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Author Topic: The creation of meaning  (Read 3392 times)
matthijs
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« on: April 10, 2005, 12:10:15 AM »

At what point is a game imbued with meaning?

How can you design a system to ensure that players will breathe life into its dry bones?

In some RPG's - such as electrified spikes through the soles of your feet and Capes - it's possible to remove all references to the SiS from the rules and play the games as pure dice & numbers games. Emergent victory conditions tend to be the collection of points (Story Tokens, XP) or Last Man Standing.

Years ago we sometimes ended up playing AD&D this way - fight monster, next encounter, fight monster. I believe that way of playing was brought on by boredom. We were bored with the game, and were just going through the motions. It was still possible to play the game, using only stats and numbers, while nobody even cared what the name of the monster was.

How do you make a game where the SiS and the system must be used together to make sense?
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WorldSaversInc
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2005, 12:45:32 AM »

Greetings,
               This is my first time answering, though i have not been here much, I have thought i lot about meaning and within our stories.  Meaning within a story comes into two flavors.  The first is a story created to tell you something for example Assops Fables.  The second is a story where the listeners dive into the story to find meaning from stories.  Examples for this could from any fiction where you gain meaning from the experience or the story being told that while the creators had a theme it was not the sole and overriding purpose to tell you.  

              From what I am understanding, I think you want a second flavor system with in the game.  The first is easy to create and relies on the storyteller hammering a message across and up to the players to get it.  However, to gain meaning from a game it must hold interest for the people and they must want to see it.   For whatever message you want to get across make that the whole point of the game.  There are games that have this feel.  What are you willing to fight for, what are you willing to die for? The Riddle of Steel can answer these questions and from playing these games gain meaning.    It is an interaction with the storyteller, the player, and the system.  DnD could be about the horror of savage fury, but Werewolf is better.

           To reflect this, the system you want to have meaning to the people involved.   In my opinion, is to have the entire game center around choices and the consequences of those choices.  Whether genre your game is, there are conventions that are run through it.  If you have watched enough young male anime,  you know that if the hero cares, really cares, he will, absolutely will, get more powerful.  For this convention, there is a sytem to support it.  To me this type of behavior and convention has meaning to me.  Heart matters.  So games that have this mechanic expressed somewhere with in the system will have the game matter to me and I will play those types of characters to benefit from the enjoyment and meaning I get from it.  For I, whether for good or ill, tend to attach myself to the games that I play, so every game has meaning.  However, that is a personal way for me to get meaning from a game.  It depends on the person and their outlook upon games and stories in general.  Meaning that has an impact can only be gotten through personal desire.  Short of mind-control there is no way to force you to find meaning or have meaning concerning any story.  

               If this makes little sense, I apologize.  At times I was rambling, however, I do believe it requires a synergy between the Storyteller, the Player, and the System to support them either through allowing the mechanics or to reward them for the type of behavior that creates meaning to both.

World Savers Inc
Heart is Our Motto
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True Strength is defined by anime and other herioc stories as giving of one's self to protect others, cause, or principle to an extent where nothing else matters.
TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2005, 04:15:57 PM »

Quote from: matthijs
How do you make a game where the SiS and the system must be used together to make sense?

This is, again, the theory that it is possible to use the rules-mechanics without impacting the SiS?  First, I personally disagree with that notion.  But I'll work with it for the sake of the discussion.

I think that, short of sending a physical enforcer to rough people up if they don't contribute what you want to the SiS, there's no way to force people to contribute to the SiS.  A whole generation of games tried to make the rules-mechanics unusable without reference to the SiS, but they just ended up making games that were unusable.

Now if you want to encourage people to contribute a certain type of input to the SiS, I think there are lots of options.  First you isolate the type of thing you'd like to see:  in Sorceror, for instance, characters have several important talents that can be brought to bear on a situation, and it's characteristic to consider all of them.  A sorceror might reasonably avoid confronting an armored demon until he'd done some research in ancient tomes, in order to find its weaknesses.

If your game-mechanics respond to the same modes of thinking that you want people to use in approaching the SiS then they encourage that style of engagement in the SiS by making it an effective mental tool for dealing with the rules.  In Sorceror, for instance, the researcher can roll his Lore successes directly over into combat.  So his action was both creative and effective... effective because of its creativity, in fact.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2005, 05:09:41 PM »

World Savers -- Welcome to the Forge!  I think that your post and your point are both excellent.  Do you mind giving me your real name, so I can use it with you?  Typing out World Savers Inc every post could be obnoxious.

Tony -- I think you are reading things into what Matthijs is saying that are not actually there.  He isn't necessarily saying that games *should* require all actions to interact with the SiS, he is merely speculating about rules sets that require it -- what would they look like?

Matthijs -- Low Toy Quality is one route.   There are many other routes to that goal, too.

yrs--
--Ben
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2005, 05:26:24 PM »

Ben, you're probably right.  I'm probably reading something other than what he's saying.

So, for my benefit at least, maybe Matthijs can clarify:  When he says that the mechanics and SiS-contribution must be used together in order to make sense, what sort of break-down is he thinking about if somebody tries to use them separately?  Or is that precisely the question?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2005, 09:17:11 PM »

Quote from: matthijs
Years ago we sometimes ended up playing AD&D this way - fight monster, next encounter, fight monster. I believe that way of playing was brought on by boredom. We were bored with the game, and were just going through the motions. It was still possible to play the game, using only stats and numbers, while nobody even cared what the name of the monster was.

How do you make a game where the SiS and the system must be used together to make sense?

Again, boredom.

If there's nothing else there for you if you don't engage the SIS, then it's going to be very boring for you. You'll suffer a penalty if you don't engage SIS, so your forced to engage it (or not play at all). Your D&D example shows how there was something there for you...XP and other resources. This was enough for you to play without bothering to engage the SIS. In capes, I imagine the story tokens are incredibly boring to collect when they don't actually effect any SIS. In D&D, levels are boast worthy even sans the SIS.

So make all your resources about influencing the SIS and aren't particularly cool without the SIS, and you should be pretty close to demanding the SIS is engaged.
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<meaning></meaning>
John Kim
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« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2005, 09:45:39 PM »

Quote from: matthijs
At what point is a game imbued with meaning?

How can you design a system to ensure that players will breathe life into its dry bones?
...
How do you make a game where the SiS and the system must be used together to make sense?

For starters, I don't agree that the first questions relate all that well to the third question.  Mechanically enforcing something is not required for it to be done or even to support it.  Imagination is something that many people are happy to do -- so in my opinion it is more important simply to make it fun than to try to enforce it.  

That said, it seems to me that there are two basic directions.  The first is required input on the system from the SIS.  The obvious example is subjective bonuses: from Champions' "Surprise Maneuver" to bonus dice in My Life With Master.  Here there is a system effect which comes solely from verbal description.  

The other way is for there to be system input onto non-system-based parts of the SIS.  For example, Whimsy Cards or plot twist spending and so forth take system resources and put them solely into the SIS.
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- John
Damballa
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2005, 12:11:50 AM »

“At what point is a game imbued with meaning?”

Psychological inquiry can help - How is meaning produced by the mind? Seems to be about zeitgeist; a reflection of what is going on outside of the game; be it sociological, a fashionable genre, a political stance… a mood in the outside world. Signs and wonders. Phenomenological experience of meaning imbued; that catalyst, that beginning of the cascade towards richness.

Memeplexes and ideaclusters. Touch-papers on the fireworks of inspiration; a series of memories. “Captures the mood of the audience” - Memories and memories and memories. Trains of thought; complex ideas built upon each others suppositions.
Memories as represented by icons of their passing. A collagé world; a montagé of experiences. Layer cakes of geological evolution; think of things linked on a quantum level.

Judging the exact psychology of all the players; knowing who they are in their minds.
Every moment is filled with vast interconnections. It’s the creation of interactive Mandalas that contain all of the gaming participant’s cosmologies. Looking like intersection junctions; intangible crossroads running off in the mind. Great concepts from the past; standing on the shoulders of giants; whatever works right now. An extremely dense system of semiotics; flying fast through the feeling, surrounded by a thick fog of ghosts, like a garage band 3-chord kinda thing.

Looking for imbued  meaning, interpreting noise and chaos, imposing one’s own models of knowledge upon the moment. Decrypting, encrypting and teasing out new connections. Trying to read the augers and omens.  Trying to write a book in the middle of a gigantic library. Illustrations, maps, all adds to the imbued meaning. If the ‘establishment’ can support the new meaning through the purchasing of new publications and props, you can all keep on imbuing. What is the meaning of the character sheet?  The Gamesmaster screen?  The dice?  The miniatures?  The hand-outs? The system mechanics? Simple or Complex – giving everyone involved to opportunity to ‘say’ something, to delegate the co-creation of the game upon the players.

Meaning and importance seem to be separate siblings of consciousness. Certain things have immediacy & currency; certain other things are just archived passions that used to have your complete focus. Taking things to their logical conclusion; following the process of creation to their end. And crossed over, this was not which concerns the degree to which you can order these spatial and temporal struggles (that is, in making observed functional hybrids to date the established stream of ideas through communicating the act of role-playing).
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matthijs
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2005, 08:39:13 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
So, for my benefit at least, maybe Matthijs can clarify:  When he says that the mechanics and SiS-contribution must be used together in order to make sense, what sort of break-down is he thinking about if somebody tries to use them separately?  Or is that precisely the question?


If you have a self-contained conflict system, a game in itself that works fine without being connected to the SiS, there's a real chance that play will focus on playing the system, not the whole game.

Hypothetical example: Conflicts between characters are resolved by the players playing a game of Go. Big chance that the SiS will dwindle while players focus on strategy & tactics. The game loses meaning as an RPG, as a result of the system being enjoyable without the SiS.
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matthijs
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2005, 08:45:10 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
That said, it seems to me that there are two basic directions.  The first is required input on the system from the SIS.  (...) The other way is for there to be system input onto non-system-based parts of the SIS.


Good answer. I think I'm beginning to see the usefulness of Vincent's How RPG rules work.

There seems to be a third way - the reciprocal requirement in DitV: You can't raise or see in a conflict without saying what you're doing, and you can't say what you're doing until it's your turn to raise. System and SiS are tied together in discrete little lumps.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2005, 09:44:22 AM »

Okay, but what if people just ignore the "reciprocal requirement" in DitV?

It's still a hell of a game about the choices of "do you escalate?" and "what's worth taking fallout for?" and such.  Does that mean that it's not a game where the two are required to work together?
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matthijs
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« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2005, 09:51:02 AM »

Tony, no, that's not what I meant. I picked one specific element of the DitV conflict system to illustrate a specific point (that there were more than the two basic directions proposed by John).
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