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Author Topic: [carry] Actual Play from DexCon 08  (Read 3692 times)
Nathan P.
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« on: July 22, 2008, 05:02:15 PM »

One of my players from my game of carry at DexCon 08 posted a writeup on her blog. Find it here: J.R. Blackwell's LJ.

The game was really good (I think my favorite ever, actually), and she has some really interesting things to say that are making me reflect on this communities habits and standards about talking about in-game content.
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Nathan P.
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Find Annalise
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My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2008, 08:02:36 AM »

Hi Nathan,

I'm curious about those reflections of yours. As you know, I posted two threads about our carry game from about a year ago. In-game content was a huge concern in those threads, so they might serve as a basis for comparison. What is illuminated about the Forge community by those threads, in comparison to this account?

[carry] Gun-butts, dope, non-mutual masturbation, and massacres
[carry] Helicopters and Accuser role-switching

If that's not the comparison you had in mind, or if that's not the community you're referring to (Forge-specific, Actual Play forum specific), then let me know. Although "actual play" has become something of a cachet at other sites and wherever, it was first prioritized and named as such here and I think it's done here in a way which remains distinctive. Your thoughts on that are important to me.

Best, Ron
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2008, 05:01:51 AM »

Hey Ron,

So, my original use of "the community" is a fairly inclusive "people who play new-style games that talk together about it on the internet and at conventions." For me, that means primarily the overlapping communities of the Forge, Story Games and RPGnet, but including personal conversations in the real world. I have something to say about that first, and then I'll talk about the Forge specifically.

My general reflections are falling along the lines of trying to answer the question of how appropriate it is to celebrate objectionable in-game content, out of context, in a public forum (forum for discussion, not just internet forum). The community standards are that people can talk about their awesome game they had, usually including some of the content of what happened in play, and everyone understands that it's not real, right? But there's a line that can be crossed. On RPG.net last year, people posted about the powerful game of Poison'd they played at Gen Con, and it turned into a flame war (shocking) primarily because of people getting offended about the content of what happened in that game (sodomy, rape, murder, etc), turning into accusations of "you're sick because you enjoyed this stuff" and crap like that. There was obviously a context to that game that made having that content acceptable, and because I happen to know the people that were playing it I know they aren't sick monsters celebrating buttrape, but that kind of public acknowledgment of non-standard game content went over a community line.

The irony, obviously, is we have no problem talking about the rampant murder and torture that occurs in almost EVERY RPG GAME EVER PLAYED. But when it turns to (dare I say) non-traditional content, especially sexual violence or even just sex, it becomes less acceptable to air in public.

Which is a good segueway to the Forge, specifically your AP posts about carry. Witness that people got so hung up on the masturbation/sexual tension thing that they wouldn't or couldn't engage with the rest of your posts. The massacre of an entire village right at the beginning of the game? Not a blink of the eye. But masturbation? Sexually-fueled violence? Holy Crap! The irony here is that AP discussion at the Forge has always had a pretty even keel in terms of saying "here's this game we played, here's what happened, here's some conclusions/questions" as the beginning of a discussion, not as a celebration of that content. Obviously, if you enjoyed it, there's a certain joy in writing it up for other people to read, and the use of AP as advertising is also under the surface, but the core different of AP at the Forge is that the purpose is to really take a look at what happened and why it matters. Which makes it even the more interesting that the same kinds of reactions happen here as elsewhere on the interwebs.

Also In Real Life. As I said on my blog:

Quote
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Nathan P.
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Find Annalise
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My Games | ndp design
Also | carry. a game about war.
I think Design Matters
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2008, 11:06:51 AM »

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for following up. It's a difficult topic, and what follows is just one angle on it that probably reflects my concerns more than your topic. I have to get it off my chest, though, before moving to the more interesting stuff.

I have to start by saying that I don't consider the cross-site internet interactions you're talking about to be a community. It's ... well, it's all right, and I certainly have no interest in exerting influence over it (and don't think that's possible or desirable). But I don't think it's a discourse community or much of a real community at all. Collectively, the three websites you mention and the plethora of blogs and LJs and so forth associated with it remind me a lot of the original RPG.net. What that means to me is that it primarily serves the purposes of confirming subcultural inclusion, or the appearance of it, and also confirming widely-held subcultural assumptions. It's like an ongoing fan convention, all year long. It's characterized by anyone being free to react and post to anything in any way, in the sense that "free" means "free from critique." It might generate more responses, but never critique which then affects the course of later dialogue. It's basically a whole lot of spinning wheels which can induce one another to spin faster, but little more; the point is to be happy that we all spin together and to play games about who makes whom spin most.

To a large extent, the Forge - speaking absolutely specifically, meaning only this website, period - broke from that, or confirmed its original breakage from it, through the five-part Infamous Five series of threads a few years ago. I've tried to preserve that break assiduously, mainly based on the points that Rich Forrest made in the final fifth. I think that inasmuch as it's possible, there was and is a community at this site. It preserves institutional memory, and therefore conclusions remain conclusions rather than disappearing down the memory hole. Its purpose is clear, aimed at the already-existing aspirant designers and publishers out there in the canebrake, based almost entirely on providing resources and discourse for these relative newcomers as the first priority.

OK, I'm not posting this to sound off with some kind of anthem, but to emphasize that I think there's a difference between what you're calling Forge-style actual play posting, vs. the actual actual play posting that happens specifically here. Not just my own posts, either, but in general. Yes, it's reinforced heavily by my moderation, but I also think that it's in place due to community-level agreement rather than sheer imposition on my part.

Let's take a look at the difference between the Poison'd thread you referenced and the carry threads I referenced.

1. The former was indeed a flame war. People flocked to it to hammer one another with their opinions, and it quickly became a venue to strut one's personal virtue or values (at least, as advertised) in opposition to some imagined thought-crime or play-crime committed by those who'd played the game. The latter was a specific dialogue among a few people with acknowledged points back and forth, and development of points-of-issue through several posts.

2. The former expanded, proliferated, or probably best, metastasized, into a lot of people screaming at one another. It ended, if that's even the right word, in recriminations and pissing matches. The latter focused, elevated, and resolved, into a small group of people acknowledging what they saw as valuable in what one another was saying. It ended with verbal handshakes or even hugs.

3. Both of them concerned emotional responses to in-game content, but the former fed those reactions and encouraged others to react to reactions about reactions, whereas the latter identified reactions as such, then looked deeper to see who was playing, why they were playing, and what that meant in terms of preferred content. The former demonstrated intellectual and emotional irresponsibility, whereas the latter demonstrated responsibility and reflection.

I agree that there's a surface similarity in the responses that get freaked out by certain excesses or events during play and ignore arguably much more heinous events that are standard in role-playing, and I also agree that the surface similarity is not trivial regarding key aspects of our hobby community. However, I do not think that the nature of the posts and discussion in those two sets of threads can be equated at all. I don't think that the Poison'd thread can be described as "Forge-style actual play posting" in any way, shape, or form. I think saying so is simply inaccurate.

Well, like I said to start, this was mainly exposing the elephant in the room of my part of the discussion. I'd like to keep going with it but I knew that if I didn't get this into the open, it would distort what I'd say. If it's OK with you, I'll wait for your next musings and with any luck I'll be able to talk about them directly.

Best, Ron
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