Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Drawing Conclusions in Public

Started by lumpley, February 08, 2002, 05:06:40 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Jack Spencer Jr

Quote from: lumpley

...<U>Everybody</U> needs consistent characters, robust setting, compelling descriptions, suspension of disbelief.  Having your SOD broken is good for nobody.

Well, I'm throwing my two cents in a couple pages of posts late and I haven't read all of the other ones but the thing is it's not suspension of disbelief.  It's a willing suspension of disbelief.  Drop the willing part and the term because has meaningless as in Ron's first reply.  WIth the willing it may not be much better but it is better.

Mike Holmes

Hmm...Just to confuse things here's my opinion.

Integrity or continutity or consistency or whatever would be what you do positively to make the game more easily "believable". As has been noted this can never be 100% and I would say (sorta facetiously) is usually more like 50%. After all, the experience of sitting around a table and playing a game really bears little resemblance to actually slaying orcs, no matter what rules you use.

SoD, then, is to me how low a level of Integrity the player is willing to accept. So, if the current level is at 50% and I'm willing to accept that level, then I have "Suspended my Disbelief". Or to satisfy Ron better maybe, "allowed myself to ignore problems with the integrity such that I will not complain about the discrepancies found." Whatever.

And of course these things will not flow like percentages, but rather be bound up in actual details, such that particular events will actually bring Integrity or whatever below their SoD capacity temporarily. But that's not the point. The point is that we are discussing two things, the ability of the game and players to deliver detail with Integrity, and the players level of willingness to accept faults with that Integrity.

Call them what you like.

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Blake Hutchins

My quick two contrary cents:  when you parse "suspension of disbelief" with a deconstructive eye, it naturally doesn't make sense.  On the other hand, I've always read it as "suspension of disengagement."  Audience engagement is the connection I see between medium and participant in that medium.  What leads to SoD -- or integrity, which I find a vague term for what we're describing -- is consistent diegesis and well-developed dramatic tension.

In the computer game industry, we talk a lot about "immersion," which most computer game designers seem to define as suspension of disbelief through look-and-feel, tempered by genre expectations (meaning CG genres, which differ completely from the literary ones).  If you have elements in your game/movie/RP session that jar players out of being engaged, you have what I would call an SoD problem.  We've all had games like that, run by inexperienced or over-controlling GM's.

Ron, are the works you cited in your first post available online or are they books?  I'd like to check them out before I dig myself any deeper.



Ron Edwards

To all,

First, I do not propose "integrity" as a simple and complete substitute for the "XYZ" that suspension-of-disbelief (badly) refers to. Integrity as a term was presented to Gordon regarding precisely what he described.

Second, Blake's concept of engagement makes the most sense to me ... and then I realize we're just going in circles, because that's what I described in my first post on this topic: attention, contribution, imaginative engagement.

Several of the posts have led me to think that people are reacting, rather than thinking, and therefore I'm willing to have said my piece (twice) and be done.


P.S. Blake, the ref's are books.

Blake Hutchins

Thanks, Ron.

I do think some tail-chasing is inevitable when discussing terminology and definitions.  This has been a productive thread for me in that it does get the mental gears grinding (and trust me, mine need oil).



Gordon C. Landis

OK, I'm a dog with a bone - let me take one more stab at this.  I'm basically NOT worried about the merit (or lack thereof) to SoD as a particular item of terminology, but I'm very interested in making sure we've "covered" everything that it (poorly or otherwise) encompasses.  So here goes:  

RPGs (like movies, books and etc. - but I'm going to avoid analogy if I can) are not equivalent to reality - no one (sane) thinks they are.  Yet somehow, our usual reaction to the unreal - to ignore, trivialize, and find ourselves unable to take it "seriously" - is suppressed.  This is an actual, important phenomena, and no one in this thread is saying otherwise.  I'll use Ron's label and call this phenomena XYZ for now.  

In an RPG, we knowlingly participate in that which is not real, yet we remain attentive, contributing and engaged.  Since it is XYZ that allows this, it's appropriate to be worried about "losing" XYZ.  Note that I'm distinguishing XYZ  - that which allows engagement in the face of unreality - from the engagement itself.  It seemed to me that some of Ron's statements were conflating the two, and that had me confused.

But . . . what *IS* XYZ?  I submit that pblock points the way by reminding us that the full phrase usually used is "WILLING suspension of disbelief".  Or, as Vincent said early on, "Willingness to go on [as] if that's indeed true, call it".  XYZ (that which allows continued engagement) really is simply our willingness to do so.

So, what things effect this willingness?  Certainly integrity is part of it, particularly as specific events/elements/consequences are created during play.  So can be a compelling narrative, or an interesting environment, or an appropriate challenge.  The factors here can become intensely personal (Jared's general unwillingness/inability to engage with folks playing characters of a different gender than themselves), but there are general trends that are very worthy of discussion, especially within particular contexts (e.g., G/N/S goals, or setting types - what makes you willing to engage a universe that includes FTL? - or color elements - what would keep you engaged in a 'noir' game? - and etc.).

And (in an attempt to bring this back to the point in the original post) while it is interesting and valuable to look at this in the context of a particular GNS goal, this "willingness" is key regardless of goal.  So, to the extent it supports a willingness to engage, an appropriately managed level of Gamist-style challenge can be a signifcant issue even if the overall goals of the game are Simulationist.  This is especially true of the five "foundational" elements that become the priorities of Simulationism - because they quite commonly effect the willingness to engage, they are important issues even within Gamist and Narrativist play.

Heh - I didn't realize this was where I was heading, but I find it an interesting explanation of why elements that are not directly important to a particular goal in GNS are still important in play that is oriented to that goal.  Which (SoD storm aside) is a validation of Vincent's initial post, it seems to me.

Looking back, my main point here is this: there seemed to be something missing from the proposed replacement (engagement, mostly) for SoD - what allowed for it occur.  "Willing engagement" is a full and complete (quite probably superior) replacement for "willing suspension of disbelief" as far as I'm concerned.


PS - Part of me sees this as meaningless wrangling over words, and part of me is really, really pleased to have identified where the key issue was (for me) and worked through it.  Hope it's of some use to others. (under construction)

Paul Czege

Hey Gordon, everyone,

This thread, in provoking me to consider "sufficient integrity" and "imaginative engagement" as alternatives to "suspension of disbelief" is seriously undercutting assumptions about suspension of disbelief that I didn't know I had. Those phrases expose and make it hard to ignore that "suspension of disbelief" has quite a passive and selfish connotation. And although he might not have intended it, Wick's "snapping the disbelief suspenders" hits the nail on the head in this regard. There's a whiny, "don't ruin my buzz" subtext to "suspension of disbelief". "Suspension of disbelief" is something you have, and value, that's taken from you by the clueless or inconsiderate actions of others. You're napping, and dreaming, and someone turns on the lights. "My disbelief machine was off, man, why did you turn it on!"

In contrast, "sufficient integrity" provokes consideration of what it takes to produce it. And it's only a short step from there to where you start exploring how both the players and GM have shared ownership of, and impact the integrity of what's produced by gameplay. Unlike "suspension of disbelief," which connotes a vector, "sufficient integrity" connotes a supporting matrix. It's an enlightening phrase for anyone who's never understood why discussions of suspension of disbelief feel so damn passive-aggressive.

I'd also like to say that this thread is too substantive to have such a non-representative title.

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans


Quote from: Paul Czege
seriously undercutting assumptions about suspension of disbelief that I didn't know I had. Those phrases expose and make it hard to ignore that "suspension of disbelief" has quite a passive and selfish connotation. And although he might not have intended it, Wick's "snapping the disbelief suspenders" hits the nail on the head in this regard. There's a whiny, "don't ruin my buzz" subtext to "suspension of disbelief". "Suspension

And the problem with this is what, precisely?  And why is it selfish?  If I make a movie, I don't consider the audiences suspension of disbelief a "selfish" act - my aim is to GET them to do it, and not to shake it for them once they have.  In an RPG I have a much more intimate relationship with my players, and I see even less to indicate that SoD is "selfish" behaviour - it is a generous offer of a psychological space in which to work a creation, and my responsibility is not to waste it.  And I'd also like to point out that I suspend disbelief (in a more qualified way) as GM in regards my players portrayal of their characters, and I certainly don't regard that as selfish either.  Yes, its a big part of where I get the bang for my buck, but everyone entered into this social contract on the expectation of getting something out of that - and if it is the pleassure of suspending diseblief in a fictional world, or fictional characters, I see no need to denigrate this as a selfish act.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


QuoteI'd also like to say that this thread is too substantive to have such a non-representative title.
No kidding.  (In my defense: who knew?)  We oughta name threads when they're done, not when they start.


Ron Edwards

Hi guys,

Although I too am getting just-about-full-up with the word-wrangling thing ...

I am still going to balk at the "willing," as it seems redundant to me. It strikes me as impossible to be engaged unwillingly if we are talking about a leisure entertainment activity.

It also strikes me that people are not considering my original point at all, which offered three words, not one, as a more meaningful description of XYZ.

- Committed (there's your "willing" right there)
- Contributing (ditto, plus adding the social contract)
- Engagement (which includes more willingness plus the imaginative component)

Taking these in combination, I see them to be both necessary and sufficient when describing what people do when creating imaginary stuff together, in media of any description.



Wow Paul, that's a pretty powerful observation.

Really takes the idea of SoD out of the arena of something YOU deliver to me and I enjoy...until YOU spoil it for me and I get pissed, and places it in the arena of SoD being something I have a vested interest and responsibility to participate in creating.

So perhaps Ron's right about his feelings on the term (although maybe not it the way he intended).

SoD may be a perfectly acceptable term for passive entertainments like movies where we as the audience are stuck with whatever the movie makers deliver (and what ever their goals and skills are).   But it well may be an inappropriate term for RPG's where players should be expected to take a more active roll in creating an environment where SoD is possible.

[an aside:  Ron, this is one of the few threads that after multiple posts by you on the subject, I'm still haveing trouble zeroing in on your point, so if you were, in fact, saying something akin to the above all along, forgive me for missing it]

Gordon C. Landis

A bit more world-wrangling that I *think* plays right into the value some folks are getting here.
Quote from: Ron Edwards
I am still going to balk at the "willing," as it seems redundant to me. It strikes me as impossible to be engaged unwillingly if we are talking about a leisure entertainment activity.
Here (again, I think) is the "complaint" folks are trying to prevent:  "You're not engaging me!"  While it might not be possible to be engaged unwillingly, it is possible to put the *responsibility* for being engaged outside of oneself.  Ron may well take it as a given that everyone is sharing responsibility for things like this (in social-contract terms) in a healthy game, but I submit that this "XYZ responsibility failure" is a very common (and subtly persistent) dysfunction in otherwise functional games.  

Finding a phrase that explicitly brings the responsibility home - for EVERYONE - seems valuable.  That "for everyone" caveat is important, as demonstrated by the comment from Gareth (CC) - wanting XYZ is by no means of necessity a negatively-selfish act.  But abdication of responsibility in the matter is.  That's the part of "willing suspension of disbelief" that I'd want to make sure is in the new version of XYZ - the clarity that it's something you DO, not that is just done to you.  And thus, "breaking" it is something you have at least some control over.

I agree with Ron that his triple-description (particularly with the parenthetical comments) covers the ground well - committed, contributing (participatory?) engagement.  It'd be nice to wrap it up in a more "catchy" phrase - willfull engagement? - but, if we're on the same page regarding the actual issues here, I think that's the last of my word-wrangling energy.

However, when next this comes up in my actual play, I'm going to be paying very close attention.  I can't help but think that there are many practical applications of how to maintain XYZ that this discussion will facilitate.

Gordon (under construction)

Ron Edwards


Is there some kind of Forge prize a person can get for simply nailing a topic, such that everyone gets it and will continue to get it?

If so, I award Gordon said prize. <Applause all 'round>


Emily Care

Compliments and respect to all,

Engagement will do, for me.  

Blocking someone's ability or willingness to engage in a game feels about right for what I mean when I say that someone's SoD has been broken.  

Two more chestnuts for this dead horse (before it's made into glue):

--When someone's ability to engage is blocked, (this is neutral with regard to source or cause--the GM doesn't "do" this to the player etc.) concensus breaks down.  Mechanics et al in gaming exist to help this not happen.  What we've been calling SoD might just be the concensus of one.

--The GNS and various concepts here are helpful in as much as they facilitate us all as game designers and explorers in identifying what will float our boat, will help us to actively and creatively engage in whatever game is at hand.

Vincent wrote:

And this is why it makes sense for Exploration to be broken out, on top of or underlying or surrounding the GNS, right?  Everybody needs consistent characters, robust setting, compelling descriptions, suspension of disbelief.  

(Insert, your XYZ terms of choice where appropriate)

But then, not everybody does need consistent characters, or am I wrong to think that gamist sensibilities would very much  not require this?

--Emily Care
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games