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Old Familiar Skewed Battles

June 25th, 2007 (03:12 pm)

current mood: chipper

To paraphrase Vincent Baker: "Role-Playing's Fundamental Act is our ongoing [content] agreement, nothing more or less."

Most expectedly, this turned into another discussion of Ron Edward's Big Model (REBM) vs Social Gaming (SG). This shouldn't matter much, except these roads are well traveled, but completely lost.

Why is that? It's like arguing oranges and IBMs (over an Apple iPhone).

Let me draw a diagram that relates these and most Role-Playing Game (RPG) theory to each other:

Not as Good as I Wanted

Now, to understand where REBM is coming from you must consider that all that can be observed about play is how the players behave. By categorizing behaviour and finding structures within it, you can readily arrive at the Gamism / Narrativism / Simulationism (GNS) at the heart of REBM. When you consider the issues around this (like socializing) you can work out the rest of REBM.

Why does this have nothing to do with SG? Simply because SG is about WHY players play. REBM is about HOW they play. REBM does say that socializing is 'how' to play, but it can't say what is prioritized; that's a motive not a behaviour.

Now if you wanted to discuss what is fundamental in REBM, it would be people behaving in a fashion recognizable as RPG play. No 'why' and no 'priorities,' nothing about what comes first or what can't happen without another thing. Just 'how.'

In ways this is an ideal approach for a publisher. Publishers, but nature, are concerned with their product (whether or not they want to make money). How recognized this product is, is more or less how you could say they value it. That puts a high accent on the product and it's use. How do you measure use? By tracking the behaviour of the consumers. How do you determine the quality of use? By how closely their practices and outcomes mirror what you intended (measuring fun has never worked in product development). A model of how you can categorize behaviours is ideal for both these uses.

More on 'the other side of the coin' later.



Posted by: M (eyebeams)
Posted at: June 26th, 2007 11:49 am (UTC)

If that was roleplaying's fundamental act, then people wouldn't bitch about roleplaying. They'd own their participation more often.

People disagree on content all the time, and continue to do so, subtly, even after a narrative's been imposed. Roleplaying is about power over fiction: neat shared power, messy power, dominant and subaltern power, and formal versus deconstructed power. It means that the text/content does not have a linear causal relationship with other participants and influences. You could say that "agreement" covers this, but then it's not a coherent observation.

The fundamental problem with a lot of thinking about RPGs is the refusal to accept this. It's messy. It means that some people aren't having as much fun as others. It means that some problems can't be fixed. It means that the text oppresses just as much the GMs people don't like.

So I just don't think you can really extricate the social aspect from the technical aspect.

Posted by: fang_langford (fang_langford)
Posted at: June 26th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure your looking at my diagram from the proper scale. Control over content is all contained within "Ritual." (Content affects the participants who ultimately use ritual to shape content.)

I do agree that the way that 'power' over content often comes into conflict with the participants' social behaviour. It almost goes without saying. I'm bypassing this and looking deeper into gaming, past the level of 'interactions with system.'

You're right; it is a large symptom of problematic thinking about RPG design. And it needs to be dealt with better. But the difficulty is that RPG theorists are only looking at the ritual component (with social blinders on, mostly).

But what happens when you don't try to separate the social aspect from the technical aspect? What if you recognize them as inextricably blended, perhaps as though technique is only an additional explicit layer added to a much deeper, more developed society. To me, it begins looking like (Chris Lehrich's description of) ritual, similar to socializing.

Without that conflict what can we see as fundamental? That is the question I'm working with


p.s. You can't be saying that role-playing is about disagreement fundamentally, can you?

I hope you don't mind, but what if you consider the case where the participants are focused on sharing and supporting each other?

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: fang_langford (fang_langford)
Posted at: December 31st, 2007 06:59 am (UTC)

That's a good response!

One question: if it's spunk, why are you commenting? I follow the idea that if it doesn't interest me, I don't post to it. Posting in the imperative less that respectable.

Could it be you are looking for attention? I'm good for that, but can we do it somewhere you have positive or detailed things to say? You don't like theory? That's just great, what would you like to talk about?


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