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Author Topic: Participationism and Sim II  (Read 3039 times)
Marco
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« on: August 16, 2004, 08:48:24 AM »

In the thread on introducing a Narrativist to Sim Play, Ron said he'd tell his players this:
Quote

guys, I'm gonna make decisions for your characters. I'll mainly do it through scene-framing, Feng Shui style, rather than taking over during a scene, but sometimes there are mechanics which let me do that (depends on the game: Pocket Universe no, Hidden Legacy and Haven yes, and Fvlminata kinda). Furthermore, here's the point (or we discuss the point a bit, arriving at it together), and that's what it's about. Keep on doing stuff that supports that point and makes the game "about" that point, and we'll all get along. I'll throw a whole bunch of things at you that are pretty unequivocal regarding their relationship to that point.

(Emphasis added)

As with much of the dialog on The Forge some of that is going to be unclear: does 'taking over' mean: "you fail a fear check and run away"? Does it mean "you fail a health-check and go unconscious"? Does it mean "you fail a Willpower-check and sign on to the dangerous job because you're greedy?"

We don't know--we also don't know how much those "Taking over" bits will apply to the player's areas of interest (while I can see a Narrativist player complaining in essence about being forced to make a move he would've made anyway because the Force prevents the action from being a statement, I think that there is certainly leeway in most game systems (GURPS, TRoS, etc.) for a player to simply opt-out of taking those character-hijack disads that apply to areas where his statement will be made).

But the bolded area is a little more clear: the Sim game has a "point" and that's what "it's about."

Under Ralph's viewpoint of Sim I believe this is an incorrect description of Sim Play--or rather--while it might happen in play that is described as Sim uunder the present definitions play it's at odds with what he sees the Creative Agenda of Sim as being--what if.

I agree with that. Strongly.*

In the Dramatism and Illusionism thread there are several examples where Contracycle, Caldis, and myself went round-and-round about examples of play where players were presented with in-game adversity and either play it out (semi-dysfunctionally) or perhaps break the game (cease play) or take another tact (which Caldis describes as participation in the GM's plot).

Again, this gets back to the idea that players, in a Sim game where things are 'going wrong,' (in some way) are sort of--to use Ron's statement--missing the point (or getting back to it in the last case).

As I said, I think this is in many cases an incorrect assumption.

I believe this is a point of view colored by Narrativist leanings. The Narrativist player doesn't miss the point because the Narrativist player makes the point--that's, basically, the whole point (of play).

If the system or the GM intervienes in that attempt then play breaks down.

I submit it's the same for Virtuality play, with one exception: if the GM intervines in the player's "making the point" (which may be an actual Premise-style point from a player in Author Stance or may simply be what-if play from a player in Actor-stance, or some combination with front-loaded characters that are designed to "make a point" but are played, mostly, in Author-stance) then the player may or may not deem the play dysfunctional if the player deems that the GM is making decisions for the proper reasons--reasons that have been termed here "Virtuality."

That is: the GM is "running things straight" rather than aranging things for their drama or for a pre-determined plot ... or a 'thematic point.' To this virtualist, the idea that Call of Cthulhu's worldview has "answered the thematic quesion" seems in error: the enemy is vast, implacable, and incredibly hard to beat--but the outcome is still up for grabs (and the enemy is nothing if not predictable--there's almost always that cultist-weakspot).

In this case, a GM who states what Ron has told his Sim-players ("here is the point") has already sort of discarded Virtuality since, from an Internal Cause is King standpoint there is no point.

Now: this brings up my second important issue.

There is (obviously) a difference between how a  player wants the GM to make decisions and what the player wants from the game..

Mike's recent CTI suggestion comes in close to what I am discussing.

I can be a player who wishes to make a point about a human-events style issue: I play a self-destructive character and wish to have him self-destructing to make a point (perhaps only to myself) about how, say, lack of fidelity to one's friends is ultimately self-harming.

I may prefer a GM who runs the world to ensure that statement gets made as I wish to make it. I might prefer a GM who runs the world with no special preference towards that statement getting made but will have the world respond as he or she sees fit (and if things happen the way I want them to then my statement is sort of valdiated). I might want a GM who will really force me to bleed for that statement in a sense of posing tough questions and challeges that really probe at the heart of whether that's what I really mean to say (these can all be summed up in GNS modes, of course).

I'm stating this here not because I think it challenges GNS (the only break from the standard theory, IMO, is that Sim is asking what-if and that's, IMO, at odds with Participationist and Illusionist play). The observed play under any of the above GM's will fall into some observable category, I'm sure.

But what's not clear is how you go about asking for that with the present language. A player who makes a character to "make a statement" under Ron's description of a Sim GM had better make sure his statement coincides with the GM's point or there'll be trouble. Simply asking for things to play out as they might in reality (unless we adopt Virtuality as actual jargon--and, for example, Contracycle seems to think we shouldn't) doesn't really appear on the menu.

[Edited to Add: Raven's thread on Force and Narrativism hilights this. In that instance I postulated an example of play where if the players did something the GM "didn't think would work" play would be frustrating and unfufilling. Raven's response: 'Why not just have it work!? Have the murder's cousin come forward.'--that's clearly legitimate under some expectations of play ... and not others--and that's the sort of disconnect I see as being present for this whole discussion.]

-Marco
* It's possible that one might say "What the game is about" is about the Empire trying to kill the Jedi--but is there really a "point" to that? Or an answered thematic question? If we're going to say "yes there is" then I think the idea of theme or plot as an already-answered question needs to be discarded--and quickly.
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