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Author Topic: Brain damage  (Read 142289 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #45 on: February 13, 2006, 12:49:02 PM »

Wow - any thread that elicits a one-two from John and Marco, then a one-two-three from Walt, Jim, and Sean ... that's a thread indeed.

Let me see, I'll focus on what I think are the outstanding direct questions rather than musing or clarification or (in recent posts) considered reactions.

1. Levi - that's an interesting viewpoint. I don't share it, and from my viewpoint, you're perhaps over-invested in pleasing everyone at once, but each to his own. My only comment about my own viewpoint is that you should not slot me into the absolute-opposite case which entirely dismisses the importance of communication. My focus, however, is on the two-way street of direct communication, ideally within a reflective, participatory community, not on a blanket broadcast to them-out-there with "effects" like a gas.

2. Jim, you got it. Yes, that describes my point. I also think that the story-features which can be easily elicited from people are exactly the same things which excite and interest them about the story in the first place, before the dialogue. I'll send you a PM with more info about all that, to avoid various potential threadjacking.

3. Sean, what do you do about it? Well, presuming that a person wants to do something about it (definitely not an obligation), he or she develops games which operate on different starting principles, which facilitate getting the story-issues into direct interaction among one another, without some kind of expectation that they "just happen" by themselves. He (let's say he) plays a bezillion games in good faith that they work, thus discovering what makes them not work (for his purposes) when they don't. He fosters a community of dialogue and constant feedback about the issues, using actual-play as the touchstone. He encourages this community to value individual vision and critical reflection when designing, and to reap commercial rewards from a creator-owned viewpoint.

That's what I did, anyway, with others' help, notably Clinton's. I also recognized that my own preferred aesthetic priority (Creative Agenda) wasn't the only fish in the cioppino, so tried to make it as clear as possible that knowing one's agenda was a good idea too.

4. Walt, "inflammatory rhetorical noise" ... I'll give you inflammatory, in that it seems to have inflamed people, although I suppose no one will ever believe me that I could have come up with lots worse, equally applicable, and chose not to. I still think it's diagnostic but will be happy to acknowledge that the term simply doesn't mean the same thing to you.

Rhetorical? H'mmm, as you know, that just means "toward the argument," really, but I think you are using it in the sense of "word trick over content." I don't think so. I'll tell you why: because the terms like dysfunction and dissatisfaction are not being processed, in the community, as they should. Chris Chinn pointed out that he's been talking about dysfunction and dissatisfaction for a long time, and just not getting it across that it's really Not Good, rather than a nice comfortable relativistic haze of who drives on the right and who drives on the left.

Noise? Good question, but I'm optimistic that it's not, in the extreme long term. I'm accustomed to my ideas (well, some of them) undergoing the classic progression from "Oh my God! Heresy! Outrage!" to "Confusing debate full of red herrings and other topics entirely" to "Dissection, application, excitement, re-tooling" and finally to "Everyone knows that." This one might be like that. Or maybe it'll disappear in all the fireworks at the outset, who knows. That's what ideas are like, you can never tell. Bit early to be calling it noise at this point, I think.

Best,
Ron
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #46 on: February 13, 2006, 02:19:58 PM »

Hm.  Seems there is still stuff I can put contribute, here.

1. Levi - that's an interesting viewpoint. I don't share it, and from my viewpoint, you're perhaps over-invested in pleasing everyone at once, but each to his own.

*Snort*

I'm interested in doing my share, and being sure I've done it.

Once I'm certain that I have honestly done my share towards communicating well (certainty on this takes a bit for me, granted), anyone that's still displeased can go fuck themselves.  But making sure I've done my share comes first, assuming I'm thinking clearly at the time.

My only comment about my own viewpoint is that you should not slot me into the absolute-opposite case which entirely dismisses the importance of communication. My focus, however, is on the two-way street of direct communication, ideally within a reflective, participatory community, not on a blanket broadcast to them-out-there with "effects" like a gas.

So noted; that fits your tone and statements to date, and remains a valid mode.

"Dissection, application, excitement, re-tooling"

I think there's enough real grist in what you've said here (though I think the whole phrasing needs to go) to merit at least a full dissection; I suspect that there may actually be more things going on here, each a distinct and very different part of the total disconnect many of us face, or have faced, when attempting to collaboratively build a satisfying story by means of a roleplaying game.
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John Kim
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« Reply #47 on: February 13, 2006, 02:28:54 PM »

I don't see your #2 comment as on point. I'm talking about a specific kind of impairment (or symptom or whatever you like). I'm not talking about a generalized unpleasantness of any kind, including any and all "meanness," but a highly characteristic profile, with very specific features. Just 'cause other human activities have their own features of ruthlessness and so on, or even that other sorts of unpleasantness might show up in role-playing, doesn't have anything to do with what I'm saying.

Well, let me get to the heart of it.  So the "story-oriented" subset of role-players have a problem playing Sorcerer.  So what?  Is there anything here which isn't just faulting them for not loving and buying your game?  To call them "damaged", you have to show me something more serious than that they don't like GNS categories or for that matter any sort of in-game behavior.  What they do in their game is irrelevant. 

Frankly, the "damaged" conceit is hardly new.  For years I've seen occaisional stereotypes of role-players as dysfunctional and/or insane, usually because they don't fit some small-minded bigot's definition of "normal".  However, every time there is a real psychological study, they usually find something much more prosaic -- like "role-players watch less TV than average" or "online role-players are shy".  Is there an objective, real-life measure according to which you think they are suffering?  You can describe their patterns of play all day, but frankly none of that matters.  People get their kicks in an enormous variety of ways -- many of which are a lot more objectively harmful and dangerous than what you describe.  

In short, if you still want to hold up the argument that they are damaged, you have to drop all the irrelevant shit about how they play their games, and show something real. 
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- John
Bankuei
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« Reply #48 on: February 13, 2006, 02:47:47 PM »

Hi John,

Are you saying that the various social dysfunctions listed under Details are merely a matter of preference and not real concerns?

Chris
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John Kim
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« Reply #49 on: February 13, 2006, 03:19:22 PM »

Are you saying that the various social dysfunctions listed under Details are merely a matter of preference and not real concerns?

Well, yes, in case it isn't obvious.  I guess to be clear about it, I can list them out:

Consumerism and subcultural identification

Why shouldn't they buy regularly from one company?  How is this any different from other patterns of consumerism in our culture: like buying shoes or music?  This is simply brand loyalty. 

Cronyism and isolation

This topic has the potential for genuine dysfunction in patterns, but the claimed dysfunction based on the common and false ideal that more socializing is always better.  Ron suggests "Social huddling as opposed to social endeavor or friendship" -- which is not dysfunction.  Social patterns vary.  Some people are genuinely hermit-like, with few friends and an isolated social circle.  There is nothing objectively wrong with this. 

"Story-oriented" without story

This is all description of play techniques, which again I assert that there is no such thing as an objectively wrong play technique.  For example, in his list, Ron cites: "No situation or conflict yielding Premise, therefore no developing of Premise through fictional events"  Again, so what?  This isn't dysfunction -- this is simply failing to fall in line with his definition of Narrativist play. 

Co-dependency and reinforcement of emotional dynamics which aren't rewarding

Again, this is describing in-game behavior, which I don't accept as a judgement of "damaged".  I might not like the behaviors described, but then again, I don't like the social atmosphere of the bar scene either.  There are an awful lot of social contexts where in my opinion people act like jerks -- including a great many sports events, bars, nightclubs, etc. 

Disconnection between what is done and what is produced

Again, more description of play, like what the mechanical experience system is, or how they talk about the games.  For example: "Inability to reflect meaningfully on the experience, including resisting discussing actual play in any accurate or critical fashion"  Is there some medical imperative that talking meaningfully about the games you play is needed for proper health?  If not, then this is irrelevant.  Once again, I assert here that it doesn't matter what they do for fun.  If it doesn't negatively impact their lives outside of the games they play, then I assert that it isn't damage. 
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- John
Valamir
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« Reply #50 on: February 13, 2006, 03:33:32 PM »

"Story-oriented" without story

This is all description of play techniques, which again I assert that there is no such thing as an objectively wrong play technique.  For example, in his list, Ron cites: "No situation or conflict yielding Premise, therefore no developing of Premise through fictional events"  Again, so what?  This isn't dysfunction -- this is simply failing to fall in line with his definition of Narrativist play. 


John, did you perhaps neglect to read this part: 

Quote from:  "Ron Edwards"
... keeping in mind that I'm talking about the specific Creative Agenda of Narrativism, in its most abstract form (i.e. not talking for the moment at all about Techniques).

So ummm...yeah...he IS talking about those who fail to fall in line with Narrativist play...beeeeecause thats what this thread is all about.
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Supplanter
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« Reply #51 on: February 13, 2006, 04:03:38 PM »


So ummm...yeah...he IS talking about those who fail to fall in line with Narrativist play...beeeeecause thats what this thread is all about.


Hi Ralph: He's actually saying much more than "there are people who fail to fall in line with Narrativist play," though. He's saying that "broken nar play" (aka WW-school 'story-oriented' gaming) impairs not only people's ability to engage in functional narrativist roleplaying but to apperceive, internalize and do useful work with the concept of Story in the world beyond roleplaying. Since Ron finds Story to be biologically "functional" for humans ("Man is a featherless, storytelling biped" is how the old formulation has it), he's essentially claiming that broken-nar roleplay fucks up your life, in whatever small degree, as well as your leisure time. (Ron this seems a fair gloss on parts of our conversation - let me know if I've gone wrong here.)

That's a big claim.

Best,


Jim
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John Kim
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« Reply #52 on: February 13, 2006, 04:13:26 PM »

John, did you perhaps neglect to read this part: 

Quote from: Ron Edwards
... keeping in mind that I'm talking about the specific Creative Agenda of Narrativism, in its most abstract form (i.e. not talking for the moment at all about Techniques).

So ummm...yeah...he IS talking about those who fail to fall in line with Narrativist play...beeeeecause thats what this thread is all about.

Actually, I'm not sure we have a substantial disagreement here.  Valamir, you seem to be agreeing that the only "damage" here is not liking a small subset of published RPGs.  I'm saying it is a dumb analogy to say that people who don't like X type of play are "brain damaged".  I don't care whether that's medieval fantasy RPGs, sci-fi RPGs, Gamist RPGs, Illusionist RPGs, or whatever.  

Note that Bankuei, at least, claims that traditional story-oriented role-players really do have damaged abilities outside of a role-playing context.  Specifically, that such role-players would tell the story of a movie they just saw in a worse manner than someone who hadn't been exposed to role-playing.  I'm willing to consider that, but I haven't noticed it myself.  I'm skeptical -- but this might come down to different experience.  For example, I have limited experience with the White Wolf crowd (mostly through MET larp which might be different than the tabletop scene), and almost none with Torg or Deadlands.  Maybe there is an effect here.  I certainly despise linear story-telling games, and wouldn't be hugely surprised at adverse effects.  However, even given an effect, I'd have to weigh that against the alternate explanation that the people who play those games without major drift have poor understanding of story on average.  (i.e. Rather than creating people with poor storytelling, they select people with poor storytelling.)  
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- John
Walt Freitag
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« Reply #53 on: February 13, 2006, 04:29:39 PM »

Actually, Ralph and Marco, I've been focusing more on this, from the Big Picture post:

A brief list of the specific features, or telltales, of the damaged story-capacity.

- The person cannot distinguish between "hopping over a fence" and conflict, between "this guy meets that guy" and a decisive plot event, or between "dramatic close-up" and character decision-making

- The person cannot summarize any story in simple four-point structure (conflict, rising action, climax, conclusion) - they typically hare off into philosophical or technical interpretations, or remain stuck in narrating the first ten minutes of the story in detail

- The person will devote many hours (and can talk for many hours) to commenting on the details of the story's presentation, either feverishly supportive or feverishly dismissive, but entirely uncritically

Most people I have worked with about these issues, which includes hundreds and perhaps a couple thousand in different capacities (classrooms, etc, never mind role-playing), pick up these skills within minutes of basic instruction and a little discussion. Absolutely consistently, class after class, year after year, the subgroup which offers the consistent exception is the gamers. They flounder terribly for weeks, and some just never get it.

(Emphasis added) Now, maybe I've been reading too much into this myself, because it's not absolutely clear when Ron is referring to role playing activities and when to other (especially classroom) activities. I thought what I was reading is this:

1. Some individuals exhibit diminished story capacity that, in addition to affecting those individuals ability to grasp certain role playing systems, also affects their performance of tasks not directly related to role playing, such as, perhaps, summarizing the plot of a movie in a coherent paragraph. (The implication, though not clearly stated as I read it, is that school tasks such as, perhaps, essay writing are thereby affected as well.)

2. Those individuals for which #1 is observed are predominantly gamers.

3, The hypothesis, based on these observations, is that certain habits associated with certain types of role playing gaming has caused, via some more or less permanent changes in the person's thought processes that Ron chooses to describe as "brain damage," the diminished story capacity.

Ron, am I wrong about #1? Have I misread? Or am I correct, and Marco has missed this point?

- Walt
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #54 on: February 13, 2006, 04:32:40 PM »

(i.e. Rather than creating people with poor storytelling, they select people with poor storytelling.)

I believe that both can occur, though I maintain my argument that these are habits as opposed to damage of any sort.

There are people that are, in my opinion, naturally talented at collaborative story-making that entered gaming through White Wolf, playing tabletop, because they wanted specifically the experience of making collaborative stories.  These people played.  And many of them were (and some are) dissatisfied with the 'story quality' of the games.  But because they were 'creating stories together', they persisted.

Looking back - prompted by this whole debate - I can recall sitting down to play Once Upon A Time with a few of them (a game I love and love to show around, and have even tried my hand at imitating in a different way), and some of them had narratives that came out completely flat.  Others didn't.  Those creating 'flat' narrative often had the lights go on after a few games, and played on, engaging fully and making up stories with the rest of us that flowed just dandy.

There was something happening there, something I *don't* interpret as damage but *do* interpret as needing to set aside a significant number of habits that were supposed to apply, but didn't.  

My interpretation may be off.  But there it is.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #55 on: February 13, 2006, 05:11:17 PM »

So Clinton was lambasting me via private message, and he wrote, in sort of an exasperated final-point part:

Quote
How about: "White Wolf games, and their spiritual children, produce behaviors in the people who play them that are not only socially dysfunctional, but downright harmful to people's ability to just tell a simple story."

He then added that on reflection he considered this statement more inflammatory.

I wrote back:

Quote
Huh. I thought that's what I did say.

... and got permission to post it publicly.

I can quibble/clarify just a little, to point out that I think White Wolf games of the early-mid 1990s were the high-water mark of the damaging trend, not the originator. And that I'd say "enjoy and/or tell," not just "tell." And to repeat (again) that I'm talking about playing these games with dedicated Narrativist goals, however unarticulated, not just "playing" them in any-old way. After all, in 1992, if your goal was to get into that goth chick's pants, playing Vampire was probably a pretty good way to do it.

So now I guess Clinton and I are on the same page after all. Boink!

Best,
Ron

P.S. Walt, you nailed it, with the exception of the "permanent" part. Never said that, actually strongly implied and support the opposite.
P.P.S. Levi, gotcha. Good to know you have an internal boundary about extending yourself. Brave man ... I follow those RPG.net threads with interest. Also, it appears we have hit a meaningful zone of overlapping interpretation of what's going on out there.
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Marco
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« Reply #56 on: February 13, 2006, 05:33:21 PM »


1. Some individuals exhibit diminished story capacity that, in addition to affecting those individuals ability to grasp certain role playing systems, also affects their performance of tasks not directly related to role playing, such as, perhaps, summarizing the plot of a movie in a coherent paragraph. (The implication, though not clearly stated as I read it, is that school tasks such as, perhaps, essay writing are thereby affected as well.)

- Walt

I understand that the suggestion being made here is that association with RPGs has damaged the person's ability to understand (or perhaps convey) or create a narrative in a certain structure. Sure: my friend thinks cell phones cause ADD. It's all there too: the hypothesis, the test sample, the control sample (her friends), the conclusion. Heck, it's a scientific study!

Except it's not.

I've read a bunch of narrative papers done by first-year college English sudents. I've read fictional narrativies in Creative Writing 101. I see all the tell-tales Ron listed across a vast spectrum of people most of whom I am sure have never gamed. Even if the phenomena is occurring (White Wolf players as a group are 'narrative-damaged')** then I submit it is a *classic* case of mistaking correllation for cause. I would hope Ron of all people would think to employ the scientific method before handing out psuedo-medical diagnoses.

And more directly to Ron: I'm not protecting other people. I'd prefer less role-play vs. roll-play in the dialog and "White Wolf causes brain damage" isn't getting me there. This is just more poorly-guided ammunition for people to use to be jerks with.

-Marco
* I could explain my champions comment--but there's no good forum here for it. However, while I'm in the Adept forum, I should probably work up a post explaining how the GM and I did telekinesis for my Sorcerer character. Man, that came out expensive--if there's another way, I want to see it!
** I played GURPS V:tM--am I at risk?
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John Kim
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« Reply #57 on: February 13, 2006, 06:11:48 PM »

OK, so putting these qualifiers together, I understand Ron's statement to be:

"A number of RPGs, starting in the eighties and peaking with White Wolf games in the nineties, if played with the specific intent of addressing Narrativist premise, produce behaviors in the people who play them that are not only socially dysfunctional, but downright harmful to people's ability to just enjoy and/or tell a simple story."

Is that correct?  

At this point, the claimed trend is narrow enough that I easily could have missed it myself.  When I played White Wolf games, it was mainly to get into goth chicks' pants.  (And it succeeded -- I played with my now-wife Liz. :-)  Seriously, there was a lot of competitiveness, power fantasy, and flirting.  Pretty low on the Narrativist intent, I think.  That seemed pretty common for White Wolf games.  My most common mainstream games during the period were the Hero System and GURPS, along with lots of smaller systems like Ars Magica, Theatrix, CORPS, and others.  So this allows the possibility of difference in experience, though like Marco I'm still skeptical about the claim.  

Actually, wouldn't a good test case be comparison to freeform fiction online communities?  There are many groups which have virtually no knowledge of tabletop systems and wouldn't use them in any case, but instead "role-play" by posting alternating fiction snippets with loose guidelines.  If the published system were really a negative influence, then these communities would be markedly more socially functional and better at storytelling than groups playing White Wolf games.  I have limited experience, but my impression is that this isn't true.  If so, that would imply that the published system is not at fault, but at most failed to improve the natural behavior of people as collaborative storytellers. 
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- John
Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #58 on: February 13, 2006, 07:24:00 PM »

Also, it appears we have hit a meaningful zone of overlapping interpretation of what's going on out there.

Yep.  And if you can think of a way to proceed, and continue this discussion, I'm interested.  However, I'm not willing to step into or give credence to the "brain damage" terminology here, and that makes it a bit of a pain in the ass to try and go further on exploring that; I don't expect you to change terms here to suit me.

If I can find a venue and a means of discussion where I think we *can* look further at that overlap without this problem, I'll let you know, assuming you'd be interested in continuing this discussion with me elsewhere.
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JonasB
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« Reply #59 on: February 14, 2006, 01:04:36 AM »

Are you saying that the various social dysfunctions listed under Details are merely a matter of preference and not real concerns?

Well, yes, in case it isn't obvious.  I guess to be clear about it, I can list them out:

Consumerism and subcultural identification

Why shouldn't they buy regularly from one company?  How is this any different from other patterns of consumerism in our culture: like buying shoes or music?  This is simply brand loyalty. 

Cronyism and isolation

This topic has the potential for genuine dysfunction in patterns, but the claimed dysfunction based on the common and false ideal that more socializing is always better.  Ron suggests "Social huddling as opposed to social endeavor or friendship" -- which is not dysfunction.  Social patterns vary.  Some people are genuinely hermit-like, with few friends and an isolated social circle.  There is nothing objectively wrong with this. 

"Story-oriented" without story

This is all description of play techniques, which again I assert that there is no such thing as an objectively wrong play technique.  For example, in his list, Ron cites: "No situation or conflict yielding Premise, therefore no developing of Premise through fictional events"  Again, so what?  This isn't dysfunction -- this is simply failing to fall in line with his definition of Narrativist play. 

Co-dependency and reinforcement of emotional dynamics which aren't rewarding

Again, this is describing in-game behavior, which I don't accept as a judgement of "damaged".  I might not like the behaviors described, but then again, I don't like the social atmosphere of the bar scene either.  There are an awful lot of social contexts where in my opinion people act like jerks -- including a great many sports events, bars, nightclubs, etc. 

Disconnection between what is done and what is produced

Again, more description of play, like what the mechanical experience system is, or how they talk about the games.  For example: "Inability to reflect meaningfully on the experience, including resisting discussing actual play in any accurate or critical fashion"  Is there some medical imperative that talking meaningfully about the games you play is needed for proper health?  If not, then this is irrelevant.  Once again, I assert here that it doesn't matter what they do for fun.  If it doesn't negatively impact their lives outside of the games they play, then I assert that it isn't damage. 

Well said.

As I see it there is now three different claims in this tread:

- "Those who fail to fall in line with Narrativist play" are brain damaged because of this failure. That is stupid.

- The same people are not only damaged in respect to narrativist play, but in their general ability to relate to stories. This is only wild speculation with as many observations for as against.

- The people playing WW style games got damaged only if they had a narrativist intent. In my experience this would make the number of damaged people insignificant, as I haven't met a single WW roleplayer playing with narrativist intent, as put by GNS. Talking about "story" and "storytelling" is not the same as narrativism. I have played lots of games, some of them from WW, many of them with focus on story, but none with narrativist intent (until some forge games in more recent years).
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