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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 04, 2003, 11:10:07 AM



Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 04, 2003, 11:10:07 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
How-to-play text
A lot of game texts in this tradition reach for a fascinating ideal: that reading the book is actually the start of play, moving seamlessly into group play via character creation. Features of some texts like the NPC-to-PC explanatory style and GM-only sections are consistent with this ideal, as well as the otherwise-puzzling statement that character generation is a form of Director stance. It supports the central point of this essay, that the value of Simulationist play is prioritizing the group imaginative experience, to an extent that expands the very notion of "play" into acts that from Narrativist or Gamist perspectives are not play at all.

Out of the entire article this passage it what pulled from me the strongest reaction of "What the hey...?" This really isn't developed in the essay, not to the point where I understand it. Is reading the book part of play? Really? Can someone develop this a little?


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: clehrich on February 04, 2003, 11:36:04 AM
Obviously Ron should weigh in on this, but I took it to refer to two things at once:

1. The habit of starting a game-book with a story, something WhiteWolf kind of made into a signature item, e.g. with Werewolf.  You see it also in Unknown Armies, where throughout the book are bits and pieces of "the underground," laid out to look like scribbled-on paper clipped to photos and whatnot.

2. The idea that a given book is only for players, while other books are for GMs, such that the publication structure enforces the play structure.  You see this again in Unknown Armies, to take a modern example, where the different sections are "graded" in their secrecy level vis-a-vis a particular campaign level.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 04, 2003, 11:46:41 AM
Probably my fault. I've said that phrase before that "deciding character background is Director Stance". Ron's claim is that this isn't play proper.

My point is that as soon as you start deciding what is happening, or has happened, or anything at all in the shared imaginative space that you are role-playing. This actually starts with the first description of the game, probably well before chargen. As soon as the GM says, it's about a planet in a galaxy far, far away, the shared imagining has begun.

If not, and "play" must relate to the character only, then all use of Director Stance Authority is not play, but something else. I fail to see how, say a narrated flashback scene that effectively creates my character's father is in any way different from doing the same in chargen.

Or perhaps I should say that the distinction between the phases of chargen and "play" is artificial and unneccessary. Chargen is just a part of play where the rules are different in how you decide things. For example, Universalis does not require any creation of any "background" before "play". You can do as much of this as you like, but it's not required, there is no chargen section of the rules; it's just not neccessary to have separate rules for it. In any case, from one perspective all you do in Universalis is creating a "background" that is, in the end, the story. All Director Stance.

So which is it? Is Director Stance play, or isn't it? If not, what is it? Why the artificial separation between these phases of...activity?...in RPGs. By the definition of role-playing as creating a shared imaginary space, it's all play to me, just play with separate rules.

Mike

P.S. sorry, that sounded ranty.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 04, 2003, 11:49:03 AM
Hi there,

Chris, that's a good start, but I'll take it even further - for instance, lifepaths in character creation that determines, through use of the system, events that most play reserves for in-play occurrences. Traveller, Cyberpunk, and Legendary Lives all do this.

A number of the readers of the essay agreed with this issue very strongly, though. Can they or anyone else help clarify through their own perceptions and experience of reading game texts?

Best,
Ron


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 04, 2003, 11:50:08 AM
OK, I'll buy #2 with the division and the begining of play structure, especially player/GM sections or books. I'm not so sure of #1. But then, maybe I'm typifying the last sentence of the quote.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: xiombarg on February 04, 2003, 11:51:18 AM
Quote from: clehrich
2. The idea that a given book is only for players, while other books are for GMs, such that the publication structure enforces the play structure.  You see this again in Unknown Armies, to take a modern example, where the different sections are "graded" in their secrecy level vis-a-vis a particular campaign level.
Another game that does this is Deadlands.

Basically, in theory one is allowing one to adopt a very extreme version of the Actor stance: The player does not know what the character does not know. As Ron points out in the original GNS essay, this is the default stance for Simulationist play, so trying to enforce Actor stance can be seen as a very Simulationist technique.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 04, 2003, 12:09:16 PM
Interesting perspective, Mike. Let's see if I can shoot it out of the saddle or not.  ;)

Using this same perspective, grocery shopping is cooking. Not a part of cooking, or just preparation to cook, but actually cooking. Drafting blueprints is building a house. Not planning to, but actually building it. Writing a script is shooting a movie. Not part of the preparation or planing to shoot a movie, but actually shooting it.

I think that there is a line between preparing to do something and when the task is actually being performed.

That is, you can decide you want a cheese omlet. You look in the fridge, see you are out of cheese and eggs, so you go to the store, buy eggs and cheese, decide you want some ham as well, buy it, take it home, get out a bowl and heat up a frying pan, crack the eggs into the bowl, beat them, throw them in a pan, put the ham and cheese in, etc etc.

We can argue over this belabored example as-to when preparation to make an omlet ends and the actual making of the omlet begins. Is it when you start heating the pan or when you crack the eggs? My point is that there is a difference between preparation and the actual act.

That said, I think that this difference is a tad slipperier in RPGs than in omlet making, as Universalis points out.

I think it is better to emphasize that it is a form of play rather than play itself because there is a difference and IME may not have any real effect on "actual" play. :)

Does this make sense?


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 04, 2003, 12:15:55 PM
Much more slippery. Because in chargen you aren't "planning". Youare actually creating. You do your "planning" very quickly, deciding something like " I want to play a elven mage". Then you create the character just like you would the omlette. Later you create your father with a flashback, which is just another form of cooking. We've all got to top with the analogies.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't note that chargen is different in substantive ways from other sorts of play. Just that it is, itself, play.

Try this, give me a definition of play that expressly does not include the sorts of activities that occur in chargen.

Mike


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 04, 2003, 12:44:32 PM
I'm still having trouble with this concept and I probably will continue to do so for a while at the very least.
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Try this, give me a definition of play that expressly does not include the sorts of activities that occur in chargen.

Hmmm... That's not exactly fair. In defining "play" I would naturally want it to cover different types of games from Universalis to AD&D to Sorcerer to DeProfundis to some game with as-yet unimagined method. Such a definition would either be extremely open by necessity to cover all of these different styles of play or will attempt to be close so as to exclude chargen which you would then point out, thus invalidating this definition. But this does not invalidate that I can still perceive a difference in proceedure and attitude in myself and the play group when creating characters vs. actual play. I stand by my reasoning above in that it is a *part of* play to be certain, but to call it simply play is synecdoche, I think.

In any case, this has gotten clean away from my actual topic. I'm not talking about chargen being "play" but reading the darn book being play.
Quote
This actually starts with the first description of the game, probably well before chargen. As soon as the GM says, it's about a planet in a galaxy far, far away, the shared imagining has begun.

That's more like it. This has all of the problematic debate potential of the abortion issue. When is it a human being? Bah.

I don't think that any more ground is going to be gained either way here. The only thing I can think of is that the Lumpley principal is absent at this point, it seems to me. Is it? The players may be agreeing, but not with any system facilitating it. It's purely social contract at that point.

Maybe. It's a pity that we've already reached a point to argee to disagree, but such is life.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: lumpley on February 04, 2003, 01:35:09 PM
Quote from: Ron's Sim Essay
How-to-play text
A lot of game texts in this tradition reach for a fascinating ideal: that reading the book is actually the start of play, moving seamlessly into group play via character creation. Features of some texts like the NPC-to-PC explanatory style and GM-only sections are consistent with this ideal, as well as the otherwise-puzzling statement that character generation is a form of Director stance. It supports the central point of this essay, that the value of Simulationist play is prioritizing the group imaginative experience, to an extent that expands the very notion of "play" into acts that from Narrativist or Gamist perspectives are not play at all.

Emphasis mine.  I been there.

I wrote my own fantasy heartbreaker entirely in the voice of someone who lived in the game world.  The point was to get the players' heads inside the world as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

The goal of the game was to "be" someone in the game world.  The other players could support or distract from your experience, but they weren't necessary to it.  You could start without them.  I mean, "actual play" wasn't social, it was in your own private head.  You could start when you picked up the book, for instance, or while you were making your character before the group got together for the first session.  In fact, ideally, you'd come to the first session with a rich and detailed experience of your "self" in the setting already.  Hit the ground mid-stride, like.  Just as Ron describes.

(A problematic ideal, I'd say now.)

-Vincent

P.S. Jack, the so-called Lumpley Principle (so-called because I feel like "lookie me! I'm a fer-frick-sake principle!" when I call it that) says that group consensus is what's necessary, not mechanics.  It's in full-swing operation whenever the group is deciding what's true in the game.  If you make characters separately, before the game, it kicks in when you introduce your character and get the thumbs-up or thumbs-down from everybody else.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 04, 2003, 02:00:15 PM
Thanks, Vincent. That's what I thought.

Jack, I don't know what you could possibly mean by chargen being *part of play* but not simply play.

To all of ya, I've never said that these things were identical to "normal play" or anything of the sort. Just that they are play of a sort, and as such can be analyzed with the same terminology, etc. That's the important part.

Consider this. What if there were a game where you created the character in a chargen phase by having a discussion in character between the players that took turns describing the character's attributes (I am in fact contemplating using this for my next design). So player A has his character Bob say, "Well, as you can see, I'm pretty Tall, and as such monsters tend to fear me". Then player B says, "That may be true, but consider my great Strength!" etc.

Is that not play? How is it not chargen? It's use of explicitly given player Director Stance Authority to create a character. It happens in a separate phase (as soon as they leave the bar, "Normal" resolution and powers are assumed), and it's different from the normal resolution to be sure. But I'll be damned if it's not play.

The point is that, even with traditional chargen it's useful to see it in terms of play so that we can disuss it. Let's say it's not play, and therefore creating a background is not Director Stance. Then what praytell is it? What form of authority is the player using to create the character? Special Chargen Authority? The methodologies are sufficiently similar that they need to be discussed using the same terms.

And you don't need a system to decide what happens in a game. Freeform games don't. So, yes, as soon as the social contract is "signed" the game is on and the participants are all, potentially playing. As soon as anyone makes a statement that is accepted by the other players due to any sort of authority, they are playing a RPG.

To the extent that one can play solo RPGs, even imagining things when reading the text is play.

Mike


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 04, 2003, 02:17:53 PM
Hey, Mike and everybody. Thanks for the responses. I think I got it now. I'm still going "what the hey...?" but I think I'm just typifying the Gam/Nar perspective Vincent highlighted.

Thanks again.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 04, 2003, 03:03:49 PM
Hi there,

In case anyone's interested, I'm with Jack on this one - not in the sense of refuting or denying anyone else's points or perspective, but just in saying, "Huh. Is that how you look at it? How very different."

I'm also thinking that reading the book itself is not necessarily, and quite often is not, an act of shared Exploration. Sure, maybe when one person says, "It's on the second moon of Rigel IV," then we're in that mode and (maybe) that can be seen as play, but when I'm hangin' out and reading the book? Before a group discussion? After it? That's when I say, I dunno, Mike, it doesn't work that way for me anyway.

Best,
Ron


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Trevis Martin on February 04, 2003, 05:57:37 PM
The game that I immediately thought of when reading the beginning of this thread is the first publishing of Cybergeneration.  The GM literally read the book out loud and the integrated "adventure" had the characters define themselves at a data terminal so the AI could evaluate them, ran them through the carbon plague, which gave them their powers, and then moved on from there...   Talk about getting to the characters head right away!


Trevis


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: clehrich on February 04, 2003, 07:35:25 PM
You know, as long as we have a "frickin' prinple" around, let me point out that kill puppies for satan does this too, rather subtly.  I don't mean it's a Sim game or anything, but the entire text is written in this peculiar jocular scuzzbag dialect.  This projects the reader into the game-world, essentially, "Yeah, we talk like losers, but we really don't suck, 'cuz we got magic powers from Satan."  It works wonderfully, and for me reading kill puppies already told a lot about play.  

Similarly, when lumpley wrote up "So we killed some puppies for satan" recently on the Actual Play forum, he did so in that same stream-of-not-quite-coherence dialect.  Admittedly, the game was funny, but why was everyone "corpsing" all over the thread?  Because of the dialect.

In fact, kill puppies has been cited in the Indie forum recently as the single example of a game with constant printed profanity which is nonetheless not offensive (if you're kind of open-minded, obviously).  As the link from the Forge says, "All profanity, all the time."

So from my perspective, the idea that this sort of thing makes reading a game book play, no qualifications, is perfectly okay.  The only problem is if you overextend it (it's what play is really like, should be, etc.).

And of course if you can't write, you're s--- out of luck....


Title: Play versus Play--Examples
Post by: M. J. Young on February 05, 2003, 12:23:54 AM
Quote from: Jack raised the question when he
Using this same perspective, grocery shopping is cooking. Not a part of cooking, or just preparation to cook, but actually cooking. Drafting blueprints is building a house. Not planning to, but actually building it. Writing a script is shooting a movie. Not part of the preparation or planing to shoot a movie, but actually shooting it.

I cook all the time; I make dinner almost every night for a family currently (thanks to the presence of the displaced girlfriend of one son) numbering eight. Making dinner almost always begins with deciding what to make. Often that means trekking down to the freezer and shelves in the basement to bring up food, possibly to look at what I have. Sometimes it includes running to the store, particularly if I need one item like milk.

Similarly, drafting blueprints is an essential step in building a house, and writing a script an essential step in making a movie--one which, in modern cinema, is ongoing simultaneously with shooting it, as rewrites and revisions come out daily on the set.

Let me turn to cards.

Bridge and Pinochle both have what is called an auction phase. It is during this part that decisions about the next phases of the game, the play phase, are made. Those decisions include which suit will be trumps, what cards have greater value, and who gets to play the first card. (Pinochle has a third, intermediate, phase, called the Meld phase, which is between the two both temporally and in relation to actual play. The decisions have been made, and during Meld phase players are scoring points by revealing certain cards and card combinations that they hold in their hands, but no tricks are taken.) Play then begins as the designated player leads the first card, and each side attempts to score as many points as they are able through judicious card play.

Note that within the game, there is a distinction made between actually playing the game and participating in the set-up portion known as the auction. However, no one who says they want to play Bridge or Pinochle is excluding from that use of "play" the auction phase. It is a necessary part of play, and in both games it is strategically very important with nuances of bidding practice that can make or break a team's chances in the later phases.

Game preparation is like going to the basement to get the food, running to the store for milk, drafting the house to be built, writing the script, and participating in the auction. It is, in that sense, part of playing the game, and cannot be said not to be gameplay. However, just as the Bridge and Pinochle players do when referencing the taking of tricks, we who play role playing games also use that word "play" in a specialized sense to mean this specific part of play which most represents what we do on an ongoing basis in the game. We call that "play"; it is also part of "play".

Now, whether reading the game book is "part of play" anymore than going to the game store to buy the module or get more dice may very well depend on how the book is written. I've read sections of Alyria that make me feel I'm experiencing the game--not just the world, but the world as it would be experienced in play. If those experiences are part of preparation to play an actual game (and in my case they may well be), they might well be part of play in the broader sense. On the other hand, I never felt like I was playing D&D when I read the rule books, and I didn't write any part of Multiverser with that in mind. Even the one piece of game fiction, the short story embedded in The Perpetual Barbecue in The Second Book of Worlds--isn't written to give the experience of play. (It's actually written to provide the framework for the world as it is before the player characters arrive within it.) So it depends on a lot of variables.

--M. J. Young


Title: Re: Play versus Play--Examples
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 05, 2003, 06:37:10 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
It is, in that sense, part of playing the game, and cannot be said not to be gameplay. However, just as the Bridge and Pinochle players do when referencing the taking of tricks, we who play role playing games also use that word "play" in a specialized sense to mean this specific part of play which most represents what we do on an ongoing basis in the game. We call that "play"; it is also part of "play"

Excellent point, MJ and what I was thinking but just couldn't put into word. Thanks.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 05, 2003, 07:02:56 AM
I assume that y'all have felt misunderstood at times. Try to hearken back to one of those moments as you read my words.

For purposes of discussing theory we need a definition of what play is in an RPG. There are probably several, but that's not important here. What's important is determining whether the parts of an RPG such as Character Generation and other forms of preparation are sufficiently like play to be able to use the terms associated with play to describe what happens during that part of participating in an RPG.

Thus I'll repeat myself and say that I am not denying that there are  important, recognizable, and substantive differences between what happens in such portions of RPG activities, and elsewhere. So, yes, any analogy that you want to throw at me that points out that they are not identical is going to stand just fine. It will also completely miss the point. I am not saying that preparation to dive into the story or action does not exist as a separate phase, or that we should stop calling Chargen, Chargen. Only that in certain narrow and specific ways it differs not one whit from what we call play. To that extent we can extend the terminology of play to preparation where it makes sense to do so.

The question is where a participant gets the authority to make decisions about things like what their character is like, or what the world is like "pre-play". In D&D you start by selecting a race/class often. In this case the authority to do so and have the decision stick is provided by the text which states that each player does this when creating a character.

But there are several other ways that this can be accomplished besides this player fiat methodology. In some cases selection is random giving the text and dice the authority to decide what is "true" regarding some aspect of the character. More importantly, however, there are systems that have things like career choices that occur along a linear timeline (Traveller being an obvious example). Or games like Aria where chacter generation occurs as a part of the continuing creation of the world. As such, players often make these decisions in-character ("Hmm. Bob's just graduated from college, so, given his high social standing, he'd probably continue on to the Naval Academy"). This is unusual, and as such, I find it important to have tools to discuss this difference in decision making technique that is promoted by these methods.

And they already seem to exist. Most decisions in character generation systems seem to me to be, for example, Author Stance in that the player decides things in gross about the character (often without considering the details of why the character has the selections he has: Pawn stance), so as to make a character that the player feels is "fun" to play. One that interests him. Often they are also given Director Stance Authority during chargen that they would not likely have acess to afterwards to do things like create NPCs, institutions, communities, realms, etc in the form of character background. And in certain circumstances, as I describe above, the player makes decisions in Actor Stance using the sort of logic I describe above ("Well, at this point he would do xyz").

So, we can decide that this is "not play" if we like. But that obviates the fact that the terms that we use for play are very useful in describing what happens pre-play (and post play, for that matter). In fact, perhaps the greatest utility to this is to look at the differences between how these phases of a game operate. Thus, I can make that statement above about how a player making a background often has Director Stance powers that are eliminated when "play" begins.

Here's another solution that people may like better. I'll coin a new jargon term, Construction. Construction means all parts of RPG activity that add elements to the jointly imagined space, whether they be adding a country, adding a character, adding an action, whatever. As such, Construction includes all Play, and all Pre-Play, and all Post-Play, so long as it's about adding something to the imagined space. Thus we maintain our separation between play and stuff like chargen, but still have a term to talk about the similar natures of these RPG activities. In fact, I'd say that Construction would probably entail all of what is technically considered to be the activity of RPGs, leaving out only those elements that are often considered (potentially incorrectly) as ancillary such as OOC socialization during a session.

This is similar, really, to Ron's term Participant which is a superset that includes all Players and GMs, or other, well, participants (I'm still waiting for a report of an official Audience participant).

In that case, however, I'd like to then amend the definition of the Stances so as to have them refer to Construction, rather than just to Play.

Or, if we don't want to even go that far, then I'd like to discuss creation of terminology to discuss how things are decided in Pre and Post play phases.

Because, lord knows, I don't want to be making "Otherwise confusing statements." It seems that Ron would admit that, at the very least, some designers are trying to make chargen "like play". It seems to me that all this is a long way to go to avoid saying that preparation for play is not also play, but if people really think that the distinction is that important, I'm willing to accept that definition. Yes, I'd still call chargen and such Play if given my druthers. But if the community demands it I can live with the old definition.

I'll even admit the advantages of this definition. One is that, if we say that preparation is play, then we'd probably want to come up with a term to distinguish "play-play". And it seems intuitive to talk about chargen being "pre-play" for some games, and "in-play" for others (such as Universalis and a number of other recent designs at least in part).

But it seems to me that these designations came about traditionally and without rigor, and, as such suffer from the same problem as I mentioned that creates the necessity for the term Participant. As such, I think it's important that we review this in order that understanding can be achieved in this part of RPG activity that seems to me to be relatively unexplored in terms of direct (especially comparative) analysis.

For example, just in writing this, it occurs to me that other formalized phases can occur in RPG activity. Such as in Aria where one takes a break from playing the characters after an "adventure" and goes back to progressing the timeline in a shared fashion. These "Interphases" (the text almost certainly has a forlmal title for them), sure seem like play to me, but share a lot of the sorts of differences that chargen has. Anyhow, one could imagine a game where you stopped and created new characters every so often during sessions, interrupting "play". The point is that just thinking in these terms allows me to formulate different possibilities in addition to understanding them better.

Anyhow, it seems to me that this is something that needs to be considered, at the very least, to advance our ability to discuss these subjects.

Is that any clearer?

Mike


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 05, 2003, 07:08:19 AM
I just now understand the whole play/part of play thing. It's my point exactly, actually. Basically play refers to two sets, "Play" meaning the stuff that happens after preparation (more or less), and "Part of Play" meaning all the activities of participation. As such, "Play" is a subset of "Parts of Play". Do I have that correct?

That's confusing (consider how long it took me just to get it here), and why I think we need a new term for either the subset or the superset. That's pretty much my point in a nutshell. And to say that Stance should refer to the superset, not the soley the subset.

Mike


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 05, 2003, 08:12:26 AM
Hi Mike,

I'm really wondering why you are looking for consensus about any of this. I'm perfectly happy to say that some folks' aesthetic standards include character design as play, and hence include Stance, and others' don't. And that it's not a big deal except insofar as it informs stuff like explanatory text and Social Contract, including the ways I wrote about.

I think you are reading way too much judgment into my "otherwise-confusing" phrase. Prep-as-play confuses me, and I'm the guy who wrote the essay, so that's what I say. I'm not claiming the concept is confusing to everyone, for Pete's sake.

Best,
Ron


Title: Confusion Over One Little Word
Post by: Le Joueur on February 05, 2003, 08:20:43 AM
It surprises me that everyone is getting so tied up in knots over a little word.  I really think that the word "play" ought to get added to the list like "genre" and "story."

Seems we're talkin' 'bout two kinds of 'play' here.  Both the cooking example and the character creation discussion are obscuring this problem.  Like M. J. points out making dinner can actually start when you see something on sale during a routine grocery trip; this is the same as when - reading through the new Rifts book I got (the week after it's first Gen Con) - I conceived of a borg character based on one small passage (something like "...most 'full conversion borgs' save only a hand or their face...;" it occurred to me that nothing said I couldn't keep something a little more visceral).  Mike has demonstrated quite succinctly that character creation can quite unequivocally be a part of 'play' (under any definition).  Yet Ron is right there - and right - with how 'play' is the affecting the 'shared imaginative space.'  (Although it could be argued that placing a character within such would be this kind of act, it wouldn't become literally 'play' - according to Ron - until that character was shared.)

The problem here is that we have two distinct uses of the word 'play.'  They are not the same, trying to reconcile them will only lead to more confusion.  It would be like trying to prove that 'play' as in 'played a card' is the same as 'play' as M. J. pointed out in 'playing Pinochle.'  (One is a part of the other, but they aren't interchangeable.)  Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure that's the real problem here.

See I think each of us is reading "reading the book" to mean different things.  For example, say I'm playing in that Rifts game and a new player questions the validity of my Borg character; I'd go to the book to find that line which inspired me, that might take a bit of reading if I've forgotten the place.  At this time, "reading the book" is a part of 'play' as much as checking a modifier or consulting a table.  However, if I've never seen a game and I pick up the book to learn it (perhaps even in the store), I am indeed literally "reading the book," but not in any way that could be construed as 'play' under any definition.

Now, I'm not going to make any attempt to analyze whether "reading the book" in order to learn character creation counts as 'play' because I think that's arguable at best.  I am on record for saying that character creation and advancement are both a part of 'play' in the bigger sense because if you don't prep, you don't play.   And I don't mean that getting chips and dips is play either; I mean actual substantive contribution to what will be 'shared imaginative space.'  If making up a non-player character up 'on the fly' is a part of play, I don't see any difference between that and spending four hours on your masterpiece player character - they're both 'for play.'  However much "reading the book" is involved is probably not what Ron was referring to when he wrote that "reading the book" was not a part of 'play.'

Fang Langford


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 05, 2003, 08:25:54 AM
And I'll say it again: I did not say that reading the book is not part of play. I said that treating it that way confuses me, personally.

Best,
Ron


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Mike Holmes on February 05, 2003, 08:55:44 AM
I'm looking for consensus because I think that adjusting the terminology would add great utillity here. While you may be "fine" with this just remaining an aesthetic issue, I am not; I think I'm on to something here. I see it as much more than cosmetic. Apparently I'm either not communicating that well, or people just don't care.

And, for one, I am not wrapped around an axle on this. I think it's an important idea and want to discuss it. Why must passion be mistaken for overreaction? My comment on th4 "otherwise confusing" remark was simply to remind peoople why I threw this in this particular thread.

Mike


Title: Ah, But...
Post by: Le Joueur on February 05, 2003, 09:25:21 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
And I'll say it again: I did not say that reading the book is not part of play. I said that treating it that way confuses me, personally.

Ah, but which "reading the book?"  Does 'looking up modifiers' not count?  Comparing reciting descriptions from modules to perusing in the store?  There are a lot of things that can be inferred in "reading the book."  We're just trying to be clear here.

Dang Langford

p. s. Note to all: this misspelling is always intentional when it occurs, I prefer it to using smilies when indicating a post of a semi-humorous nature.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Walt Freitag on February 05, 2003, 09:32:29 AM
I think Mike has a strong point here, especially in light of examples like Jack Spencer's self-diagnosis of past play problems in this thread. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=50635) Dysfunctional (in the sense of reflecting mutually incompatible goals between participants) character creation seems to have been the earliest and also the clearest symptom of the fundamental GNS conflict that also caused (arguably more subtle and harder to diagnose, if I'm interpreting Jack's account correctly) dysfunction in the play that followed. Evaluating char gen in the same theoretical terms as the ensuing play appears to have been the key, in this case, to the insight gained.

- Walt


Title: Re: Ah, But...
Post by: xiombarg on February 05, 2003, 09:40:04 AM
Quote from: Le Joueur
Ah, but which "reading the book?"  Does 'looking up modifiers' not count?  Comparing reciting descriptions from modules to perusing in the store?  There are a lot of things that can be inferred in "reading the book."  We're just trying to be clear here.
I thought it was pretty clear Ron was talking about the initial read of the rulebook, when you sit down to absorb the system and setting...


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Valamir on February 05, 2003, 12:59:55 PM
FWIW Mike I definitely think that play begins when the book is opened the text is read and ones mind begins to imagine the possibilities.  The very first moment of "oohhh, that would be a cool hook to explore", or "ahhh I could easily see a character like X" etc is play.  Its imbedding the vision of the game world into the players mind and causing him to make judgements and assumptions about what the game is about just as much (and one could argue MORE) than actual play will.

Already when one is reading the rules and evaluating which are "wow cool" and which "well I'd definitely change that" the forces of GNS are at work.  Already when one is thinking about and discarding different ideas for characters is one engageing in all of the balance vs protagonism vs simulating a character vs maximizing effectiveness stuff that we spend so much time hashing out.

Frankly this is so second nature to my way of thinking that I'm finding it strange that it hasn't been part of the definition of "play" all along.  I guess I just had always assumed it was.

So yes.  IMO the minute you open the cover and read the first words of text for the first time you are involved in the over all play process and are demonstrating / experienceing GNS, stance, meta vs non meta concerns exactly as during real face to face time.

As suggested above, saying that prepareing the recipe isn't part of cooking seems completely foreign to me.


Title: Different Angle
Post by: marknau on February 05, 2003, 01:36:30 PM
Chess requires tactical vision, strategic planning, etc, etc. When you play chess, you are engaged in these activities.

Preparing for a match by studying openings and your opponent's prior games may or may not qualify in some particular person's head as part of the PLAY of the game. Fine. Whatever. Semantics.

An important point (and in my mind the important part of what Mike's on to) is that during the pre-planning stage the player is engaging in very similar activities as he does during the actual game proper. We can use the same terminology to describe what the player is doing and what his experience is.

What ever terms you want to use for the "preparation", "actual play" and "entire experience", the terms and concepts used to study the game can be applied to all phases of the "entire experience."


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: M. J. Young on February 06, 2003, 02:10:52 PM
Mike: I really do appreciate your notion that we need better terminology; my problem is that I don't think we can get it without creating other communication problems.

We can say play, roleplay, gameplay, character play, adventure play. Roleplay is too narrow, as to the unitiated it would be taken to mean what you do with your own character during interaction. Character play probably has the same flaw. Adventure play seems to imply a certain kind of game. That leaves play and gameplay. But which is the general, and which the specific? Any decision made in that regard would be arbitrary; anyone who is not informed that the terminology is so used is going to be confused by any post that uses it.

Perhaps the right step is to use the terms, and when using them distinguish them in the current post. That way no one is going to be confused, and start shouting "but gameplay includes preplay set-up", because you've already stated which means what in the post.

Once a common usage is established, it would be easier to reference it as jargon. Meanwhile, there is a tendency around here to keep increasing the learning curve--on one thread recently someone used "pervy", and someone else responded that they didn't know what "pervy" meant, and no one answered that. The more jargon we've got, the more difficult it is for newcomers to follow what we're writing.

Next thing you know, we'll be composing all our posts in Latin; and since my Latin is extremely limited (worse than my Greek, and my Greek is really amateur level), I'll be among the excluded.

--M. J. Young


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 12, 2003, 09:57:00 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I'm looking for consensus because I think that adjusting the terminology would add great utillity here.

I'm starting to agree with you, Mike.

This bit has been bothering me for a while but I didn't think to say something about it until now. When MJ addressed the whole cooking dinner analogy, he said
Quote
Making dinner almost always begins with deciding what to make.

Emphasis his, probably for this very reason.
My analogy was about cooking dinner, not making dinner. It is a matter of sematics. I could see making dinner including going to the store to buy the necessary food items, but I cannot see shopping as cooking. It's shopping!

Anyway, I hope that dragging up that analogy again will only illustrate the point and not bring the focus back on the analogy. (no offense, MJ)


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: M. J. Young on February 12, 2003, 11:58:35 PM
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
I could see making dinner including going to the store to buy the necessary food items, but I cannot see shopping as cooking. It's shopping!

Ah, but playing bridge includes both the auction phase and the play phase (and the scoring phase, too, for that matter). Pinochle also includes the meld phase. The game doesn't stop, because it takes many hands to determine the winner. Thus play is play, but auction, meld, and scoring are also play.

Given the number of kids I've known who sat around in school rolling up characters and creating character backgrounds, it's hard to imagine that character generation is not play, even if it's not roleplay at that instant. I've been guilty of this myself, in a different context. I've spent many hours creating the cities, the NPCs, the dungeons, the scenarios of the worlds I run, and I've also spent a great deal of out-of-game time analyzing character abilities for use in play. Anyone outside the hobby would recognize that those activities are "playing", as much as a model railroader is playing when he drools over the catalogues to determine what to buy next, or draws up track layouts for his next setup; as much as a golfer is "playing" when he stops at the driving range to improve his swing.

I'm not against refining the terminology; however, as I said, I'm not sure how you could refine it without having to tell a lot of people the same song we've heard with so many other words: "When we say X, we mean Y, and not Z." As Alice said to Humpty Dumpty, the question is whether you can make words mean whatever you please. Jargon has the advantage and the disadvantage that it improves communication between those who know the jargon at the expense of those who do not. Thus I think it better simply to leave "play" with the ordinary vague meaning and specify when posting exactly what you mean by it if it matters.

--M. J. Young


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Ian Charvill on February 13, 2003, 08:02:15 AM
After reading through this thread it occured to me that it isn't only simulationists for whom character creation is part of play.

A certain kind of gamist, for whom min-maxing is important, has definitely started play before the session begins.


Title: Sim Essay: reading the book is the start of play?
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 13, 2003, 08:07:50 AM
Hi folks,

That's a good point, Ian, and clearly equivalents exist for Narrativist play as well.

I think M. J.'s last post nailed it for me - most of this issue centers around the semantics of the term "to play." If it's to be cognitively engaged regarding role-playing this game, then fine; if it's to be indeed role-playing this game with others, then fine - but let's not keep goin' round 'nd round the by-now-obvious insight that some folks like to use the term one way, and others like to use it the other.

I'm not real happy with the confusion that people seem to be experiencing regarding (1) reading the book, (2) scenario/character creation and other prep, and (3) role-playing face-to-face with System in full cry. Most of the protectiveness expressed so far about "real play" seems to be about #2, whereas my point in the essay concerned #1 vs. #3.

I can't see much more point to continuing the thread. If someone really wants to address some sub-topic of it, perhaps a new thread is the best way to go.

Best,
Ron