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Author Topic: Out of the Box write-up  (Read 2521 times)
Emily Care
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« on: October 09, 2005, 07:29:54 AM »

Good news:

Ken Hite wrote about Breaking the Ice in his  latest Out of the Box column, along with many other great games including the Mountain Witch and Polaris. City of Brass, Jihad, Bacchanal, Thirty, the Farm, Dread and Discordia all get excellent coverage.  Thanks to Ken, and congrats to all!

He says something interesting about BtI:

Quote from: Ken
This game, like many narrativist games, doesn't merely presuppose interested, cooperative players, it actively requires them; otherwise, there's far too much room for apathy or spite to wreck things. (This is also very much true of The Mountain Witch, Polaris, and Bacchanal.) The game works to buttress such play to some degree (and works nicely to model the romance genre) by awarding dice for letting complications mess up your character's date, or otherwise adding in twists. Although my old-school sentiments still don't trust an RPG that's almost entirely dependent on the players not being jerks, I can certainly understand that if you can't ask people to be on their best behavior on the First Three Dates, you shouldn't play romance games with them at all.

It's true, the rules are set up to try to create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, but you've got to bring it into the gaming in order for it to be there. But I wonder how much of an issue this will be in play?

best to all,
Emily

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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2005, 10:33:33 AM »

I didn't understand his comments when I read them first, and I don't understand them now.

Quote
Although my old-school sentiments still don't trust an RPG that's almost entirely dependent on the players not being jerks,

Show me a game that I cannot mess up by being a jerk, and I'll show you totalitarian control. (Or rather, I'll point out that you have just shown me totalitarian control.) And really, I don't see how Breaking the Ice is more vunerable to being messed up than some other games, except perhaps for the facts that as its closer to home, playing it with insensitive jerks might be more painful than when you were playing, say, a D&D Dungeon Crawl.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2005, 08:21:19 AM »

Hi Victor,

Quote
And really, I don't see how Breaking the Ice is more vunerable to being messed up than some other games, except perhaps for the facts that as its closer to home, playing it with insensitive jerks might be more painful than when you were playing, say, a D&D Dungeon Crawl.

Yup, it is closer to home. Talking about falling in love is something that has actually happened to most of us at one point or another, as well as making a fool of ourselves in front of somebody we want to impress.  Instead of taking on fantasy & action as armor to distance us from who we are, the game asks you to step into your vulnerabilities, to share making up what might make someone hurt.  A real person who you might know or be.  Yeah, you do need the players to not be jerks to one another.  But is that so much to ask?  What does it mean about gaming if it is?

best,
Emily
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2005, 09:43:57 AM »

Yeah, you do need the players to not be jerks to one another.  But is that so much to ask?  What does it mean about gaming if it is?

That we have some deeply dysfunctional people in the hobby?

Or that we have people that interact in different ways. I made a post to Crow Tracks (appologies if it wasn't the right venue for the post) about a friend of mine who only feels like he is engaged and interacting when he's passionatly debating/arguing/challenging someone else. He is not emotionally validated at some level unless he can feel you pushing back, showing that you care about him by caring enough to argue positions with him. He would certainly not be someone I'd play Breaking the Ice with. (Or just about any non-gamist game, so it isn't peculiar to Breaking the Ice.)

OTOH, my wife is only fully engaged when there is some degree of cooperation, and usually a high degree of communal spirit. Arguing with her only makes her feel pushed to the side and dismissed, not passionatly included. So with her the gamist games don't go well at all, but Breaking the Ice does.
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- Brand Robins
Emily Care
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2005, 08:43:04 AM »

Hi Brand,

Good point that mis-matched expectations with respect to competition and cooperation can cause the feeling of playing with a jerk, even if that is not the person's intent. 

BtI is a bit far out on the cooperative edge, though I had one couple do a demo at GenCon who took a very competitive tact with one another:  their free-associations had a one-upping air, and they ended up assigning each other their conflicts, giving each other challenging things to work with: "belches all the time" is the one I remember.  But they were clearly enjoying the repartee and on the same page.  We only got to play out one set of conflicts since it was a demo, but they bought a copy, I'd love to hear how it went for them if they've played a full game by now.

But, what Ken expressed concern over was having two people who wanted to play & who would contribute, as well as be respectful.  I am reminded of the (not too many thankfully) role playing games I've played where a few people spoke the most & the others had little to put forward except when action came their way.  Very uneven contributions to play.  In a recent post, Ben mentioned that role players are used to zilchplay & dysfunctional play in our games, and that's clearly what underlies the comment. 

And also I've found myself in games where I just didn't see how I could get meaningfully engaged in the action, while at the same time others around me were happily making stuff up.  As I design, I keep that feeling in my mind--there is of course no cure for a player who doesn't want to be there, but part of the point of the rules of any game are to give people appealling, accessible options for being able to be creative. 

best,
Emily
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Harlequin
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2005, 02:47:24 PM »

Ken does have a good point though, linked to Vincent's old discussion about brittle/robust and strong/weak games as different axes.  (I'll find a link later if required; the basic idea is that a brittle game only works if the players are well in tune with the material, a robust one can handle off days and jerks and people not in the mood.  A strong game does one thing really well; a weak game can be drifted more readily to do what the players actually wanted.  All of the games Ken lists are ones I'd categorize as brittle.  The two axes interact in ways that are not well understood yet.)

My experience with playing Breaking the Ice - I'll getcha an Actual Play at some point, Em - with my wife is that it's fairly brittle in the sense of not dealing well with players who aren't pretty well vamped.  I have to admit this one was mostly me going through a depressed stretch, but BtI just could not take it, or I couldn't take BtI at the time, whichever.  It fell apart.  I still love the game, and fully intend to restart now that I'm in a better life spot... but I do concur with Ken about this being an issue with these kinds of games.  Something we, as designers, need to learn how to facilitate.

- Eric
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Emily Care
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2005, 05:45:22 AM »

Hi Eric,

Thanks for sharing your experience.  I'm glad you're in a better spot now.

This is the post from anyway you mentioned. It's a question of strength or weakness of this, or any, game to create a given dynamic that is needed to play.  Brittle games have a very specific dynamic that's required, flexible games work with a wider variety.  Pretty much what you said.  Vincent classifies Dogs as strong & brittle.  The mechanics do a good job of bringing about the right kind of interactions.  The rules of breaking the ice are put together to do the that: foster cooperation, spark interesting ideas, vest the players in each others' contributions. 

Word one about the game was that it would be too scary to play with a someone you aren't close to.  It hasn't turned out that way, but you're right, it will be good to learn where the sticking points are & what other blocks may arise.

best,
Em
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