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Author Topic: A short rant about "SIS"  (Read 6363 times)
lumpley
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« Reply #15 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
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Christopher Weeks
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« Reply #16 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
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John Kim
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« Reply #17 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.
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- John
Callan S.
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« Reply #18 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?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Paganini
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« Reply #19 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. :)
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #20 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
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John Kim
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« Reply #21 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.
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contracycle
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« Reply #22 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.
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Alan
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« Reply #23 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.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #24 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
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Simon Hibbs
Sean
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« Reply #25 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.
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timfire
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« Reply #26 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, 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.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #27 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, 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.
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Simon Hibbs
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 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
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #29 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
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Simon Hibbs
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