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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: lumpley on August 04, 2004, 10:21:08 AM



Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: lumpley on August 04, 2004, 10:21:08 AM
"SIS" is broken terminology.  I hate it with hate!

The SIS is precisely what the players agree happens in the game.  A CRPG, a game book, Stratego, they don't have SISs, because the players don't agree what happens in the game.  They look and observe what happens in the game!  The events of the game are non-imaginary, thus have no need for "shared" or "imaginary" (and don't get me started about how misleading a metaphor "space" is).

Playing Stratego or a CRPG or a game book, you might imagine details beyond the events of the game, but those details are not and can never be events of the game themselves.  Even if you go ahead and imagine them ("my general wears absurd muttonchops!"), and even if you go ahead and share them with your fellow players ("hey Mitch, my general wears absurd muttonchops!"), they do not ever matter to the game.

In a tabletop RPG there are two kinds of things.  One kind is the imaginary, fictional stuff in the game: made up places, made up people doing made up things.  The other kind is the real, actual stuff you can see and touch: numbers on paper, die rolls, maps.  The SIS is exclusively the first kind of thing; none of the second kind of thing can be part of it.  Because the second kind of thing is, y'know, non-imaginary.  

Playing a tabletop RPG, both kinds of things contribute to the game.  Events in the game can depend on wholly imaginary things, wholly real things, or both.  It's important to maintain a "shared" imagination of what's happening in the game for the exact reason that events in the game can depend on it.

Playing a CRPG or a game book, everything that contributes to the game is the second kind of thing.  Real.  The position of your mouse when you click, which page you turn to.  You can't disagree that you turned to page 55 or that your mouse was on the "hit with sword" button when you clicked it.

Along the same lines, we can't consider the CRPG or game book to be a System for an SIS between author and player.  If I imagine a detail beyond the real events of the game, I have no way of knowing (and no real reason to wonder) whether the author and I share it.  Between author and player, it's either real or irrelevent.

(None of which, by the way, should you understand to mean that I don't consider CRPGs or game books to be roleplaying.  I have no such stake.)

-Vincent
[slight editing]


Title: Re: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Christopher Weeks on August 04, 2004, 10:45:26 AM
Quote from: lumpley
Playing a CRPG or a game book, everything that contributes to the game is the second kind of thing.  Real.


I'm not trying to be an ass, but what does contributes to the game mean?

I have known many people who derived a great deal of satisfaction from their own personal imagined adjuncts to computer games.

Chris


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Sean on August 04, 2004, 11:14:18 AM
Hi Vincent -

The part of this that I would question is your apparently behaviorist (I'm not using that as an attack word) treatment of the verbal interchanges between different players. Do you seriously intend us to consider the verbal elements of these transactions without any reference to the mental states that occasion and are influenced by them? Are you saying 'what matters is not what you think, but what you say - you can think anything you want about it'? Or if not, what are you getting at here?

Other than that I agree that SIS maybe isn't the grooviest term possible. The only part of it I'm keen on keeping is the 'imagined' part, since I consider the imagination of the different players to be the 'material' of one type of game about whose precise name you do not care. I'm interested in games whose principal elements are constructs of the human imagination (which means not chess and not monopoly, e.g.)

I'm really interested in getting to the bottom of what, if anything, is going on in these recent disputes. Three weeks ago I came back from vacation full of new-to-me ideas about roleplaying games (mostly theoretical rather than immediately practical ones). I was all hot to post them on the Forge, but then I read a bunch of your posts and got deflated. What I thought was, "oh, big duh, Vincent knows all this stuff already and has been saying it for quite a while. Good job figuring it out for yourself, Sean, but there's no need to bother to post it - as usual, the Forge has been there before." And then all of the sudden when the conversation comes around to those very issues we seem to be at odds - so I'm very curious as to the precise nature of the current problem.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: lumpley on August 04, 2004, 11:32:48 AM
Chris: Oh me too.  

"Contributes to the game" means contributes to the playing out of future events in the game.  Has some bearing on what happens in the game, subsequently.

When I was a kid I played this view-out-the-cockpit space fighter game on the Atari 800.  I'd get all worked up imagining how important my mission was, what with the wholly imaginary critically ill space-princess in my wholly imaginary sick bay.

It didn't mean I could shoot harder or fly faster or land on asteroids or engage in diplomacy or go longer between refueling, though.  It had no bearing on what happened subsequently - well, except that when I lost the game, we both died screaming in the vacuum of wholly imaginary space, not just me.  When I won the game, not once did anybody in the game congratulate me for saving the space-princess' life.

So maybe if I put it this way: in a CRPG, how the real things happen can contribute to how the wholly imaginary things happen, but never vice versa.  In a tabletop RPG, the real things and the imaginary things can contribute to one another.

-Vincent


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 04, 2004, 11:46:01 AM
I think that last is true, Vincent, but I don't think that invalidates an idea of a SIS. Actually, I've agreed from the start that SIS is problematic terminology, but the concept behind it, what we've used SIS as a referent for, is an important concept.

Now you're calling this "game." Which is even more problematic. No? There is a product of play that's created that involves what everyone playing is imagining. And System is the means by which that is altered. Even if it's altered differently for different people, that doesn't change the fact that the ideal of there being one understanding is what's sought. And that's an important idea. Whatever you call it.

Mike


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 04, 2004, 12:05:21 PM
Hello,

I guess I don't see the problem. I like the recent formulation that runs as follows:

- we all individually imagine (characters in settings, facing situations, having events happen, all very colorful)

- we communicate about this constantly in the understanding that each of our individual "experiences" are to be consistent with everyone else's[note: not identical and not 100% consistent; I accept that this is impossible and in some cases undesirable]

- the extent to which we succeed is measured by how satisfying it is to continue the activity for whatever designated period, and that it doesn't break up due to dissatisfaction

I really liked the analogy of playing catch. Sure, each participant interacts with the ball and each other through his or her individual cognitive construct of the world. Who knows how similar these constructs are? No one. But in the physical space of the event, the ball really is being thrown and caught.

Subsitute "social space" for "physical space" and I don't see why role-playing can't be understood in precisely these terms.

Shared - Imagined - Space (by which I mean the five components). Works fine for me.

Best,
Ron


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Valamir on August 04, 2004, 12:16:02 PM
Very interesting.

I see absolutely no trouble in the term whatsoever.

Space is Space.  A three dimensional location of time, and matter where stuff happens.

Imaginary is Imaginary.  The Space is not real you can't really go there.  This is the same Imaginary Space as we go when we read a book or daydream or listen to a radio show.  I'd also contend that the existance of props as imagination aids does not invalidate the fact that the space is imaginary.  I there for see theater and film as also involving an imaginary space.  In this case the space is actually there (for a time) and you can actually measure it and take pictures of it, but it is still not real.  They are real places they're just full of props to help the imagination.  So many forms of entertainment involve an imaginary space.

Shared is Shared.  The content of that imaginary space is known in largely the same form by multiple persons.  They all have their own perceptions of it but the commonalities predominate.


Its a Shared Imaginary Space...in this space Shared Imaginary Stuff happens.

I'm really failing to see the faults of this term as a term.  It seems to me to be one of the most practical and least objectional terms in our lexicon.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Christopher Weeks on August 04, 2004, 12:26:21 PM
Quote from: lumpley
So maybe if I put it this way: in a CRPG, how the real things happen can contribute to how the wholly imaginary things happen, but never vice versa.  In a tabletop RPG, the real things and the imaginary things can contribute to one another.


So Vincent, you're seven or whatever and playing StarRaiders on your 800.  And you can travel through this sector over here where it's more dangerous but it gets you closer to the end, or you can travel to this other, kinder, gentler, slower sector.  And you're imagining the dying princess and it motivates you to take on the much harder course of action because in your (shared?) imaginary space, that gets you to the space hospital faster.

Didn't a wholly imaginary thing contribute to real things?

Chris


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: timfire on August 04, 2004, 12:45:26 PM
Quote from: Christopher Weeks
So Vincent, you're seven or whatever and playing StarRaiders on your 800.  And you can travel through this sector over here where it's more dangerous but it gets you closer to the end, or you can travel to this other, kinder, gentler, slower sector.  And you're imagining the dying princess and it motivates you to take on the much harder course of action because in your (shared?) imaginary space, that gets you to the space hospital faster.

Didn't a wholly imaginary thing contribute to real things?

Just because 7-year old lumpley based a choice on his "imagined space" doesn't mean that that the imaginary things influenced the real thing.

Let's say 7-year old lumpley plays StarRaider and takes the shorter, more dangerous route. I then get on and play the same level, also taking the shorter, more dangerous route. I, however, have no illiusion of a princess in the back.

But the same thing happens both times. Both 7-year old lumpley and myself both encounter the same asteroids and UFO's. So how did 7-year old lumpley's "imagined space" influence the real video game, if the exact same thing happened when I played?


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: lumpley on August 04, 2004, 12:54:15 PM
Mike, Ron, Ralph: Yikes.

Well, we all agree that we each have, in our own heads, a moving picture or understanding of what's happening in the game.  Mine has to line up with yours sufficiently that we don't come to game-breaking disagreements now or down the line.  In a tabletop RPG we make that happen by communicating.  That's what we call the SIS.  (I'm not proposing a better term for it, notice.  I prefer to spell it out - "our agreement about what happens in the game" eg - but that's just me.)

It seems to me that in a CRPG, we don't make it happen by communicating.  We make it happen by looking at the screen and just seeing.  Same as chess: we make it happen by looking at the board.  We don't ever have to agree where the pieces are.  Where are they?  Right there.

In the neighboring CRPG threads, some people apparently understand "SIS" in such a way that George Lucas and I Share the Imaginary Space of Star Wars, or a CRPG has an SIS like a face-to-face RPG does.  I consider that to be the fault of the term, but whatever, I live with the jargon same as everybody and again I'm not proposing better.  Nope, what I want people to take seriously isn't the hate with which I hate, but the bit where I'm trying to say what the SIS means relative to CRPGs.

-Vincent


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 04, 2004, 01:02:24 PM
Hiya,

Well hol' on a minute here, then. I don't recall any conclusion (which is to say, communicated, agreed upon, and then developed) which stated that anything but table-top role-playing as commonly construed made use of an SIS.

Ralph considers it to be involved in watching a movie.

M.J. considers it to be involved in kids' Cops & Robbers.

Mike considers it to be involved in computer-mediated personal interactions.

Others consider it to be involved in interacting with a computer program or with a book designed to skip pages based on reader choices.

None of the above is currently agreed-upon. Each of these is merely a given individual's thoughts on how SIS in role-playing (an undisputed phenomenon, apparently) is related to or is the same to imagination regarding other media and activities.

The extent of SIS as it pertains to things other than table-top role-playing is a matter of comparison, reflection, and discourse, and at present that is the only viable conclusion.

Best,
Ron


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: lumpley on August 04, 2004, 01:38:56 PM
Hm.  Well.  

I'm not dictating "there is no SIS in CRPGs" as a done deal.  That'd be premature, yes.  I'm presenting "there is no SIS in CRPGs" as my own personal conviction, which I believe to follow straightforwardly from the conclusions we've collectively communicated, agreed upon and developed.

Apparently I'm doing a pretty bad job of it.

Maybe if you take the "It seems to me" in my last post to apply to the "I'm trying to say what the SIS means relative to CRPGs" too.  

I'm trying to say what it seems to me that the SIS means relative to CRPGs.

-Vincent


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Valamir on August 04, 2004, 02:01:29 PM
I think perhaps, Vincent, you're attempting to cover too many things at once in the same term.  In so doing you making the SiS into something very unique to the process of roleplaying.

I think that's unnecessary.  Keep it basic and modular, that's my approach.

Imaginary Space for me is simply what's in my head about what's happening...in a book, in a movie, in an RPG.

Shared Imaginary Space then adds an extra module...its what you get when more or less the Same Imaginary Space is imagined by multiple people at more or less the same time (same time as in imagining at the same time not necessary experiencing for the first time at the same time).


All of the extra additional stuff that is unique to roleplaying...well that's just system.  That's how I outlined it in my essay.  Watching a movie involves a Shared Imaginary Space.  Its just a Shared Imaginary Space without System...without the ability of the watcher to edit it for anyone but themselves.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 04, 2004, 02:15:52 PM
Hello,

H'm, Ralph, my construction is just a little different - to me, the "shared" necessitates actual communication and contribution among the sharers to create that space. I guess that's why I always try to say Shared Imagined Space rather than "imaginary," although I probably forget every so often. By using "imagined," I'm trying to turn it into more of a verb - that people actually have to do it, rather than receive it visually from (say) a screen.

But that's not a deal-breaker, and it certainly doesn't change any of my near-100% agreement with your recent essay. Merely a different view of the phenomenon from another individual.

Best,
Ron


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Valamir on August 04, 2004, 03:11:04 PM
I guess it boils down to which is more useful in practice.

Shared Imagined Space = Shared Imaginary Space + System

The latter to me seems more useful way to parse it, at least on the surface.

It finds a common ground between different entertainment media, the Shared Imaginary Space and highlights the key distinguishing difference between them and roleplaying, system.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: lumpley on August 04, 2004, 03:30:14 PM
Whew.

Yep.  I think that the Imaginary Space in an RPG is Shared in a different way than the Imaginary Space in a movie or book (or CRPG or solo RPG) is shared.  The difference being that things I imagine can feed back into things you imagine.  That the sharing is two- or many-way.

Which is, yes, System.

It sounds like we're good, to me.  Yeah?

Sean, Chris, are we good too?  

I'm with Tim about 7-yo me making decisions based on things I'm imagining, by the way.

-Vincent


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Christopher Weeks on August 04, 2004, 04:44:04 PM
I dunno.

I agree with about 99% of what seems to be the statements of the consensus-building herein, but I am left holding nuanced conclusion that doesn't feel like it actually follows from the bits that I agree with.

Quote from: Vincent
The SIS is precisely what the players agree happens in the game. A CRPG, a game book, Stratego, they don't have SISs, because the players don't agree what happens in the game. They look and observe what happens in the game! The events of the game are non-imaginary, thus have no need for "shared" or "imaginary"...


I think that we're looking at a multivariate problem of continua.  

One of the obvious factors is the degree to which the activity or game relies on imagined events to augment the real ones.  Stratego requires none.  Freeform roleplay is almost completely dependent on the imaginings.  The OAD&D that I played in the 80s was between those points.  The CRPGs that we're most familiar with are between Stratego and the OAD&D.  (I contend that they are not at the same point as Stratego because I believe that most of the repeat consumers of CRPGs derive substantial benefit from their augmentation of the experience with their imaginations.)

The other obvious factor is related to sharing the imagined space.  I'm not sure if this is a continuum or an intermittence.  Do the RPGs that we're usually discussing require more sharing of IS or a different kind, than do Movies, for instance?  Is the back-and-forth dynamic that we have in a RPG so different -- in method or result, from the one-way sharing that an author and reader participate in, that we need to distinguish it as something different?  I think the strongest support for the claim of continuum is that the lines are blury and I think we'll see CRPGs that blur them further in the very near future.

I'm not sure how to conclude, so I'll just stop.

Chris


Title: Re: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: John Kim on August 04, 2004, 05:16:19 PM
Quote from: lumpley
"SIS" is broken terminology.  I hate it with hate!

The SIS is precisely what the players agree happens in the game.
Quote from: lumpley
So maybe if I put it this way: in a CRPG, how the real things happen can contribute to how the wholly imaginary things happen, but never vice versa.  In a tabletop RPG, the real things and the imaginary things can contribute to one another.

Well, any game which has human players can have real things and imaginary things contribute to each other.  By definition, an imaginary thing exists only in the mind of a player.  The only way that it can influence the game is if it changes the real actions which that player does.  If the player changes what she does based on her imagination, then this line has been crossed.  

In a CRPG, your imagination can't directly influence what the computer does, but it can influence what you do.  The same thing is true in a tabletop RPG.  What you imagine can only influence what you the player take as real actions.  Only those real actions can affect the real game.  

So to sum up: in any game, the imaginings of the player can have an effect on the players' actions.  However, rules which relate physical items to what is imagined can limit how much the player can control with his imagination.  i.e. In a boardgame where the pieces represent where things are, the player's imagination can't change the board layout.  Obviously in a purely verbal game, the only representation is through player voice and thus they have a large degree of control.  However, LARPs (for example) have similar limits to boardgames.  

Quote from: lumpley
In a tabletop RPG there are two kinds of things.  One kind is the imaginary, fictional stuff in the game: made up places, made up people doing made up things.  The other kind is the real, actual stuff you can see and touch: numbers on paper, die rolls, maps.  The SIS is exclusively the first kind of thing; none of the second kind of thing can be part of it.  Because the second kind of thing is, y'know, non-imaginary.

Playing a tabletop RPG, both kinds of things contribute to the game.  Events in the game can depend on wholly imaginary things, wholly real things, or both.  It's important to maintain a "shared" imagination of what's happening in the game for the exact reason that events in the game can depend on it.

Playing a CRPG or a game book, everything that contributes to the game is the second kind of thing.  Real. The position of your mouse when you click, which page you turn to.

OK, this seems totally confused to me.  I think you are mixing up "verbal" and "imaginary".  Imaginary things only exist inside the head of a player -- a single player.  Imaginary things are never shared.  The only thing a player can do is make some sort of real physical action -- such as words, gestures, or drawing -- that represents the imaginary thing in their head.  

Imaginary things can influence a computer game in exactly the same way that they influence a tabletop RPG -- by changing what the player does.  They can't have any influence other than that.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Callan S. on August 04, 2004, 06:57:24 PM
As a contrast, can I ask about play by post games?

Say a GM advertises a game and I think 'yeah, that's for me'. So I inform him of my interest.

He goes on to write the first post.

With just that to go on (I never see the guy, after all) I write my own post without anything except the post he contributed.

Now let's not race on to his reading/posting a responce. Let's just focus on what happened here. Is this roleplay so far? Is this SIS so far? Is this System?


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Paganini on August 04, 2004, 07:46:37 PM
I agree with Ralph. I also want to add that the understanding of SiS I got from participating in RPG theory discussions helped me to understand why I dislike the new LotR movies on many levels. Yeah, they look really cool, yeah, it's like really visiting Middle Earth (in a lot of ways) but...

To me, this story is *real.* It happened in that 3d space Ralph mentioned. LotR is not *true.* The events and places in LotR are totally fictional. But I watched them happen in that Imagination Space when I read the novel. I shared that experience with everyone else who read the novel. We have common perceptions about what Middle Earth is, and what happened there. So, when I watch those movies, I say with conviction, "that is wrong! that's not how it happened!" It's like a gut reaction. My buddies who don't get it are like "dude! It's just a story! If the director wants to make changes to improve it, that's all to the good."

And I'm all "No! How can he change something that's already happened?" Now I've got distinct instances of SiS that are supposed to represent the same thing. But they contradict each other. And, of course, the novel SiS is the definitive one from my point of view. I go off muttering and console myself by telling myself that the movies are just "Based on LotR" or "inspired by LotR."

And, that was kind of a long way to get around to this point, but this is the exact problem you have when individual imagination spaces conflict during an RPG. Only with fewer financial implications. :)


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: ADGBoss on August 04, 2004, 07:47:44 PM
I talked off list about this and thought, at the time, that I more or less understood how it was all going down...

Now after reading this thread and listening to some songs from Kill Bill, I am not sure.

When I was arguing in the other thread about how CRPG's belonged here I know I brought up SIS, probably not in the most efficient manner I should have or could have.  Never the less this is not about CRPG's or Solo RPG play per se.

It seems to me that the problem is not imagined or imaginary so much as it is shared.

Do let me throw out my two lunars on the subject because I know muchof the conversation has brought up more questions for me personally.

Two examples, one a TTRPG and one a CRPG.

Example 1) A GM and a Player decide to play Game X. It's a pretty standard fantasy game to kill a rainy weekend.  The GM designs a small village with a few characters and a basic story we are all familiar with: Ancient Evil is trapped in a dungeonbelow small village. Various forces of good and evil are at work.  The player is the pre-ordained hero. He gets to choose from three classes and starts at level 1.  When he takes on Boss Evil at the end he is like 20th. Whips Boss Evil but is inhabited by said Evil and wanders off.  Interesting end to the tail.

Example 2) A Girl picks up Diablo, puts it on her old Pentium II, and plays.

Having in my life done both, I can tell you it's njot all just a click fest for the CRPG.  Well with it is and with some it is not.  However, I would imagine that at their best there IS Shared Imagination going on there.  (Sorry Vincent I know off list when we discussed it my opinion was different).  There is AN SIS going on in the CRPG or Solo RPG experience. Someone creates and someone acknowledges / aquieces / co-creates within certian parameters. The only difference in the TTRPG is that you are physically there with the person(s) you are involved with.  In a CRPG or Solo RPG Module, a "GM"(game designer) has pre-created their part of the SIS.  The Player choosing his or her character and Playing, completes the cycle.

Raise your hand if you have read the Hobbit? What was your impression, how did the book seem to you and how did you like it? What themes / ideas did you draw from it? Everyone is going to answer something different (I would imagine).  J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the book and although it looks complete and therefore inert and passive, I would dare say that literature is not complete without the reader's imagination.  Reader and Author have come together and TOGETHER have made a reading experience.  

Even the Forge and is SIS in a manner of speaking although maybe it is more SOS (Shared Opinionated Space).  I am not trying to argue here that CRPG's or Solo RPGs etc should be included inour dicsussions in vocabulary, just using them as examples. I am saying that SIS, like many terms here, has an organic quality about it and thus may encompass a hell of a lot more then we at first believe. So regardless of how mechanized, dysfunctional,  or diluted the RPG Play that the term SIS can and perhaps should be ammended, expaned, or even just foot noted as being present in these other models of RPG Play.

John Kim wrote:
Quote
Imaginary things are never shared. The only thing a player can do is make some sort of real physical action -- such as words, gestures, or drawing -- that represents the imaginary thing in their head.


I totally disagree with that or more appropriately I think it is just a measure of semantics. Expressing an idea verbally or even in written form may give physical form to what is in your imagination but once you let it out of you and into the common consciousness. Turning potential energy into kinetic energy as it were.  It is still energy, still imagination. If I describe a buxom dwarf transexual down to the last detail that image is still imaginary even though I shared it, because it's not a real thing.  For what it's worth.

Sean


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: John Kim on August 04, 2004, 08:55:16 PM
Quote from: ADGBoss
Quote from: John Kim
Imaginary things are never shared. The only thing a player can do is make some sort of real physical action -- such as words, gestures, or drawing -- that represents the imaginary thing in their head.

I totally disagree with that or more appropriately I think it is just a measure of semantics. Expressing an idea verbally or even in written form may give physical form to what is in your imagination but once you let it out of you and into the common consciousness. Turning potential energy into kinetic energy as it were.  It is still energy, still imagination.

I think this is just a semantic difference.  I agree that this is an equally valid use of the concept of imagination.  However, I think it is clearer to use "imaginary" to describe the purely mental object and "imaginative" to describe the physical objects which represent imaginary things.  So, for example, in computer RPGs there is a host of imaginative material contributed by the game designers.  This imaginative material can affect the transcript of play -- so the CRPG transcript is influenced by both player imagination and designer imagination.  However, CRPG play does not in general affect the game designer's imaginary conception.  So imagination is not fully interactional between both parties.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: contracycle on August 04, 2004, 11:51:59 PM
I don't think it can be meaningfully said that CRPG's and othert computer games exhibit an SIS.  This is mostly becuase they do not need to; the express, explicit virtual space that they creat in their memoies and display on screen replaces that need.

The SIS can be said to tangibly exist in one important sense, IMO: it must exist as data.  More specificially, it must be organised, meaningful data.  There is an analogy between the computers virtual space and that of the brain: in both cases a physical data structure exists within the the hardware (carbon based or silicon based).  Of course, this is premised on my arch-materialist view of life, the universe and everything so some people may not agree.

From this perspective however I think the SIS can be constructively examined.  There is a data structure in each head, but given the communicatin difficulties between heads, it often diverges.  Its rather like a networks handling of a shared spreadsheet with or without a form of version control.  The computer has an entirely different problema nd a different solution; the language that a computer uses is essentially unintelligible to us BUT it can easily draw specific images.  Computers are better at creating an IS in the users brain that corresponds exactly to the IS in the computers "brain" because the computer is so good at representing its internal state visually to the player through graphics.

But this also reveals why disjointed SIS's are less of a problem in computer gaming than in inter-human gaming; the computer cannot do anything but adhere to IT'S version of thre IS and the players input is not and often cannot be taken inbto account beyond their manipulation of System.  OTOH, as long as the player accords to the machines image rather than prioritising their own, there is no problem.

Constant communication - even if a monologue - between participants of an RPG are absolutely necessary to keep the SIS coherent.  The computers equivalent is exactly it's drawing electrons, illuminating them with the electron beam and causing light to fall on your retina.  That is also communication.  The SIS will not be changed in either case without a signal being sent from one "imagination node" to another.

It is true that two people who read a piece of work may construct different visualisations oif the content of the work.  But an interesting and overlooked question here is: why does the brain construct VISUAL imaginary elements out of verbal stories in the first place?  Mostly because that is what it is built to do; we must understand, IMO, that verbal expression of an idea and visual representation of the the consequences in the SIS are essentially the same thing; one necessarily and automatically calls the other into being.  The system may be seen to be a protocol which determines which user has appropriate write priviliges on a given element in the SIS.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Alan on August 05, 2004, 01:05:21 AM
RE: CRPG experience vs RPG SIS

It seems to me that SIS assumes synchronous communication: on-going, current interaction, participation and egalitarian input.  Even the past events and background held by the SIS exist due to participant agreement rather than some pre-set data environment and are subject to change in the present should all agree.

A CRPG is an asynchronous communication: a large majority of assumptions are set and exist whether the participants agree or not.  Likewise, the participants have little or no input into the content of the CRPG "past."

If we accept the current, interactive elements as part of the SIS definition, then CRPG can not have a shared imagined space.  And it seems to me we should, as it is a useful distinction for talking about live, round the table role playing.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 05, 2004, 04:26:53 AM
Quote from: lumpley
Yep.  I think that the Imaginary Space in an RPG is Shared in a different way than the Imaginary Space in a movie or book (or CRPG or solo RPG) is shared.  The difference being that things I imagine can feed back into things you imagine.  That the sharing is two- or many-way.

Which is, yes, System.


In traditional rpgs the only way you interact with the SIS is through controlling your character. Why is controllig the character using the spoken word inherently so different from using a mouse and keyboard? Ina  computer game the character moves through the imaginary space, and the order in which puzzles and monsters are challenged is influenced by the player, so they do have input to how the imaginary space evolves.

It would be quite easy to translate many CRPGs into tabletop RPGs, and there's no reason to suppose the players would have any extra opportunities in that game to affect the SIS than they would in the computer game, because they only interact with the SIS through controlling the character. The only difference is the medium they use to interact - i.e. saying 'My character moves round the pillar and hits the Goblin" rather than clicking with a mouse to select a character, destination and 'Attack' action button.

Only the user interface is significantly different. You could even include substantial amounts of the computer game art in the printed scenario.

There's no requirement in tabletop roleplaying for the kind of value-added feedback you seem to be talking about. It's not inherent in tabletop roleplaying, only enabled by it.

Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Sean on August 05, 2004, 05:08:19 AM
John -

If I tell you what I'm imagining, I just shared it. Then you can imagine it too. It's reasonable to ask how we know whether we're imagining the same thing or not; but this is a matter of epistemology, not reality. We can judge failure of communication in such cases, but we can also judge success. Imagining the same thing as someone else is a totally normal human activity, as is communicating the content of our imagination.

Imagining is a real physical action - as something that goes on in our brain. Unless you believe that the mind is non-physical?

ADGBoss, Chris -

It's true that most/all games and indeed most/all human activities involve the imagination. The important thing to me in this discussion though is whether what one might call 'imaginative acts' (which might be verbal or mental, IMO) are actually 'pieces' in the game - whether they actually 'do' anything. Now it's true that e.g. when I shoot free throws by myself I always get myself psyched up by imagining that it's game 7 of the NBA finals and we're down by 1 with no time left, etc. But that's not part of basketball - it's just a private motivational technique.

There's a feedback loop in the broad type of game we're discussing where on the one hand there are rules dictating certain constraints on what imaginative acts are going to be allowable in the game 'space', and that on the other hand, having introduced such an act into the game 'space', you have made a 'move' in the game. Saying "I draw my sword" is a 'move' in D&D - just like that, your character's sword is drawn. In the SCA it's not a move - you've got to actually draw a sword.

A T&T solo play gamebook allows you to introduce such elements even by yourself, if you're comfortable letting yourself do that. You decide whether to go for a goofy saving roll to do something in the combat, etc. If you do, then your imagination has introduced something into play, even if you're playing solo.

The computer game is a harder case for me here though. On the one hand, many computer games are clearly designed to stimulate a similar kind of imagining and role-playing experience to that which goes on in traditional 'fantasy' games. But on the other hand I don't see how the imaginative acts of the player provide any feedback to the CRPG, so in that sense the CRPG is more like - I don't know - a combination of a book and a boardgame. Which is pretty close to the type of game were discussing in some regards but rather distant in others.

But I'm really not much of an expert on computer games. There may be a sense in which computers do involve imaginative feedback through clever interfaces and the like. I don't see how offhand but this may be due to my ignorance.

Vincent, as far as I can tell I agree with the substance of most of your posts in these threads, even though we seem to differ in a variety of places on phrasing, etc.  

Going back to the basketball though there is one thing. You might think, well, we as individuals make decisions based on things we imagine all the time, in real life and in non-imagination-mediating games as well. And that's true. I still feel like there's a qualitiative difference between the T&T solo book or the self-GMed adventure and the ordinary use of imagination in human activities more broadly, but more needs to be said (by me presumably) to point out this difference.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: timfire on August 05, 2004, 06:08:57 AM
If I'm interpreting this discussion correctly, I think alot of the confusion & disagreements are being caused by 2 different paradigms.

Sean, Simon, ADGBoss, Nate (Paganini), (Ralph?) & others: SIS means multiple people visualizing (imagining) the same things. In this sense, it doesn't matter how the information is shared. Both the medium and the... err... direction (unilaterial vs 2-way) doesn't matter. Using this paradigm, movies, books, TTrpgs, and CRPGs all have a SIS.

Vincent (lumpley), Ron, myself, contracycle, & others: The "shared" in SIS means 2-way communication only. As Ron said earlier, (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=131038#131038) SIS is sorta like a verb, it's an active process between real people. Using this paradigm, movies, books, and CRPGs cannot produce a SIS.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 05, 2004, 06:47:18 AM
Quote from: timfire
Vincent (lumpley), Ron, myself, contracycle, & others: The "shared" in SIS means 2-way communication only. As Ron said earlier, (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=131038#131038) SIS is sorta like a verb, it's an active process between real people. Using this paradigm, movies, books, and CRPGs cannot produce a SIS.


Ok, but so long as non-roleplaying games can create interactive imaginary spaces of this kind, such imaginary spaces cannt be definitive of roleplaying games, only perhaps certain kinds of roleplaying game.

Also form the point of view of the game player, there may not be any discernable difference between an SIS that is created by a 2-way communication link, and one that is only 1-way but where the game or scenario author successfuly anticipated sufficient possible character actions in the imaginary space.

If the game rules unambiguously describe all possible character interactions with the imaginary space, and the start conditions of the imaginary space are sufficiently well defined, is the game of a different nature if it's mediated by a human GM or a computer program?

In Baldur's Gate there is 2-way communication between the computer program and the player, after all.


Simon Hibbs

P.S. There's an old joke about the Turing Test - it's easy for a computer to simulate a human, so long as you just choose a sufficiently stupid human to simulate.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 05, 2004, 07:12:29 AM
Hiya,

Simon, in this case, I do think you're relying on the definition-by-included-items argument.

Let's take the outlook that Tim has so clearly presented: two-way sharing is a key feature, thus two people watching the same movie cannot be said to be participating in or creating an SIS.

Does that dis-include some historical activities that were labeled "role-playing?" Absolutely.

Does it lay open the possibility of including both historical activities and some conceivable but unrealized activities which, quite likely, would not be called "role-playing" by the current subculture? Absolutely.

And neither observation can serve as a falsifier. If we were to arrive at an agreement (somehow) that this outlook is correct, or more accurately that it is to be used as our yardstick for "role-playing" from now on, then we have to live with the consequences.

For the record, however, I consider this outcome vastly preferable than trying to arrive at a definition that includes any and all activities, to date, which have been labeled "role-playing."

Best,
Ron


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 05, 2004, 09:04:54 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Simon, in this case, I do think you're relying on the definition-by-included-items argument.

Let's take the outlook that Tim has so clearly presented: two-way sharing is a key feature, thus two people watching the same movie cannot be said to be participating in or creating an SIS.

Does that dis-include some historical activities that were labeled "role-playing?" Absolutely.


Only if this 2-way communication with SIS is definitive of roleplaying. However I'm sure we can all easily construct theoretical games, and real ones surely exist, which involve 2-way SIS communication but don't involve playing a role in any meaningful sense. "Once Upon A Time" involves the creation of an imaginary space through narative construction and 2-way communication, but nobody controlls any characters exclusively and in fact some naratives may not even include characters at all. Is that a roleplaying game?

Obviously some poeple are going to have to shift their views if we are all to arrive on a common definition of roleplaying. The question is, what tests do we use to evaluate our definitions? Wouldn't such tests themselves constitute a definition?

It seems to me that the logical result of your possition is that there are no systematic criteria we can use to evaluate our rival definitions. What then?

Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: John Kim on August 05, 2004, 09:36:22 AM
Quote from: simon_hibbs
Ok, but so long as non-roleplaying games can create interactive imaginary spaces of this kind, such imaginary spaces cannt be definitive of roleplaying games, only perhaps certain kinds of roleplaying game.

Also form the point of view of the game player, there may not be any discernable difference between an SIS that is created by a 2-way communication link, and one that is only 1-way but where the game or scenario author successfuly anticipated sufficient possible character actions in the imaginary space.

I think it is useful to distinguish between "imaginative" activities, "interactive" activities, and "social" activities.  

For example, reading a book together means that there is a shared imagined space -- i.e. the two people both imagine a story, and their imagined events have considerable overlap.  Thus it is imaginative.  Furthermore, what they imagine is unique to them: i.e. the process of translating words into an imagined space is an imaginative activity, and the imagined space will have attributes that aren't an objective quality of the work.  However, it is not interactive or creative -- i.e. the personal imaginings of a person do not feed back into what happens.  

A solo computer RPG is interactive, and possibly creative as well.  Let's assume a plain-text interactive fiction computer game, just to keep apples to apples with the case of the book.  Now, just as in the case of reading a book, the player creates an imagined space from the words.  However, in this case it is interactive, because the player writes her own words which become a part of the story.  The plot of what happens is controlled in part by her.  If we want to emphasize this aspect, we can specify that the game is open-source so the player can also modify/customize/cheat in any part of the game.  However, regardless of the interactivity, the game is not social.  

Other activities are all three of social, interactive, and imaginative.  For example, make-believe play, improvisational theater games, writing a book together, tabletop role-playing, live-action role-playing, and others.  

Personally, I don't see much point in trying to make specialized,  formal jargon out of the term "role-playing".  I would prefer to discuss the concepts, and if we need a jargon term it should be at least capitalized and distinctive (like Shared Imaginary Space, for example).


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 05, 2004, 09:41:20 AM
[Edited to note the cross-post with John.]

Tim, I agree with Ron that there's a substantive difference between humans and computers in terms of being communicants. Nobody would disagree. But I fail to see how that makes the communication any less "two-way". That is, CRPGs are "interactive." Walt will correct me if I'm wrong.

The point is that when people talk about things like the "imagined" contribution on the part of one side, this is missing the point. That is, so what if computers don't have imaginations, they still communicate. The point that Vincent started out with, and which other people are grasping at defining better, is that the "sharing" is communication. That nobody knows anything about anything without communication. Vincent and others then say that pictures on a computer screen aren't sharing. Which is obviously not true, because when I play IRC, I use the exact same medium to communicate. I share via the pictures on the screen.

My point is that people are missing the real criteria, which I discovered long ago, that separates the data communicated by a computer, from the data communicated by a person. The question relates to the "imagination" clause. Which is that the information coming from a computer is "finite" in a very special way that people feel, but don't relate well.

To be precise, the difference is that the "play" of computers does not include the ability to take as an input, any infinite subset. Note that all RPG systems by their natures as systems restrict the characters in some way as to what input they can put into the system. Some are not very restrictive at all (freeform), and some are very, very restrictive (Mountain Witch). But all tabletop games that I've ever seen all have some input that is, itself infinite in possible inputs.

This seems to be a contradictory statement to some people, because they don't know their math. But simply, Half of Infinity is smaller than Infinity. But it's still infinite. No matter how restrictive you make the qualifiers, all TT RPGs have this sort of input. This was my basis of the criticism of some of the "finite" games in this years IGC, that they may have broken this restriction, and become....boardgames (or some subset like wargaming, or dice gaming, etc). A tabletop game without this is no different from any boardgame, which can be defined by having no infinite inputs.

This is key. A computer has none of these infinite inputs. All of the inputs must conform to some finite set to which it can respond.  Hence it's not a tabletop RPG. It's a CRPG.

This is very obvious at times, no? When you're at the lizardman shaman, and you want to ask him what a potion that you have does, but there's no option to ask this question. If the RPG in question allows you to ask whatever question you want, and get a dynamic answer (something other than the old text response, "I don't know about that.") then it's a real TTRPG.

The reason this is key is because the lack of infinite options is the one "breaker" for immersion in CRPGS. It can look perfect, sound perfect, but when you realize that there's nothing beyond those paper-thin mountains but nothing, it fails a very important test in everyone's mind.

Note that, interestingly, if you say that "any" restriction on RPG play at all makes a game not an RPG, then you're left with freeform. In fact, this is precisely the reasoning that freeformers would use to "prove" that TTRPGs are not a form or role-playing, but some complicated boardgaming. I'm warning of a slippery slope here. You don't want to say that CRPGs are not RPGs, because it's a very thin line, philosophically, that puts us between Freeform and CRPGs.

Mike


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: ErrathofKosh on August 05, 2004, 12:56:04 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I really liked the analogy of playing catch. Sure, each participant interacts with the ball and each other through his or her individual cognitive construct of the world. Who knows how similar these constructs are? No one. But in the physical space of the event, the ball really is being thrown and caught.

Subsitute "social space" for "physical space" and I don't see why role-playing can't be understood in precisely these terms.


Quote from: Ron Edwards

H'm, Ralph, my construction is just a little different - to me, the "shared" necessitates actual communication and contribution among the sharers to create that space. I guess that's why I always try to say Shared Imagined Space rather than "imaginary," although I probably forget every so often. By using "imagined," I'm trying to turn it into more of a verb - that people actually have to do it, rather than receive it visually from (say) a screen.



Roleplaying is a "social space," so I would state SIS as "Socially Imagined Space."  This is in contrast to "Physically Realized Space (PRS),"  "Physically Imagined Space(PIS)," or "Socially Realized Space(SRS)."  (note: these acronyms are for the purpose of discussion, to add theory or anything else)

What do I mean?

Well, I think the following examples of each will illustrate my thoughts on this better than an explanation because I am not attempting to provide a complete categoriztion.  Indeed most activities would probably fit into more than one category.

SIS - roleplaying
PRS - traveling
PIS - computer game
SRS - a highschool classroom

Each space is explored and/or negotiated, but some are real and some are imaginary.  Some methods of exploration/negotiation are social, some are physical, a lot are both.  Imaginary can become reality...

So there is a lot of flux between these spaces, so it's diffcult to pin down a particular activity as to which space it's in.

Cheers
Jonathan


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Callan S. on August 05, 2004, 06:48:48 PM
Quote from: Noon
As a contrast, can I ask about play by post games?

Say a GM advertises a game and I think 'yeah, that's for me'. So I inform him of my interest.

He goes on to write the first post.

With just that to go on (I never see the guy, after all) I write my own post without anything except the post he contributed.

Now let's not race on to his reading/posting a responce. Let's just focus on what happened here. Is this roleplay so far? Is this SIS so far? Is this System?


Wow, I just keep hearing 'CRPG's can't have an SIS', but I don't hear any answers to my three easy yes/no questions (above), which weren't rhetorical. I'll check again in a moment, to see if any of the many long posts did.

I mean, no ones obliged to answer me, that's not what I mean. It just seems that if people are willing to say 'CRPG's can't have an SIS' etc, but not establish some answers, I for one can't see anything of worth coming out of this thread, even though others will feel that their view on CRPG's and SIS has been confirmed. Much in the same vein of the 'Lumpley principle', though, I'll say 'They're not confirmed by me, mate'.

Edit: Because I always screw up and have to edit.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 06, 2004, 12:43:18 AM
I'd just like to say Mike's post was, as usual, very insightful. Once again he's nailed a very tricky point very clearly.

Quote from: ErrathofKosh
Roleplaying is a "social space," so I would state SIS as "Socially Imagined Space."  This is in contrast to "Physically Realized Space (PRS),"  "Physically Imagined Space(PIS)," or "Socially Realized Space(SRS)."  (note: these acronyms are for the purpose of discussion, to add theory or anything else)


Roleplaying games are a method of interacting with and exploring imaginary spaces. It's a method that can be used to explore many different kinds of imaginary space.

Trying to restrict it to a particular kind of imaginary space is placing a restriction on the method that is not intrinsic to the method itself, and Occam's Razor neatly disposes of it.

This is why solo roleplaying games are still RPGs. The extra rules of solo play (moving between paragraphs, selecting options) are a consequence of the kind of imaginary space being explored, not of the mode in which the exploration takes place. In a solo RPG it's exploration through the vehicle of a character, which is what makes it roleplaying.


Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: contracycle on August 06, 2004, 12:53:30 AM
Quote from: Noon

With just that to go on (I never see the guy, after all) I write my own post without anything except the post he contributed.

Now let's not race on to his reading/posting a responce. Let's just focus on what happened here. Is this roleplay so far? Is this SIS so far? Is this System?


No, No, and I'm not sure, as I see it.

Frankly, I don't really regard block text as a genuine RPG medium.  I don;t think a nominal commitment to a character makes an RPG; I think the need to actually adopt that characters role, move for them, speak for them, is necessary for it to be RPG.

When I see online RPG that consists of the exchange of text blocks, I don't really think RPG is happening.  What is happening is more like a collaborative writing project.  I suggest you can write about the character, but not as the character.  For my money, this is not really RPG, but more like pseudo-RPG.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 06, 2004, 01:24:26 AM
Quote from: contracycle
Frankly, I don't really regard block text as a genuine RPG medium.  I don;t think a nominal commitment to a character makes an RPG; I think the need to actually adopt that characters role, move for them, speak for them, is necessary for it to be RPG.


I'm not quite sure i undersand your possition on this. When my character hits an orc I say "My character swings at the Orc" and then roll some dice. At no time have I spoken for or moved for the character. It's all in the third person. Is that not roleplaying?

Quote
When I see online RPG that consists of the exchange of text blocks, I don't really think RPG is happening.  What is happening is more like a collaborative writing project.  I suggest you can write about the character, but not as the character.  For my money, this is not really RPG, but more like pseudo-RPG.


This appears to mean that if I play in a D&D session and always describe my character's actions in the third person I'm not playing a roleplaying game, but the person to my left who always pantomimes the character's actions and speaks in character is. Are we playing different games?

I'm having some Deja Vue here, have we discussed this before?


Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: contracycle on August 06, 2004, 02:19:02 AM
Quote from: simon_hibbs

I'm not quite sure i undersand your possition on this. When my character hits an orc I say "My character swings at the Orc" and then roll some dice. At no time have I spoken for or moved for the character. It's all in the third person. Is that not roleplaying?


Sigh... I suspect thats an overly specific example.  You and I both know that RPG does not comprise only this interaction; the player probably did speak for their character prior to the fight.

Specifically the above is a display of pawn stance.  If the whole game were conducted in Pawn Stance, as Outdoor Survival would be, then I would indeed say it is not roleplaying.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Christopher Weeks on August 06, 2004, 03:14:48 AM
Quote from: contracycle
Specifically the above is a display of pawn stance.  If the whole game were conducted in Pawn Stance, as Outdoor Survival would be, then I would indeed say it is not roleplaying.


I think this is true...but it's still a role-playing game.

Quote from: Noon

[GM] goes on to write the first post.

With just that to go on (I never see the guy, after all) I write my own post without anything except the post he contributed.

Now let's not race on to his reading/posting a responce. Let's just focus on what happened here. Is this roleplay so far? Is this SIS so far? Is this System?


If you've imagined yourself in the role before typing your response and/or the GM has done the same, then there has been some role-playing.  If at this point, even if there hasn't been any real role-playing yet, there is reasonable expectation of role-playing in the future, it's a role-playing game.

I think SIS has been employed in the example above.  Even if the GM merely wrote about a coastal setting with gulls swooping on the bathers' Doritos and you elaborated on the level of energy of the waves, the imagined space has been synchronized.

At this point, System has been employed only to the extent that your post did not contradict or question the GM's post (or did, for that matter) and things (scenes, characters, events, whatever) were accepted (or not) into your Imagined Space.  Before the GM replies to your input, the offer is pending acceptance.

Does that seem reasonable?

Chris


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 06, 2004, 03:48:09 AM
Quote from: contracycle
Specifically the above is a display of pawn stance.  If the whole game were conducted in Pawn Stance, as Outdoor Survival would be, then I would indeed say it is not roleplaying.


The whole game doesn't have to be constructed in that way. I could play D&D exclusively in the third person (pawn stance if you like) and others maight play it largely in first person mode, all while sitting round the same table with our characters interacting in the same imaginary space.

Are we playing the same game?


Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: contracycle on August 06, 2004, 05:15:49 AM
Quote from: simon_hibbs

The whole game doesn't have to be constructed in that way.


Yes, I know - thats exactly why one atomic decisions is not diagnostically useful.  The appearance of some pawn stance in RPG is unremarkable.

And that is also why this looks supiciously like a leading question; its well established tha pawn stance happens, and one atomic decision is not diagnostically useful.  The question seems to address issues so basic it makes my spidey-sense tingle.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 06, 2004, 05:26:30 AM
Quote from: contracycle
And that is also why this looks supiciously like a leading question; its well established tha pawn stance happens, and one atomic decision is not diagnostically useful.  The question seems to address issues so basic it makes my spidey-sense tingle.


I'm not talking abut one atomic decision. I'm talking about me making the policy decision to always controll my character in third person, and another player in the 'same game' making the decission to controll his character in first person, consistently throughout the game.

Your possition seems to lead to the conclusion that he would be playing a roleplaying game, and I would not.


Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 06, 2004, 05:40:21 AM
Hi,

I think that's a red herring, Simon. What matters is whether the two people are communicating to one another's imagined construct; I don't think it matters one bit whether first-person vs. third is employed, or what Stances are going on.

However, I do agree with you that Gareth (contracycle) is taking an extreme position ... but it's specific to the block-text vs. social-interaction that he's talking about (right Gareth?). The current example and the issue of first-vs.-third isn't going to illustrate that point. Perhaps the whole example ought to be chucked and Gareth, if you could phrase that point from the beginning, that way we won't get bogged down in side-trails.

Best,
Ron


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 06, 2004, 06:17:50 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
However, I do agree with you that Gareth (contracycle) is taking an extreme position ... but it's specific to the block-text vs. social-interaction that he's talking about (right Gareth?).


Ok, but I just don't see any meaningful distinction. This discussion is taking place through blocks of text. Is there no social context to the forge?

I don't understand why communication by text is incapable of being social interaction. We're doing it right now.


Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 06, 2004, 06:59:04 AM
Hiya,

Gareth, add my request to Simon's. What's funny is that I agree with you on a gut-level, but frankly Simon's question is dead on and makes me all trembly.

Perhaps my outlook is best expressed that by-post or block-text interaction is a poor medium for social interaction, which means that such role-playing would be role-playing, but hampered in its function and potential enjoyment.

Some will disagree with me about this (Mike Holmes appears in puff of smoke), certainly. Although my long-term observations of how frequently play-by-post or IRC play fizzles might correspond to my outlook.

Best,
Ron


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: contracycle on August 06, 2004, 07:39:24 AM
Hmm, well, I initially just meant to give my own gut feeling as a contribution.  

But, ok, it seems to me we're working from some very dodgy examples IMO; I don't think its valid to directly compare two players in the same room adopting different stances in relation to their characters and two people geographically seperated exchanging blocks of text.

I'm also concerned that we spend a counterproductive amount of time on definitions, as if finding a definition gave us the truth instead of just a working consensus.

But, once more into the breach.  Let my start by conceding that quite a number of activities can be plausibly described as role play, including as we famously know some S&M kink.  The point here is that the term my be applicable to a wide variety of activities beyond table-top RPG.

It may or may not be the case that in causal terms two people wirting in character essays to one another are engaged in role play, but whether they can be meaningfully nbe said to be ionvolved in the same kind of role play that occurs in table top is the issue at hand.

It seems to me that the exchange of in-character essays would be better described as a form of literary activity than a form of table top role play.  I expect the rules that apply to good literature apply exactly to the exchange of in character essays, and do not apply exactly to table top.

I've frequently remarked that I like to approach RPG as a performance art.  I think this applies to both players and GM's, and that an under-examined component of the art of RPG, as it were, is the art of portrayal, exposition, set dressing and props.  A lot of this gets lumped into Colour by analogy to setting, but I am mostly interested in ther actual location with physical people in it rather than the content of the SIS.  As I see it, RPG is not just the ability to identify with a fictional persona, or to manipulate a system through the means of a persona: it is to actually adopt the role, the mask, and act out that role.

I suppose this view might be taken to imply that LARP is purer form of role play, and this is also true in certain senses of role play.  But I don't take that view exactly.  I feel that rather in the way that film and theatre have a similar relationship to their audiences, and the behaviour of an audience in attendance is rather similar in both cases, they are not so alike that the terminological distinction between them is worthless.  The actual praxis which we adopt to bring these events about is very different, and despite the similarities in the audiences experiences their are also certain real differences.

Perhaps we have reached the point that reference to RPG is useless and more specific reference to TTRPG is now necessary.  It is not that I think that the exchange of in-character essays is so unlike TTRPG that everything about it is different, but I do think they are sufficiently different in the doing that they should not both be identified by the same lable.

Hmm, writing that it occurs to me that I also think that other forms of behaviour exhibit sub-sets of GNS, most particularly that much wargaming is G and S and no N.  So I wonder, can all three modes occur in in-character essay exchange?  I wonder that about LARP too, I've not thought about it before, but that may offer an angle of attack that might yield an identifiable distinction rather than merely our impressions.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: ErrathofKosh on August 06, 2004, 08:10:13 AM
Quote from: simon_hibbs

Roleplaying games are a method of interacting with and exploring imaginary spaces. It's a method that can be used to explore many different kinds of imaginary space.

Trying to restrict it to a particular kind of imaginary space is placing a restriction on the method that is not intrinsic to the method itself, and Occam's Razor neatly disposes of it.

This is why solo roleplaying games are still RPGs. The extra rules of solo play (moving between paragraphs, selecting options) are a consequence of the kind of imaginary space being explored, not of the mode in which the exploration takes place. In a solo RPG it's exploration through the vehicle of a character, which is what makes it roleplaying.


Simon Hibbs


First, let me say that I agree...

It was not my intent to restrict roleplaying (or any other activity) to a particular type of imagined space.  I just used it as an example of an activity that primarily occurs socially.  It is not confined to being socially negotiated; LARPS are a good example of physcially negotiated imagined "space," as are CRPGS.  (Though if you want to say "electronically imagined space," go ahead...)  My intent was to say, "Hey look! Under the umbrella of Shared Imagined Space, there is socially imagined space, physically imagined space, and maybe even individually imagined space."  Let me define these, as my examples were insufficient.

socially imagined space - the fictional content of any activity that is established by primarily social interaction

physically imagined space - the fictional content of any activity that is established by physical (and therefore real) constructs, including locations, objects, and visuals

individually imagined space - the fictional content of any activity that is established by either or both social and phyiscal means that occurs between one person's past constructs and one other person in the present

The last definition is the hardest to define (for me) and is the hardest to place under the SIS, and I'm not sure it belongs.  However, if we define roleplaying as equivalent to exploring an SIS (and include all three spaces above), we include all activities that include these definitions.  Notice that the definitions are about the fictional content of the space, not whether a particular activity is part of that space...  

Of course, there are those who will discard the third space presented here as not "shared."  This will narrow the possible activities that could be considered roleplaying and is what I am leaning toward.  Under this interpretation watching a movie, reading a book, or even choosing your own adventure is not roleplaying, because they are not shared.  CRPS become a grey area, depending on what game your playing, who's playing with you, etc.  LARPs and RPGs include both physical and social methods of interaction which are shared, and so are quite solidly under the SIS umbrella.  

I'm not trying to pigeonhole anything, just trying to provide a spectrum under the SIS that will help us clarify the discussion.  If it muddies the waters for you, discard it.

Cheers
Jonathan


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: simon_hibbs on August 06, 2004, 08:28:09 AM
Quote from: contracycle
I'm also concerned that we spend a counterproductive amount of time on definitions, as if finding a definition gave us the truth instead of just a working consensus.


That's a fair point, and thanks for the post it was well put.

I feel that analysing ways in which various activities are, or might be, or might become roleplaying games is a more productive way to approach the problem than in looking for ways that they are not.


Simon Hibbs


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Mike Holmes on August 06, 2004, 09:11:44 AM
Oh, I completely agree that text is an inferior method for the most part, Ron. For many reasons, the largest of which is speed. If we had instant speech to text, I think that a lot of the problems would go away, but I don't for a minute dispute that body language, inflection, and the like are important. OTOH, there are some really powerful advantages to text as well, like perfect recall of what was said for future reference (I forget names I make up in play all the time, for instance). Socially, text prevents a lot of arguments, I'd say, because people calm down while typing. Etc.

In any case, I agree with Simon that it's just another medium. There are differences to media, but I can't think of one which I wouldn't call roleplaying. Consider this: the slippery slope to arguments that body language and the like are neccessary to make a game role-playing could be extended by the LARPers to say that TT is not role-playing because you don't actually act out the role, nor interact with a simulated environment.

You see Table Top is just another medium. That's the difference between LARP and TT. In TT more of the imagined space is provided via human description than in LARP. In IRC, even more is provided by humans (though not all, we use pictures and occasionally sound bytes), and that by text.

Interestingly, note that playing in an actual space, and having pictures shown as methods aren't different a priori in terms of adjusting the imagination. That is, when LARPing, no matter how well somebody makes the convention hall, or their living room, or whatever seem like the environment in question, it's still a simulation. Characters never look precisely like what their players look like. When looking at a picture, the player probably mentally inserts his character. The point is that these things are just different media, they don't replace imagination. One could hypothesize a game which was a LARP in which you play yourself in your livingroom (I'm sure somebody's tried this experience), but even then I think there's a disconnect between the reality and what the players are "seeing" happening in the game.

BTW, Gareth's definition of Pawn stance has nothing to do with the standard definition. Or Puppetland wouldn't be an RPG.

Mike


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Jonathan Walton on August 06, 2004, 03:33:24 PM
Man, I find all the good discussions once they reach page 4...

One point, which I'm surprised that no one's brought up yet, is that computers "do things" in much the same way that characters in a roleplaying game "do things": they need people.  The PC on your desktop is a physical construct created by human beings and told to do x, y, and z.  The PC in your campaign is a non-physical construct created by human beings to do x, y, and z.

In the past, we've discussed the communication that happens when you read a book, when the author's ideas muddle their way through the crutch of language into your head, as a kind of SIS.  The author is imagining something, they try to tell you about it so you can imagine the same thing, and you do your part.

In a computer game, Zelda for instance, the designers are trying to communicate a vision to the players.  They're also trying to take into account player choices and responses.  For example, I played Zelda one time with the specific goal of having my character (Link!) never gain the shield item.  This is not what you're supposed to do.  This was a save-the-imaginary-Atari-princess moment, since I thought shields were just lame, no matter what in-game benefits they provided.  I wanted my Link to be neat and distinctive and different from all the other Links out there.

However, the designers tried to foil me at every corner.  They intended for every Link to have his sheild before proceeding into a certain area, just to prevent 7yo players from wandering to certain death, so they railroaded it to require the shield.  What did I do?  I bought the shield, got into the new area, and proceeded to find the nearest item-eating monster in the area to feed my shield to.

You know what this is?  This is negotiation between me and the designers of the game.  The computer didn't make any decisions about what the game should allow Link to do.  The designers did.  The designers are real people and we actively negotiated things out, non-synchronously.  I made a decision they didn't like.  They tried to keep me from doing it.  I gave in, but then bullheadedly found a way to do something close to what I originally wanted, for which they had no response.


Title: A short rant about "SIS"
Post by: Callan S. on August 06, 2004, 04:57:52 PM
Quote from: Christopher Weeks

Quote from: Noon

[GM] goes on to write the first post.

With just that to go on (I never see the guy, after all) I write my own post without anything except the post he contributed.

Now let's not race on to his reading/posting a responce. Let's just focus on what happened here. Is this roleplay so far? Is this SIS so far? Is this System?


If you've imagined yourself in the role before typing your response and/or the GM has done the same, then there has been some role-playing.  If at this point, even if there hasn't been any real role-playing yet, there is reasonable expectation of role-playing in the future, it's a role-playing game.

I think SIS has been employed in the example above.  Even if the GM merely wrote about a coastal setting with gulls swooping on the bathers' Doritos and you elaborated on the level of energy of the waves, the imagined space has been synchronized.

At this point, System has been employed only to the extent that your post did not contradict or question the GM's post (or did, for that matter) and things (scenes, characters, events, whatever) were accepted (or not) into your Imagined Space.  Before the GM replies to your input, the offer is pending acceptance.

Does that seem reasonable?

Chris


That's great, it's covering a lot of the points I'm trying to highlight. But I want to add a few things.

Acceptance: In the other CRPG thread someone mentioned the need for acceptance in responce to this same situation. So I'll pose these questions...

1. What is acceptance? Can it be passive? If so, what is the difference between someone never seeing my responce to their work and someone just grunting affirmitively when they read it?

2. Isn't acceptance already present? The GM presented his situation idea, I presented my character idea. That he went on to post the first post and I went on to make my first post means mutual acceptance of those first mutual contributions, right?