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Author Topic: What ever happened to Points of Contact?  (Read 10199 times)
Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2005, 07:56:41 AM »

Hmm. So over the course of this thread I've gone from uncertain to confident to a little muddy.

So I'm wrapping my head around Jason's theory...
Points of contact are simply how often this process is regulated by mechanics.  Most of the time the process cycles through in a moment.  For example, "Bob picks up his cup of coffee."  This still had to pass through Conception -> Proposal -> Validation -> Integration, but because the Validation mechanism was simply the unstated phrase "No argument here, go ahead." instead of a mechanical element, we can say that event had low points of contact.  This applies to phases other than Validation (The Integration of Bob picking up his coffee is also not mechanically regulated) - Validation is just the easiest to example.

...

The points of contact help maintain the Fidelity threshold by continually Validating statements before Integration.  Points of contact also help maintain 'variable control' in the same fashion.
...and this seems to dovetail nicely with what M. J. is saying about authorities (above.) I'm pretty satisfied with definition of "what it is."

So now I've got a lot of "why" questions popping up. If we say that it's not as simple as "vanilla good, pervy bad" then it's going to be useful to at least understand what the pros and cons of utilizing a given approach to Points of Contacts.

I can't put forth good supporting evidence yet, but I have a hunch that this is about the social dynamics by which consensus is reached. With fewer points of contacts, play relies on everyday human social mechanisms for agreement -- trust, empathy, intuition, common sense. If these things cannot be relied upon, points of contact can be added to broker procedural extensions to the social contract. Which points of contact are desirable depends on participants' threshold of comfort with the other participants' judgements.

Good reasons for adding (and I'm starting to think of PoC as an additive property) points of contact are to broker situations that are sufficiently removed from participants' common experience that outcomes become "piss in my Wheaties" unacceptable. This includes the "I Shot You! You're Dead!" argument that many texts make to justify the rules, as well as the "build a better mousetrap" obsession many games have with medieval combat simulation. No one (hopefully) has first-hand experience at slaying other human beings, so everyone brings different expectations of "what should happen" to the table. (Hmm, where can I get some felons to test this theory?)

This would also explain why having lots of points of contact is seen as a godsend by socially awkward adolescents. Being able to creatively participate in a social group is an enormously empowering to those who haven't yet developed the above-mentioned human social mechanisms. By the same token, non-gamer adults scratch their heads at this play style and wonder how there can be so little "real" social interaction going on, not understanding the vast number of points of contact (many of which never appear in a rulebook) that most gamers have already internalized.

Again, I'm just going out on a limb here.

Does this seem insightful to anyone? Because it seems like I just used a lot of words to say something obvious. Or am I going off on a tangent that's not really about points of contact at all?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2005, 03:13:47 PM »

Hi Ron,

Quick stupid question here: The example of shifts between something like where someones standing, to whether their finger slips off the trigger. The shift in System use, it makes me think of something like putting away one procedure manual then pulling out another and opening up that one. Kind of like if I'm playing a computer game and then my partner asks what we need to get when we go shopping, I have to mentally withdraw from the game 'folder' to the shopping 'folder'.

Is that close to what the term 'points of contact' means?
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Philosopher Gamer
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2005, 11:44:20 PM »

I don't know if this helps, but back in June of last year I offered the following in this thread

I think, that POC like CA is something that is expressed during play, not something inherent or created by something the publisher did.  Like M.J. pointed out earlier, everything that goes into play must run through system.  So the question becomes what then is special about a moment in the game that is called a Point of Contact.  My feeling is that a Point of Contact is any moment in play where the negotiation of credibility becomes overt.

If there is lots of contest/negotiation over credibility then the game is high points of contact.  If there is very little contest/negotiation over credibility then the game is low points of contact.  We only become aware of the negotiation process when the ratification process is anything but silent consent.  I would thus say focus on overt negotiation of credibility is where you'll find your points of contact.

I hope this helps some in way.
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2005, 09:44:02 AM »

Jay,

I can dig that. So points of contact include anytime someone:
  • Says, "Roll for that."
  • Cites a rule.
  • Says, "No, I think it should be..."

I'm trying to identify more of these "ephemera level" events.
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daHob
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Posts: 16


« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2005, 09:06:07 AM »

My read on this is that a Point of Contact is whenever the focus of play shifts from inside the SIS to outside it.

That is, any time you pause in adding to the SIS to decide if you can/should/will be allowed to make the change you want based on System.

Examples for us to disagree about:
There is an orc. I want his treasure. I announce, "Bob sneaks up behind the orc, kills him and takes his treasure."
No PoC, I was just narrating based on what I wanted to do.

There is an orc. Bob is established a sneaky guy who has killed many orcs who likes treasure. Bob should easily be able to kill the orc and take his treasure. I announce, "Bob sneaks up behind the orc, kills him and takes his treasure."
No PoC. There were considerations as to what I could do, but they were based entierly on things that exist in the SIS. I was in the 'game world' playing my game.

There is an orc. Bob is a 20th level Assasin and orcs are 1 hit die monsters. There is no point in rolling this since I completely outclass it. I announce, "Bob sneaks up behind the orc, kills him and takes his treasure."
PoC. The rules were referenced to see if the action would be accepted.

There is an orc. I want to kill the orc, but Jake is playing an orc and he is trying to establish tht orcs are really tough fighters. If I just run up an kill him, Jake will raise a fuss. I'll sneak up instead, that will probably mollify him. I announce, "Bob sneaks up behind the orc, kills him and takes his treasure."
PoC. In this case, there is a significat Social Contract element to the System being used. There was a shift from 'wanting to kill the orc' and 'figuring out if I will be allowed to kill the orc'.

That's my take on it anyway. I didn't include any examples of external negotiation because that seemed clearly to be a PoC.

So, Universalis would be high PoC because every time you try to add to the SIS you ahve to be concerned with coin management and whether the other players are liekly to challenge you. Whereas, My Life with Master (I think, having only read about the game), you use mechanics to determine a general outcome, but then have pretty much free riegn to narrate a whole scene.

Am I even close? :)
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Steve
Alan
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« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2005, 09:51:45 AM »

Hi Larry,

A player may curb his proposal in anticipation of a point of contact, but those thoughts are not "referencing" the POC themselves.  A point of contact only occurs when the player proposes something to the group.  The group process then references any Points of Contact. 




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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2005, 10:56:46 AM »

Alan,

I'm not sure what that has to do with my posts to this thread. Perhaps you are replying to "daHob?"

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M. J. Young
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« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2005, 07:34:36 PM »

My feeling is that a Point of Contact is any moment in play where the negotiation of credibility becomes overt.
Jay, I know I disagree with a lot of what you say, so I thought I'd make a point of saying I think that's really very good. It's not really all that different from my point about moments when authorities are brought into play, but it gets to the heart of the matter: we bring authorities into play to bolster our credibility. That is, we say, "I've got a seventeen strength" as a way of giving credence to our claim that we can lift this object, and we point to the roll of the dice as supporting our claim that we hit the orc.

So I agree. A point of contact is a moment during which we are citing authorities in support of individual credibility to determine whose version of the shared imagined space is accepted. If it's just said and accepted without reference to anything outside the shared imagined space, it's not a point of contact. If we have a connection to something outside the shared imagined space that is used to determine whose description or perception of what happens is accepted, that's where a point of contact has occurred.

Thanks for that.

--M. J. Young
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Silmenume
Member

Posts: 467


« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2005, 05:36:51 PM »

Right On!!!
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #24 on: August 20, 2005, 10:57:18 PM »

Jay,

I can dig that. So points of contact include anytime someone:
  • Says, "Roll for that."
  • Cites a rule.
  • Says, "No, I think it should be..."

I'm trying to identify more of these "ephemera level" events.

Hmmm... points of contact that are not Validation...

In terms of design any game that explicitly assigns narrations rights could be said to have more points of contact in that area than a rules system that does not.  That's a bit tricky when it actually hits play though, because the players will have a system for assigning narration rights even if they didn't get it from the rule book.  So, I suppose there is no actual cost to assigning them in the rules.

Though, if you have a system that trades narration rights based on certain events, such as success or failure of resolution, I think a case could be made for that having additional points of contact in the Integration stage beyond the more simple "GM narrates results" systems.

This could be extended to concepts like initiative systems, which determine the order in which players get to make proposals.  They can get very heavy in points of contact if they are some sort of resource mechanic like in Feng Shui and Shadowrun.

Additional effectiveness layers that determine whether or not you can even propose an action could be additional points of contact.  For example, if you have two magic systems that are indentical except one uses fuel of some kind (like mana or blood points), the one that uses fuel will have additional points of contact in the Conception stage.  Because, you need to reference your available fuel to determine if you can even attempt the action ("I need 5 blood points to invoke Uber DIE DIE Thingy and I only have 3... damn").
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: August 22, 2005, 03:55:42 PM »

In case anyone cares, all of the recent posts are making a hell of a lot of sense to me.

Best,
Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2005, 07:50:05 PM »

So I agree. A point of contact is a moment during which we are citing authorities in support of individual credibility to determine whose version of the shared imagined space is accepted. If it's just said and accepted without reference to anything outside the shared imagined space, it's not a point of contact. If we have a connection to something outside the shared imagined space that is used to determine whose description or perception of what happens is accepted, that's where a point of contact has occurred.
Is this a reasonable example of no PoC and PoC?

No PoC:
Jim describes a fountain.
Bob "I go and wash my blood stained clothes in the fountain"

PoC:
Jim describes a fountain.
Bob "You know that fountain Jim described? I go and wash my blood stained clothes in it"
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Philosopher Gamer
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #27 on: August 25, 2005, 03:01:52 PM »

It took me a moment to figure out what you were after, Callan.

I think on reflection that it's not; it is a distinction between first person play and third person play, I think, but referencing what someone said that way is not a point of contact so much as a means of interacting with the shared imagined space directly.

Both statements amount to [I wash my clothes in the fountain] [which Jim just described]; both reference something in the shared imagined space. In the latter case, it is being explicitly recognized that this is that particular object, as viewed from the outside of the shared imagined space. I see the argument that we are appealing to "what Jim described" as an external authority, but I think we are rather appealing to an object established in the Shared Imagined Space that happens to have a metagame label on it, "Described by Jim".

I can also see a slight change in this that would be a point of contact:
Bob: "Last week Jim described a fountain. According to my notes, it is here, it is large enough to bathe in it, and the water is clean. I wash my clothes in that fountain."

At that point the point of contact is created by reference to the notes, which are an authority concerning what has been established in the shared imagined space.

So maybe your case is one of those "the rabbit or the duck" pictures. It really depends on whether we are referencing an object in the shared imagined space that is most quickly identified as "the one Jim described" or whether we are referencing an authority that amounts to "the description Jim gave" to establish the existence of the fountain.

Have I muddled the matter entirely?

--M. J. Young
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Callan S.
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« Reply #28 on: August 26, 2005, 09:09:07 PM »

No, not muddled. I'll try and get across the emphasis I wanted (in the way I imagined it being said).
 
PoC:
Jim describes a fountain.
Bob "You know that fountain Jim described? Because of that I can go and wash my blood stained clothes in it"

Or even more explicitly:

Bob "Because Jim described a fountain, I go and wash my blood stained clothes in it"

This is the intent the first PoC example should have contained. The wording could be taken to be something else. If I was immersion inclined I might only read it as just an SIS references, I think.
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Philosopher Gamer
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