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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 56 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Storytelling, GM-Control, and Drift  (Read 5605 times)
Ian Charvill
Member

Posts: 377


« Reply #45 on: February 09, 2005, 10:29:13 AM »

If you refer to Ron's narrativism essay, the section headed "The other way: pastiche".  I've never been able to get round Ron's tendentious use of the term 'pastiche' here but the first paragraph is key to what's being discussed here.

The essay is fairly clear that roleplaying can reliably generate story with thematic content without being considered narrativist.

In the Star Trek example, people wouldn't be commited to producing a theme but a Star-Trek-like theme.  Generating a story with thematic content that was not sufficiently similar to Star Trek would be considered a failure.

[MJ -- bricollage can be understood on a basic level as follows: collage is making a picture out of other elements (bits of other pictures, bits of cloth, coloured paper, whatever); bricollage is just that with ideas]
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Ian Charvill
clehrich
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Posts: 1557


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« Reply #46 on: February 09, 2005, 11:01:52 AM »

Quote from: Ian Charvill
[MJ -- bricollage can be understood on a basic level as follows: collage is making a picture out of other elements (bits of other pictures, bits of cloth, coloured paper, whatever); bricollage is just that with ideas]
No, this isn't correct, Ian.  I mean, I see what you're saying, but it's not the same.

Very rapidly (so as not to derail the thread):

Bricolage (note spelling) is a hobby in which you make things out of stuff you have in your basement or shed or whatever.  You've got lots of crap in there, of all sorts, and you have some tools, and you're very smart.  You have one absolute rule: you may not ever buy anything new.  The only way you acquire new things for the basement is to find them on your neighbor's tree-strip waiting to be collected for the garbage.

So if your project requires that you have something that generates a lot of local heat, you have to look for something in the basement that does this.  An old hair-dryer might work.  Or a toaster.  Or an iron.  But each of these has constraints, because they don't work the same way.  Once you pick one, that changes the way your finished project is going to look and work, because you've chosen the toaster and not the iron.

In order to make the toaster work for this purpose right now, you cut it in half so as to expose the heating elements.  That changes the toaster.  Next time you want to build something that requires a heating-element, the toaster might be ideal, because it's already cut open and you know just how to use it because you already did once.  But maybe now it doesn't fit as well as an uncut toaster would have, but you're stuck with that because you cut open the toaster.

That's all bricolage is.

What Claude Levi-Strauss suggests is that this kind of thinking happens in myth and ritual as well, and I've suggested that it also happens in gaming, especially perhaps Sim gaming.  The only difference is that you're not using physical objects but conceptual ones.

I'll give a fast example and then shut up.

Suppose in my Victorian London game, which uses Tarot cards for mechanics (see weblink below), Lord Haversham is caught by a policeman while picking a front door lock.  He plays a card, let's say The Emperor, in order to assert his authority over the bobby: he claims that his authority as a Peer of the Realm means that the bobby should defer to him.

Now first of all, this is bricolage because the player has applied the conceptual structure of The Emperor to an actual situation.  In the process, he has also cut open the toaster: he has made The Emperor more effective for future uses of this kind, and less effective for its other potential uses.

So now suppose Jonathan Harker, a London barrister (he's come up in the world), wants to assert his authority as a member of the bar to push some other policeman to tell him things about an ongoing case.  So the player plays The Emperor.  Once again, the Emperor is being used to assert authority, and increasingly its other possible meanings are declining.  In particular, the Emperor is coming to be associated with legal authority, which is not necessarily part of the card as traditionally interpreted: the toaster has been cut open, and you can't undo that.

Now, finally, suppose Philip Wickman, a wealthy socialite, wants the Opera House to give him a nice box and evict whoever is already in it.  The player plays The Emperor.  Now the group has to decide.  This is asserting dominance, but actually Wickman has no proper authority in this matter.  So let's say the group decides this doesn't work -- is an improper use of the card.

But if this were the first time the card were used, he could very well have succeeded.  Now he can't, because the uses have bent the meaning to be much more specific: it's about asserting some sort of legal authority.  To revert to the toaster, Wickman's player is trying to make toast, but the toaster can't be used that way any more because it's been cut in half; it sort of works, but you can only toast one side at a time.

This is a rather simplistic but I think accurate example of bricolage.
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Chris Lehrich
Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #47 on: February 09, 2005, 11:14:31 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
lotsa stuff about bricolage.

Side note: This is the best explanation of the mapping of bricolage over to conceptual or notional space, such as mythology/folklore, I have yet encountered in my time.

I don't completely agree with its mapping to mythology (it fails to include innovation/epiphanic vision and the unpredictable influences of art as well as the common myth tendency of theft from your neighbor's garage after he tries to buy your mortgage out from under you), but  it is clean and clear and therefore makes it easier to utilize bricolage as a theoretical tool.

I guess the proper response, then, is "yay!"  ^_^

Doctor Xero
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #48 on: February 10, 2005, 12:56:43 AM »

My approach to bricolage at present is actually to ionvestogate it as art technique; I'm going to be chacking ou the book shop at the Tate Modern in that regard.  Unfortunately everything I find on the web is in French.


The question of "how can the car be steered without anyone driving" is exactly the point.  Marcos model of players duplicating a known story without paying attention to it - i.e. playing sim in a mechanically sttructured story - is at best a kind of passion play, a form of participationism.

Once again this discussion is almost entirely about semantic subtelties and not about actual things.

MJ wrote:
Quote
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.


Yes I agree this is possible.  Its also basically participationism - the players cannot make any meaningful decisiopn, because there fate is being systematically determined.  The fact that this transcript will look much like a slasher flick screenplay is utterly trivial - it is a sim of a slasher flick, not a story.  To call it a story only seves to obfuscate the sim natiure of the game, and leads to confused conversations exactly like this one, and railroading.
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Marco
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Posts: 1741


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« Reply #49 on: February 10, 2005, 07:59:44 AM »

Quote from: contracycle

Yes I agree this is possible.  Its also basically participationism - the players cannot make any meaningful decisiopn, because there fate is being systematically determined.  The fact that this transcript will look much like a slasher flick screenplay is utterly trivial - it is a sim of a slasher flick, not a story.  To call it a story only seves to obfuscate the sim natiure of the game, and leads to confused conversations exactly like this one, and railroading.


I think I agree with this--I have questions concering:
(a) the assertation that 'story' is the problematic factor. I think that 'Sim' is the confusing agency (specifically 'participationism' seen as a subset of Sim by some people)
(b) the term participationism itself. It's not that I don't sort of think that it's correct, maybe--but that we had the big participationism thread and didn't really conclude what it was. I think it's sort of a dead term right now.

Here's what I'm thinking:
One of the general laws of the slasher flick is that "if you have sex you die."

Let's say that a player is playing "The Teen Horror Movie Game" and it has this mechanic as a hard and fast incontravertable rule (sex=death).

A player is presented with a love/lust interest and he decides what to do (have sex and die or continue playing).

If the guy decides that his character *would* have sex--but does not want his character to die--then I think we have a decison that, under the rules, leads to dysfunction ("I wanted to 'play my character'--but I was punished for doing so")

If the guy decides that his character would have sex and die because that's what would happen to "the jock" in a slasher flick then we have a decision based on genre and most people call that Sim.

If the guy decides to have his character have sex based on whether he thinks the character is noble (and deserves to maybe live) or dispicable (and deserves to die) then, well, maybe it's Narrativist--I don't really know--but that's my take on the theory at a guess.

If the guy decides that getting thrown out of the game means no cred for being the last man standing then he won't have sex and that's, IMO, gamist.

I think the first case is the interesting one. It's the clash between a technique (immersive play, Actor Stance) and goals (to keep playing in the game). In this case the mechanics are posing a problem for this guy--but not for any of the others.

Therefore:
1. I'm not sure what "meaningful" decisions means in these examples--it seems to me that depending on what the player is like there indded can be meaninful decisions made under the structure of a Teen Slasher Game.
2. In the first case I'm not sure if the dysfunction is caused by "rebelling against participationism" and I don't think you can say it's "CA Incoherence."
3. In none of these cases is "Story" of interest. There may be other decision making modes where the character is really concerned with the flow of story (and you can claim that the noble/ignoble guy is concerned with Story--but I think that's a missuse of the glossary term).

-Marco
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