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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 70 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [apocalypse girl] - getting unsafe, with safewords  (Read 7926 times)
Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2006, 12:11:33 PM »

Actually (having caught up unexpectedly easy on work I was doing), let me address this more thoughtfully:

I really don't think I've ever personally experienced what Meg calls "I will not abandon you" play; I'd consider most of my experience to fall towards the "Nobody Gets Hurt" end of the spectrum (and I do believe it is a spectrum, not a binary: No group's NGH is so safe that it wouldn't upset someone, no group's IWNAY is so daring it respects absolutely no limits at all). I simply haven't been in groups where people broke down crying, for example, or stormed out, or got genuinely furious; the closest I came was an semi-LARPish Amber "Throne War" in college where my then-girlfriend and I were playing allied characters and she could not contain (Meg's excellent word) her anger at my tactical screw-ups to an in-character level. And, in fact, most of the uncomfortable gaming experiences I've had or witnessed didn't come from the extremity of the fictional content (rape, blasphemy, child abuse, whatever); instead, they came from the interpersonal dynamics of accepting or rejecting each other's proposed fictional content: what's most upsetting for me is to realize, or be told, that what I've just suggested as my Cool Idea For the Story is something everyone else finds boring or annoying -- shocking rarely enters into it.

That said, I've certainly introduced a whole lot of potentially painful issues into game play -- both unconsciously and, in recent years, consciously. But, (a) those revolve around my personal problems with expression/repression of emotion, controlling/letting go of other people, etc. etc. rather than anything obviously transgressive (e.g. "you wake up and the demon is giving you a blow job" in Ron's Sorcerer example). And, (b), while other players have hit my characters hard on those issues, I rarely feel personally upset: More often I'm very pleased that they're engaging with the material I've put out there. Perhaps the critical difference is that they're not introducing problematic elements drawn from my life, but rather responding to ones I choose to introduce myself - a "push" vs. "pull" issue?.

Maybe this indicates I have a very strong firewall in my head between myself as author, myself as audience, and myself as fictionalized source material for the game; more likely, I've just never entered the arena Ron is talking about. Which may make me spectacularly unqualified to write about "I will not abandon you" play, let alone to write a game about it.

What I am hoping to accomplish with apocalypse girl, though, to paraphrase Vincent Baker (again) is to create rules that make it easier to get a functional Social Contract going. In particular, I want to do two things that most game texts are lousy at doing:

1) Give everyone explicit permission and encouragement to "play hard," compete, and challenge each others' ideas -- instead of the default, in my experience, of "the rules don't give us any guidance on this except 'everybody cooperate, be nice,' and we're all pretty polite people anyway, so let's all trip over each other respecting each others' boundaries in the widest possible conception thereof."
This is the ultimate goal of the "right to challenge" rule in the draft.

2) Conversely, give everyone explicit permission and encouragement to "break character" (that old gamer fetish) and say, as real people, "hey, I'm bored, or confused, or annoyed, or uncomfortable, with this fictional content you've contributed, and I'd like you to do something different" -- instead of the default, again in my experience, of "so-and-so's being a jerk, or boring me, or whatever, but since I'm polite and we're all supposed to be nice, I can't say anything outright, I just have to sit here being irritated and maybe do something passive-aggressive, probably by having my character do something to his character."
This is the ultimate goal of both the "rule number one: respect" and, more problematically so far, the "rule of whoa" -- which I'm increasingly thinking of as not a veto over other people's input (and note, even as drafted, it's really not) but as a circuit-breaker to command attention when the other people around the table just aren't listening.

The explicitly ritualized elements -- the safewords, the gestures -- are there as an experiment because a lot of smart people are interested in their potential, but they're not ends in themselves, they're tools to these two ends.
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