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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 177 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Ritual and Gaming/Game Design  (Read 25812 times)
Josh Roby
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Posts: 1055

Category Three Forgite


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« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2005, 08:04:41 AM »

Everything hides its ritual. ... Its all around us.  As a hobby, gaming isn't the only one.

Yeeees, and now I'd like to talk about our hobby, and the specific ways in which it hides its trappings.  We have this great cover of "It's just a game" to gloss over the fact that roleplaying can put you in somebody else's shoes for the space of a couple hours, which is one of the greatest threats to the status quo that there is.  Roleplaying is powerful, potentially dangerous stuff in a way that going to a football game isn't.  As such, the facade is a vitally important piece, and I'd like to hear from somebody who knows better than I how the facade interacts with the ritual mindset.
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Meguey
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« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2005, 09:54:27 AM »

Jason:
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Can you explain how/why this happens at all?  It's rather foreign to me.  Perhaps simply because of how I react, perhaps because I just haven't noticed, or perhaps because my largest exposure to ritual is martial arts wherein the intention is to make that mind-body connection mundane.

Sure. In our regular life, we are operating on a few levels at a time, usually the literal/physical level most strongly associated with the left brain. When we pull in more right brain levels, such as symbolic and mythic, our brains are more fully engaged. From a review by Tamar Frankiel and Andrew Newberg
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What we recognize as mystical experiences is also a result of built-in operations of the brain. Our autonomic nervous system has long been recognized as having two modes, sympathetic and parasympathetic characterized by d'Aquili and Newberg as producing states of arousal and quiescence, respectively. Whenever one of these is intensely engaged we have "hyperarousal" or "hyperquiescence"; if one goes to the point of "spillover," it erupts so as to activate the opposite system (which would normally be dormant). Unusual events occur in any of five states. For example, hyperquiescence (for our purposes HQ) may produce a feeling of oceanic tranquility, while hyperarousal (HA) creates a sense of "flow" with high alertness. The spillover of HQ creates HQ/A, which may produce a sense of absorption into an object or symbol, while HA/Q may produce an ecstatic or orgasmic rush. The furthest excitation of both systems, HQ/HA, creates a mystical experience described by d'Aquili and Newberg as Absolute Unitary Being or AUB (25-27).
Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999. ix + 228pp.
Understandably, this happens in martial arts and other areas of 'base level' life. If one is *constantly* in a ritual state, one is probably bordering on OCD or psychosis. Also, Emily's point is right on.

Joshua
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Gaming is very much a ritual, and is very much about altered states of consciousness, but in order to make it socially acceptable, we gloss over a lot of these steps or we hide them behind other things.  Gaming becomes 'stealth ritual'.  Can you perhaps talk about how gaming hides its ritual trappings in innocuous facades?

Good question. There are two sides to this, which I see (oversimplified) as the 'Hide in plain sight' side and the 'D&D will lead you to Satan' side.  I'm not sure which angle you're after.

On the first side, you've named a big part of it already: we are experimenting with altered states in a non-status-quo way, i.e., without drugs or alcohol as the prime method. To do this, we create a broad level of Containment in saying, to ourselves and others 'This is a game, This is not our regular life. In the game, I can X, while I am fully aware that in regular life I cannot X." That in itself gives us a bit more permission to push ourselves. I think this is why we make characters (Creative) instead of just playing ourselves and narrating "ok, Joshua and Jason, you're in a hall going east and west. Emily is standing in the door in front of you. Who does what?"

Also, we have a huge rich multicultural wealth of history, religion and myth that people want to explore. That alone scares the crap out of some people. So, if I'm interested in learning about Santeria, or Asatru, or whatever, it may be more reachable to me to try on what it would be like to actually follow such a path in character. There is a ton of ritual in actual play, with stylized combat resolved by a specific process, mythic story content, and so on. There is also a ton of useful information about non-game ritual that people can get from gaming.  Any system that has magic and magic users must find a way to handle ritual, from as simple as 'To maintain a spell, you must maintain concentration on the spell' to as complex as how the magic-user's life energy is connected to the earth/aegis/materia/monkeygod and all sorts of steps must be carefully observed before undergoing ritual magic.

On the other side, the fact that there is ritual in gaming is terrifying to many people. The Deities & Demigods supplement to D&D was a topic of all sorts of upheaval. In order to get played, at least some people have to not fear the topic of the game. So, if a designer really is interested (Intent) in how far humanity can be pushed and remain human (I'm thinking of Over The Edge here; not sure if that's the best example), they may cloak that with mutants and organized crime stories to get people to see it in a less intense light.
 
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Meguey
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« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2005, 10:27:17 AM »

Joshua
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I think if we talked about all of these things so explicitly to (say) mothers of thirteen-year-old potential gamers, they'd freak the hell out
and James
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peaking as a parent, an article like this would actually go a long way towards easing concerns for most people.

I don't necessarily think I'd use the word 'ritual', since it's still so loaded for so many, but definitely talking about being intentionally creative, and conscious of how what they did effected the play and how it made them think and examine their actions can go a long way to setting a skittish parent at ease about playing low-intensity games. D&D, Ares Magica, With Great Power..., Capes, PTA, The Big Night, and Kayfabe come to mind, although I'm sure it's possible to play high-intensity games of all.

Side note: my mother, the UU minister and mental hospital chaplain, is really interested in playing DitV because of the "ethical dilemmas" it presents. It's really funny to hear her talk about it as if it were a question on Kohlberg's moral development scale (in depth), but it has totally got her mind around the 'why game' idea, which is a first.

Judd, you are right that ritual is everywhere, and also most of what you list falls under a different definition than my premise of
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more private, personal or small group ritual with a set purpose.
Any of them could easily become ritual that met my premise, if there was Intent, Containment, and Conscious Creative Action.
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Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2005, 08:34:57 PM »

James, Emily and Meguey,

Thanks. 

I think I get it.  I'm still have a bit of trouble distinguishing "normal" emotional responses (like identification with character or anxiety), from "spill-over", from trained mindsets (non-psychotic ones like you develop from yoga, meditation, martial arts, religious faith, etc).  I think I'll just have to be mindful and watch for the reaction before I'll really understand though - probably starting with the things James mentioned.
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- Cruciel
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