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Author Topic: active vs passive entertainment From Mainstream: A revision  (Read 5372 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« on: November 15, 2002, 01:50:49 PM »

This was in the Mainstream A revision thread, but as that thread is now closed, I've started a new thread.

One thing that seems to be overlooked in this discussion which I think should not be is that RPGs are very different from comic books. That is, COmics are a fairly passive entertainment. You buy the book, you read the book, you put the book in an acid-free back with an acid-free backboard and put it in a box for safe keeping and that's it.

RPGs are a more active hobby. It's more akin to modeling in that effort is expected from the hobbist. You don't just sit down and play an RPG, like you play a boardgame or a video tape. There is preparation involved. Even the act of playing requires effort.

This is one thing about RPGs that keeps it out of the mainstream, I think. Like Raven had said. People like watching sports, not playing. We're a society of voyeurs, it seems.

This said, I do still believe that there is a potential market in the mainstream that is thus far untapped, it's just not quite so big since more people seem to prefer passive entertainment.
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talysman
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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2002, 02:14:25 PM »

I think this is a valid distinction -- comics are passive, rpgs are active -- although maybe there are fewer voyeurs than we think. it's true that most people are too tired after work to involve themselves in an interactive form of entertainment and prefer plopping down in front of the tv or leafing through a magazine; still, there are an awful lot of crafts and hobbies out there for the weekend. there are dolls and miniatures fanatics, scrapbookers, people who like to cook an occasional fancy meal, people forming their own garage bands. I think just about everyone out there has something they do that's a step above staring at the tv (even if it's just popping onto a web forum to talk about their favorite tv show.)

so I really don't think it's the active nature of rpgs that makes it a marginalize hobby.
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John Laviolette
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2002, 02:23:11 PM »

Hi Jack,

The general issue you're raising, I believe, is that role-playing cannot hope to capture a certain number of people out there.

That works for me. In the Promotion thread, I mention one category of folks that simply aren't going to be involved in role-playing no matter what the content is. Without getting into the whole active vs. passive thing, I think that these folks exist.

I don't really see, however, that it's much of a concern. You wrote,
"... I do still believe that there is a potential market in the mainstream that is thus far untapped, it's just not quite so big since more people seem to prefer passive entertainment."

And I agree. As long as no one gets some starry, glazed look in his eye and says, "OOooooh, we can get everyone to role-play," then all's well.

Best,
Ron
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2002, 02:56:07 PM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
One thing that seems to be overlooked in this discussion, which I think should not be, is that RPGs are very different from comic books. That is, comics are a fairly passive entertainment.

RPGs are a more active hobby. It's more akin to modeling in that effort is expected from the hobbyist. You don't just sit down and play an RPG, like you play a board game or videotape. There is preparation involved. Even the act of playing requires effort.

This is one thing about RPGs that keeps it out of the mainstream, I think. Like Raven had said. People like watching sports, not playing. We're a society of voyeurs, it seems.

I've been toying with some interesting thoughts I've had ever since I read an argument that you can't really give a game a decent review until you've played it.  The author pointed out that a role-playing game is not the book.  I go so far as to say it's not any of the equipment, locations, or ideas.  I think what it is, is a practice of mutual engagement.

We aren't really writing rules, like in football (and sorry, guys, people do play sports; for example touch football) we're creating practices.  That's where I see a lot of role-playing game design fall down.  It gives rules to limit actions, a number of 'tools' to use in play, but almost nothing (short of poorly written fiction) to talk about what play is.  That's the approach I've been taking lately; I ask myself, "What do I expect them to do?"  Rather than "What could go wrong that needs to be prevented."

So I guess I'd break things into three modes of entertainment:[list=1][*]Passive
    You plop down and the entertainment does all the work.[/list:u]
[*]Reactive
    The entertainment comes and engages you; you interact, but it is the entertainment 'thing' that is the center of the action.[/list:u]
[*]Gaming
    You are provided with the materials and practices, but you create the engagement.[/list:u][/list:o]Or basically, Reactive entertainment has the 'stuff you sell' inside the circle of engagement and Gaming entertainment has the 'stuff you sell' outside only supporting the engagement.  I use this to differentiate even the cutting-edge of multiple, interactive, computer, role-playing games from Gaming.

    Somehow I think this may be similar to what Ron's on about the 'Social Context' or 'Social Contract' stuff, but I haven't figured out what he's saying yet.  Note this is a significant shift in my thinking from my old 'role-playing games are toys you play with' (per Sim City's creator) ideas.  Now I think of role-playing games as something you teach, not display.  I'm beginning to believe that a 'fun textbook' might be a better approach to 'how to write a role-playing game' than what I have seen before.

    How about an analogy?  Pottery.  You publish a book on pottery; is the book pottery itself?  No, it's just the instructions.  Is the clay pottery?  Not by itself, you have to do something with it.  Does the book show you what to do?  Not exactly, it shows practices that, combined with clay, can result in pottery, but not the pottery itself.
        Now talk about 'what is art.'[/list:u][/list:u][/list:u]Hence the confusion.  You can't follow the instructions in a role-playing game and get Gaming, they aren't instructions.  A role-playing game teaches you what to do, it gives you guidelines, it directs you, it shows you what you can do (by example, not prescription), but it doesn't game with you.

        So...role-playing games are different than comic books, but then they're different from Frisbee too.  In ways, I haven't seen anything quite like them.  That makes it harsh to explain and harder to market.  Why, I'm so intimidated you won't see me going to print any time soon.

        Fang Langford

        p. s. I've always been fond of what Scott McCloud pointed out in Understanding Comics about how it is the gutter between the panels that makes the reader an integral part of the experience of 'reading' comics.  Thus comics are slightly more 'active' than, say a movie.
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        wyrdlyng
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        « Reply #4 on: November 15, 2002, 07:40:47 PM »

        Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
        We're a society of voyeurs, it seems.


        All it really takes is a flip through the current popular network television programs to illustrate this point. What is "reality tv" but watching other "real people" (meaning non-actors) doing things?

        But this can be a good thing... perhaps. If many people learn by watching another do it then perhaps the ideal "what is roleplaying" learner would be an elaborate example of active play. A game in which characters are encouraged to take the initiative and help guide the story would work best. Even possibly something along the lines of the replay books, or something similarly illustrated, that are prevalent in Japan.

        Quote from: Fang
        Reactive
        The entertainment comes and engages you; you interact, but it is the entertainment 'thing' that is the center of the action.


        It could be argued that part of some players problems with roleplaying, as far as establishing a good group dynamic, stems from which of these three modes they expect roleplaying to be.

        Some players, often newcomers to the hobby, play Passive. They sit back, watch, and stay quiet.

        Your stereotypical "hack and slasher" plays Reactive, you throw down a challenge and they seek to overcome it. Fail to present them with a challenge and they sit there waiting quietly.

        Lastly your "ideal roleplayer" plays Gaming, they provide a backstory, create their own goals for their character, and actively pursue them within the context of the game.

        Which I guess might bring up the question of can gaming be all three modes?
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        Alex Hunter
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