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Author Topic: Drawing Conclusions in Public  (Read 8236 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2002, 03:00:14 PM »

Emily,

I think it's fair to say that any role-playing is conducted with some standard of imaginative consistency among the relevant game elements. Thinking about a particular brand of Gamist, those who really like "powering up" characters via an immediate and gory reward system, I know that they might not care so much about "consistency of character" in terms of motivation, but woe betide you if you suggest that some feature of the character that operates toward the goals of play be treated inconsistently.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2002, 06:04:39 AM »

I've been quietly listening to the whole "Suspension of Disbelief" contortion going on and waiting.  I thought the best minds here would have gotten around to informing what I had already shifted to (by way of losing the SoD terminology).  And I think a lot of what has been said is very valuable, but it's all missing an important point (the most important, I think).

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

He pretty much nailed everything else down, except what I have been thinking about.  Quite well too.

Quote from: When Gordon
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, 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.

You see in all the Committed, Participatory Engagement, we seem to lost sight of something not literally voiced in SoD, but crucial.

Context.

What you're actually doing in a movie is Suspending your Disbelief in the movie (or at least the narrative goings on).  You can have CPE in lots of things.  Like a football game on the telly, but that's real. (Well, okay, it's just photons erupting from a phosphorescent screen, but in a "The Treachery of Images" - Magritte, sort of way it's real.  Which makes it 'this is not a football game,' in that you are accepting that the image is the game.  But that's almost beside the point.)  You are in just as much CPE when you jump up from your chair and cheer, except they really are playing the game, and you're not.  You don't even think you are.

I don't think it's particularly clear to simply roll the 'what you are engaged by' right into the word Engagement, especially if we're trying to replace SoD with some accuracy.  That assumes a connection like saying 'drinking problem' implies alcohol to an 'english as a second language' listener.

In fact, I go so far as to say that 'thinking in context' eclipses most of the issues raised by and dealt with using CPE.  Consider Gordon's 'complaint;' "You're not engaging me!"  My answer?  "It'd be a hell of a lot easier, if you were 'thinking in context.'"  I cannot make context happen for you, but if you're already there, I think I can keep up 'my end.'  This complaint does not sound like abdication to me; it sounds more like passive aggressive behaviour.  (Like, 'you never make me love you anymore.')  When it gets down to people who are thinking in context, but are still making this complaint, I'd have to say that it's their responsibility to be, dare I say it, inspired by play.

The "Willful Engagement" concept is really nice, but this whole sequence was launched by the 'snap the suspenders of SoD' idea (that WE, or even WCPE, doesn't even comment on).  When I feel my 'SoD suspenders' go snap, it always results in a loss of context; I start thinking about things other than the game.  This, of course, comes right back to Gordon's "have at least some control over" question.  You are obviously responsible for your own contextual thinking.  Real life events can assail it, but it's still yours to support, maintain, or lose.

I'm sorry that I don't currently have some huge discussion of what I would replace SoD with, other than a sophistication of 'Thinking in Context' (does TiC have a nice ring to it?), but I have been sick this week.

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2002, 07:17:22 AM »

Hi Fang,

I must respectfully disagree that Context was lacking in the discussion. All along, we have been talking about interacting with some form of media-entertainment, whether it's movies or literature or role-playing or whatever. I submit that all of these things already include Character, Situation, Setting, and Color - and hence Context is present as a given, within which all of the discussion about how we interact is embedded.

I do agree with you that the issue requires some reflection.

What makes this entire process difficult for role-playing, or at least why role-playing is full of pitfalls that certain other media are not, is that Context is being created by the same people who are also responsible for the contribution + engagement + commitment. We do not receive Context and then provide the three things, as we do in watching a movie. We are making it and providing the three things simultaneously, which is why I am always using the musician metaphor rather than the reader, movie-viewer, or even theater metaphors.

I do agree with you that the Context has to be there, in every way that you describe. I also agree with your implied point that attention must be paid regarding Context, in role-playing, in ways that movies/etc probably don't require. However, I don't think it's been missing from the discussion.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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SoD
« Reply #33 on: February 14, 2002, 10:05:30 AM »

I watched this thread--with some interest--but I still don't buy it. What most writiers I've seen identify as SoD is the "belief" that those people on the screen (in the book, in the story, etc.) aren't actors (characters, NPC's).

What makes a story sad, exciting, or whatever is the internalization that those are real things that are happening to real people--people you emphatize with. Since the movie doesn't actually fool you (although if it does, successfully, you get the Blair Witch Project effect--which many fooled viewers found different from, say, The Shining) what better term could there be than "willingly suspending your disbelief?"

I do realize that Ron probably thinks the emotional reaction on the part of the participant is covered in engagement. If you want to use "emotionally engaged" instead of "suspended disbelief" okay--but if you buy that that emotional engagement *comes from* internalizing that the story is real when you *know* it isn't, suspending disbelief (to enjoy the story) seems a far closer fit.

-Marco

[ I think Ron's breakdown may well be the required recipe for generating SoD (i.e. without committment, contribution, and engagement you won't get SoD) but the sum total of it? As Fang said, I can have all that with a football game. It's a different feeling (being sad because your team lost and sad because Buffy's life is hopeless) ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2002, 10:50:18 AM »

Marco,

I think our views on the fundamental act of viewing, enjoying, participating in, or interacting in any way with "a story" are so divergent that we aren't going to be able to agree on any secondary aspects.

Here are my views in a nutshell.

Yes, people are involved emotionally in the events of a story. Yes, they care about outcomes and characters. No, they do not "believe" anything about the "reality" of the characters. The emotions and reactions of the reader are real; the act of engagement literally means to open up to that degree of response to a fictional situation.

A person who thinks that a story is "really happening" to "real people" is delusional. Either the writers you refer to who allegedly claim that this is happening as a normal part of story-engagement are flatly incorrect, or you have misread them.

I'm fairly convinced that if we don't see eye-to-eye on this matter, then further discussion about suspension-of-disbelief, or lack thereof, isn't worth our time, and it's an "agree to disagree" situation.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2002, 11:52:12 AM »

Okay, then agree to disagree it is.

The guy who was either wrong or whom I was misreading was Samuel Coleridge.

" ... so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
--Chapter XIV of his autobiography, Biographia Literaria

I was reading poetic faith as "belief" (in quotes--not the delusional belief you read into my post) and "real" from "semblance of truth." That is, on some level we accept the narrative as true.

-Marco
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2002, 02:38:33 PM »

I think the issues with "what does it mean to be engaged emotionally and etc." in a story begin to move into psychology, general artistic theory and the like, and a meaningful discussion would undoubtedly involve reference works like Ron cited on movies early on.  That said . . .

Coleridge speaks of a "semblance" of truth, not an actual truth.  In fact, I'd assert that the "reality" of the portrayed situation has very little to do with our engagement - engagement lies in our willingness/ability to connect these (in many ways) OBVIOUSLY unreal things to our own internal sense of what MATTERS: "truth" as a poetic resonance and emotional/psychological value, not "truth" in terms of some reality-measured correspondence.

Thus I think Ron's whole point in avoiding/disliking SoD as a term is that we don't reach a point where we believe the people we read about (or see on screen, or whatever) are real, we reach a point where they connect with (engage, inspire, etc.) us despite (or, in some theories I vaguely recall from my lit-crit days, BECAUSE of) the fact that they are unreal.  So yes (quoting Marco) "on some level we accept the narrative as true" - but that level is NOT a "reality" level, and that truth is not a simple, phenomenological truth.  *I* (and I suspect, at least for the most part, Marco) do not consider the "belief" in the phrase SoD of necessity requires a hard reality/truth connection  - when I say "I really believed character x in movie y", I'm not saying I think that literal person actually exists.  However, SoD can point down that road, so I can see value in avoiding it - particularly in RPGs, where (as has been pointed out) we create the very context in which the characters and situations are portrayed.

And I may have a post in response to Fang and the context stuff, but I'll do it separately and RPG-focused.  There's a limit to how much I'm willing to connect discussions of Coleridge and "poetic faith" with tips on keeping folks engaged in RPGs ;-)

Gordon
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2002, 03:35:32 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I must respectfully disagree that Context was lacking in the discussion. All along, we have been talking about interacting with some form of media-entertainment, whether it's movies or literature or role-playing or whatever. I submit that all of these things already include Character, Situation, Setting, and Color - and hence Context is present as a given, within which all of the discussion about how we interact is embedded.

Point given.  What I meant was the idea of 'in context' was a shadowy background element, that I felt deserved the bulk of the limelight.  True enough, it was there as you say, but like the elephant in the parlor, no one seemed willing to mention it explicitly.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I do agree with you that the Context has to be there, in every way that you describe. I also agree with your implied point that attention must be paid regarding Context, in role-playing, in ways that movies/etc probably don't require. However, I don't think it's been missing from the discussion.

I think the problem I seem to be having in communicating here is the difference between 'context' and 'in context.'  Having everything in a game have context is quite fine indeed, but that's not what I was talking about.

Being 'in context' variously means 'working within the boundaries of the narrative,' 'sticking with relevant issues,' or any number of other cliches I can't really pull out of the wool this cold has put in my head.  When something 'snaps the suspenders of SoD,' all the things in the game do not lose their context, not with each other at least.  It's just that you fall out of context; your thoughts no longer function in that sophisticated fashion where you don't go crazy about 'what is real,' but would still be 'playing along.'

I guess that's where I'm going with the TiC stuff.  It's that sophisticated, multi-leveled participation that is more than 'just adding stuff,' and more like 'playing along.'  You can participate until the cows come home, and all of it can have great relationships with what everyone else puts in (that'd be the context), but if you're not 'playing along,' if you're not Thinking in Context, then there's little that could occur when something 'snaps the suspenders of SoD' on you.

If you're TiC, and something disrupts, I don't know about you, but I really feel it.  There's this feeling of loss, a yawning absense.  You can have all the context you want but without you being 'in context,' there's none of that 'XYZ' stuff as I read it.  Call it imaginative commitment, call it emotional engagement, but I think the crux of the matter comes from your actually being in it, however you choose.  (And let's not get overly simplicitic and start talking about 'losing touch with reality,' I'm talking about only one small part of the sophistication of role-playing gaming here, not the end-all, be-all of the process.  Hopefully, I'm talking about the 'meaty bit,' though.)

Honestly, if I can't reach at least some level of TiC when I play, I feel more like just an actor or writer, throwing entertaining bits at the group.  Especially when I'm gamemastering!  It's in the TiC that I really find out where my emotional gratification lay; only then do I 'stumble across' what I like about a game, even if it isn't in concrete explicit terms (one of those 'you had to be there' situations).

So that's the feature I wasn't hearing in all the discussion about CCE, CPE, or WCPE.  Forgive the ramble; I blame the virus.

Fang Langford
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contracycle
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« Reply #38 on: February 15, 2002, 02:00:51 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

engagement + commitment. We do not receive Context and then provide the three things, as we do in watching a movie. We are making it and


I disagree; or more accurately I wouyld say that most unreflective gamist/sim games do just that.  The division of labour assigns context to the GM, and the rest is provided by players to a lareg extent.  I think thats a perfectly succesful and valid form of play.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #39 on: February 15, 2002, 06:02:55 AM »

Hi there,

Fang, I'll buy that.

Gareth, that's an interesting point. I find it pretty convincing, or very almost so. The one quibble I'd have is that the players indeed still insist on the three elements I've mentioned, albeit focused toward goals that I don't share ... still, though, it also occurs to me that moviegoers or readers also insist on them too, so perhaps that sharp distinction I drew between role-playing and other media forms isn't valid. I'll buy that.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #40 on: February 15, 2002, 03:09:23 PM »

OK, here's the Context/TiC comment:

Fang, you've done a good job taking another angle at the issue that seems to me just a bit "missing" from the commited, contributing engagement description - just what is it that allows for us to do that?  Knowing that CCE is what we want is only half the battle, we also need to know HOW to get it.  At the moment, it seems to me there are lots and lots of factors (from the afore-mentioned willingness to GNS issues, genre conventions, and etc.), and TiC as a "box" to hold them sounds good to me.

As far as RPG to novel/movie/etc. corresponence goes . . . for me, the answer is always "yes and no".  That is, "yes, there is this X similarity", but also "no, that doesn't neccessarily mean they are also similar in Y".  Often, that means it's best not to draw the analogy, but as long as folks are willing to accept the limits of the analogy . . . cool by me.

Gordon
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contracycle
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« Reply #41 on: February 16, 2002, 03:44:11 AM »

A lot of my interest lies in the portrayal of the environment from the GM's part.  I think there are lessons to be learned from theatre and movies as to physical behaviour and scene framing so as to support the "audience".
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