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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: chris_moore on April 18, 2006, 10:10:11 AM



Title: [In the Pit] Should they care?.
Post by: chris_moore on April 18, 2006, 10:10:11 AM
So let's pretend the setting is Vietnam, and the players make U.S. soldier protagonists.
(If you missed the setting discussion, it's here:)
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19537.0

As it stands now (and it's rough) is that players come up with a name, a simple concept ("gung-ho ex-jock" or "bookworm") and a list of traits, or descriptors.  The only reason to choose these traits is to give a "before the trauma" picture of the character...these traits (a la Dogs) will be lost or rewritten during play.  The only guideline I have for the players is "pick traits that would be interesting to change, or to lose, in the game." 
The game is about creating stories where protagonists struggle to maintain their old identities while trying to survive. Some may do just that, some may die, some may become monsters or shivering husks of their former selves.  It could be scary, tragic, and/or uplifting.

 Here's my question:  Is it more fun for the *players* to also fear losing those traits (thereby identifying with the characters) OR is a more distanced, authorial  kind of attitude okay? 


Title: Re: [In the Pit] Should they care?.
Post by: joepub on April 18, 2006, 11:04:04 AM
Quote
Here's my question:  Is it more fun for the *players* to also fear losing those traits (thereby identifying with the characters) OR is a more distanced, authorial  kind of attitude okay? 

well... not to be difficult in answering...
But I sorta think that neither of those is QUITE the right answer.

Players should not fear change, because part of the fun of a game should be advancement.
They should be nervous about it at times, but also be excited and expectant at other times.

Likewise, they should DEFINATELY not be distanced about it, if I get what your game is really aout -
They should be passionate about which changes they make and which they fight.


So, although they shouldn't fear changes to character, it should definately be something that has real bearing on them and that htey care about.


Title: Re: [In the Pit] Should they care?.
Post by: chris_moore on April 18, 2006, 11:29:27 AM
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Likewise, they should DEFINATELY not be distanced about it, if I get what your game is really aout -
They should be passionate about which changes they make and which they fight.

Okay, so the next question is, what can I do as a designer to help players care?  One thought I had (loosely inspired by Ron Edwards' "It Was a Mutual Decision") was to require that players and protagonists resembled each other in some way... that they must be the same gender, have similar traits, etc.  Would players then better identify with their characters?


Title: Re: [In the Pit] Should they care?.
Post by: TonyLB on April 18, 2006, 11:36:58 AM
Hrm.

What if the traits they start out with can only give them a mechanical advantage toward helping others, but the traits they can trade those in on can only give them a mechanical advantage toward helping themselves?

That way there's a distinct loss involved in losing the trait ... it distances you from being able to help the group.  At the same time, it puts some power in your hands as a player, so it's not an unalloyed loss.  You can be excited about the possibilities of change, while still resisting them.


Title: Re: [In the Pit] Should they care?.
Post by: joepub on April 18, 2006, 12:16:22 PM
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players and protagonists resembled each other in some way... that they must be the same gender, have similar traits, etc.  Would players then better identify with their characters?

no. bad.

Quote
What if the traits they start out with can only give them a mechanical advantage toward helping others, but the traits they can trade those in on can only give them a mechanical advantage toward helping themselves?

yes. amazing.


Title: Re: [In the Pit] Should they care?.
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 20, 2006, 01:13:32 PM
Hello,

I agree with Joe about the player-to-character connection, although not because it's fundamentally "bad." I think the fear of playing characters like yourself is rooted back in the old days, when gamers were faced with the strident fear that kids would identify too strongly with the characters and be found dead in sewers, having tried to survive down there with wooden swords, trash-can lids, and homemade iron rations. Gamers have been culturally aversive to "play like yourself" talk ever since.

My criticism is different. What you're describing is matching like with like. Whereas what makes It Was a Mutual Decision (and its inspiration in this regard, Breaking the Ice) work is switching real-person features relative to those features in the characters. It's a method of establishing empathy among players, not identification with characters, although the latter is a logical extension of the former.

Therefore I suggest that if you want to do anything of this kind, consider a shuffle among the players, rather than a strict assignment of "your guy, so he's like you in some way."

Also, I'd like you to consider something very important. When you ask,

Quote
what can I do as a designer to help players care?

... I have some bad news and some good news.

The bad news is this: you cannot make anyone do anything. There is no "care" button. What you can do is communicate what inspires you in such a way that it inspires others.

The good news is this: reward systems work. People respond to them, enjoy them, and commit to them. If your game's mechanics-based currency shifts are connected to real-world, among-humans desire to see these shifts happen, then you have a reward system. This is the heart of your game, and in fact of any game or social activity that uses symbolic, imagined objects (ranging from SIS-player-characters to real-object-goalposts). Work on that, and many of the answers you're seeking will become clear. Right now, they float, unanswerable, because there's no reward system for context.

Best, Ron