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Author Topic: Brain damage  (Read 126074 times)
Eric J-D
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Posts: 187


« Reply #105 on: February 15, 2006, 08:28:29 PM »

Hi folks,

I know it is late in the game for this thread, so I feel a bit guilty about showing up late to the party and posting something that might strike some as irrelevant.  I hope that I can make clear what I see as the connection between what I am about to post and what Ron is talking about.

Over in the Burning Wheel Forum I posted a bit of a rant about the inability of some people new to BW (but who have lots of experience with other rpgs) to get their head around BW's approach to modeling combat. 

The substance of that rant was this: for some of these people, the traditional rpg approach to modeling combat (i.e. the "exchange of blows"--Ron has elsewhere described this as combat between frozen statues) has ceased to be a model at all and has instead become reified as "The Natural, God-given, and Obvious Way that Combat in RPGs Works!" For such folks, combat has to allow each participant his attempt to get in a blow, or they'll trumpet their displeasure to the heavens.  Combat as an "exchange of blows" in which each person gets his chance is, for these folks, something like a cosmic birthright.  My argument is that since BW does not satisfy the assumptions and expectations of these players as to what combat "should" be like, they are the ones who are likely to complain loudest that the "system is BROKEN!"


So here's my point:  I think that this is a corollary to Ron's comment about the "brain damage" that many people sustain with respect to "story" from games like White Wolf's Storyteller system.  As with "story" so to with things like modeling combat.

Now, this is conjecture on my part, but I think that it has some basis of support.  The ubiquity of the "exchange of blows" model is so great that for many people it has simply become part of the fabric of "gaming reality."  It's influence is so pervasive that the fact that it is simply one among a number of possible models has become invisible to them.  They literally can't see it as a model.  Ask them to talk about it in terms of modeling priorities and you are likely to get glazed-over expressions and cries of "What do you mean?  This is how combat works!"

So there's my feeble contribution to the debate.  From where I stand (and from direct experience) it seems pretty clear that roleplaying games often habituate people to a number of less than desirable assumptions and expectations (about what "story" is, about things like apportionment of GM-Player power and responsibility, etc.) and that it can take real work to try to undo the damage done.

Cheers,

Eric


P.S. Amusingly, I was somehow misread as harboring these complaints about BW in my post!
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Marco
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« Reply #106 on: February 16, 2006, 04:02:02 AM »

Hi Ron,
I don't see if this has been answered (asked by Walt and Vincent)--but I too would like to know where the evidence for story-damage outside an RPG context is being seen here. I admit I don't find it likely that there's any credible data--but reasoning why this would be anything other than observer bais would help me take it more seriously. There's sure to be lots of anecdotes but The Forge has always been a self-selecting sample that way for a number of reasons.

-Marco
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Alan
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« Reply #107 on: February 16, 2006, 08:38:46 AM »

I begin to understand the mechanism that produces "brain damage." 

Until a few years ago I had along time internal conflict between what I wanted from my roleplaying sessions and what I knew was possible with stories from the fiction I wrote.  As GM I was frustrated when players didn't drive the game into what I would call "story-like" actions.  On the other hand, as a player, I was always frustrated that some aspect of whatever rules were in play was always quashing my own attempts at dramatic turning points.  In one DnD game, in desperation to stand out somehow, I worked on "chewing the scenery" -- an exhausting activity, as it's not natural to me.  But I got used to not pushing premise.

Here are paraphrases of things I've heard or read that I think are prime signals of brain damage:

"Vampire was cool -- even though I hated the system."

"Oh yeah, PTA is a great game!  We all got so into it, we never drew cards once."


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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Julian
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Posts: 40


« Reply #108 on: February 16, 2006, 10:32:13 AM »

Here are paraphrases of things I've heard or read that I think are prime signals of brain damage:

"Vampire was cool -- even though I hated the system."

"Oh yeah, PTA is a great game!† We all got so into it, we never drew cards once."

Um, what?

The second one especially strikes me as perfectly functional in the context of this thread - a group who got into the collaborative storytelling so much that the mechanics that are supposed to make it happen became irrelevant.

The first simply says that there's a lot in the game that the person enjoys, but the actual game mechanics aren't one of them. Could be the setting, the stories being constructed, the hot goth chicks, or anything.

I'd find the argument  that needing game mechanics to support your collaborative storytelling is a symptom of brain damage far more persuasive.
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John Wick
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« Reply #109 on: February 16, 2006, 10:47:09 AM »


Now for the discussion of brain damage. I'll begin with a closer analogy. Consider that there's a reason I and most other people call an adult having sex with a, say, twelve-year-old, to be abusive. Never mind if it's, technically speaking, consensual. It's still abuse. Why? Because the younger person's mind is currently developing - these experiences are going to be formative in ways that experiences ten years later will not be. I'm not sure if you are familiar with the characteristic behaviors of someone with this history, but I am very familiar with them - and they are not constructive or happiness-oriented behaviors at all. The person's mind has been damaged while it was forming, and it takes a hell of a lot of re-orientation even for functional repairs (which is not the same as undoing the damage).


Hi Ron,

Do you qualify L5R and 7th Sea in this category of "brain damaging" and "abusive" roleplaying games?
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Carpe Deum,
John
Alan
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« Reply #110 on: February 16, 2006, 11:33:26 AM »

Julian,

Consider similar comments in context of other kinds of games:

"I love football -- I just hate all the rules."

"We had a great bridge game.  I never even opened the card box."
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Julian
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Posts: 40


« Reply #111 on: February 16, 2006, 12:08:24 PM »

You're comparing apples and oranges here. RPGs are not conventional games. The mechanics are not so much the point of the game as they are a framework. Without the rules of football, you've got a bunch of guys standing around in heavy padding with nothing to do. (Or you've got a bunch of Europeans messing around with a black and white ball and a couple of goals.)

Remove the rules from Vampire, and you've still got a lot of interesting material.

(And really, when somebody says "I don't like the rules", more likely it's just the resolution mechanic, which is easily replaceable in most games without significantly altering how the game feels.)

The most one can say about those hypothetical PTA players is that they're not, technically, playing PTA any more. So what?

I see no brain damage here...
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #112 on: February 16, 2006, 12:56:21 PM »

Having watched this thread unfold with a certain fascinated horror (and with my sincere thanks to people -- e.g. Gregor Hutton -- who offered specific information based on first-hand experience), I wanted to wrench it back to one critical but overlooked point from, actually, the parent thread:

...I consider Sorcerer to be like that kind of [advanced] prosthetic ...I am now embarked on an ambitious project based on the idea that we "have limbs" after all, and wondering what the principles underlying the bevy of fantastic new RPGs (and RPG-ish things) would be like, expressed by and for people without the damage.... As a survivor of the damage, I may fail miserably....

Ron, let me see if I've got this straight:

You are not merely calling other people "brain damaged." You consider yourself to have been brain-damaged, in the literal sense that at least some of your neurons connected to each other in patterns that express themselves as particular disfunctional behaviors, as a result of your own formative roleplaying experiences. You believe you've undone some significant part of the damage, creating new neural pathways that express themselves as more functional behaviors -- and that a lot of the people who disagree with you haven't. But you at least suspect that your brain function may still be, to some degree, lastingly and irreparably impaired, and that you may persist permanently in at least some of your disfunctional behaviors (such as, I would gently suggest, a self-defeating delight in making shocking statements and getting people mad at you, at the expense of your ability to convey your genuinely useful insights).† What's worse, you fear that this impairment may prevent you from doing new kinds of creative work ("RPGs and RPG-ish things") that you ardently wish you could.

Or am I misinterpreting you in some critical way? As always, I await correction.

If I am more or less right, then I don't see the "nyah! nyah! My way is better, you retards!" that other people have (not without cause!) been offended by. I see Moses raging from the mountaintop at the tribes moving, oh so slowly, across the desert, in the knowledge that he himself has been condemned never to enter the Promised Land.
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iago
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« Reply #113 on: February 16, 2006, 01:50:54 PM »

You know, I was wondering why my initial reaction to Ron's essay -- wait, it doesn't deserve the respect of that label -- his rant, rather -- was "Wow.  Ron's a bigot."

That is, until Darren pretty much nailed the analogy on the nose.

So, letís say I have this gay friend. I tell him that this lifestyle heís chosen is causing him damage Ė heís facing discrimination at work because his colleagues find him uncomfortable company, and he and his partner are facing higher taxes than his married friends, and occasionally bricks get thrown through their window, and so on. Life would be so much easier if he gave that up and became heterosexual.
He looks at me like Iím a loon, and tells me itís the way he is wired.

Thanks, Darren. 

Also, Ron, you're flat-out wrong that just because this is your forum on the Forge that you should have the freedom to ignore the Forge rules.  I try not to ignore the rules too much in mine, when I do post.  Your forum lives in the Forge's house, and as such, the attitudes you exercise in it reflects upon that house.  Live in the basement and out of sight all you like, but when your pet termites are eating out the support beams, the folks above you can and should get in your face about why the house is falling down, even if that basement was "your space".

You're not wrong that you can ignore me all you like.  You can, and you should; I'm excitable, and I'm prone to saying things out of emotion rather than cold rationality.

Yet, in that vein, I still find myself saying this: your gamers-not-like-me bigotry and general attitude is why I can't read anything you write.  The attitude overshadows the message -- you're more noise than signal, is what I'm saying here -- and thus, if you did have anything valuable to say here, it's utterly concealed by the packaging.

I sincerely hope someone who isn't you can eke out what glimmers of good ideas are here and package them in something far more acceptable, somewhere else.

As for me, I'm leaving the forge, permanently.  If folks like Ron live here -- then I won't.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #114 on: February 16, 2006, 02:05:54 PM »

Quote
5. Early role-playing history includes a vast diversity of play-approaches and game design. Commercially, it was canalized toward specific forms of Gamist play in the late 1970s, and that effect had a big impact on role-players of approximately my age (41), and a little younger. However, especially if we (this age group) didn't participate in role-playing much between the late 1980s and late 1990s, it's hard for us to understand what happened to the new wave-fronts. The commercial canalization was absolutely overwhelming, dropping the diversity of published game design to practically none. Gamist play and its troublesome relationship with other agendas is simply not the issue that drove the values-issues in role-playing culture during that time. Yes, it's hard to buy that, because to us, "good role-playing" was predicated on nothing but how one dealt with Gamist play (yes, no, how much, in what way, etc).

Instead, starting with the college crowd in the late 1980s, hitting the next wave of high-schoolers in the early 1990s, and peaking in the middle-late 1990s, the primary issue was as I've described above, this whole "story" thing, and again, dividing and re-coalescing and agonizing over (as I say above) "just say it, the dice don't matter," vs. gutting it out with the dice and saying it anyway. Both of which ultimately rely on Force for anything resembling story to emerge.

In many ways, the older bunch, especially a specific subset of RuneQuest and Champions players, understand how stories can emerge through actual decisions and actions during play better than the younger bunch. Not that it was common back then, but at least it was a matter of groping in the dark rather than gouging out one's eyes as a starting point. (Hey, John Kim, I think this is where you and I, for all our disagreements, do connect and recognize one another.)

Thanks to all who posted thinking responses.

Best,
Ron

Interesting. Makes sense to me being one of those older gamers (42) who really didn't do much role playing in the late 80's early 90's. The World of Darkness books seemed all gloomy and about style rather than substance. What I was annoyed by in the games I did see was how more numbers was equated with greater "realism" which was seen as "better". As I recall the early 80's Arms Law ICE books were so packed with numbers they made my head swim. When I did play Vampire or various LARPs I basically had to ignore much of the game and pursue my own agenda. These were one shot games so the play wasn't too dysfunctional.

I know Ron doesn't care what my oppinion is but I do agree with his points about brain damage. I work with traumaitic brain injured clients from time to time as well as sexually abused children and his analogies are sound.

Chris Engle (LCSW see I got creds!)
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Arturo G.
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Posts: 333


« Reply #115 on: February 16, 2006, 02:06:51 PM »

I share the same fascination about this thread as Sydney. And as far as I recall my thoughts reading this thread, Ron has stated what Sydney said (that he is one of the pack brain-damaged people, fighting to get rid of it) quite clearly. Did we misread you, Ron?

I thought I was part of the people that was brain-damaged before this thread, although I was not using these words to express it. Just reading the articles in The Forge and thinking about my previous experiences was enough to understand it. I have similar bad experiences as Gregor. I tried to make a summary of my story in one of my first threads in The Forge just to relief some of my grief. I don't say that I reject all I did in the past, and I don't say I never enjoyed playing those other games. They were enjoyable. But my frustrated intention to use them to create stories in a way the system was not supporting, and the verbally spoken assumption in my group that system does not matter (you should try again, it is possible, we remember when YOU were doing it), was the beginning of a terrible self-damaging spiral.

What is new for me is the idea about the prosthetic part of a game. Ron, in one of the first posts in this thread you say that people not previously exposed too damaging experiences react quite well to story-oriented †games, and old-gamers are the ones who have troubles to get the new mood. Then, these games are not using such prosthetics. Or are they? I think I'm getting confused about what games are we talking about. Perhaps I've missed something reading some of the posts too quickly?

Arturo
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Marco
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« Reply #116 on: February 16, 2006, 03:26:20 PM »

I know Ron doesn't care what my oppinion is but I do agree with his points about brain damage. I work with traumaitic brain injured clients from time to time as well as sexually abused children and his analogies are sound.

Chris Engle (LCSW see I got creds!)
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

I'm not an LCSW but I have worked with a lot of people in recovery (including sexual abuse) and I emphatically do not agree. The idea that a difference of opinion (realism = more numbers) or the reader's head swimming is somehow equivalent to brain damage is absurd. The idea that people "not getting combat" or saying "I like Vampire but didn't like the rules" (I didn't--I played GURPS V:tM ... this is brain damage?) is commedy.

In any event, none of this relates to people being story-damaged outside of an RPG context which, as Walt says, is really the point. If there is RPG-damage in the clinical sense proposed here (instead of just the snarky sense) someone should do a paper. It'd be ground breaking.

-Marco
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droog
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« Reply #117 on: February 16, 2006, 03:50:34 PM »

The funny thing for me is that I never got into the White Wolf thing. We looked at Vampire when it came out and decided it was for dorks and try-hards. Oh, the cruelty of youth! Later on I read a Vampire scenario in a WW mag (I picked it up for the RQ sorcery article) and pegged it as a scenic railroad.

And yet, I can detect some damage, because I think that approach to making story was quite general. I'll cite various RuneQuest adventures such as 'To Giantland!', 'The Cradle' and 'Temple at Corflu' (the last being explicit) as taking the story-as-script route. I also remember much GM advice to follow the structures of fiction: rising climax etc. Why I remember this is that it never quite worked for me as I continued to search for story, using an eclectic and ad hoc mix of techniques; now and then stumbling into narrativism and then right out again. While I was quite good at illusion, I always felt some distaste for it. I don't like it when everybody else has fun and I come away feeling unsatisfied. So the game tended to drift between ouija board sim and combat-centred gamism while I racked my brains trying to figure out how to make it something else.

I'll note that I also have a large cardboard box full of RQ material, perhaps 20% of which has ever been directly used.

In fact I more or less gave up on story and turned to fairly pure sim for several years (cf. Ron's nar essay). Pendragon--especially with all the supplements--also shows symptoms of brain damage, but there's enough straight-up sim in the package that the issue could be avoided.

This has all been about my GMing. I played very little in all those years, because nobody was doing what I wanted (and didn't know how consistently to achieve myself). I was skilled enough to recognise the GM story when I met it and, generally, I politely declined.

So like Walt, I see my case as an exception that proves the rule.
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #118 on: February 16, 2006, 03:56:37 PM »

Guys, no one's being ignored. But there's really no way to reply to this mass of posts, not even the direct questions, on a one-by-one, point-and-shoot basis.

I'm signed off for a day or two due to massive other business. Then it'll take a bit to parse it all. Plus the weekend is a travel-weekend and shot.

Remember, slow pace? Sloowwwww pace. I mean, post all you want, I guess, but replies just aren't going to be flying back at the same speed.

Best,
Ron
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John Wick
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« Reply #119 on: February 16, 2006, 04:28:43 PM »

Frankly, use of the terms "brain damage" and "sexual abuse" are hyperbolic.

This is why the Forge has the reputation of being a pack of inbred elitists who are only talking to themselves. I'm not saying that that's what the Forge is, I'm just trying to illustrate that's why people see it that way.

And after reading this thread, for the very first time, I understand why. I know you guys. I hang out with you at Gen Con. We eat together and drink together. (Thank Eris we don't sleep together.) Using these terms is wrong. Just plain wrong.

I do not give people brain damage nor do I make them sexual victims (as hinted at by this article). Neither do my friends who work at White Wolf, my friends who worked at Pinnacle, or any of my other friends in the game industry.

My buddy, Jess Heinig, is one of the kindest, most generous people I've ever met in my life. When I say "Buddhasatva," I mean Jess. When he told me about this thread today, there was pain in his eyes. He was genuinely hurt that someone thought he was the moral equivallent of a rapist.

Because that's what this article calls him. A rapist.

I am personally insulted by this entire thread of reasoning. I'm not expecting an apology or anything. I just hope people go back, look at the language they are using and re-consider it.
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Carpe Deum,
John
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