the fastest and most practical way of brining about change. To suggest that what you call "vitriol" is not effective is ludicrous, aggresiveness has been an important part of countless movements for change. Saying "we're not taking this shit from you" is a significant and useful way to efficate change; certainly more effective than saying "I could help you do things differently" when the person in question has no interest in doing things differently, or saying "please stop your naughty ways or I'll.. I'll... ask you to stop a second time! So there!".
Likewise, this pragmatism also applies to the question of "expanding the hobby". There is a simple and common-sense approach to expanding the hobby, which would be to market to teenagers with books that are aimed to them, with straightforward rules that are not too light, "artistic", or pseudointellectual to appeal to them; in forms that would be afforable and artistically appealing to them; rather than having companies try to continue to cater and pander to an ever-diminishing group of obsessive, often non-playing "collectors"; or trying to appeal to "non-traditional" groups of demographics when the obvious demographic and the one most likely to succeed has not been effectively tapped yet. There's nothing inherently wrong in making products for collectors or non-traditional demographics but neither of these have the potential to actually "revitalize" the industry in the long term.
Gaming does not need to change into something other than gaming in order to be "saved"; it just needs to do what it already does, but better.

If You define everything as "art", then Roleplaying Games are "art", but so what?
There are several ways, by stretching the more traditional definitions of Art, that you could end up defining RPGs as "art". But so what? What good does it accomplish? Likewise, its all well and good to say "we need to get rid of artistic pretentions", but how the hell do you expect to accomplish that?
Its much more useful to say "RPGs are NOT art", so that those who have those artistic pretentions will not be drawn to be pretentious about RPGs. The more we present RPGs as a GAME which is what they primarily are, the less likely that the pretentious (the Swine) will seek to subvert gaming to create a "culture of pretentiousness" like what you see in the modern art scene.

Roleplaying Games Create Stories, But That's Only a Means to an End
Creating "story" is not the goal of the RPG. The RPG's "goal" is to be entertained by creating adventures for characters to experience.  The story is not the goal, the play and conflict (physical or not) is the goal.  The more a game is based on the concept of "story" as a goal, the more likely that the DM will be drawn to railroading and removing player agency in order to create a superior story.  RPGs are NOT stories like novels, or even like plays, because the story is secondary to the Character's ability to make choices. Unlike a novel or a play, the player of the character will base his choices (and should have the freedom to base his choices) on what his character would really consider priorities, and not on following conventional or even unconventional styles of drama or literary structure. At their core, RPGs are emulation (in the form of a game that simulates a genre, or a world, or a place or time), not literature or drama.
The stories these games create can end up having a beginning, middle and end; clear protagonists, or some kind of meaning or theme; but it will not necessarily have any of these. In particular, the existence of multiple players almost always guarantees that trying to follow any kind of typical literary model of a single lead protagonist will lessen RPG's values as a game, and therefore be counterproductive to the purpose of RPGs.  Having meaning or themes in these stories should emerge only in the context of either the emulation of genre (that is, if a particular "theme" is so absolutely essential to a genre that an RPG in that genre will inevitably touch on that theme), or it should emerge organically as a result of the players or the GM's adventure plot.  But games where the "purpose" of the game is either to teach this "message" or to intentionally "collectively explore" a theme will end up suffering in their quality as a game. Just as games are not parables, both parables and roundtable-study-groups make for crappy games.

Your turn.

RPGPundit



--- Quote from: Levi Kornelsen ---Excellent.  My starting positions, for the purposes of this debate.

Self-Respect is better than vitriol.
What you spread in your rants and diatribes is vitriol.  Certainly, outrage has it's place, but if you believe that what you're creating is a stable center for any kind of movement, you're fooling yourself.  I say this as one Egomaniac to another - the only thing you'll create in this way is a cult of personality, and that's not even close to being the same as a movement.
If you want to bring gaming closer to being attractive to the majority of people, then what you need to do is teach self-respect to the gamers who don't have it, and encourage them to teach it, in turn to others around them.  Not everyone that needs to learn it will be willing to, instead choosing to bask in whatever miasma they've chosen - and by doing so, they'll "out" themselves far more effectively that you could ever do by getting your hate on.

Roleplaying Games are art.
Yeah, that's right.  When we play these games, we are taking part in the performance of art.  Art isn't some kind of elite title - If I draw two squiggly lines on a page, and manage to convey something by it, I've made art.  The problem isn't with people trying to make games into art, which has been your standpoint for a long time.  The problem is the idiotic pretensions that often surround and have grown over the process of making art itself, and that problem is in now way one that comes from RPGs or the players of them - it may have infected a few players, but it's not part of some "greater complex" of shit that deserves to be classed with all the other things you lump into your category of "swine".

Roleplaying Games create stories.
Stories.  You bet.  If I write a piece of fanfiction about how Harry Potter grows a set of wings and his rival Malfoy finds them irresistably sexy, that's a story.  If I write something kin to Huckleberry Finn, that's a story.  Most jokes are stories.  Movies are stories, most histories are even stories.  Story, story, story.  And, hey, people like stories, even crave them to some extent.  Stories that speak to their lives, stories that help them escape their lives and catch a glimpse of something else, stories that let them walk along with someone else for a time, real of imagined.  Journeys of wonder.

These stories *can* contain meaning.
Not *do*.  But *can*.  Sometimes, where a character in a story makes a choice that has meaning, morally, socially, politically, or in whatever other way, we notice.  We pay attention.  And sometimes it speaks to us.  We aren't necessarily converted by it; we may find their choices interesting, or loathsome, or any number of other reactions.  And when we are, for however short a time, cast into the place of that other person, the impact is potentially even greater.  From these choices, and our reactions, stories can take on meaning; they help us define who we are.  This isn't to say that games "need to teach".  Fuck that.  On those occasions where I'm interested in engaging with a roleplaying game at this level, it had better not be trying to force me around or control my reactions; games are *not* parables.

...Enough to get started?
--- End quote ---

Levi Kornelsen:
Okay.

Roleplaying games are a fusion.

Roleplaying game do, absolutely,  serve the purpose of a game as you define it.  "A set of rules for play in a group for entertainment".  Completely so.  But what particular flavour of entertainment?  What kind of play?  You argue, and correctly, that the majority of gamers seek entertainment through games that are played as games.

Let's skip the idiot session of trying to play with the word "game", and get down to some cases.

Playing the card game Once Upon A Time yields a different kind of entertainment that playing the card game Munchkin.  They are both unquestionably games, yet the first yields stories as a direct and intended result of play.  In the first game, the creation of story is in many ways the entertainment - they act in synthesis, supporting each other.  In the second game, it's the humor and the light-hearted cut-throat nature of the game, among other factors, that provide the entertainment.

Playing the board game Junta provides a different experience of play than playing Chess.  The first is lighter in flavour, and creates a kind of very light roleplaying - as a player, I find the Junta is written well enough, and the details of the game support play well enough, that I as a player have some slight sense of "being there" as the cartoonishly-exaggerated leader of a corrupt banana republic.  And, again, these things support and create the fun.  Personally, I find chess dull, since truly good play requires a level of rote study I'd never put in given the potential rewards.

So.  I posit that roleplaying games can and do manage the same trick; entertainment can come from game elements in the forms I've stated.

Talk changes things

I don't think that the 'ship has passed' for the greater numbers of those under-socialised gamers you pick at; in plain fact, I think you state that because you'd rather spit from a distance than step up and say hello.

To say that making a call for teaching self-respect usually amounts to no more than talking sweet words strikes me as a touch odd; both what I was objecting to and what you're objecting to are talk.  Talking can, and does, change things.

As for an aggressive stance, I don't agree that it's the fastest and most practical means to effect change.  It's certainly one means, and it's the one you've chosen to generally put first.  Myself, I put the other foot first, and I profit by it not only regularly, but in almost every circle.  Can you say the same?

As to the expansion of the hobby

I hadn't actually put forward a thought on this yet, but I'll do it now.  I believe that the fastest way for gamer to expand on the hobby is for them to stop being ashamed of what they do.  Full stop.  A confident presentation is enough to get people interested; some will like it, some won't.

As to broadening the methods of play and the effect that this has on expansion, I believe that's neither here nor there.  More diverse kinds of people are playing, and they're playing more diverse games.  They like these games.  Rock on.

The Art Debate.

This point is on the verge of dissolving into pure semantics, which is as much my fault as yours; it's always close to that point, and we're not making any new progress on it.  I'm going to skip the "let's start posting bits of the dictionary" crap.  You know what I mean; I know what you mean, let's move on to the real and more interesting point you made there.

The possibility of a "culture of pretension".

I love this one, because it's one of the places where I've lived through exactly the kind of thing you're talking about.  That is to say, I play in several World of Darkness LARP games, and have for years.  In the specific case of those games, where I live, there were the beginnings of motions made on such a culture, and it died.  It didn't die because people railed against it.  It died because the people supporting it had aspirations to make games more like some false image of "theatre" that they had set up - and then people actually, professionally involved in the theatre started attending games.  It died of shock; exposure to real theatre killed the pretense, and we instead started seeing things that really were from theatre, and which have no pretense at all, coming in.  The fastest way to kill pretense is to demand that it give you exactly what it promises.

The story argument and player agency

See my points under "roleplaying games are a fusion"; I think I answered most of this here.

As to the argument regarding player agency, I completely agree that many games - especially those inspired or run by the White Wolf "Storyteller" advice from their older books - strip players of their agency in order to pursue story, and that doing so is contrary to the enjoyment of most, if not all, players.

But that's not the only way to pursue story in a game.

A game can just as easily pursue story, without conforming to a pre-set story arc or GM plot, by making the issues of the game relevant issues to the player characters.  

If a character has something about them, a flaw, a motive, an issue, and you put that character into a situation where they need to make real decisions regarding that thing, stories result naturally.  And for many people, that's entertaining.

Over to you.

RPGPundit:

--- Quote from: Levi Kornelsen ---Okay.

Roleplaying games are a fusion.

So.  I posit that roleplaying games can and do manage the same trick; entertainment can come from game elements in the forms I've stated.
--- End quote ---


I will not question the specific points you make in this section; however, I will suggest that even conceding the various arguments you make it fails to fulfill the apparent suggestion of your title "Roleplaying games are a fusion".
Suggesting that Junta is different from Chess does not in any way prove that RPGs are in some way a combination of different games to create one kind of "uber game" that must be appreciated at different levels.
Indeed, your title raises several questions that you fail to answer: A fusion of what, exactly, are you arguing?

It is my position that RPGs are not a fusion of any kind of other games or play, they are their own entity; so any conflict or combination you see as inherent to them is in fact non-existent.


--- Quote ---
Talk changes things

I don't think that the 'ship has passed' for the greater numbers of those under-socialised gamers you pick at; in plain fact, I think you state that because you'd rather spit from a distance than step up and say hello.

To say that making a call for teaching self-respect usually amounts to no more than talking sweet words strikes me as a touch odd; both what I was objecting to and what you're objecting to are talk.  Talking can, and does, change things.

--- End quote ---


I disagree. I would suggest that for most of the anti-social gamers, the ship indeed "passed" long before they ever became gamers. Most of the "lawn crappers", the anti-social gamers, have entered the hobby specifically motivated by the fact that the hobby has a reputation for tolerating their kinds of social retardation. They are not interested in changing, and have gravitated to RPGs as a hobby because they know or expect that its adherents will not ask them to change.

Can this have exceptions at the level of the individual? Of course. But then, those who are really interested in participating in the RPG hobby will be willing to change their odious personal habits for the sake of having that privilege. While these people who are trying to change should be encouraged to do so, the onus should not be on the hobby to help "repair" these dysfunctional gamers; the priority of the hobby should be to reposition itself as a group that does not tolerate these behaviours and does not wish to continue attracting the kind of people who participate in them.


Just like the RPG hobby should not be depositaries for social rejects, the membership of the RPG hobby is not a therapy group and should neither attempt to nor be expected to act like one.


--- Quote ---
As to the expansion of the hobby

I hadn't actually put forward a thought on this yet, but I'll do it now.  I believe that the fastest way for gamer to expand on the hobby is for them to stop being ashamed of what they do.  Full stop.  A confident presentation is enough to get people interested; some will like it, some won't.

--- End quote ---


I agree that genuine gamers have nothing to be ashamed about. However, to me this issue is tied into the current dysfunctionality of the hobby; the fact that it has turned into a cesspool for the socially inept.  And the reservations normal gamers might have of revealing their participation in the hobby stem from fear of being mentally associated with these social retards.
Restoring "gamer pride" is an issue that is inextricably tied into cleansing the hobby of the terminally socially retarded and the hopelessly pretentious.


--- Quote ---
The possibility of a "culture of pretension".

I love this one, because it's one of the places where I've lived through exactly the kind of thing you're talking about.  That is to say, I play in several World of Darkness LARP games, and have for years.  In the specific case of those games, where I live, there were the beginnings of motions made on such a culture, and it died.  It didn't die because people railed against it.  It died because the people supporting it had aspirations to make games more like some false image of "theatre" that they had set up - and then people actually, professionally involved in the theatre started attending games.  It died of shock; exposure to real theatre killed the pretense, and we instead started seeing things that really were from theatre, and which have no pretense at all, coming in.  The fastest way to kill pretense is to demand that it give you exactly what it promises.

--- End quote ---


I agree with this; "pretense" is, after all, making claims to that which you are not. The Swine are "pretending" to be artists, pretending to be intellectuals, and for them creating a visage of intellect or art is far more important than actual intellect or art. The games that are "darlings" to them are games that are not revolutionary in mechanics or concepts, but that put on a show about being revolutionary.  When they encounter games (like the Amber Diceless RPG) that are genuinely revolutionary in structure without putting on the pretentious face-makeup, the Swine are not able to react and generally try to be dismissive because they recognize that it shows up their falsehood; the way fake modern "artistes" will react negatively against art that requires real skill or creativity, because it demonstrates how shallow and unartistic they really are.

I am in no way against creating intelligent games, or beautiful games. I am against the promotion of gaming as something pretentiously "intellectual" or "artistic", and the suggestion that those who play certain games are more artistic or more intellectual by the mere fact of claiming to like those games.


--- Quote ---
The story argument and player agency

See my points under "roleplaying games are a fusion"; I think I answered most of this here.

As to the argument regarding player agency, I completely agree that many games - especially those inspired or run by the White Wolf "Storyteller" advice from their older books - strip players of their agency in order to pursue story, and that doing so is contrary to the enjoyment of most, if not all, players.

But that's not the only way to pursue story in a game.

A game can just as easily pursue story, without conforming to a pre-set story arc or GM plot, by making the issues of the game relevant issues to the player characters.  

If a character has something about them, a flaw, a motive, an issue, and you put that character into a situation where they need to make real decisions regarding that thing, stories result naturally.  And for many people, that's entertaining.

Over to you.
--- End quote ---


Your point fails to address the central issue of my point: that any effort to artificially "produce" story in RPGs will naturally result in a loss of agency (player and GM, but especially Player) and an artificial and sub-optimal play experience.
The only context in which the GAME of roleplaying contains "story" is as a set-up for the play. So if you can say you create "story" in RPG, it is in fact only the "beginning" you can create consciously. If either players or GMs collectively and intentionally try to direct "middle" or "end", they damage the game experience.

RPGPundit

Levi Kornelsen:

--- Quote from: RPGPundit ---I will not question the specific points you make in this section; however, I will suggest that even conceding the various arguments you make it fails to fulfill the apparent suggestion of your title "Roleplaying games are a fusion".
--- End quote ---


Hm.  Reading back, that's a fair enough criticism.

The fusion is between the game and roleplaying elements, and of any other elements that are successfully brought in with those two without replacing either.  It's the actual combination of those things that creates, for many, the appeal.

Speaking honestly, it's my belief that many of the games that claim to be innovative roleplaying games are, in plain fact, not.  They are story games, or some other combination - sometimes a successful fusion, sometimes not.  And they stand or fall on their own merits.  But that's pure opinion, as with so much else.

Now, I'll also answer here to your later assertion that deliberate creation of story through play is always artificial and damaging to the experience of play, just to keep this stuff together.

Story-making is an element that can be brought in to roleplaying games while still having them remain roleplaying games.  It is brought in generally through three possible means:

1) By having the GM artifically structure a plot, with a beginning, middle, and end.  This removes player agency, as you've described.

2) By having both players and GM make decisions "on the fly", on the basis of "what makes a good story".  This alters the game experience in ways that some people enjoy and might defend.  I don't enjoy it and won't defend it; it does, in fact, damage my own gaming experience.

3) Through creation of situations, which is a normal part of roleplaying.  The only difference being that these specific situations are created to focus on and put to the test elements of the characters engaged in them, be those character elements physical, mental, social, or emotional.  By doing this, and making it possible for the situation to resolve itself however it plays out, stories are created naturally through play.  


--- Quote from: RPGPundit ---I disagree. I would suggest that for most of the anti-social gamers, the ship indeed "passed" long before they ever became gamers. Most of the "lawn crappers", the anti-social gamers, have entered the hobby specifically motivated by the fact that the hobby has a reputation for tolerating their kinds of social retardation. They are not interested in changing, and have gravitated to RPGs as a hobby because they know or expect that its adherents will not ask them to change.

Can this have exceptions at the level of the individual? Of course. But then, those who are really interested in participating in the RPG hobby will be willing to change their odious personal habits for the sake of having that privilege. While these people who are trying to change should be encouraged to do so, the onus should not be on the hobby to help "repair" these dysfunctional gamers; the priority of the hobby should be to reposition itself as a group that does not tolerate these behaviours and does not wish to continue attracting the kind of people who participate in them.


Just like the RPG hobby should not be depositaries for social rejects, the membership of the RPG hobby is not a therapy group and should neither attempt to nor be expected to act like one.
--- End quote ---


I disagree entirely regarding the motives you attach to what you call "lawncrappers", but have few specifics to argue from; it's very difficult to prove a negative.  Do you have a specific set of experiences that support you on that point?  If so, I'd ask you to share a couple of those.

Continuing, in order to encourage people to change their habits or opinions effectively, you must accept them.  It's impossible for the hobby to both "not tolerate" people and "encourage" them simultaneously; that kind of behaviour is more commonly, and simply, known as bullying.  

In addition, any hobby that chose not to tolerate certain of those that come to it seeking social acceptance and contact, would by it's nature require a clear means of judgement, whether a body of common and easily-referenced practice or a manifesto - a statement of intented practice - which can rationally and capably be carried out by those in agreement with it.  You've provided the hobby with neither, to this date.  Nor can I imagine either as being more than a series of stories of abuse or a statement of such elitism as to make almost everyone turn up their nose.


--- Quote from: RPGPundit ---I agree that genuine gamers have nothing to be ashamed about. However, to me this issue is tied into the current dysfunctionality of the hobby; the fact that it has turned into a cesspool for the socially inept.  And the reservations normal gamers might have of revealing their participation in the hobby stem from fear of being mentally associated with these social retards.
Restoring "gamer pride" is an issue that is inextricably tied into cleansing the hobby of the terminally socially retarded and the hopelessly pretentious.
--- End quote ---


I think the number of people I'd consider terminally socially inept or hopelessly pretentious is so miniscule as to not even warrant considering.  In your estimation, I believe that you consider them as a small, but socially pungent, minority.

I'm not afraid to be associated with gamers.  There are football fans, science fiction fans, and fans of almost any continuing work of popular fiction that are at least as socially impoverished as the very least among us.  And yet the people of those groups discuss their fandom with confidence.  The difference between us and them in these terms is not the presence of such folk as you denigrate.  

I'll skip the point of agreement; neither of us has much use for pretense, we simply differ on how we'd like to address it, and we're already covering that ground above.  Good enough for me.  If you'd like to return to it, feel free.


--- Quote from: RPGPundit ---Your point fails to address the central issue of my point: that any effort to artificially "produce" story in RPGs will naturally result in a loss of agency (player and GM, but especially Player) and an artificial and sub-optimal play experience.
The only context in which the GAME of roleplaying contains "story" is as a set-up for the play. So if you can say you create "story" in RPG, it is in fact only the "beginning" you can create consciously. If either players or GMs collectively and intentionally try to direct "middle" or "end", they damage the game experience.
--- End quote ---


As answered above.

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