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Author Topic: "Sacrificing Character Integrity" - a Rant  (Read 20022 times)
lumpley
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« on: June 30, 2004, 06:34:31 AM »

Can this idea please just die?

You can't understand the difference between Narrativism and Simulationism this way: A Narrativist will sacrifice character integrity in order to address Premise.  It's just not true!

Addressing Premise means character integrity.  That's straight out of Egri.  Making your character behave uncharacteristically kills your Premise, it doesn't address it.  That's because your Premise is a moral position you're trying to prove, to present a case for, and your character is the case.  If you have your character behave unrealistically, you've flushed your case down the toilet.  We've all seen this happen, watching a movie or any random episode of ST:tNG.  We go, dude, this sucks, Data wouldn't do that.  This episode is lame!

You can't prioritize addressing Premise over character integrity, because addressing Premise depends on character integrity.

In the real world what you've actually got is:

1) Whether you address Premise or not.  This is a concern at the Creative Agenda level.  It depends on whether you have fit characters locked into an escalating conflict across a moral line.  Neel K. calls it "protagonists, antagonists, a conflict, and a crucible," same thing.  

2) Your standards for how "true to character" a character's actions have to be.  This is a concern at the Exploration level.  It depends on taste.

They're absolutely unrelated.  You can have a game with uncompromising standards for character integrity and it may or may not address Premise.  You can have a game with squishy, whatever-in-the-moment standards for character integrity and it may or may not address Premise.  Addressing Premise requires you to hold your characters to your standards, whatever they happen to be.

Seriously: never yet was a story served well by its author sacrificing its characters' integrity.  Name me one.

Remember in the Fugitive with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones?  Harrison Ford gets his foot stuck in the sliding door and Tommy Lee Jones shoots him in the face, except it's bulletproof glass and Tommy Lee Jones didn't know that?  We see the spack of the bullet into the glass, with Harrison Ford's face behind it?  Great visual, but a harsh violation of Tommy Lee Jones' character.  They broke his in-world causality, his integrity as a character, to have him shoot the guy in the face.  Not in keeping at all.  We're like tilting our head to the side going, dude, that was a high price to pay for a nice visual.

Did it ruin the whole story for you?  If so, you have high standards for 2.  If not, you have lower standards for 2.

Did it contribute to the story?  In no way.

Will fucking up your character that way ever make your Premise stronger?  Never.  Like I say, name me one time.

When push comes to shove, do you choose to address Premise or play your character true to himself?  Bullshit.  When push comes to shove, if you choose to address Premise, it's BY playing your character true to himself.

-Vincent

(I guess the straw that broke my back was in Jay's post here, but he's not the only one by far.)
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xiombarg
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2004, 06:49:17 AM »

I think the issue is, Vincent, that a lot of people think it's one or the other, and don't realize you can do both. What you're reacting to is really just a reaction to kneejerk-Simulationist "My Guy Syndrome", where the player claims (and might even believe) there is only one in-character action that keeps character integrity, while that isn't generally the case. It just requires a bit more thought, either in choosing what you do, or, as you imply, in terms of choosing what the character is. But to get that point accross, sometimes you have to exaggerate the importance of addressing Premise over "what my character would do".
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lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2004, 07:04:04 AM »

Kirt: I suppose that's fine, although I don't really get it.  My concern isn't that so much.  

It's this: "the most important thing to me is being true to my character, so I must be playing Sim, not Narrativist."  Which easily becomes this: "I'm playing Simulationist [I've concluded erroneously], but there are all these moral issues I'm raising and dealing with - it must be that Narrativism depends on [some random crap] instead."  

The [some random crap] might be "pre-articulated Premise," "being willing to sacrifice character integrity," "making little-n Narr non-congruent key decisions," "self-consciously formal story structure," or anything else in the long list of ways people misunderstand Narrativism.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2004, 07:04:19 AM »

Hiya,

Agreed in full, Vincent. Been saying this so long that when it crops up, I usually just toss up my hands.

It's also related to mis-presenting the difference/relationship between author and audience in role-playing.

Best,
Ron
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John Kim
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2004, 07:24:08 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Can this idea please just die?

While I generally agree with you, this is an obnoxious statement.  If I ask nicely for your ideas to die, will you just drop them and believe what I say?  I don't think so.  If you want to convince other people, then you should treat their opinions with respect and make rational counter-arguments.  

Quote from: lumpley
  When push comes to shove, do you choose to address Premise or play your character true to himself?  Bullshit.  When push comes to shove, if you choose to address Premise, it's BY playing your character true to himself.
...
(I guess the straw that broke my back was in Jay's post here, but he's not the only one by far.)

I think Jay is fairly directly responding to Chris Edwards' http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=124933&highlight=#124933">post last week on the "Virtuality and Ouija Boards" thread where he explicitly detailed what he considered the trade-off between playing in-character and playing Narrativist.  

What Chris was responding to was my point about Virtuality.  If there is no conflict between these two, then where is the trade-off between Virtuality and Narrativism?  Don't just spout platitudes -- address the examples of my Water-Uphill-World game and Chris' HeroQuest game.  Was my game both Narrativist and Virtualist?  Conversely, what was Chris doing when he perceived a trade-off?  

Quote from: lumpley
The [some random crap] might be "pre-articulated Premise," "being willing to sacrifice character integrity," "making little-n Narr non-congruent key decisions," "self-consciously formal story structure," or anything else in the long list of ways people misunderstand Narrativism.

Well, that's because people argue that Virtuality (i.e. rgfa Simulationism, cause-and-effect reasoning) is opposed to Narrativism.  As I explained in the ouija board thread, this puts you in a bind.  Either these two are not opposed, or Narrativism needs to include more than just addressing moral issues.
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- John
lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2004, 07:47:43 AM »

Hey John.  The two are not opposed.

RGFA Sim, Virtuality and all of Ben's other "types of Simulationism" are approaches to Exploration, not types of Sim at all.  As I've said  before.

(And I said it was a rant.)

-Vincent
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Marco
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2004, 07:55:01 AM »

How is a group deeply committed to cause-and-effect reasoning "mindful" (or whatever) of premise? That seems to contradict the social-reinforcement that's Story-Now (social reinforcement isn't given for pemise-addressing aspects either by the GM to the players, by the players to the GM, or by the players to each other).

Is Story Now optional to Narrativist play?

-Marco
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2004, 08:00:45 AM »

If your group's deeply committed to cause and effect, they're deeply committed to cause and effect.

If they're also socially reinforcing Premise-addressage, they're also socially reinforcing Premise-addressage.

I don't see the either/or.

-Vincent
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2004, 08:03:36 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
 

What Chris was responding to was my point about Virtuality.  If there is no conflict between these two, then where is the trade-off between Virtuality and Narrativism?  Don't just spout platitudes -- address the examples of my Water-Uphill-World game and Chris' HeroQuest game.  Was my game both Narrativist and Virtualist?  Conversely, what was Chris doing when he perceived a trade-off?  


I don't follow you John.  I'm not seeing anything in Chris's posts on that thread that's incompatable with what Vincent is saying in this one.  In fact, they're pretty much in agreement just going from completely different starting points.


Quote from: Chris
During play I may (and have) need to decide if my desire as a player to address a moral issue in a particular way falls within the bounds of how I view my character. I often make the choice to go with my desires as a player and address the moral issue in the way I see fit. Those decisions often appear to the other players to be revealing aspects of the character.


There is a character.  It does not exist except as concieved inside the player's head.  There is some aspect of the character that the player has not exposed in play yet.  Therefor that aspect of the character does not yet exist in the SiS.  The player has in his own mind filled in some of those details but since those details have not been expressed in the SiS they are not yet "real" in game.  When confronted with a moral issue the player can choose to allow these as yet unreal details dictate what the character does, or the player can make the choice the player wants to make even if it violates these details.

When the player makes that choice details are revealed about the character.  These details are different from the potential details that had been floating in the player's head.  It is those potential details that Chris is "violating".  He's violating the fidelity of the image in his head.  But since those details were never part of the SiS they were not real.  They were not "the character".  The details that now arise as the result of the player's choice now are part of the SiS.  They are now real.  They are now known facts about the character.  It is these REAL facts about who the character REALLY is (not who the player had initially imagined him to be) that Vincent is talking about in this thread.  

Vincent: Addressing Premise must be true to the integrity of the REAL character (as revealed in the SiS)

Chris: Sometimes Addressing Premise means you have to be willing to modify the idea that you have in your head for who the character is but have not yet expressed in play.

These are in no way incompatable.  The modified idea that gets expressed in play becomes the REAL character.  The idea you had originally had that you then changed in order to more effectively address premise simply becomes a road not traveled, an idea to be saved for future use.

I'd say that this is pretty much exactly how characters get developed in actual novels and is really what authors mean when they say that a character comes alive and takes on a life of their own.  They mean that in order to effectively address the premise of their work, they had to adjust their initial thoughts on who the character was.  The story demanded that change, and the author went with it.  It doesn't violate the integrity of the character, because the character doesn't exist until written down and read by a reader.  As far as the reader is concerned what they read is simply the way the character is...they never see what the character might have been inside the author's head.  They see only what actually got put down.  Same as in the SiS of an RPG.

Quote
If my decisions up to that point have reinforced a different view of the character, going with my preferences as a player may appear to show the character going through internal changes.


Similarly, if the choice the player wants to make does violate something that has been established in the SiS, then the player has an obligation to portray the character as growing, changing, developing, etc.  As long as the transistion from what had previously been established in the SiS to what is now being established in the SiS is reasonable and believable, then no violation of the REAL character's integrity has occured.

Quote
Sometimes the way in which I want to address a moral issue falls outside the bounds of the character to a degree that I feel would be disruptive to the fidelity of the imaginary space. So, I compromise. I reign in my decision in a way that it will fall comfortably close to my view of the character.


And finally, Chris acknowledges that if that transition isn't reasonable or believable.  That it would violate the integrity of the REAL character (the "fidelity of the imaginary space") then the player must adjust the choice he was going to make to address the moral issue so as not to do this.


Again.  They seem 100% compatable view points to me.
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2004, 08:14:36 AM »

Which to complete the thought...

This means to me, that the desire to be faithful to the player's intial concept of the character (what I referred to above as "potential details") is what seperates a Simulationist CA from a Narrativist CA.

Both CAs are concerned with exploring character.  They just have different methods of doing it.  I don't think it would be unreasonable to suggest that a key difference in this method is that to a Narrativist, the character does not become real except through play.  Any aspects of the character that have not yet been revealed through play (i.e. entered the shared imaginary space) are available to be molded and changed as play progresses to meet the needs of addressing the premise.

To a Simulationist, however, the character completely 100% entirely exists already. Even the aspects that haven't been shown in play are considered to be real.  Play doesn't make them real, play simply informs the other players what that reality is.


In either case the integrity of the character as observed by the other players is 100% identical.  An outside observor is not likely to be able to tell what aspects of the character were part of a Sim players initial character concept.  Or what aspects were written in play by a Nar player's in game choices.  As long as the character winds up reasonable and believable...
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Marco
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2004, 08:20:07 AM »

Understood--it's the ramifications I'm curious about.

1. Any garden-variety lit-story-game will have a premise in its situation pretty much by nature of conflict (man v. man, man v. nature, man v. himself).

2 In the course of the game the conflict is resolved.

3. If the game is not railroaded that would seem to qalify as Nar (the Nar essay explicitly says this).

That seems to leave Sim as either railroaded or absent any human interest in situation (in practice this means lacking strong emotions because absent challenge, it's the premise that makes strong emotions happen).

It also seems to mean that story-structure of any kind isn't part of the equation (despite the fact that "great stories" of which good-structure would certainly be a part is usually associated with Nar play): the cooperative writing a story thing  is some other (secondary?) priority that would certainly exist in Sim and Gam as well.

-Marco
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2004, 08:25:49 AM »

Hi Marco,

Nope. You're missing the key issue - are or are not the actual humans involved in play doing the "addressing?"

If just one of them is, then you have Narrativist play on his or her part, but not necessarily functional - a lurker or a Prima Donna or a Typhoid Mary.

If none of them is (the outcome of the "addressing" is embedded in the assumptions of play), then you have Sim-Situation. This is a fun way to play but it is not Narrativist. It's also common. I'm surprised you are not acknowledging it.

If they all are, to whatever degree, then you have Narrativist play.

This issue - what is "to address" - lies at the center of every debate you've participated in or generated at the Forge. Story structure is a red herring.

Best,
Ron
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Ben O'Neal
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« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2004, 08:34:23 AM »

Quote
In either case the integrity of the character as observed by the other players is 100% identical. An outside observor is not likely to be able to tell what aspects of the character were part of a Sim players initial character concept. Or what aspects were written in play by a Nar player's in game choices. As long as the character winds up reasonable and believable...

This stuck with me. I thought GNS was a diagnostic theory. If the above is the key difference between Nar and Sim characters, how can we, as outside observers, identify them to be able to name them such?

I'm probably missing something simple though, but I'd like to know what it is.

-Ben
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Marco
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« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2004, 08:35:27 AM »

Ron,

Red herring it may be--but I'd hoped you'd discuss that in the Nar essay. Jesse (IIRC) hits the exact question without using terms like 'address' or even 'premise' and you tell him explicitly that Situation with human interest stuff that is resolved by play is Nar play.

When you ask if the other people are doing the "addressing" do you mean the "resolving the situation"?

I'd think so. Mostly all the players are involved in resolving the situation.

-Marco
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lumpley
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« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2004, 08:37:05 AM »

Ralph: Oh jeez do I not think so.

If my initial, private conception of my character has her locked into a moral conflict with fit opposition, I don't have to reconsider, refigure, adjust or fiddle with her behind the scenes at all.  I don't have to be willing to do so.  I can absolutely to-the-fucking-wall refuse to do so, and still play Narrativist.  Because it's the locked into a moral conflict with fit opposition part that matters to Narrativism.  When I happened to come up with my ideas doesn't figure.

Nar vs. Sim for good god sake doesn't depend on Develop-at-Start vs. Develop-in-Play.

Marco: bingo.

Narrativist players loyal to the word "Simulationist," especially from the RGFA days, are justly outraged.  I've swiped their identifying word and used it to describe something they aren't into, and I'm telling them that now they're Narrativists, which they don't get or own or identify with.

... But:

I see that my take on what you wrote is different from Ron's.  I understood your "If the game is not railroaded..." to equal Ron's "are or are not the actual humans involved in play doing the 'addressing?' ... If they all are, to whatever degree..."

In Simulationist play, the players cannot collaboratively take on moral issues.  That's because: if the players are collaboratively taking on moral issues, it's Narrativist play.

Anyhow, story structure arises from the escalating conflict that makes up the flesh and bones of addressing Premise.  Addressing Premise gives you a good (or at least passable) story structure, all by itself.

-Vincent
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