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Author Topic: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift  (Read 11890 times)
Marco
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« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2005, 06:53:55 PM »

The definition of story for purposes of this thread is the glossary def: there may be other definitions of Story and therfore "storytelling" however they would be considered modifications to the theory.

If one thinks the theory/gloss definitions does not accurately address story and storytelling that's a good topic for another thread--I think there's some work to be done there but I cannot change either the theory or the glossary definition. What we can do is, given the existing structure, define Storytelling and see if that works for us.

This was my question:
Quote from: Marco
Okay, so what is happening when the PC's are playing in the Blood Brother's 2 Chainsaw massacre game and the situation is laid out in a fairly story-ish-fashion and they are making decisions to make the product of play be "like a movie" (and grooving on being scared and acting/talking in character and stuff?)

What's the mode of play?


What's this mode of play if not Sim? Note that the players may be experiencing a creepy sort of fear from the visceral descriptions but they are *not* engaged with the morality of the situation or making a difficult, player-based choice.

They are working to make the game "like a movie" (as in "what would this character I'm playing do in a movie?") That means they may go off by themselves and die. Although it is possible, IMO, to play this game Gamist or even Narrativist, if the players are committed to dying "when it is apporpriate" (making a good movie-death-scene as they go) and they are not seeing the 'mystery' as a puzzle they can get credit for solving (there isn't much of a mystery, really--you go in, you see gross stuff, you get jumped), then I don't think it can be Gamist.

I believe Narrativist play would mean that the players focus on some moral question (the mother player decides whether she will try to save herself or her children) but we can assume that players who are grooving on 'being in a movie' aren't doing that.

In this adventure the PC's are a family (including the family dog) out on vacation. A figure is hit by their car. They stop in the woods (their car damaged). The guy is dead and his house is nearby. He's a psychopath and his sister is in the (horriffic) upstairs chambers. There is a dangerous pig nearby.

As the family is encouraged to go for shelter from the coming storm in the house they will see a series of grizly things and be attacked by the sister and the pig. It's a short, tight, movie-like game that is moderately leading (i.e. the PC's don't hike back to town--yes, they are in the middle of nowhere and lost--but more importantly, that's not what would happen in a movie).

It also isn't "railroaded"--if the players come to the game and reject the premise (decked out with trailer text and a faux-movie poster and tips on playing their pre-gen characters) then the game would be a non-starter.

We presume that they are playing to the intended effect: making the game like a movie and enjoying it partly as actors and partly as audience members.

What is the mode of play?

-Marco
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clehrich
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« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2005, 08:47:13 PM »

Quote from: Marco
The definition of story for purposes of this thread is the glossary def: there may be other definitions of Story and therfore "storytelling" however they would be considered modifications to the theory.

If one thinks the theory/gloss definitions does not accurately address story and storytelling that's a good topic for another thread--I think there's some work to be done there but I cannot change either the theory or the glossary definition. What we can do is, given the existing structure, define Storytelling and see if that works for us.
Well, but I thought we had agreed that the glossary definition isn't actually a definition of story; it's a definition that's really all about a process that can lead to something that has "a little something extra" in it.  So I think we can only go backwards by going backwards, if you take my meaning.
Quote
This was my question:
Quote from: Marco
Okay, so what is happening when the PC's are playing in the Blood Brother's 2 Chainsaw massacre game and the situation is laid out in a fairly story-ish-fashion and they are making decisions to make the product of play be "like a movie" (and grooving on being scared and acting/talking in character and stuff?)

What's the mode of play?
What's this mode of play if not Sim? Note that the players may be experiencing a creepy sort of fear from the visceral descriptions but they are *not* engaged with the morality of the situation or making a difficult, player-based choice.
No, I don't think there's enough information to assess this.  But actually I think we agree (Marco and I).  The point you're making, as I read you anyway, is that this isn't necessarily Nar.  It could be any gaming mode, and probably Sim is mostly likely but we really don't know.  For me, the point is that this group is committed to a product; we know very little about their process.  Since the Big Model is a process model, we cannot assess what their CA was.  I buy the argument that gamism is unlikely, but we don't know what they consider Challenge or "winning," so it's always possible that for them making this kind of story in this way is actually the "win" condition.  Just as a hypothetical.

It seems to me that Marco and I (assuming we're still on the same page) are squarely between Storn and Gareth (contracycle).  Storn thinks it's all story, Gareth thinks nothing is (except in relation to the specific processes of Nar).  Marco and I think that story has nothing whatever to do with GNS.

Have I got that wrong?

To repeat, I think the answer to Marco's question is: who the hell knows?
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Chris Lehrich
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« Reply #32 on: February 04, 2005, 12:29:07 AM »

Hey Marco,

Quote from: Marco
What's this mode of play if not Sim? Note that the players may be experiencing a creepy sort of fear from the visceral descriptions but they are *not* engaged with the morality of the situation or making a difficult, player-based choice.



What is the mode of play?

underline added


Part of the problem of not getting the answer you are seeking is that the question cannot be answered within the confines of the Model.  The problems lies in the underlined part – making a difficult, player-based choice.  ALL CA’s have the ability to present the players with difficult choices.  If the player’s are not facing difficult choices then in all likelihood the players are engaged in Zilchplay – which is provisionally outside the model.  Conversely difficult decisions are not the sole domain of any single CA, thus the implication that your example must be Sim because the players are not making difficult decisions denies the Model’s basic tenet that in order for play to be described as the expression of any CA the players must be making difficult decisions.  (If not difficult – the players must at least be making decisions about Situation; difficult or otherwise)

Given the Model, the question as phrased, is unanswerable.
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Marco
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« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2005, 04:38:27 AM »

By player-based (and difficult) I meant player-is-impacted-by-the-morality. I was trying to point out that people deciding what a character in a movie would do are not struggling with a human-experience question. They aren't be impacted by it in the way Nar implies.

I'm pretty sure under Ron's formulation, this is a simple description of Sim, Sim-type-B does exist, and this is it.

This is what Ron referred to in his most recent set of posts on Sim-play.

I'm judging this from posts like this, this, and most importantly this:

Quote

Simulationist play is defined by confirming one's input, via the output.

You're a Star Trek fan? OK, then, let's play Star Trek. Whatever the agreed-upon important input is, its effect during play is supposed to get us Star Trek.

That input might be the funny-physics of the show. Fine - we work out what those are (or read them in the sourcebook, whatever) and put them into action via System.

Or that input might be the distinctive character interactions or political tropes of the show. Fine - we dedicate ourselves to depicting and reinforcing those issues through what our characters do, which is also System.

Or ... and so on. Whatever angle you choose as the motor for input, i.e. processing through System, the output should confirm that this is, indeed, Star Trek. To play in this fashion is a celebration of Star Trek.

It is absolutely irrelevant to the general concept of Simulationism whether a story is produced or not. It is, however, very important in terms of an applied instance of Simulationism whether a story is taken as one of our going-in constraints.

For instance, one group might be more interested in "being kitty-people fighting with ray-guns" than in "doing Star Trek." Their play-experience and attention to "doing the story right" will be very different from that of the Star Trek fans. However, the guiding aesthetic is the same: agreed-upon input, processing, confirmatory output.

Narrativist play, like Gamist play, is not confirmatory of anything that "goes in." In Gamist play, play itself determines who wins or does best in terms of personal strategy and guts. Similarly, Narrativist play is that in which only play itself determines how Premise is transformed into Theme.

To clarify about Narrativist play, think in terms of any story created by any person or group in some familiar medium like movies or novels. It is absolutely irrefutable that at some point in time, there was no story of this particular sort (medium, presentation, details, etc). But at some point in the creative process, a story did indeed appear.

Whatever happens at that transition is what happens during Narrativist play. It cannot be agreed-upon beforehand, nor can it be imposed by a single person in an "ah-ha" sense upon the others during the process.

(Emphasis added)

Funny physics are not a social-structure. They aren't a genre. They're just something the group has decided to confirm.

Now, is this "What Sim Is?"--I don't know--I'm going from what Ron says in a number posts.

Here's the thing: if players are trying to act like they are "characters in a TV show" and are not engaged with permise, it can't be Nar. It isn't Gamist--so, it's gotta be Sim.

Ron? If yer reading this, it'd be good to hear from you.

-Marco
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Marco
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« Reply #34 on: February 04, 2005, 04:54:12 AM »

As for Story: I think 'Story' in a literate sense has to do with writing something the reader connects with on a human-experience level. This means what Egri calls premise (in plays). Not what Ron calls Premise in Nar-play because although they're derivative, they aren't the same.

In Ron's formulation the "reader" is "the Player" since the Premise is impacting the player (he's real explicit about this in the Nar essay).

In the case of the Transcript, the reader is, well, whoever reads it (guys on The Forge reading Actual Play).

And, yes, it's interpertative. Some players will find nothing to see there. Some people will find this aspect in a write-up of a dungeon crawl. There are no standard procedures for producing a Transcript but even with this (large) gray area, if the transcript contains a narrative that I read and connect to and go *man* ::sniff:: that's really *powerful* (this is dramatic to make the point)--then, for me it is a story.

I think, therefore, that the gloss-definiton is pretty good. Being based on Transcript, as it is, it does not get us especially close to answering 'what the ethic and appeal of "story gaming"' is since that, under the theory, can cross the boundaries of Sim and Nar (and even Gamist play)--and maybe that's a problem.

But it's an issue for GNS to work out, not the gloss-story-def. That, IMO, has to stay, since it's internally consistent to the rest of the theory.

If we define Sim as something like Virtuality (or GDS Sim) where the initial set-up and characters are not created in such a way as to apply strongly to a situation-with-premise, which is what Contra (seems to me) wants to do then, yes, Nar becomes the only reliable way to produce story.

And I'm cool with that. We can do that.

Thing is, this (pretty much) was done back in the days of GDS (not exactly--but there's game-gaming, story-gaming, and real-life-gaming). One of the defining aspects of GDS-Sim, to my understanding, is that it does not regularly produce story-structured-transcripts (because, for instance, the GM is committed to not implementing dramaitc timing for events). The GM might let a bunch of time pass real quick--but the GM doesn't "keep the pace going" in in-game-time for asthetic reasons.

[ This ignores the fact that people with a Virtualist ethic can play in specific situations where there is a high-tempo and things naturally build to a climax/showdown rather quickly and reliably--but if we assume that situations were not chosen for those qualities then we'll get something that I think is what Gareth is describing. ]

So, yeah, under present theory we do have Story. Therefore we have Storytelling--and if we don't like Storytelling so much then I think it's back to the base theory--not back to the glossary. I think the glossary is consistent.

-Marco
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #35 on: February 06, 2005, 11:09:03 PM »

Quote from: Marco
Here's the thing: if players are trying to act like they are "characters in a TV show" and are not engaged with permise, it can't be Nar. It isn't Gamist--so, it's gotta be Sim.

I very much dislike that sort of "process of elimination analysis" that is so often done concerning simulationism. I would probably be less antagonistic if people did it to derive the other two agenda as well, but that's probably more difficult.

In this case, the players are attempting to experience what it would be like to be those people in that kind of world. It's an exploration of identity and experience (that is, character, setting, and situation), and thus simulationist. The players what to learn what it's like to be that, and prove that they know what it's like by producing a product that matches their expectations of what comes from the lives and situations of such characters. The product in this case (something like the TV show) evidences that it was simulationism in the same way that the product in narrativist play (a story with a distinguishable theme evidences narrativism--neither being proof, and neither being a certain outcome of the process, but both being likely given that agendum.

--M. J. Young
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Marco
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« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2005, 05:24:32 AM »

Quote from: M. J. Young

I very much dislike that sort of "process of elimination analysis" that is so often done concerning simulationism. I would probably be less antagonistic if people did it to derive the other two agenda as well, but that's probably more difficult.

I understand what you're saying. I even agree with it. But I think that given my present understanding of those quotes, I can't come up with a better way to distinguish play than the negative example.

Quote

In this case, the players are attempting to experience what it would be like to be those people in that kind of world. It's an exploration of identity and experience (that is, character, setting, and situation), and thus simulationist. The players what to learn what it's like to be that, and prove that they know what it's like by producing a product that matches their expectations of what comes from the lives and situations of such characters. The product in this case (something like the TV show) evidences that it was simulationism in the same way that the product in narrativist play (a story with a distinguishable theme evidences narrativism--neither being proof, and neither being a certain outcome of the process, but both being likely given that agendum.

--M. J. Young

(Emphasis added)
Are they? I don't know about that. To me that sentence implies immersion. That is: I play the game and by trying the exercise of identifying with my character, I get a sense of what it is like to be in that world. In my example the players need not be "immersed." They can be fully playing in Author Stance--it's just that the 'story they are creating' (in a loose sense of the word) is meant to be that of a screenplay.

I think, the way Sim is formulated (given the above quotes) it is most easily defined by expectations rather than experience.

They are experiencing sitting around a table thinking about what they'd expect to see on a movie screen by these characters.

I mean, they may find the descriptions the GM reads out creepy or funny-creepy but unless (IMO) they are feeling *deep fear* they are not "learning what it is like to be in that world."

In my example they are looking at their charcter sheets and going "Hmm... I think if Joe was a movie character, Joe would do *this*."

For me, that's not "finding out what it'd be like to be in a house with psychotic killers."

Note: I am not claiming that this is 'all that Sim is/should be'--however, this is how I understand the given quotes. They're (IMO) pretty clear. If the players are fixed on making something structurally like a movie then they aren't playing to win and they aren't (by use of the term structurally) player-involved in the ethics of the imaginary situation. While it's a negative definition, it seems to me that it's either:

(a) A subset of Gamist or Nar play (which does not seem all that likely to me)
(b) A 4th CA
(c) Sim

-Marco
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #37 on: February 07, 2005, 04:21:01 PM »

Quote from: Quoting me, Marco
Quote

In this case, the players are attempting to experience what it would be like to be those people in that kind of world.....

(Emphasis added)
Are they? I don't know about that. To me that sentence implies immersion. That is: I play the game and by trying the exercise of identifying with my character, I get a sense of what it is like to be in that world.

I'll admit that I phrased it badly, particularly in using the word "experience", by which I did not mean a necessarily immersive or subjective experience. I think there is a place for objective experience in simulationism--the idea of getting to know what it's like to be these people by figuring out what they would do and sort of watching them do it from the outside, despite the fact that you are making their decisions. This is what it's like to be someone in the Star Trek universe; this is how they act, what they do. If we get it right, we create a Star Trek episode from being Star Trek characters, and that proves we understand how these characters think and act. It doesn't have to be subjective or immersive to be experiential.

--M. J. Young
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Marco
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« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2005, 07:22:56 PM »

I agree. I believe that under the theory, the guys crafting a Star Trek episode are, indeed, Sim players. They are:

1. Not immersed.
2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.
4. Creating a story that will have structural elements in the same way that a Lit101 story has structural elements (rising action to climax, conclusion, etc.)

I agree: that's Sim play. I also think that it's clearly got to be Storytelling since they're involved in making a story by either The Forge's glossary definition or a more general one (4).

Maybe we can get to GM-Control next :)

-Marco
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2005, 07:47:09 PM »

I came to similar conclusions about play with priority on replicating "story structure" being Sim a long time ago -- I might perhaps be able to dig up some old threads, if anyone's interested.

However, I'll also point out (as I did in some of those old discussions) that play such as Marco just described is more likely to be facilitated by Techniques that we generally have found to be good for facilitating Narrativist play than by Techniques that we generally think of as facilitating Sim play.

Which makes me wonder why it's so important to get the Sim vs. Narr classification "correct" at this fine a level of distinction. It's like pointing out that a tomato is really a fruit rather than a vegetable... does that matter, when treating tomato as a fruit in practical application -- e.g. stirring it into yogurt or including it in a fruit salad -- is likely to end up tasting terrible, while treating it as a vegetable will give generally better results?

- Walt
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Marco
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« Reply #40 on: February 07, 2005, 07:59:50 PM »

Quote from: Walt Freitag

Which makes me wonder why it's so important to get the Sim vs. Narr classification "correct" at this fine a level of distinction. It's like pointing out that a tomato is really a fruit rather than a vegetable... does that matter, when treating tomato as a fruit in practical application -- e.g. stirring it into yogurt or including it in a fruit salad -- is likely to end up tasting terrible, while treating it as a vegetable will give generally better results?

- Walt


I can think of two very important reasons:

1. People treat games that talk about Storytelling as though they were talking the Nar-talk but walking the Sim-walk. When a game discusses storytelling, whatever it is talking about, it could be either Sim or Nar--the idea that it is simply promising Nar and delivering Sim is innacurate by our measures, much less someone else's.

2. There is a big, important, storytelling movement in RPG's. If the promises of that movement are (a) popular and far-reaching and (b) hard to concretely describe in GNS CA terms then I think that's worth looking at with whatever theoritical tools we can bring to bear. Certainly on the N/S scale we don't learn much about it as a type of game.

But if you look at techniques, I think there's probably a lot of analysis that could be done. We might learn something.

-Marco
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Silmenume
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« Reply #41 on: February 07, 2005, 08:07:57 PM »

Hey Marco,

Quote from: Marco
2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.


How is this possible?  How can a car steer itself to a very specific destination without someone putting their hands on the wheel?

I suppose one could have theme pre-established in the source material, but then everyone would be walking on egg shells to make sure they didn't something that violated the Theme.  However, someone's making those meta-decisions to get the story structure.  Those decisions that create that Story Structure are not Bricolage based decisions, as the objects employed by the bricoleur in Exploration do not lend themselves to self-assembly into story.

I suppose it sounds possible, possible in the way that a player could make very deliberate decisions about Premise to make it impossible to summarize a theme at the end of play, but the question becomes - why?
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #42 on: February 08, 2005, 10:15:27 AM »

Quote from: Silmenume
Hey Marco,

Quote from: Marco
2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.


How is this possible?  How can a car steer itself to a very specific destination without someone putting their hands on the wheel?


Jay just put his finger right on what's bugging me about this. Is there anything meaningfully called story without any Premise? No through-line, no thing that some player cares how it turns out? It seems to me that one of two things ends up happening...

1. The players 'go through the motions', filling the structure in with detail and color out of their store of symbols, but all meaningful character choices are highly constrained. They produce a story, but do not have freedom to make their OWN story, just to perform a ritualized version of an agreed-on story.

2. The players attempt to make meaningful choices, but the story becomes incoherent or diverges from the intended structural model as a result of those choices - leading to 'bad Sim' experience.

Now, if there's a genuine commitment to a Premise (and it can be a rather banal one, as long as it is meaningful to the player), you might be able to thread that needle. The Premise provides the guiding principle that structure alone can't and avoids incoherence, while the structure prevents excessive discursion.

Just seems to me that without some degree of committment to Premise, at best you get Ouija-board play.

Best,

Mark
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Marco
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« Reply #43 on: February 08, 2005, 10:59:07 AM »

Quote from: Mark Woodhouse

1. The players 'go through the motions', filling the structure in with detail and color out of their store of symbols, but all meaningful character choices are highly constrained. They produce a story, but do not have freedom to make their OWN story, just to perform a ritualized version of an agreed-on story.

My understanding is that the transcript will have theme (premise) although that element was not the primary driving element of play.

However, you do use two terms that I think are very important to the discussion of storytelling:

The idea that someone can make the "story of an RPG" their "OWN" story is an important one. What does it mean, exactly?

Firstly, under the gloss definiton of story there is no "owner"--the author is simply the guy who writes the transcript. Now: that literal definition doesn't get us far with the concept--but it's important to note that the concept of being the "author of the story" in an RPG no longer makes a lot of sense with respect to the present formulation (I think this is a step in the right direction).

But the idea of making a story "my own" means something. What?

I think, clearly, to me, anyway, it means that I, as a player, feel I had some 'imporant' input into the story--but most posters here don't, for example, usually consider player dialog "important" in the sense of granting ownership to the story in some fashion.

What if two people disagree: packaged CoC games are seen as being pre-determined theme--but what if the players decide to make their journey-to-crazy-ville a *commedy* and play their doomed characters as buffoons or as darkly humorous bad people who deserve what they get? This makes Cthulhu in a way noble (if humanity is this bad we deserve to all get eaten).

Have they made it their story then? Even if they went from plot-point A to plot-point Z without a hitch?

I don't think there's an easy answer to that: I think it's a matter of individual interpertation. I also think it's not clear if the play will be seen as Sim or Nar in cases where players have a variety of different kinds of inputs into a story. One analyist may judge that the players didn't have any significant effect on the story. Another may judge that they did.

Secondly there's the issue of constraint. What are "tight constraints?" If we all came to the table to make a Star Trek episode then we all agreed to the same conditions (assuming there are words in the english language that could clearly set expectations in this sense). Does that constitute a constraint?

I don't think so--any more than the structure of a Sonnet constrains the poetry (it does--in some sense--but not what is usually regarded to be the important sense).

Quote

2. The players attempt to make meaningful choices, but the story becomes incoherent or diverges from the intended structural model as a result of those choices - leading to 'bad Sim' experience.

Now, if there's a genuine commitment to a Premise (and it can be a rather banal one, as long as it is meaningful to the player), you might be able to thread that needle. The Premise provides the guiding principle that structure alone can't and avoids incoherence, while the structure prevents excessive discursion.

Just seems to me that without some degree of committment to Premise, at best you get Ouija-board play.

Best,

Mark


Well, if this is true then play that reliably produces story is Nar and play that doesn't is Sim or Gamist. If that's true then it's a change to the model. Several people think it is true (Gareth). I think the present form of the essays are pretty clear that it's not though.

I think that if there's a really tight association between Story and Nar or Not-Story and Sim then the essays need some revision and the terms as well.

Consider that MLWM will structurally produce a story in a reliable fashion with theme in the transcript even if players are totally not concerned with the premise of it and are, instead, focused on gaining cred by manipulating the situation using the rules: what is usually considered Gamist play.

It'll do the same if they are using the rules to play-out being in a "Frankenstein movie." What the players relate to (CA) and how the game developes (technique) are unrelated under the Big Model.

-Marco
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #44 on: February 08, 2005, 08:48:12 PM »

Quote from: Jay
Quote from: Marco
2. Not engaged on a player-level with any premise in the situation.
3. Creating a story that will have theme in the same way a Star Trek episode has theme.


How is this possible?  How can a car steer itself to a very specific destination without someone putting their hands on the wheel?

I still haven't wrapped my head around whatever it is that "bricolage" is supposed to mean, so I won't comment on that. However, I think that what Marco proposes here is quite plausible.

I've never played Squeam 3. However, from what I understand in that game, what the players care about is getting their characters killed in the way the game dictates, and so producing something that strongly resembles a low budget teen slasher movie.

In the Star Trek example, one of the players could say, "We need to bring up the Prime Directive here"--not because the player cares one bit about the implications of whether it's right or wrong to interfere with the natural development and free choice of individual societies, but because that's something that comes up in Star Trek episodes when stuff like this happens. We, the players, don't care about the premise at all. We care about producing the feel of the thing, getting the universe right.

--M. J. Young
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