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A short rant about "SIS"

Started by lumpley, August 04, 2004, 02:21:08 PM

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Hmm, well, I initially just meant to give my own gut feeling as a contribution.  

But, ok, it seems to me we're working from some very dodgy examples IMO; I don't think its valid to directly compare two players in the same room adopting different stances in relation to their characters and two people geographically seperated exchanging blocks of text.

I'm also concerned that we spend a counterproductive amount of time on definitions, as if finding a definition gave us the truth instead of just a working consensus.

But, once more into the breach.  Let my start by conceding that quite a number of activities can be plausibly described as role play, including as we famously know some S&M kink.  The point here is that the term my be applicable to a wide variety of activities beyond table-top RPG.

It may or may not be the case that in causal terms two people wirting in character essays to one another are engaged in role play, but whether they can be meaningfully nbe said to be ionvolved in the same kind of role play that occurs in table top is the issue at hand.

It seems to me that the exchange of in-character essays would be better described as a form of literary activity than a form of table top role play.  I expect the rules that apply to good literature apply exactly to the exchange of in character essays, and do not apply exactly to table top.

I've frequently remarked that I like to approach RPG as a performance art.  I think this applies to both players and GM's, and that an under-examined component of the art of RPG, as it were, is the art of portrayal, exposition, set dressing and props.  A lot of this gets lumped into Colour by analogy to setting, but I am mostly interested in ther actual location with physical people in it rather than the content of the SIS.  As I see it, RPG is not just the ability to identify with a fictional persona, or to manipulate a system through the means of a persona: it is to actually adopt the role, the mask, and act out that role.

I suppose this view might be taken to imply that LARP is purer form of role play, and this is also true in certain senses of role play.  But I don't take that view exactly.  I feel that rather in the way that film and theatre have a similar relationship to their audiences, and the behaviour of an audience in attendance is rather similar in both cases, they are not so alike that the terminological distinction between them is worthless.  The actual praxis which we adopt to bring these events about is very different, and despite the similarities in the audiences experiences their are also certain real differences.

Perhaps we have reached the point that reference to RPG is useless and more specific reference to TTRPG is now necessary.  It is not that I think that the exchange of in-character essays is so unlike TTRPG that everything about it is different, but I do think they are sufficiently different in the doing that they should not both be identified by the same lable.

Hmm, writing that it occurs to me that I also think that other forms of behaviour exhibit sub-sets of GNS, most particularly that much wargaming is G and S and no N.  So I wonder, can all three modes occur in in-character essay exchange?  I wonder that about LARP too, I've not thought about it before, but that may offer an angle of attack that might yield an identifiable distinction rather than merely our impressions.
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Quote from: simon_hibbs
Roleplaying games are a method of interacting with and exploring imaginary spaces. It's a method that can be used to explore many different kinds of imaginary space.

Trying to restrict it to a particular kind of imaginary space is placing a restriction on the method that is not intrinsic to the method itself, and Occam's Razor neatly disposes of it.

This is why solo roleplaying games are still RPGs. The extra rules of solo play (moving between paragraphs, selecting options) are a consequence of the kind of imaginary space being explored, not of the mode in which the exploration takes place. In a solo RPG it's exploration through the vehicle of a character, which is what makes it roleplaying.

Simon Hibbs

First, let me say that I agree...

It was not my intent to restrict roleplaying (or any other activity) to a particular type of imagined space.  I just used it as an example of an activity that primarily occurs socially.  It is not confined to being socially negotiated; LARPS are a good example of physcially negotiated imagined "space," as are CRPGS.  (Though if you want to say "electronically imagined space," go ahead...)  My intent was to say, "Hey look! Under the umbrella of Shared Imagined Space, there is socially imagined space, physically imagined space, and maybe even individually imagined space."  Let me define these, as my examples were insufficient.

socially imagined space - the fictional content of any activity that is established by primarily social interaction

physically imagined space - the fictional content of any activity that is established by physical (and therefore real) constructs, including locations, objects, and visuals

individually imagined space - the fictional content of any activity that is established by either or both social and phyiscal means that occurs between one person's past constructs and one other person in the present

The last definition is the hardest to define (for me) and is the hardest to place under the SIS, and I'm not sure it belongs.  However, if we define roleplaying as equivalent to exploring an SIS (and include all three spaces above), we include all activities that include these definitions.  Notice that the definitions are about the fictional content of the space, not whether a particular activity is part of that space...  

Of course, there are those who will discard the third space presented here as not "shared."  This will narrow the possible activities that could be considered roleplaying and is what I am leaning toward.  Under this interpretation watching a movie, reading a book, or even choosing your own adventure is not roleplaying, because they are not shared.  CRPS become a grey area, depending on what game your playing, who's playing with you, etc.  LARPs and RPGs include both physical and social methods of interaction which are shared, and so are quite solidly under the SIS umbrella.  

I'm not trying to pigeonhole anything, just trying to provide a spectrum under the SIS that will help us clarify the discussion.  If it muddies the waters for you, discard it.



Quote from: contracycleI'm also concerned that we spend a counterproductive amount of time on definitions, as if finding a definition gave us the truth instead of just a working consensus.

That's a fair point, and thanks for the post it was well put.

I feel that analysing ways in which various activities are, or might be, or might become roleplaying games is a more productive way to approach the problem than in looking for ways that they are not.

Simon Hibbs
Simon Hibbs

Mike Holmes

Oh, I completely agree that text is an inferior method for the most part, Ron. For many reasons, the largest of which is speed. If we had instant speech to text, I think that a lot of the problems would go away, but I don't for a minute dispute that body language, inflection, and the like are important. OTOH, there are some really powerful advantages to text as well, like perfect recall of what was said for future reference (I forget names I make up in play all the time, for instance). Socially, text prevents a lot of arguments, I'd say, because people calm down while typing. Etc.

In any case, I agree with Simon that it's just another medium. There are differences to media, but I can't think of one which I wouldn't call roleplaying. Consider this: the slippery slope to arguments that body language and the like are neccessary to make a game role-playing could be extended by the LARPers to say that TT is not role-playing because you don't actually act out the role, nor interact with a simulated environment.

You see Table Top is just another medium. That's the difference between LARP and TT. In TT more of the imagined space is provided via human description than in LARP. In IRC, even more is provided by humans (though not all, we use pictures and occasionally sound bytes), and that by text.

Interestingly, note that playing in an actual space, and having pictures shown as methods aren't different a priori in terms of adjusting the imagination. That is, when LARPing, no matter how well somebody makes the convention hall, or their living room, or whatever seem like the environment in question, it's still a simulation. Characters never look precisely like what their players look like. When looking at a picture, the player probably mentally inserts his character. The point is that these things are just different media, they don't replace imagination. One could hypothesize a game which was a LARP in which you play yourself in your livingroom (I'm sure somebody's tried this experience), but even then I think there's a disconnect between the reality and what the players are "seeing" happening in the game.

BTW, Gareth's definition of Pawn stance has nothing to do with the standard definition. Or Puppetland wouldn't be an RPG.

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Jonathan Walton

Man, I find all the good discussions once they reach page 4...

One point, which I'm surprised that no one's brought up yet, is that computers "do things" in much the same way that characters in a roleplaying game "do things": they need people.  The PC on your desktop is a physical construct created by human beings and told to do x, y, and z.  The PC in your campaign is a non-physical construct created by human beings to do x, y, and z.

In the past, we've discussed the communication that happens when you read a book, when the author's ideas muddle their way through the crutch of language into your head, as a kind of SIS.  The author is imagining something, they try to tell you about it so you can imagine the same thing, and you do your part.

In a computer game, Zelda for instance, the designers are trying to communicate a vision to the players.  They're also trying to take into account player choices and responses.  For example, I played Zelda one time with the specific goal of having my character (Link!) never gain the shield item.  This is not what you're supposed to do.  This was a save-the-imaginary-Atari-princess moment, since I thought shields were just lame, no matter what in-game benefits they provided.  I wanted my Link to be neat and distinctive and different from all the other Links out there.

However, the designers tried to foil me at every corner.  They intended for every Link to have his sheild before proceeding into a certain area, just to prevent 7yo players from wandering to certain death, so they railroaded it to require the shield.  What did I do?  I bought the shield, got into the new area, and proceeded to find the nearest item-eating monster in the area to feed my shield to.

You know what this is?  This is negotiation between me and the designers of the game.  The computer didn't make any decisions about what the game should allow Link to do.  The designers did.  The designers are real people and we actively negotiated things out, non-synchronously.  I made a decision they didn't like.  They tried to keep me from doing it.  I gave in, but then bullheadedly found a way to do something close to what I originally wanted, for which they had no response.

Callan S.

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Quote from: Noon
[GM] 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?

If you've imagined yourself in the role before typing your response and/or the GM has done the same, then there has been some role-playing.  If at this point, even if there hasn't been any real role-playing yet, there is reasonable expectation of role-playing in the future, it's a role-playing game.

I think SIS has been employed in the example above.  Even if the GM merely wrote about a coastal setting with gulls swooping on the bathers' Doritos and you elaborated on the level of energy of the waves, the imagined space has been synchronized.

At this point, System has been employed only to the extent that your post did not contradict or question the GM's post (or did, for that matter) and things (scenes, characters, events, whatever) were accepted (or not) into your Imagined Space.  Before the GM replies to your input, the offer is pending acceptance.

Does that seem reasonable?


That's great, it's covering a lot of the points I'm trying to highlight. But I want to add a few things.

Acceptance: In the other CRPG thread someone mentioned the need for acceptance in responce to this same situation. So I'll pose these questions...

1. What is acceptance? Can it be passive? If so, what is the difference between someone never seeing my responce to their work and someone just grunting affirmitively when they read it?

2. Isn't acceptance already present? The GM presented his situation idea, I presented my character idea. That he went on to post the first post and I went on to make my first post means mutual acceptance of those first mutual contributions, right?
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