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Author Topic: [Polaris tour] Book tour experiences  (Read 5444 times)
J. Tuomas Harviainen
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Posts: 127


« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2005, 09:28:18 AM »

What is this "experientalism" you keep mentioning? A quick Forge search reveals Mr. Harviainen as the first user of this wonderful nonsense word. Even I wouldn't go around saying character immersion (or anything else) is more experience-centered than some other style.

"Experientialism", games created with the primary intent of producing an experience of being someone else or somewhere else, as opposed to primary emphasis on narrative elements, intrigue, competition, etc. Sort of a politically correct (read: "not mentioning immersion of any kind, nor art, nor media use") phrase invented during Nodal Point discussions in 2004 to cover the common trend in the less mainstream Nordic design works. Note that this term concerns /intent/ only, and does not denote any opinion on whether other design styles produce similar, or as strong, experiences.

(But if we want to debate this, or similar questions, I suggest splitting a new thread from this to the Theory section, where it's more approriate.)

-Jiituomas
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Montola
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2005, 10:28:43 PM »

This discussion forces me to ask the following: Ben, did you learn anything theoretically/artistically/practically useful on your trip, except about the funny differences of role-playing cultures? Since that's the other side of cultural exchange. In addition to being a missionary you gotta be an anthropologist. In addition to being a crusader you gotta be a diplomat.

If you want to bridge the gap, you need to give an honest attempt at understanding why the people in the other side of the divide act like they do. In this I have to give a kudos for John Kim for his trip to Knutepunkt 2005.

Now I regret -- and I had a chat with Juhana who regrets too -- that we didn't have you play our games the way we play. The reason I didn't do it (even though I considered) is that role-playing with your non-native languages is hard, even for the "fluent" speakers such as myself. We tried it sometime with and it didn't do justice.

Finally, I have to agree with Matthijs' argument that none of us has a picture good enough. After chatting with Swedes about their larps for five years, I finally found the will and the way to go to one of their larps, Moira. It was quite different from what I expected it to be, even though in retrospect the most of the things I'd heard before applied to the game. But when tacit knowledge is externalized, the externalized version is very different from the original.

Regards,

Markus
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matthijs
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« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2005, 12:12:07 AM »

It was quite different from what I expected it to be, even though in retrospect the most of the things I'd heard before applied to the game.

This is why I hesitate to say very much about the Nordic scene. I can read what the Danes say about their Fastaval scenario tradition, but since I haven't played a single one of those scenarios (or met any of their creators), what do I know?

Now, I believe this is a very real problem when it comes to Forge debates about Nordic LARP immersionism. The LARPers can explain their experiences, and the Forgites can analyze them (or pretend immersionism doesn't exist), but... it's like analyzing a Tarkovskij movie based not on seeing the movie, but reading an English translation of the script.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2005, 02:19:38 AM »

This discussion forces me to ask the following: Ben, did you learn anything theoretically/artistically/practically useful on your trip, except about the funny differences of role-playing cultures?

Tons.

Guys, I think you're really taking what I said out of context.  What I said was: "Boy, Finnish RPG culture and American RPG culture are pretty similar, including both an expectation of zilchplay and this wierd art/LARP scene which regards itself as above all that."

What I did not say nor imply was: "Finnish / Nordic LARPers are lame / weak / simpleminded / or anything of the sort."

I am really sad that I didn't get a chance to play one of your games.

yrs--
--Ben
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
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Posts: 127


« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2005, 03:39:02 AM »

Guys, I think you're really taking what I said out of context.  What I said was: "Boy, Finnish RPG culture and American RPG culture are pretty similar, including both an expectation of zilchplay and this wierd art/LARP scene which regards itself as above all that."

We're possibly taking it out of context (if we are), because you use alien words (zilchplay) and seemingly offensive terminology (social dysfunction) without giving any real context. As the original text stands, it reads "In general, their games are exactly like ours, except theirs are clearly less good. And what they call innovation isn't - we've been doing exactly the same things here for a long time" to us. And we feel obliged to respond, since a lot of people (especially among theorists)  here consider seemingly uninteresting play and creative dissonances things worth exploring, instead of an automatically lesser way to play. "Having fun while playing" isn't necessarily a virtue or a thing to strive for around here, and emphasis is more often on the level of actual play than on design.

So I hope you'll explain whether you mean that or something else. Because it's really a question of whether you tried to understand what the differences are, why they exist and what can be gained by studying them, or just judged the local gaming by the standards you brought with you from overseas. As it stands, your original messages very clearly seemed to be of the latter kind.

It's probably hard to get internet access time where you currently are, but hopefully you'll have time to give us a proper explanation soon enough.

-Jiituomas
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LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2005, 12:47:22 PM »

I can't claim to speak for Ben (well, not honestly anyway), but I read his statements like this:  "It turns out that the problems that Forge-ites see in 'traditional' roleplaying in America is just as common in these other places, and there exist analagous bodies to the Forge there as well that recognize these not-so-fun ways to play and seek to improve upon them."

When I hear Ben saying "they have this sort of play", I read it as "Hey, it's not all interesting LARP theory and such, quite a lot of players (perhaps the majority) have the same dysfunctional play that the majority of American players do."

Thomas
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2005, 07:34:27 PM »

Guys, I think you're really taking what I said out of context.  What I said was: "Boy, Finnish RPG culture and American RPG culture are pretty similar, including both an expectation of zilchplay and this wierd art/LARP scene which regards itself as above all that."

We're possibly taking it out of context (if we are), because you use alien words (zilchplay) and seemingly offensive terminology (social dysfunction) without giving any real context.

Okay.

First, my audience here is not, well, you guys.  I'm talking to people for whom this terminology makes a great deal of sense -- it's the precise and exact way that we talk about games.

So, given that the common perception around these parts is that every single role-playing in the Nordic countries plays strictly based on the Turku Manifesto (a slight exaggeration, but not much), I felt the need to clarify that, in terms of role-playing, I didn't see a strong difference between Finnish players and American players.  Hence the following statements:

1) The bulk of both Finnish and American gamers are stuck playing games that they don't really enjoy with groups that they've been playing with for a really long time and drifting (slowly changing) the system to try to get it to produce something that they want.  Zilchplay and social dysfunction are the key words here (check the glossary!)  The difference here is that Finland has a much more active club scene than America's.

2) Also like America, there are a small group of people who are focused on LARP, character immersion, and experimentation with respect to the elements of play (Exploration), rather than the goals of play (Creative Agenda).  They are largely anti-formalized rules and see themselves as artists and above the bulk of other players (1).  The difference is that in America, these tend to be isolated groups, whereas the Nordics seemingly have more communication with each other.

3) There are a few designers with super-keen insights into the process of play and what they want to get out of it (Creative Agenda) operating essentially solitary.  Petteri Hannila is one of these.  His game is really cool (http://www.cc.jyu.fi/~jphannil/chaos_order.pdf)

4) Lastly, there is a very small group of people who are interested in breaking down play into it's components and trying to study the real process of role-playing.  This group corresponds to the Forge in terms of America, Canada, and Western Europe, and to the Process Modellers and also some of Marcus Montola's recent work in Finland.  Satu Helio and I discussed some similar stuff, too.

(A note to the sensitive: I'm *not saying* that "oh, the stuff you guys are just like us, but slower."  It's saying "wow, we're both doing similar projects!  Nifty!")

Does that clarify things enough for you?

yrs--
--Ben
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2005, 09:53:20 PM »

1) The bulk of both Finnish and American gamers are stuck playing games that they don't really enjoy with groups that they've been playing with for a really long time and drifting (slowly changing) the system to try to get it to produce something that they want.  Zilchplay and social dysfunction are the key words here (check the glossary!)

Glossary checked way before. But the difference between the glossaried plain "dysfunction" in play vs. "social dysfunction" as an analytic term is huge, with the latter transfering also the meaning of what zilchplay would have been in this context. That's why I wanted you to clarify (as well to provide your own explanation to those not familiar with the glossary). While you may write mostly for Forge regulars, many of the people you met over here are reading this thread to see your opinions on the trip and its results.

The statements as you explain them now are just an opinion on play, instead of the _insult_ the other interpretation easily implied. Clarified now, including a quite clear opinion on where you stand on the learn/judge line. I find it not at all surprising (but quite amusing) that the people you mention by name as doing the play deconstruction are this country's most outspoken anti-immersionists, the people the loudest artiste-approach Nordics (esp. in Norway) criticize for supposedly having a biased ivory tower approach to the field...

Pleasant journeys,

-Jiituomas
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Eirik Fatland
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« Reply #23 on: October 17, 2005, 01:01:13 AM »

Quote from: Ben:
given that the common perception around these parts is that every single role-playing in the Nordic countries plays strictly based on the Turku Manifesto (a slight exaggeration, but not much)

Oh dear, has Mr. Pohjola's propaganda really been that successfull? :) Speaking from a different corner of the Nordic thingy, I think the immersionist and/or experientialist trends are far from as central than they're made out to be in this topic. Quite a lot of "avant-garde" Nordic larps have ended up with on a more dramatic and theatrical note - scene cuts and main parts in "Hamlet" and "Hamlet Innifrån", extravert and highly physical role-playing in "AmerikA", fate and myth in Amaranth and Knappnålshuvudet, etc. These are larps where Story Does Matter, and expression usually trumps immersion.

Quote
2) Also like America, there are a small group of people who are focused on LARP, character immersion, and experimentation with respect to the elements of play (Exploration), rather than the goals of play (Creative Agenda).  They are largely anti-formalized rules and see themselves as artists and above the bulk of other players (1).  The difference is that in America, these tend to be isolated groups, whereas the Nordics seemingly have more communication with each other.

The "anti-formalized rules" thingy is not an avant-garde invention. It's true for maybe 70% - 90% of mainstream larps in the Nordic countries, in a network of traditions that count somewhere between 80.000 and 300.000 active larpers. The same goes for "persistent play", the principle of banishing all Out-Of-Character conversation during a larp. These two things alone set Nordic (mainstream) larp aside from (mainstream) larp in the US, UK and rest of Europe. And I think "Experientialism" works a lot better as a description of the dominant style of larp in Norway and Sweden* than it works as a description of a "common thread" in the quite diverse world of experimental Nordic larps.

Seems to me the biggest difference between Forge indie games and Nordic arthaus larp is that the Forge has an obsession with formal (endogenous) system, that correlates with a Nordic obsession on diegetic system - i.e. society, culture, etiquette, situation, personalities, psychology. What you do with game rules, we do with society and character and player briefing.

rgrds,
.eirik.
* the language barrier makes it kinda hard for me to speak with any authority about the Finnish larp scene.
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hullu norjalainen
J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2005, 10:37:29 PM »

Just for the record, as my previous message above has apparently been perceived as an insult: It isn't.

The tone may not carry through (damn internet), but I'm really glad for the clarification that Ben made. His initial message about the differences in play culture seemed highly condescending, but now that it has been given the proper context, it clearly is not. He apparently shares an opinion on play quite close to what a lot of people are saying over here, a view that I do not at all agree with, but respect as a valid approach.

By the way, most of the active rpg theorists in Finland have an anti-immersion (as in "doesn't probably really exist") stance, which is rather funny given the common stereotype. But we've reached a nice synergy due to this - the works of both sides of the divide receiving constant friendly criticism from the other - which is precisely the reason we're so interested in discussing the dissimilarities and what they can produce on the Forge, too.

-Jiituomas
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: October 18, 2005, 05:23:01 AM »

Hello,

1. Tuomas, I think you should review the guidelines on charitable reading as set out by Chris Lehrich, which are found in a sticky thread at the top of the Site Discussion forum. If people have to deal with your impassioned defense every time you "feel" insulted, the whole forum suffers. Assume no insult as the default.

This is a moderator interjection, not a topic for discussion in this thread.

2. Ben, in this thread, I'd like to open up the dialogue between you and Markus (welcome, Markus). Your answer to him was "tons." Well, tons of what? Any general points, any specific ones, etc?

Markus, I'm told that you have basically arrived at what, around here, we call the "Lumpley Principle" on your own. Which may or may not be fair; for all I know, you have presented something better or more powerful or whatever, but I'm interested in knowing more. I'm also interested in your experience of play which led you to your conclusions, and what you found most interesting in meeting Ben and discussing role-playing with him.

Best,
Ron
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #26 on: October 18, 2005, 12:00:34 PM »

Markus, I'm told that you have basically arrived at what, around here, we call the "Lumpley Principle" on your own. Which may or may not be fair; for all I know, you have presented something better or more powerful or whatever, but I'm interested in knowing more. I'm also interested in your experience of play which led you to your conclusions, and what you found most interesting in meeting Ben and discussing role-playing with him.

Actually, this is a pretty interesting topic, because now and then it seems that Finnish theorists (not larp designers) arrive to very similar conclusions with the Forge, but independently. For instance, I consider the Hakkarainen&Stenroos Meilahti model a pretty solid parallel conseption of SIS as social structure (which is at the heart of the Big Model). The case of Markus and the Lumpley Principle is pretty much the same, it seems to me.

Then again, if I may suggest: taking this stuff into new threads would be cool, too. Just in case anybody has anything to add about touring as a technique, which is what this is supposed to be about.
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Montola
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Posts: 36


« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2005, 11:51:59 PM »

2. Ben, in this thread, I'd like to open up the dialogue between you and Markus (welcome, Markus). Your answer to him was "tons." Well, tons of what? Any general points, any specific ones, etc?

Markus, I'm told that you have basically arrived at what, around here, we call the "Lumpley Principle" on your own. Which may or may not be fair; for all I know, you have presented something better or more powerful or whatever, but I'm interested in knowing more. I'm also interested in your experience of play which led you to your conclusions, and what you found most interesting in meeting Ben and discussing role-playing with him.

I'd be happy to answer, to whatever thread the answer would belong to, but I must say that I don't understand the question perfectly. Lumpley principle is just a definition of the system, right? I'll try to guess what you asked here:

I don't know who first claimed that the Rules of the Game are the Laws of Nature of the Game World, or something like that. It might have been me even, but as far as I know it's been a truism since day one of Finnish self-understanding of role-playing. From the era before theory scene was so established, that the authors are muchly unknown. (Feel free to correct me).

From this is derived an issue, which I debated extensively with Ben at very late and somewhat drunk hours of night, without conclusion. The thing is this: If the rules are laws of nature, a natural scientist inside the game might be able to learn them.

Cheesy example from D&D: Falling makes d6 damage per 10 feet, max 20d6. Does this lead to the point where generals can jump from high cliffs (casually?) while troopers can't? If yes -- that's the way World of Warcraft works -- it's a law of nature. If not, it's a game rule, and somewhat inconsistent with the diegetic reality.

I was debating with Ben how the conflict resolutions systems handle diegetic natural scientists trying to find out the rules, in order to understand the different relationship of world fiction and rules in them. This *might* be the discussion you are pointing at?


 - Markus
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2005, 12:14:55 AM »

Markus --  Actually, I was referring to your three point "Definition of Role-Playing."  (Quotes for title, not for sarcasm) which you showed me when we first met.  Let's talk about that in a new thread.  It is excellent RPG Theory material.

Things I learned from this trip, with respect to Eero's desire to keep this on topic of the tour as an activity rather than "Ben's trip to Finland:"

About / from Touring:

1) It is highly feasible, provided that you have the time, to make a modest profit from an RPG touring circuit.  For previously mentioned reasons, I see no reason why this should not hold true in the US as well.

2) The amount of sales you get from events is in no way related to the size of the audience.  Quality of discussion is likewise hit or miss.  Lastly and most bizarrely -- the size of city that you're in effects your audience size and sales not at all.  I think that this essentially comes down to what Eero said -- the important thing is to get the word out to the people who really want to attend.

3) I saw living, breathing examples of a great deal of the player types that got posited in the GNS essays, including some that I was skeptical about.

4) People will fight tooth and nail that some type of role-playing game will never work but this in no way impacts their ability to play it well and enjoy it.  (For clarification -- this is largely not about the people who self-identified as theorists, who were very excited to try new types of play.)

5) Drift is very, very real, and trans-cultural.

About the RPG culture in general:

5) The vast majority of Scandanavian LARP is done through youth groups and corporate trust-building exercises and is almost unrelated to WoD, Theory / LARP, or any other movement, though it does share a common ancestry.

6) The theory community is highly diverse, despite the impression that we've gotten from places like Juhana's RPGnet column and the Turku Manifesto.  There are lots of different opinions about what goes on in games.

7) Academic studies of role-playing games by people who have a clue about them are just starting out, but there's already some surprising conclusions.

I'm going to leave "Ben's conversations with the theorists he met" to another thread, a little later, given that I'm on the clock right now and Eero wants to keep this thread about just touring.

yrs--
--Ben
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