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Author Topic: Pistols at dawn.  (Read 70083 times)

Levi Kornelsen

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Pistols at dawn.
« Reply #75 on: May 01, 2006, 10:22:23 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
I think that the voices of elitist zealotry are designed to drown out people who argue with soft voices. Most of the times, I've found, they aren't there to reason in good faith.  So you can only fight fire with fire, and showy posturing with equal showmanship.
Hell, its what has cost the democrats countless elections in the US. They keep thinking that showing that they're being more reasonable then the opposition will somehow be a magic panacea to spin doctoring and dirty tricks, when of course it never is. You beat spin doctoring with better spin doctoring. Bill Clinton, who was the only Democrat with electability in a good long while, was the only guy in the party who knew that, and the rest of the democratic party made a fatal error twice in a row now when they chose to ignore his lessons.

As for you, personally (though I wasn't talking about you personally above, but about your style of presentation), I think you and those others who criticized Ron Edwards over the Brain Damage incident got roundly ignored in favour of his defensive posturing.


*Shrug*

I got read, and responded to.  That particular instance didn't go all that well, but a couple dozen people responded to me privately in different places to support my dissent.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Well, I think one of the reasons your type of talking about gaming theory is better received by the public at large than others is really your efforts to avoid using jargon and creating self-referential terminology when you talk about gaming. In other words, actually sticking to talking about the play at the ground level, rather than rising up into degrees of abstraction through terminology.


Sure, that's part of it.  But to me, it's all one unified approach.  

Quote from: RPGPundit
I just think that there's a lot of gaming theorist/DiTV-playing types that would shit bricks at the very thought that the DM could just put his foot down and overrule the wishes of the players.


There might be a handful.  Many more, I think, would ask "Dude, what was up with your game that you had to do that?" than say "But you caaaaaaan't."

But then, I'm a huge dominant-personality type.  I actually have trouble imagining getting into a serious argument with someone who was there to actually just play the damn game.  So I may be a bit biased.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Talking about "walking softly" makes a lot of sense to me, and its certainly a skill that every good DM must learn and improve. I think the foundation to being able to do that rests with the stipulation that the GM has the stick and can use it at any time. The next step is to learn how to get things done so that it never comes to using the stick.


Okay, I don't see any further actual debate coming off this one.  So I'm going to start a new thread where everyone can play with this idea together.

Quote from: RPGPundit
Well, I'll agree that there's a lot of guys there that don't really give a shit whether mainstream D&D players think they're assholes or not, just like there's a lot of people in the Bush administration that at this point really don't give much of a shit what the public at large thinks of them.  But I think there's probably a lot of them who are happy for guys like you because they can continue to do the stuff they do and maintain that they don't actually need to change those things to be inclusive or approachable.


A rather unflattering comparison, that.

Still, I'm far from alone in this kind of thing.  I "came forward" at a time when it was going to start happening anyway, I think.  Consider, the Forge closed up the big theory shop, moving it out to blogs and actual play.

This means that theorists need to:

1) Stay on the Forge and connect their theories to actual play, or...

2) Be interesting enough on their blogs to get an audience, or...

3) Take it to another forum where people can stomp all over what they're saying.

And just as that was happening, a few of the friendlier theorists that didn't dig on the atmosphere at the Forge started to show willing.  And I just slotted in there.

I'm in favor of this.
 
Quote from: RPGPundit
Maybe your presence will undermine those guys  over time anyways, and you'll get to that point of Theory being approachable and inclusive. But as long as the core continues to be based on the principles its based on right now, I have trouble seeing that come to pass.


Time, as always, will show us.  And I actually doubt that I'll get, or deserve, more than "just another line in the credits" if it happens.

...And, since we've still got some time, I'm going to revise the whole "stories have meaning" thing I had right off the starting block.  Let's toss that boy around.

Fiction can convey real meaning.  Including games.

I'm going to put aside the word "story" for now, and just use "fiction".  People at a game table create an imaginary world in their heads; that's a form of fiction, even if it isn't structured in a storylike way or  'deep' in any way at all.  If you have a better word, toss it out there.

Now, any shared context can convey things from one participant to another; some people think that this always happens, whether or not you want it to.  By playing Good and Evil in D&D in specific ways, players share their impression of what Good and Evil mean in the context of the game.  This does not mean that you learn ethics by playing D&D.  It means that that the players and the GM can, and occasionally will (deliberately or not) "make statements" about ethics just by playing to the alignments.

As in any fiction at all, this can be good or bad.  Going out of your way to "make statements" about the nature of good and evil using D&D strikes me a bit of a stretch.  But, say you're playing in a D&D game, and hit a few complicated moral choices.  Maybe the players will pick what they want, and then just try to justify it.  Maybe they'll think over their alignment, and play it out.  Whatever.

But once in a while, the fiction jumps out and speaks to you.  Tragedy happens, or comedy, or farce.

Now, in a really good movie, or a book, this kind of thing is what can seperate good fiction from great fiction.  Pushed too far, it can also turn good fiction into terrible fiction.

I think it's the same way with RPGs.

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« Reply #76 on: May 02, 2006, 03:42:05 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

There might be a handful.  Many more, I think, would ask "Dude, what was up with your game that you had to do that?" than say "But you caaaaaaan't."

But then, I'm a huge dominant-personality type.  I actually have trouble imagining getting into a serious argument with someone who was there to actually just play the damn game.  So I may be a bit biased.


Well, you have guys like bankuei who seems to suggest that "GM-fiat" is one of the chief causes (or is it symptoms?) of dysfunctional games. They suggest that anyone who thinks that the "GM is god" in the campaign cannot possibly be playing in a functional group. Note that he doesn't say that some dysfunctional groups will have GM fiat; he suggests that all groups that use "GM fiat" are dysfunctional games.

So yea, I have some serious reservations about the typical Game Theorist's level of willingness to give the GM the authority to be in charge of the game. They seem to have some serious authority issues, and that shows in their theory and on what they view as the causes of dysfunction.

I've certainly seen, personally speaking, games where a power-mad GM caused a non-functional game. But I've seen WAAAAY more games where players trying to dominate/manipulate/make demands on the GM was the cause of group dysfunction.  And I've seen far more games where GM fiat was absolute and things worked just fine that the ones where GM fiat was a problem.  And in all of the latter, the GM fiat was not the cause of the problem, the cause of the problem was the would-be GM's personality. So that pretty well blows that theory out of the water; but of course Theorists would claim I'm just in denial and don't realize how dysfunctional my own play really is.

Quote

Okay, I don't see any further actual debate coming off this one.  So I'm going to start a new thread where everyone can play with this idea together.


I don't really see more debate there either; mainly because we basically agree on this point. If you ignore for the moment the question of how important the GM's authority is to the stability of the group (and I continue to insist that its absolutely important); we are both in agreement that one of the areas where Theorizing about RPGs can be useful on a practical level is in terms of getting GMs to be able to manage their groups better.

Quote

A rather unflattering comparison, that.


It was in following with the Colin Powell metaphor. And if you didn't like that one, I suspect you really won't like the one I make a little further down in this post.

Quote

This means that theorists need to:

1) Stay on the Forge and connect their theories to actual play,


As long as said theories also fit the assumptions of the GNS model, which are now unchangeable scriptural dogma at the Forge...

Quote

2) Be interesting enough on their blogs to get an audience, or...

3) Take it to another forum where people can stomp all over what they're saying.

And just as that was happening, a few of the friendlier theorists that didn't dig on the atmosphere at the Forge started to show willing.  And I just slotted in there.

I'm in favor of this.


Yea, well; i can't help but think all this talk of a "Forge Diaspora" means that Ron envisioned the Forgeites going from the indie-rpgs forum out into the internet as a whole and spreading the word of GNS, like a cancer metastasizing.  What he probably didn't expect was that forcing people away from the Forge for theory talk would mean that more theorists would start pushing models that were different from and even ignored the GNS paradigm.  I'm really hoping that the farther away theorists get from the Forge, the more they'll start to do work that is further and further away ideologically from the Forge's idea of what "Theory" is all about.

Quote
Time, as always, will show us. And I actually doubt that I'll get, or deserve, more than "just another line in the credits" if it happens.


Don't be so sure. I'll make you famous.

Quote

Fiction can convey real meaning.  Including games.

I'm going to put aside the word "story" for now, and just use "fiction".  People at a game table create an imaginary world in their heads; that's a form of fiction, even if it isn't structured in a storylike way or  'deep' in any way at all.  If you have a better word, toss it out there.


I certainly have a better word.  "Fiction" is just really a dodge to keep talking "story" in all but name. Switching from talking about "Story" to talking about "fiction" is a little like switching from talking about Creationism to talk about Intelligent Design.

If you sincerely want to talk about what RPGs do without suggesting that RPGs create structured story, then I would say to use Fantasy. Fiction still has all the implications of coherent and controlled designs, whereas fantasies do not.  When you're roleplaying you're not always creating stories, be they intentional or not; but you're always fantasizing.

Quote

As in any fiction at all, this can be good or bad.  Going out of your way to "make statements" about the nature of good and evil using D&D strikes me a bit of a stretch.  But, say you're playing in a D&D game, and hit a few complicated moral choices.  Maybe the players will pick what they want, and then just try to justify it.  Maybe they'll think over their alignment, and play it out.  Whatever.

But once in a while, the fiction jumps out and speaks to you.  Tragedy happens, or comedy, or farce.

Now, in a really good movie, or a book, this kind of thing is what can seperate good fiction from great fiction.  Pushed too far, it can also turn good fiction into terrible fiction.

I think it's the same way with RPGs.


I agree, but its interesting that you would be moving this way in your speculation: Because of course the difference between what makes a good experience and a great experience is just how far the participants have been able to relate to the personalities of the fantasy they are portraying. In other words, what you're doing here is arguing in favour of Immersion.  And here I thought Immersion was like the fucking antichrist or Easter Bunny for you Forge guys.

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #77 on: May 02, 2006, 11:16:33 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Well, you have guys like bankuei who seems to suggest that "GM-fiat" is one of the chief causes (or is it symptoms?) of dysfunctional games. They suggest that anyone who thinks that the "GM is god" in the campaign cannot possibly be playing in a functional group. Note that he doesn't say that some dysfunctional groups will have GM fiat; he suggests that all groups that use "GM fiat" are dysfunctional games.

So yea, I have some serious reservations about the typical Game Theorist's level of willingness to give the GM the authority to be in charge of the game. They seem to have some serious authority issues, and that shows in their theory and on what they view as the causes of dysfunction.

I've certainly seen, personally speaking, games where a power-mad GM caused a non-functional game. But I've seen WAAAAY more games where players trying to dominate/manipulate/make demands on the GM was the cause of group dysfunction.  And I've seen far more games where GM fiat was absolute and things worked just fine that the ones where GM fiat was a problem.  And in all of the latter, the GM fiat was not the cause of the problem, the cause of the problem was the would-be GM's personality. So that pretty well blows that theory out of the water; but of course Theorists would claim I'm just in denial and don't realize how dysfunctional my own play really is.


I'd say that regular use of GM fiat probably means that we're looking at a group with a problem.  The problem might just the "the GM's kind of new", of course.

Quote
I don't really see more debate there either; mainly because we basically agree on this point. If you ignore for the moment the question of how important the GM's authority is to the stability of the group (and I continue to insist that its absolutely important); we are both in agreement that one of the areas where Theorizing about RPGs can be useful on a practical level is in terms of getting GMs to be able to manage their groups better.


True enough.

I do still believe it's possible to change up the authority in games, but I've only done it to a limited degree, myself.

Quote
As long as said theories also fit the assumptions of the GNS model, which are now unchangeable scriptural dogma at the Forge...


Well, little bits of the theory get changed by the Actual Play stuff, but a structural overhaul seems unlikely, yes.

Note "seems".  I've been really tempted a couple of times to get together a bunch of people that play in much the same way, who can all subscribe to a much different and plainer theory, and ask them to all take their Actual Play there...

...And then ask Ron and Clinton to host the essays it's based on.

They'd do it, I think, if the effort wasn't one meant to take potshots at the existing model, but just to create something new.  The problem, of course, is that it would be.  So I won't.

Quote
Yea, well; i can't help but think all this talk of a "Forge Diaspora" means that Ron envisioned the Forgeites going from the indie-rpgs forum out into the internet as a whole and spreading the word of GNS, like a cancer metastasizing.  What he probably didn't expect was that forcing people away from the Forge for theory talk would mean that more theorists would start pushing models that were different from and even ignored the GNS paradigm.  I'm really hoping that the farther away theorists get from the Forge, the more they'll start to do work that is further and further away ideologically from the Forge's idea of what "Theory" is all about.


Sadly, my telepathy isn't good enough to speak to that.  I'll keep trying, though.

:p

Quote
I certainly have a better word.  "Fiction" is just really a dodge to keep talking "story" in all but name. Switching from talking about "Story" to talking about "fiction" is a little like switching from talking about Creationism to talk about Intelligent Design.

If you sincerely want to talk about what RPGs do without suggesting that RPGs create structured story, then I would say to use Fantasy. Fiction still has all the implications of coherent and controlled designs, whereas fantasies do not.  When you're roleplaying you're not always creating stories, be they intentional or not; but you're always fantasizing.


Fantasy works, though it is loaded with genre connotations.  Maybe.

Quote
I agree, but its interesting that you would be moving this way in your speculation: Because of course the difference between what makes a good experience and a great experience is just how far the participants have been able to relate to the personalities of the fantasy they are portraying. In other words, what you're doing here is arguing in favour of Immersion.  And here I thought Immersion was like the fucking antichrist or Easter Bunny for you Forge guys.


Dude, immersion rocks.

It's also a big reason that I don't agree with what GNS says.

Consider: Is immersion a real thing some people chase after just as much as they chase after being challenged or getting story or genre emulation?  Are emulation and immersion the same goal?  As in, when playing in a way that supports one of the two, are you always playing in a way that supports the other as well, or just sometimes?  

My answers to these questions fundamentally do not match the GNS ones.

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« Reply #78 on: May 03, 2006, 10:39:15 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
I'd say that regular use of GM fiat probably means that we're looking at a group with a problem.  The problem might just the "the GM's kind of new", of course.


Sure, but you're just as likely if not more likely to find a situation where disruptive players are the problem.  Why do bankuei and other theorists seem to think that the one (GM Fiat) is a "cause of dysfunction" while the other is an unfair slander on players (with statements like "putting a section on how to deal with problem players in an RPG manual is like including a section on how to deal with broken ribs from spousal abuse in a marriage guide")?
Why are players the little darlings who have to be mollycoddled and their whims cared for to insure an "Optimal experience" but GMs are seen as the CAUSE of dysfunctional play?

That, to me, is the makings of a seriously dysfunctional group right there...

Quote

Well, little bits of the theory get changed by the Actual Play stuff, but a structural overhaul seems unlikely, yes.

Note "seems".  I've been really tempted a couple of times to get together a bunch of people that play in much the same way, who can all subscribe to a much different and plainer theory, and ask them to all take their Actual Play there...

...And then ask Ron and Clinton to host the essays it's based on.

They'd do it, I think, if the effort wasn't one meant to take potshots at the existing model, but just to create something new.  The problem, of course, is that it would be.  So I won't.


So then you're basically conceding that Theory is stuck with GNS from now on?

Quote

Fantasy works, though it is loaded with genre connotations.  Maybe.


You could say "fantasizing" instead. The point is there's no "literary" connotation to those words (outside of the "genre connotations", anyways).  Whereas "fiction" is not really any different from "story" as far as those connotations existing.

Quote

Dude, immersion rocks.

It's also a big reason that I don't agree with what GNS says.


So why is it that so many  game theorists are against it?

Quote

Consider: Is immersion a real thing some people chase after just as much as they chase after being challenged or getting story or genre emulation?  Are emulation and immersion the same goal?  As in, when playing in a way that supports one of the two, are you always playing in a way that supports the other as well, or just sometimes?  

My answers to these questions fundamentally do not match the GNS ones.


And which are your answers in comparison to the GNS answers?

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Levi Kornelsen

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« Reply #79 on: May 03, 2006, 12:01:28 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Sure, but you're just as likely if not more likely to find a situation where disruptive players are the problem.  Why do bankuei and other theorists seem to think that the one (GM Fiat) is a "cause of dysfunction" while the other is an unfair slander on players (with statements like "putting a section on how to deal with problem players in an RPG manual is like including a section on how to deal with broken ribs from spousal abuse in a marriage guide")?
Why are players the little darlings who have to be mollycoddled and their whims cared for to insure an "Optimal experience" but GMs are seen as the CAUSE of dysfunctional play?

That, to me, is the makings of a seriously dysfunctional group right there...


Three things...

1) Some of that, I think, comes from the tendency of many theorists (including myself) to think of the GM as a special kind of player.  That is, they're at the table, doing game stuff, they're a player.  So some of it sounds that way even when it's not meant to.

2) Because many theorists are GMs, and they want guidelines for doing it better; they're quick to adjust what they are doing because they want to be skilled.

3) Because some theorists, yes, have had bad experiences with bad GMs in the past, and it shows through.

I've seen all three.

Quote
So then you're basically conceding that Theory is stuck with GNS from now on?


Theory at the Forge?  Yep.  Theory elsewhere?  Uh, no; maybe I wasn't clear on that bit.

Quote
You could say "fantasizing" instead. The point is there's no "literary" connotation to those words (outside of the "genre connotations", anyways).  Whereas "fiction" is not really any different from "story" as far as those connotations existing.


Could.  I'll wander back to the old Thesaurus.  But the old "Shared Imagined Space" thing sounds too pretentious to me.

Quote
So why is it that so many game theorists are against it?


Some conflate it with emulation; that was one of the ways that Simulation was defined in GNS for a while.  At least a few have heard really bad explanations of it that make it sound like some kind of weird headspace that sounds frankly crazy.  

...And I know of at least one that does understand what immersion is, and who thinks that really, really "going for it" all-out in a game may be a bad idea, because we're basically talking about a suggestible state.  And he makes good points, too, though they apply better to LARP than to tabletop play.

Quote
And which are your answers in comparison to the GNS answers?


I consider immersion a compeletely viable goal that can be discussed as much as any other.  Big Model theory calls immersion a "body of techniques", which means that it occurs at only one level of play, rather than an "agenda".

I think emulation can support immersion, but doesn't always; some genres and settings, faithfully emulated, simply don't have the right kind of internal consistency to support "being there" - you couldn't get immersion by emulating the Xanth novels, because the little 'inside jokes' would break the sense, for example.  Some GNS definition of simulation have combined immersive and emulative goals into a kind of homogenous mass.

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« Reply #80 on: May 03, 2006, 06:00:41 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Three things...

1) Some of that, I think, comes from the tendency of many theorists (including myself) to think of the GM as a special kind of player.  That is, they're at the table, doing game stuff, they're a player.  So some of it sounds that way even when it's not meant to.


Right. I think that the GM and the players need to be treated as two different kind of entities. They are getting their fun from two different activities, really...

Quote

Theory at the Forge?  Yep.  Theory elsewhere?  Uh, no; maybe I wasn't clear on that bit.


Well, I hope that's true, though I don't see how you'll be able to get away from the Forgethink, at least until there's a specific theory site/forum that becomes bigger than the Forge. Otherwise you'll always get Forgeites budding in and arguing from the viewpoint of GNS, and essentially insisting that GNS terminology be used and GNS positions be taken as defaults.

Quote

Could.  I'll wander back to the old Thesaurus.  But the old "Shared Imagined Space" thing sounds too pretentious to me.


Ditto, obviously.

Quote

Some conflate it with emulation; that was one of the ways that Simulation was defined in GNS for a while.  At least a few have heard really bad explanations of it that make it sound like some kind of weird headspace that sounds frankly crazy.  


Yes, I've seen those too, and I find it ridiculous.

Quote

I consider immersion a compeletely viable goal that can be discussed as much as any other.  Big Model theory calls immersion a "body of techniques", which means that it occurs at only one level of play, rather than an "agenda".
I think emulation can support immersion, but doesn't always; some genres and settings, faithfully emulated, simply don't have the right kind of internal consistency to support "being there" - you couldn't get immersion by emulating the Xanth novels, because the little 'inside jokes' would break the sense, for example.  Some GNS definition of simulation have combined immersive and emulative goals into a kind of homogenous mass.
´

Well, let me give you my take on immersion.

I think that Immersion is basically akin to what happens when you go to a movie, and get so into the movie that for the moment you essentially forget where you are or what you're doing. You're just a part of the movie.
This isn't really "psychologically dangerous" at all, at least not for someone who is psychologically sound, because the second something happens to remind you that you're in the movie theatre, or as soon as the movie ends, that state also ends.
Only really good movies will draw you in that way.

With RPGs, Immersion happens in different ways depending on who's perspective you're looking at. For the players, it happens quite simply when they come to like their character so much that care what "happens" to the character in a sense that goes beyond merely wanting to do well mechanically.

With GMs, it happens when the GM no longer "knows" what an NPC will do: that is to say, when a situation comes along that the GM wasn't expecting, and the GM can immediately respond to the situation because he is so thuroughly in tune with the personality of the NPC.  The NPC at this point is so developed as its own entity that the GM might be "surprised" by the reaction his NPC has, since he had not planned it ahead of time.

Essentially, Immersion is when the characters of a game take on "lives of their own", becoming sophisticated enough as personalities that the moment of acting the characters creates a temporary personality change in the player. The player doesn't go away, but his own personality is no longer enmeshed with the Character's at the conscious level.

Emulation and immersion are two different things, no doubt about it. Emulation is where you are trying to imitate a specific setting.  That is, where you run a "batman" game and the players are all impressed because its "totally batman" (totally like the comics, movies, cartoon, whatever).
Immersion would be a character playing Batman, and the other players saying "holy shit, you totally play a great Batman". Essentially, its effective acting.

To me, having a game do emulation of genre well is no guarantee that it'll lend itself to Immersion. In fact, Immersion to me is something that falls well outside the realm of system.  System helps or hinders emulation, to be sure. System cannot create or deny Immersion; which is, I think, why so many theorists dislike Immersion even though most roleplayers will say its one of the main "points" of roleplaying and one of the main signs of a "good" campaign.  Since system can't create Immersion, it means that Theorists have little they can do about Immersion, and that fucks up their "we have the solution for Roleplaying" mentality. So they'd rather pretend that immersion either can't happen or is undesirable if it could.

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« Reply #81 on: May 04, 2006, 11:47:58 AM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
Well, let me give you my take on immersion.

I think that Immersion is basically akin to what happens when you go to a movie, and get so into the movie that for the moment you essentially forget where you are or what you're doing. You're just a part of the movie.
This isn't really "psychologically dangerous" at all, at least not for someone who is psychologically sound, because the second something happens to remind you that you're in the movie theatre, or as soon as the movie ends, that state also ends.
Only really good movies will draw you in that way.

With RPGs, Immersion happens in different ways depending on who's perspective you're looking at. For the players, it happens quite simply when they come to like their character so much that care what "happens" to the character in a sense that goes beyond merely wanting to do well mechanically.

With GMs, it happens when the GM no longer "knows" what an NPC will do: that is to say, when a situation comes along that the GM wasn't expecting, and the GM can immediately respond to the situation because he is so thuroughly in tune with the personality of the NPC.  The NPC at this point is so developed as its own entity that the GM might be "surprised" by the reaction his NPC has, since he had not planned it ahead of time.

Essentially, Immersion is when the characters of a game take on "lives of their own", becoming sophisticated enough as personalities that the moment of acting the characters creates a temporary personality change in the player. The player doesn't go away, but his own personality is no longer enmeshed with the Character's at the conscious level.

Emulation and immersion are two different things, no doubt about it. Emulation is where you are trying to imitate a specific setting.  That is, where you run a "batman" game and the players are all impressed because its "totally batman" (totally like the comics, movies, cartoon, whatever).
Immersion would be a character playing Batman, and the other players saying "holy shit, you totally play a great Batman". Essentially, its effective acting.

To me, having a game do emulation of genre well is no guarantee that it'll lend itself to Immersion. In fact, Immersion to me is something that falls well outside the realm of system.  System helps or hinders emulation, to be sure. System cannot create or deny Immersion; which is, I think, why so many theorists dislike Immersion even though most roleplayers will say its one of the main "points" of roleplaying and one of the main signs of a "good" campaign.  Since system can't create Immersion, it means that Theorists have little they can do about Immersion, and that fucks up their "we have the solution for Roleplaying" mentality. So they'd rather pretend that immersion either can't happen or is undesirable if it could.


Okay.  Some things; tell me if you agree:

1. So far as system goes, the best thing it can do for immersion is get the hell out of the way.  System can't make immersion; it can fuck it up; in fact, spending too much time in contact with rules almost certainly will.  A set of rules that has immersion as a goal should have social mechanics only if they're very sparse or acting as a last resort.

2. An internally consistent setting that is portrayed as such is almost a requirement for immersion; breaks in the setting logic can knock you out of it.

3. Distractions at the place of play also get in the way, naturally; it's like the dick that insists on talking on his cell phone during the movie.

----------

Now, if you're with me so far, let me walk the next couple of steps, tell me if you follow:

4. Therefore, the best environment for this is one where there aren't any distractions; there's no phone ringing, no TV, nobody reading at the table (even from the rulebook); best would be a room with a pool of light containing the GM and players, their seating, and nothing else.

5. Perfectly portrayed, the setting would never need any referencing on the part of the GM; you'd talk, and they just come right back, every time, with no worries.

6. Really stupendously strong immersion would be done with a totally system that the players have found way to talk about in character, or to menatlly work around so that they don't even concern themselves with it - For example (not a perfect example, mind you) if the players could, in Amber, run a full conflict without actually breaking character to name traits because they could do it "in code", so to speak, and were all really familiar with that code.

--------

Here's where I push into "I'm not completely sure, but I'm close" territory.

Now, to go with nastiness, imagine that one of the people at the table is fucking about.  Say they have a real-world agenda in play; they want to seduce another player, or play stupid little dominance games.

They're screwing around with a character that doesn't "really" exist, you might say, but your character is, really, a part of you that you've engineered and "brought to life" - yeah, that's a bit overwrought, but you see what I mean.

Now, can you see why at least a few (I know one for sure, and I'm pretty certain there are more) theorists think that this isn't something to be chased after whole-hog?

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« Reply #82 on: May 04, 2006, 04:25:41 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Okay.  Some things; tell me if you agree:
1. So far as system goes, the best thing it can do for immersion is get the hell out of the way.  System can't make immersion; it can fuck it up; in fact, spending too much time in contact with rules almost certainly will.  A set of rules that has immersion as a goal should have social mechanics only if they're very sparse or acting as a last resort.


I basically agree.

Quote

2. An internally consistent setting that is portrayed as such is almost a requirement for immersion; breaks in the setting logic can knock you out of it.


I sort of agree, though the INTERNAL part is really the key; and to me that's still kind of incidental. I mean, I've seen Immersion happen in D&D with the Mystara setting, and that's a pretty goofy setting at times. I think that having stuff that is too wierd and inconsistent can knock one out of Immersion, but you're pretty much never "immersed" all the time anyways, so unless a game is just a constant cycle of goofyness, I don't really think that the question of consistency really affects Immersion one way or the other.  The principle thing is that a game has to create a situation where you care sufficiently about your character, and where the character is sufficiently fleshed out (though its usually better if he BECOMES fleshed out over time; I don't think that starting a character with reams of background history or details really does much to help immersion; whereas creating more details about him as you play certainly does).  
So the one thing I would say is that games with an uber-high rate of character turnover (some CoC campaigns, Paranoia, etc) make it more difficult for immersion to happen; though even then you can create immersion if you get to a point where you have a character that has survived "in spite of all odds" for much longer than he normally should, or if you have a character that has developed something really unique in the game (an insanity or mutation) that gives him more "personality".

Quote

3. Distractions at the place of play also get in the way, naturally; it's like the dick that insists on talking on his cell phone during the movie.
4. Therefore, the best environment for this is one where there aren't any distractions; there's no phone ringing, no TV, nobody reading at the table (even from the rulebook); best would be a room with a pool of light containing the GM and players, their seating, and nothing else.


Um, kind of. Certainly a gaming situation that's surrounded by distractions will be detrimental to Immersion. Likewise, I think that spectators being present who are not players does something wierd that diminishes the possibility of immersion happening.
But aside from that, I don't think I'd go as far as you. Certainly having music playing can sometimes help immersion, and not always just because the music is directly chosen for "setting the scene". Its a wierd phenomenon.
Likewise, I don't think that having other players who aren't in the scene reading something will really do anything to prevent the characters who ARE in the scene from experiencing immersion. I think more than a sterile environment, what lends to Immersion is a RELAXED environment.

Quote

5. Perfectly portrayed, the setting would never need any referencing on the part of the GM; you'd talk, and they just come right back, every time, with no worries.
6. Really stupendously strong immersion would be done with a totally system that the players have found way to talk about in character, or to menatlly work around so that they don't even concern themselves with it - For example (not a perfect example, mind you) if the players could, in Amber, run a full conflict without actually breaking character to name traits because they could do it "in code", so to speak, and were all really familiar with that code.  


Yes, these things sometimes help with Immersion. They're by no means a guarantee to create immersion, but they can help. Certainly a well-run game of Amber tends, in my experience, to be more able to create more moments of Immersion than other games.

Quote

Here's where I push into "I'm not completely sure, but I'm close" territory.
Now, to go with nastiness, imagine that one of the people at the table is fucking about.  Say they have a real-world agenda in play; they want to seduce another player, or play stupid little dominance games.
They're screwing around with a character that doesn't "really" exist, you might say, but your character is, really, a part of you that you've engineered and "brought to life" - yeah, that's a bit overwrought, but you see what I mean.
Now, can you see why at least a few (I know one for sure, and I'm pretty certain there are more) theorists think that this isn't something to be chased after whole-hog?


No, not really, that seems a pretty silly argument to me. Because you could make the same claims about, say, Acting in a play. No one seems to worry that actors can get too attached to the characters they portray, and generally the few cases where shit like that has happened has been when the actors were already nutjobs to begin with.

So the arguments against immersion on that basis seem pretty absurd to me; of course, not nearly as absurd as the arguments many Theorists make about Immersion not actually existing.

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« Reply #83 on: May 04, 2006, 04:43:12 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
I sort of agree, though the INTERNAL part is really the key; and to me that's still kind of incidental. I mean, I've seen Immersion happen in D&D with the Mystara setting, and that's a pretty goofy setting at times. I think that having stuff that is too wierd and inconsistent can knock one out of Immersion, but you're pretty much never "immersed" all the time anyways, so unless a game is just a constant cycle of goofyness, I don't really think that the question of consistency really affects Immersion one way or the other.  The principle thing is that a game has to create a situation where you care sufficiently about your character, and where the character is sufficiently fleshed out (though its usually better if he BECOMES fleshed out over time; I don't think that starting a character with reams of background history or details really does much to help immersion; whereas creating more details about him as you play certainly does).  
So the one thing I would say is that games with an uber-high rate of character turnover (some CoC campaigns, Paranoia, etc) make it more difficult for immersion to happen; though even then you can create immersion if you get to a point where you have a character that has survived "in spite of all odds" for much longer than he normally should, or if you have a character that has developed something really unique in the game (an insanity or mutation) that gives him more "personality".


I can go with that.

Quote
Um, kind of. Certainly a gaming situation that's surrounded by distractions will be detrimental to Immersion. Likewise, I think that spectators being present who are not players does something wierd that diminishes the possibility of immersion happening.
But aside from that, I don't think I'd go as far as you. Certainly having music playing can sometimes help immersion, and not always just because the music is directly chosen for "setting the scene". Its a wierd phenomenon.
Likewise, I don't think that having other players who aren't in the scene reading something will really do anything to prevent the characters who ARE in the scene from experiencing immersion. I think more than a sterile environment, what lends to Immersion is a RELAXED environment.


I think I get what you mean, but can you give me an example or two of a relaxed environment, just so I'm sure?

Quote
No, not really, that seems a pretty silly argument to me. Because you could make the same claims about, say, Acting in a play. No one seems to worry that actors can get too attached to the characters they portray, and generally the few cases where shit like that has happened has been when the actors were already nutjobs to begin with.


...Too attached?  Oh!  No, not like "they become the character".  That's just odd.  They might learn something from playing the character, but that's not what I'm pointing at.

More like "If two actors play lovers, and work up some good intensity, are they likely to sleep together outside the show?" - and, in some theatre circles, the answer is "Pretty likely."

Like that.

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« Reply #84 on: May 05, 2006, 12:25:24 PM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

I think I get what you mean, but can you give me an example or two of a relaxed environment, just so I'm sure?


A relaxed environment: a living room, with no non-gamers in the room, no TV turned on, music either off or on but softly, no grossly distracting outside noises, people sitting around on couches, reading if they want to and aren't in the scene, but not talking in a way that disrupts the scene.  Just a normal relaxed environment.

Quote

...Too attached?  Oh!  No, not like "they become the character".  That's just odd.  They might learn something from playing the character, but that's not what I'm pointing at.

More like "If two actors play lovers, and work up some good intensity, are they likely to sleep together outside the show?" - and, in some theatre circles, the answer is "Pretty likely."

Like that.


And my point would be, so what? The fact that some actors might be getting some doesn't mean we should force them to act more poorly.
Likewise, with gamers.  And denying the existence of importance of immersion is a direct formula for creating inferior gaming experiences.

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« Reply #85 on: May 05, 2006, 01:56:03 PM »
Quote from: RPGPundit
A relaxed environment: a living room, with no non-gamers in the room, no TV turned on, music either off or on but softly, no grossly distracting outside noises, people sitting around on couches, reading if they want to and aren't in the scene, but not talking in a way that disrupts the scene.  Just a normal relaxed environment.


So, basically, comfortable familiar surroundings.  Okay, that's what I thought, and I agree.

Now, why?  Because you can "block them out" easily?  

I mean, here's an example for me.  I have a group of friends that I was running a Victorian era game (Castle Falkenstein meets Call of Cthulhu, basically) for.  Their living room, comfy, well-known to all of us.  We'd drop a stack of CDs in the stereo before we started, all waltz music.  Then we'd turn down the lights, and light up the oil lamp.

Now, I can't explain it easily, but all of those things helped - the room, the music, the lighting - and, here's a strange one, the smell of the lamp; as soon as it started up, we were on.  

Quote
And my point would be, so what?


Okay.  Time for me to talk about "my worst gaming moment".

At a LARP, I decided to make my character a romantic.  And, as it happens, I got a fair bit of positive female attention out of this.  Good stuff; I was single at the time.

I got a very huge amount from one of the ladies present, after a game; I'd never actually talked to her before that game, though I'd seen her around.  We went for coffee after game.  We got some.  Turns out, afterwards, she was engaged, very happy with her boy, and it broke their relationship - she stopped coming to games for a long time after that.

I've also run some fairly intense tabletop games where a player unexpectedly stepped up and took the party in new directions, basically playing leader.  And I've seen the players, afterwards, treat them with a little more respect as a result.

Basically, what I'm saying is that "what happens in the game has no effect at all on real life" isn't really true, and when you're talking about high immersion games, it's even less true - It doesn't make people crazy or anything, but it can alter the dynamics between people.

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« Reply #86 on: May 05, 2006, 03:09:49 PM »
It looks like we really have run out of steam as far as disputation is concerned, since we are in agreement about the topic of Immersion.

Unless you want to cut the debate short and go straight to closing comments, I would suggest that you bring up something new to discuss.

Case in point, was this what you were talking about, when you were suggesting the need to be more inclusive in gaming?

If so, then here is my rebuttal: http://www.xanga.com/RPGpundit/481170384/item.html

Feel free to comment in the context of this debate, or to bring up something else for us to continue hashing out instead.

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« Reply #87 on: May 05, 2006, 03:28:15 PM »
Sexism?

Okay, I'm in the middle on this one (as I often am).

The problem with exclusion of women from gaming has very little to do with game design, and the writing of games, in my opinion - at least, as it is right now, that's not where gamers should look.

The problem is twofold:

One, culturally, some gamer are sexist.  And their groups are exclusive, even if they don't want them to be.  To get over that habit, temporarily pushing in the opposite direction to be exceedingly welcoming might be helpful. But only sometimes.  And this is a much bigger social issue than gamers, and trying to turn gamers into a "force for good" in the larger picture is silly; we're here to play games, not change the world.  It all comes down to individuals - I try not to be a dick to women, and if my group was all guys, with a bunch of really male in-jokes, I'd drop them before inviting a woman to play.  Simple.

Two, plainly, one place where a lot of our "kinda dorky" folks - the ones that are friends, and are social at games, but that we wouldn't necessarily invite along to go clubbing or the like...  ...Well, many of them put women off, because nothing stinks as bad as desperate.

So far as "Games for women" go, let 'em write.  If what they write is good, it'll sell.  If they want things, let 'em say so.  But I'm not going to go and try to patronise them with crap they may or may not want.

Worth arguing, or would you like to go to closure?

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« Reply #88 on: May 06, 2006, 02:13:41 AM »
No, I don't think we have enough level of disagreement to really make an argument on that worthwhile.

I suggest we go to closing arguments: you make yours, we see if there's any discussion that comes of it, then I make mine, and then each of us make our final post.

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« Reply #89 on: May 09, 2006, 01:54:46 PM »
Sorry I'm late, here - I'm a landlord, and the opening to this month has been a complete bitch, among other things.

Closing arguments it is, then.

Much of this is revised from my "midway" arguments - apologies if that makes for boring reading.

----------------------------

Roleplaying games combine gamelike and roleplaying elements into a unique whole.
Roleplaying games are much like what they sound like – there are elements of roleplaying, in a generally theatrical sense (but the bit about art not being special applies here too), and elements of gameplay like you’d find in a board or card game, and these things come together to form a unified thing distinct from it’s component parts.   The gamelike components provide the real structure for the whole, and so it's often best for a designer to look more to those elements than others, and find ways that mechanics can stay out of the way of the actual roleplaying.  Despite this, though, all roleplaying games provide at least slightly different fusions of these elements.

----------------------------

Roleplaying Games create something that gives the same satisfaction as a good story; it's not a literary form, but story is the only word I have for it.  But they aren’t for telling stories.
Every game creates stories, as a side effect if nothing else.  People tell stories about their game experiences, reliving the moment; some of these stories can be good, or funny; some of them, you had to be there.  They also sit back at the table now and then and think things generally like “That was really cool, story-wise”.  That’s something some gamers want to explore further, and there are ways to do it.

But the first impulse of a lot of GMs when they meet this idea is to control the story so they can be sure that it’ll turn out ‘properly’.  This is a mistake; if you want the story to turn out your way, go write it down.  If you do it, you’ll take away the ability to make meaningful choices from the players and you’ll have to interfere with their ability to play their characters; this means that your game will have problems both as something to roleplay and as a game.  If you want an RPG to act as an engine that works purely for the generation of collaborative stories, you’re likely going to push outside of the boundaries of what most people would consider a Roleplaying Game – it might be good, and RPG rules may be a good place to start, but you’re looking for a different creature than the one I’m talking about.

----------------------------

Getting more ‘story’ from an RPG is simple.
You front-load, and you drive (I’ll define those in a second), and that’s all you really need to do.  Going further than this can, again, carry your game outside of either “roleplaying” or “game” or both, and unless your players are with you in doing that, it’s best avoided.  I’m going to talk about those two things for a moment.

   Front-Loading: Front-loading is another way of saying that the group (sometimes the GM, sometimes the players, sometimes both together) builds a starting situation that focuses on the same stuff that the characters are focused on.  Not only that, but this situation involves conflicts that the characters will be drawn into, but which could be resolved any number of ways.  The person or people creating this situation should not know how things are going to turn out, only that conflict will always occur.  This is just basic preparation – an evil army threatening the town where the characters live is some serious front-loading.  The place where this turns into specifically story preparation is that a group (in this case, almost always the GM) can front-load elements that require choices from the characters – hard stuff that will give depth to the character no matter what they choose.  Again, the creator shouldn’t have picked “right choices” out in advance, just created things that require those choices be made.

Driving: This may not be the best word for it, since ‘driving’ implies a degree of control that really isn’t involved.  Driving is pushing the characters to make to those choices on their own, harder and harder, until they do, by adding intensity and requiring action based on each choice as play continues.  This often requires that the GM bring on characters and events that hit those choices in new ways; this is the part that takes practice, because doing it ham-handedly produces artificial-feeling play.

----------------------------

Every group has it’s own style of play.
No two players are the same – they have different attitudes, different past experiences, and sometimes want different things out of an RPG - some want more roleplay in their gaming, some want more gaming in their roleplay, some want more story, some want to get further “into character” than others.  That’s just the nature of what happens when you get people together.  But if they play together, they start to balance out a singular style of play between them that works for them.  This group style includes how they use the mechanics of the game, the things they agree on as other rules, and even the social structures that exist between them when they sit down at the table.  

----------------------------

Games influence style.
Every actual game book out there has its own slant – the writers had at least some of the elements that make up a style of play, however loosely or firmly conceived, in mind when they wrote it.  These are passed on to the players in a variety of ways.

First, and most obvious, a game book has advice in it that talks about how to run the game.  Some games go on at length about how to get just the game you want from the rules, working to accommodate different playstyles.  Others give the reader a solid impression of the kinds of play the creators had in mind, but also talk about adjusting it to get what you like.  And still others (though not that many) describe a single, tightly focused style that the game is “fine-tuned’ for.

Second, and either more or less obviously, a game shows you what it’s about in the presentation of the material itself.  If it has a lot of art, that can be pretty obvious.  Even if it doesn’t, examples of play given in a book speak to the style, as do descriptions of the various smaller bits of “how you do things”.

Third, the actual physical components of a game can have an impact.  If the game requires big piles of dice or miniature figures, its best played at an actual table, which can change the group dynamic to something less casual than just sitting around a living room.

And finally, the characters you can build, the various components of them, and the specific kinds of rules-based fun that you can get from those components, all speak to the style.  If there are detailed rules on some specific thing, and players engange with those often and enjoyably, the game will be drawn to those things more often, making the game more “about” those things.  

----------------------------

Making things happen means sharing a vision.

This one is a little out of left field, but I'm convinced that it's true.  

You've talked about the things that you think need to happen in gaming, I've talked about what I think, and we've found more common ground here than most people ever really thought we would.  

I think that there's a vision of gaming, a real, positive, and realistic thing, that you're looking for, despite the consistantly negative image you put out there.  And I think that you're in the habit of sniping in places where you should be building up, just as I'm in the habit of building up in a few places where I might do better shaking things off.

So let me give you a bit of advice on building up, if I may, and you can give me a bit of advice on tearing things down, if you're in the mood to do so.  We've already both learned a fair bit here; why not a bit more?

Everyone shows off something about who they are that is really cool.  Speak to that, and share with them a vision of the coolness that they have, plugged into something larger, and they will always respond to that, even if they don't show it.  If you engage with the best things in people, then their best is what you get; if you engage with the worst things about them, then you get the worst parts of them.  And if you make a habit of engaging them in one way, then you'll regularly get those same parts of them.

People are good.  Let them show you.