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Author Topic: ignoring the subjective  (Read 19011 times)
jmac
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« on: October 21, 2005, 12:17:29 AM »

from "Simulationism Aside"
( http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17274.0 )

Ignoring the subjective seems to be important part of sim play, and distinctions between games can drawn from scope of subjective to be ignored by the players of particular game.
like: illusionism implies that even consiously subjective choices of GM should be ignored, while other approaches allow only inevitable unconsious subjectivity ("errors").

And since objectivity is important part of play, unmatched "list" of subjectivities to be ignored can cause dysfunction.(if I use this term correctly)
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2005, 08:42:49 AM »

Sorry, I missed this split somehow.

I think that "ignoring the subjective" may be a problematic POV, though essentially correct. I think it's more about "focusing on the objective." That is, to the extent that the subjective injects itself, it can interfere with some agendas. I wouldn't go nearly so far as to say that all simulationism is defined by focusing on the objective, however.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with "unmatched list." If you're saying that subjectivity can creep in via many vectors, I'd agree. In fact, you can't get rid of subjectivity entirely (you know you're playing with other players creating a fiction), you can only try to make it more subdued. But that's enough to satisfy the agenda. Nobody requires "complete" objectivity since it's impossible. Even the Turku school of LARPers only make it a clear ideal, saying it's something to strive towards. Using phrases like "removing as many distractions as possible."

Again, this is a negative way to look at it. The positive view is that they are focusing on what's important to the point where the distractions are eliminated.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2005, 09:14:35 AM »

Hello,

Unfortunately, I don't do well with the terms "objective" and "subjective" in all circumstances. I'm afraid I have never understood their use in rhetorical argument. Also, my most intensive professional training is in both formal liberal arts and in science, and those terms are not used in those disciplines except by inexperienced students. In other words, they quickly learn not to use them.

I'm fully confident that you are talking about something important, and that you know what you mean by the terms. Therefore I ask, with respect, that you describe what you are calling "objective" and "subjective" in actual play terms - what someone does, what happens among all the interactions at the table, and the effect it has on the shared fiction being created. The more this description is drawn from real play experience, the better.

Once you do that, I can address how it relates to Simulationist or other Creative Agenda issues very easily. But I can't do it with those particular terms in the discussion.

Best,
Ron
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clehrich
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2005, 11:05:11 AM »

To follow up and clarify a bit:

The basic problem with "subjective" and "objective" is that they end up having an extraordinary range of meanings, sometimes loose, sometimes rigorous.  I do not agree with Ron that these terms do not usually arise in very senior professional academic discourse -- but on the other hand when they do arise, they tend to refer either to (a) a particular history of use within the discipline in question, or (b) their particular philosophical meaning arising from the vexed issues of Kantian Idealism and reflection philosophy.  This causes a disastrous problem when the terms are used without such clear and certain contexts:
  • In one sense, "objective" means "with respect to objects, i.e. what is being examined and is at a remove from the self or subject."
  • In another sense, "objective" means "unbiased and consistent."
And so you end up with a serious problem: if "subjective" is the opposite of "objective" (and it usually is so), then "subjective" can either mean
  • comprehensible or potentially certain (because non-distanced and thus graspable), OR
  • biased, inconsistent, and thus extremely uncertain
So while it is certainly possible to use the terms rigorously, even in discussing RPGs, you end up spending so much time on definitions -- especially since you cannot assume that your readers already know a lot about the particular definitions you're using -- that any potential value in the usage gets lost along the way.

---

Now that said, I looks to me as though you mean something like this:

Simulationism insists on the exterior and systematic.  It wants decisions about outcomes to be made rather the way they are in nature: on the basis of preexisting rules that cannot be bent or appealed.  However, most Simulationism recognizes that there is always at least some subtle manipulation and bending done by the GM, unintentionally; Illusionism in particular wants this to be invisible at the least, and would prefer that it be eliminated altogether.

Have I got that right?

Like Mike, I don't get the bit about lists; can you clarify?
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Chris Lehrich
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2005, 12:48:43 PM »

The terms objective and subjective were pretty well defined in the previous posts. But essentially it comes down to a matter of perception of whether or not the player is causing something to exist based on his own personal likes, or whether the seeming cause of something is a matter of the data being pre-existing, or extrapolated using in-game "physics" or logic from something seemingly pre-existing.

Compare how I used "objective world description" in the original thread. We all know that there's a human involved in the process of interpretation or translation of the information in question. The question is whether or not it appears that the player is simply extrapolating using "what would happen" logic as far as possible, or whether they're using, "I'd like to see this for a non-objective world description reason" logic (and then retroactively ensuring that it fits the former logic in some cases).

Basically is play such that the player intends to regard the SIS as being transmitted from a supposedly extant universe, or is play such that the player allows people to see his own biases creating said universe for some other form of satisfaction? Since we can't really be entirely objective about something that doesn't exist (and perhaps can't be objective about things that do exist), it really comes down to what he said above - do you ignore the subjective nature of the player input? At what level does the subjective become problematic for this sort of play?

And the answer, of course, is different amounts of focus on the supposedly objective universe of play exist for different agendas. The Turku school would say try to eliminate as much appearance of player subjectivity in creating the world as possible, and where it does peek through, ignore it if at all possible.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2005, 04:34:48 PM »

Hello,

That would also seem to be related, for some folks, to the "my character does exist" issue.

Chris Lehrich and I recently had a great conversation about the early stages of writing RPGs, based on the misty and probably never-to-be-articulated processes experienced in the late 60s and early 70s. My take on these events was that Sim play was probably not the earliest play ... but that Sim aesthetics did inform the earliest writing, based on an aesthetic desire that was different from what happened / was realized during play. Speculation, I freely state, but my discussions with folks like Greg Stafford provided some confirmation, anyway.

What that means for this thread is that Sim may well exist ("exist") more as an assumption rather than as an actual thing. And this assumption corresponds to a desire for play actually to tap the inspirational material in a way that mere fandom cannot. I think people can easily see that this statement applies to our crew of engineering-school System-Sim dudes in exactly the same way it applies to Count Vlad d'Orsini van der Hoo in his velvet cape, "being" Count Etc. Do they succeed? Since their very identity-as-participant requires that they do, they certainly say they do.

Which is much like what you've been saying in the Beeg Horseshoe, as I understand it, Mike ... although that would mean we need to distinguish between a probably unreachable desire for what play "must" be able to do, vs. what actually gets realized as a functional CA by/through play itself.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2005, 11:42:44 AM »

That would also seem to be related, for some folks, to the "my character does exist" issue.
Quite. I brought them up together in the thread as similar considerations.

Quote
Chris Lehrich and I recently had a great conversation about the early stages of writing RPGs, based on the misty and probably never-to-be-articulated processes experienced in the late 60s and early 70s. My take on these events was that Sim play was probably not the earliest play ... but that Sim aesthetics did inform the earliest writing, based on an aesthetic desire that was different from what happened / was realized during play. Speculation, I freely state, but my discussions with folks like Greg Stafford provided some confirmation, anyway.
I think it's the "sim impulse" largely that moves one from Wargame to Roleplaying game. A notion of the mechanics of the game not constraining the space of play, but the mechanics instead being designed to support exploration. Early "object orientation" to design is key here. Instead of having rules for how infantry works, and how cavalry works, you have a template with hit dice, armor class, etc, that can be modified to represent any sort of thing (well, as conceived of by wargamers, at least).

I feel this impetus very strongly myself.

Quote
What that means for this thread is that Sim may well exist ("exist") more as an assumption rather than as an actual thing.

...

Which is much like what you've been saying in the Beeg Horseshoe, as I understand it, Mike ... although that would mean we need to distinguish between a probably unreachable desire for what play "must" be able to do, vs. what actually gets realized as a functional CA by/through play itself.
Well... your rhetoric sounds to me more like original Beeg Horseshoe, though I think you may not intend it to.

This is really hard to write about. I've tried eight times now to the tune of several thousand words, erasing them all each time. All I can say is that exploration is central to RPGs. And people miss that, I think. That is, if all you wanted was gamism, you'd play chess or something. If all you wanted was to create theme, you'd write a book. RPGs are about this third thing, whatever you want to call it. And sometimes you do gamism or narrativism as well, sometimes you don't. I don't have to name it, anyone who's played a RPG knows what I mean, I think.

I don't think it's a mistake to look at this third thing, but I do think that it's so basic to RPGs that it's a mistake to classify it with additional priorities that tend to muddy it up.

How about this? It's more functional to look at the "skewer" of play that includes the exploration at it's level, and then the GN agenda at the CA level, than it is to look at exploration as another mode. Or even as gamism and narrativism as elements of exploration (including, like all other elements, the potential of largely ignoring their exploration).

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2005, 11:50:38 AM »

That's exactly what I said in my big essay, Mike, as you know. Exploration as the foundation, the three CA's as "what you do with it."

Best,
Ron
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2005, 07:21:56 PM »

But what is Exploration?

As in, we all, being experienced roleplayers, know what we mean when we talk about it. It's the whatever-we-do-when-we-roleplay, and, in the Big Model, it's called Exploration. But it's a process that bears examination and (little-e) exploration, I think. I'm giving it a go on my blog, in fits and starts, and it's not particularly easy to encapsulate without leaving out things. It's sprawly.

Ron, how do you define Exploration?
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2005, 07:37:43 PM »

Spreading my hands helplessly.

Nathan, I gave it my best shot in the Glossary. I've reproduced it and all subordinate terms mentioned through the definitions just in case that helps.

Quote
EXPLORATION

The imagination of fictional events, established through communicating among one another. Exploration includes five Components: Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color. See also Shared Imagined Space (a near or total synonym).

SHARED IMAGINED SPACE (SIS)
The fictional content of play as it is established among participants through role-playing interactions. See also Transcript (which is a summary of the SIS after play) and Exploration (a near or total synonym).

TRANSCRIPT
An account of the imaginary events of play without reference to role-playing procedures. A Transcript may or may not be a Story.

STORY
An imaginary series of events which includes at least one protagonist, at least one conflict, and events which may be construed as a resolution of the conflict. A Story is a subset of Transcript distinguished by its thematic content. Role-playing may produce a Story regardless of which Creative Agenda is employed.

If that doesn't work for you, then talk to Vincent. He dislikes the term "SIS" for some reason and so maybe has a better way to describe or phrase it.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2005, 02:19:17 PM »

That's exactly what I said in my big essay, Mike, as you know. Exploration as the foundation, the three CA's as "what you do with it."
Yeah, I know. I actually typed and erased the "But this really is just yet another restatement of Ron's stuff" so many times it didn't end up on the end copy.

Nathan, perhaps part of the problem is that exploration includes so much stuff that it hasn't been examined all that closely, except perhaps as an attempt to label simulationism. That is, exploration includes ideas like discovery, worldbuilding, bricloage, objective world description, etc, etc, etc. The processes and goals involved in exploration.

Mike
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jmac
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« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2005, 11:50:36 PM »

(I've been thinking and discussing a lot with my group. I understood much more in GNS and The Big Model, I guess. It means that my opinion on some things I've been argueing about changed.)

What I was thinking about as a source of problems in Sim is when one of the participants feels that another participant's input to SIS is "wrong".

If SIS contents is an object and PCs belong to this object and the players are subjects, then anything "wrong" within SIS is subjective.
 
It can lead to suspicion in being non-Sim player or doing something wrong or bad - consious subjective. Such suspicions often prove to be right.

Otherwise, cause for this could be difference in competence between the players in given area, mistakes or difference in understanding of the point - this I called unintentionnal, unconsious subjective.
We agree on the scope of things to be Explored - accept competence of each other, but it (scope) can shift a little during play. Of course, we can solve most of such problems easily - talk about it before play or during the intermissions.

I don't even know what to say about Illusionism now, when I realized a little more about modes of play %-/

And I'm not really sure about issue in this topic, actually.
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Ivan.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2005, 05:49:39 AM »

Hello,

I think I can help a little here.

My interpretation of what you're describing lies in what might be called "constructive denial." Some people call this "suspension of disbelief" but that term has never been useful for me. I have just invented the new term in order to stay specific to Simulationist role-playing.

By your definitions, anything and everything we imagine together in role-playing is "subjective." However, in Simulationist play, there must be an ongoing, reinforced agreement about a set of information that cannot be threatened. This is our shared understanding of what we bring into the imagined events of play, and it must be seen as a complete package - not only the five components of Exploration, but also any thematic or other emergent content.

A great deal of the aesthetic power of Simulationist play, as I see it (and I mean that literally), lies in (a) adding to or developing that package, and (b) enjoying its resiliency against potential violation. At its least extreme, this is pure emulation. At its most extreme, it is parody. In between, you get modifications like "Lovecraft on a starship" or "steampunk fantasy" and so on. In each case, the goals are just as I've stated with (a) and (b).

Always remember the (b)! Without it, (a) is merely the chassis for any Creative Agenda. If this sentence confuses you, ignore it. There are lots of people on the Forge, though, who need to review it carefully. Let's stay with your objective/subjective issue.

This "package" rests ultimately on a shared understanding and agreement about the inspirational material. The group often enters into a shared denial that the "package" is constructed by them, identifying their particular excitement about the material with the source itself.

An easy example: if my role-playing group wants to "play Star Trek," it is very likely not to be consistent with or even compatible with your role-playing group's "play of Star Trek." Yet for historical Simulationist play, both of our groups are using our interpretations as "Bibles" for play. That's the denial, right there, and as I said, it's constructive - it serves an aesthetic purpose.

However, that denial is fragile, far more fragile than anyone wants to believe during play. You cannot do (a) and (b) if someone isn't committed to the integrity of the package, either through basic initial understanding, or through understanding just how much potential violation can be injected at one time.

To stick with the example, let's say your group is enjoying this Star Trek role-playing experience. Then someone in the group announces an action for a character which demonstrates that he or she, the player, doesn't understand the group's shared agreement about what Star Trek "is" in the first place. At all. The announced action simply cannot be tolerated, even as a suggestion, partly because it undermines the source inspiration, but especially because it makes the (b) step, which is the real payoff, totally impossible.

When that happens, everyone else gets that sickening feeling which I should have a name for, the instant and non-verbalized knowledge that "he's not doing it right" - it's the sensation always associated with a threatened or broken Creative Agenda, during play. Socially, and depending on how much the other members of the group have invested (in some cases, thousands of hours and thousands of pages of written work), they may even perceive it as outright betrayal.

I anticipate that the other members of the group will strongly, and in some cases semi-hysterically, insist that their shared interpretation is "objective fact," or any number of other similar terms. These are not useful conceptual terms, but they are very effective social code for sanctioning the input of the person who has broken the constructive denial.

I think your terms "objective" and "subjective" are, in the long run, not going to help you in discussing this material, especially not with fellow group members. I recommend considering my terms instead: "constructive denial" describes the group's foundational interpretation of the source material, because it is an interpretation rather than the source material itself, and the sensations of "over-violation" or "betrayal" describe the all-too-likely reaction to mistakes or lack-of-consensus about that source material.

Best,
Ron
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Supplanter
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2005, 06:45:34 AM »

So in terms of the "process and product" structure someone (I apologize for forgetting who) was worrying about on the other thread, re sim, "constructive denial" is the process, right? It's not just an esthetic, it's an activity, something we are always doing when we play sim.

And the product is what you call the Dream? Is that a valid restatement?

Best,


Jim
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2005, 06:57:35 AM »

Absolutely, Jim. All discussion to date has not reflected any change in my concepts about this, but rather changes in my ability to express them.

Also, I really carefully chose that phrase, "the Right to Dream." People always seem to get hung-up on the Dream part, when it's the Right which distinguishes this CA. That was a big disappointment to me in the responses to the essay. Perhaps this clarification of "the Dream" will help people to focus, now, on the Right.

As in, "it's my right to have my imagination validated for its own sake" [reflexive]
And, "play it right" [transitive]
And, "the right [way to look at it] shall prevail" [interpersonal, social]

In exactly the same way people want to believe that their political rights are "objective," people engaged in Simulationist play want to have their Dream's foundational inspiration be "objective." Whether this is actually possible (or whether, indeed, the term "objective" means anything at all) is outside the scope of my personal judgment, and I leave it up to the individual reader.

Best,
Ron

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