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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 81 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Theory Serves Communication  (Read 4091 times)
Tim C Koppang
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« on: March 14, 2002, 08:59:30 AM »

Has anyone been reading some of the posts over at The Gaming Outpost?  I have, and I noticed that Scarlet Jester has become a bit frustrated with himself and the state of rpg theory in general.  I read through some of the threads where they were all talking about theory and what it's good for.  This all got me thinking along the same lines.  What is rpg theory good for?  Is it for concrete improvment of gaming, or just interesting on an abstract level... and then I got an assignment in my rhetoric class - a research paper on any topic I can think of.  Naturally I chose rpgs.

So I'm posting a link to my paper which I decided to write in inspiration of the anti-theory threads over at GO.  Please note, that I quote a lot of people.  Some of these quotes come from older articles.  Please don't get too upset if I mangle your thoughts.  I was attempting to keep everyone in context.

So anyway, here's the article:

http://www.students.uiuc.edu/~koppang/roleplaying/content/Theory_Serves_Communication.htm

As I side note, I just updated my web page, and I'd appreciate any comments on it.  :-)  Check out the link in my sig.
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Laurel
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2002, 01:44:14 PM »

I think you captured one of the two reasons why I personally am drawn to RPG Theory in the closing of your paper.  The strongest argument for role-playing theory states that a common language among gamers will serve as a catalyst for coherent and precise conversation about all elements of role-playing.  Instead of explaining the foundation behind your viewpoint every time you encounter a discussion, gamers will instead spend their effort towards building upon those foundations.

I look at the Forge as a place that said can happen.  I also think it could happen better, faster, with a set of new tools that are less jargon dependent and help newcomers relate to ideas, have a basis, and then move on to terms.  

I also agree that its time for a dictionary/glossary/lexicon that can serve as a primary reference.  The problem with building one is that some folks will argue the definitions into the ground because it doesn't meet with ~exactly~ what they think it should.  The solution would be offering alternative definitions and attributing them to specific theorists, so that someone could reference what specific words mean to specific individuals and the theorists themselves could be constructively challenged to maintain consistency to their self-applied definitions or rebuild them.

The second reason I'm drawn to RPG theory, by the way, is that I think it makes me a better developer/player/GM: more imaginative, more aware, more adept at adaptation to game environments.  

Actually, there's a third reason: the social aspect of communicating via written words with others in a non-fictional, non-personal, non-roleplaying context regarding a subject matter that I have a lot of experience in (gaming) and is my primary social activity.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2002, 02:29:25 PM »

Laurel,

This is in part an answer to your question on another thread: has GNS made my gaming better?  Don't know yet, but I know I'm gonna try gaming again after years off because of GNS and all the game theory work people have done.

The work that's been done here has helped make manifest and practical idea and desires I had years ago, and because someone's pointed out the difference btween the goals of G, N and S I can now effectively work toward creating actual tools and mechancs and gaming decisions to help like-minded people have a great time doing what we want to do.

I think that's all well and good.

(Give me a couple more weeks of prep on my Sorcerer game, and will find out if it helped actual play!)

Also, I agree completely with your "tools that are less jargon dependent and help newcomers relate to ideas, have a basis, and then move on to terms" point.  Turns out I'm not a heavy hitter on the conceptual front either.  There's a point where the thrill of defining the word makes my eyes glaze over and decide, "When they've figured it out, I'll come back."

I think breaking down actual practices of certain aspects of theory with concrete examples of rules, tools, and playing style (you know, like the picture of a cat in the dictionary) would be a great idea.

Salute,
Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
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Laurel
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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2002, 03:00:58 PM »

I'll even use an example of what I'm talking about that didn't originate on the Forge.  I fell for Christopher's Interactive Toolkit essays http://www.rpg.net/oracle/essays/itoolkit1.html  the minute I read them, and I've read them several times over.  They aren't that long, they're very readable, they encompass a lot of material, and there was only one suggestion offered by them that sort of "glitched" with me and didn't work.  

The jargon-creating use of "The Fifth Bussiness" to describe the new kind of GM.  It was a term that I had no real experience with, and wouldn't necessarily want to use because I think I'd be spending more time trying to explain to players what a "5th Bussiness" was, and why I wanted to use the term, and listening to their arguments and suggestions at alternatives that we'd never get to play, or if we did play, it wouldn't be as good as if I'd simply used a term that was familar to them.  

The problem at the Forge is that we never really get to "play" with GNS except through our own game design, because the terminology carries so much baggage that any time a discussion starts it gets circumvented back into the old ground of post-pointing and reframing.  

Its not just a matter of educating folks to GNS and related theory material.... its a matter of rewriting (without changing the ideas) GNS material and offering tools that explain things in words and concepts that are less confusing and incorporate the magnificent forum conversations in a fashion that won't scare off the very people wanting to learn.
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2002, 07:06:52 AM »

Quote from: Laurel
Its not just a matter of educating folks to GNS and related theory material.... its a matter of rewriting (without changing the ideas) GNS material and offering tools that explain things in words and concepts that are less confusing and incorporate the magnificent forum conversations in a fashion that won't scare off the very people wanting to learn.

The Toolkit essays were just one of the inspirtations for my own paper, but I think that anyone reading them (the toolkit essays) will be turned off by theory in general.  I love the essays, and I'm not trying to get into a diccussion of them here, but I think they exemplify why so many people get confused with GNS.  They see specific applications of design, or hear only one person talking about one aspect of GNS, and then think that they are being told how to game.  GNS isn't about telling others how to game, it's about opening up new paths for gamers to explore.

As far as the jargon goes: I'm not sure if it's the words, so much as the way they are presented.  Many people are taken aback by how academic Ron's essay sounds.  They say, "it's a game not a science," and then they continue on their way.  I think what may help is some sort of friendly "quickstart" GNS guide that makes the concepts that much more approachable.  If players weren't so worried about classifing themsleves on one of the threefolds, then they would realize that theory is about communication.
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2002, 07:20:33 AM »

Laurel, where were you back in April, May and June of last year, when I and a couple of others were crusading on the use of terminology for exactly the reasons you mention :-)

If you care to search for it, there is a fairly huge thread buried somewhere on why using the term "simulationism" isn't the best idea because of all of the preexisting (and therefor precedent setting) uses for the word.

In the end, as I recall, the reason given for not changing basically boiled down to "we've grown accustomed to using these terms here and changing them now would be confusing for us, so rather then make them more confusing for us (even if it means less confusing to others) we're not going to change them".

In the end the jargon does serve 1 usefull purpose.  It does serve as something of a combination of membership filter and right of passage.  People who are willing to dig through the density of the theory and learn the obscure jargon obviously must have something to say and a real desire to participate...their contributions then tend to be of much higher quality.

Given that this site has a tremendously high signal to noise ratio and that the only other site I know of that compares also uses some pretty dense jargon (of a physics and astrophysics nature) there may be something to that idea.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2002, 08:32:44 AM »

Hi there,

I wholly agree that a "friendly fun" version needs to get written as well.

Let's do some re-checking of what I'd eventually like to have:

1) The historical "System" essay presented only as archive. I still see people referring to it as if it were a given/finished item.

2) The present essay, with some minor changes, with original date and changed-date noted.

3) Accompanying essays: Jesse's "Narrativism for Simulationists," Ralph's "Primer," and whatever else. I'd actually like to see a lot of these from different angles, even critical ones - for instance, if Fang's inside-out discussion could be presented in essay form, I'd include that in a shot.

4) An "intro" essay that lays out the big picture, basically eliminating my Seven Misconceptions in a constructive and easy way. (IE, focusing on the "layers" issue and the "instances of play" issue.)

5) A hard-copy of the heavily-revised essay, which won't appear for quite a while. I'd like to see #1-4 well under way before GenCon.

Best,
Ron
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