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Author Topic: Naive and Sophisticated: The Terms  (Read 16097 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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« on: January 15, 2003, 09:55:30 PM »

Hi Everyone.

Out of the last thread I started I sort of surprised myself with the concept of Naive and Sophisticated.  It crystilized a great deal of many matters I've been thinking about for years.  Whether it has any applicibility to RPGs has yet to be seen; however, a few folks seem intrigued, so that's a good thing.

There have been a couple of posts about the choice of terms.

First, if I'm simply reinventing the wheel here and someone knows a better set of terms of lit theory or some such, please bring them on.

However, I like them for a very specific reason: irony.

The so called Sophisticated viewer assumes he can find an objective view on the world -- even though he'll always be looking at it with his subjective view.

The Naive viewer is always trying to cultivate a Naive view, which is, of course, likewise impossible, because you can't *try* to be naive.

I suspect that no set of terms will ever make everyone happy (see other discussions on Forge terms), and that there will always be a few folks who take one or more terms as a personal insult (cf. "Gamist").  But there's really nothing to be done about that.  I specifically gave the Sophisticates the more generous term and called myself Naive in an attempt to avoid this very debate -- and look what happened!

I suggest a kind of sense of humor about the terms.  As Jack pointed out, correctly I think, the Naive view is fragile (at least until you're in the middle of it).  I think this matter could be treated with a bit more whim.  We're attaching labels to things that can't actually be named with precision, so instead of worrying out the words, why don't we play with the concepts the words are labelling.  That's where the meat is.

Take care,
Christopher
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greyorm
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2003, 10:51:53 AM »

Works for me, Christopher, and though Jack asked, I haven't thought up any better terms. My main problem with the terms is really just a reaction on my part: I like sophistication, but I can't stand the kinds of people you're describing with the term Sophisticated.

So, well...this just popped into my head; the terms could be: Judgemental and Accepting. But I don't know that's necessarily accurate enough, and I know it would cause problems because it sounds judgemental.

Or how about Analytical and Suspensive (or Immersive)?
That is, the former analyzes the item and finds inconsistencies that break their disbelief; the latter suspends their analysis of the item to accept it on its own terms and maintain disbelief.

We're talking Reality Logic vs. Story Logic, here, after all -- at least that's where I'm seeing it applied most, to entertainment media such as movies and books. Either something will be coherent and consistent as a factual "if this really happened" sort of item, or it will be coherent and consistent as a "what if these events happened like this" sort of item -- and there are worlds apart between them.

Rather like a true story or historical tale versus a mythological story or morality play -- or a based-on-true-events drama pulled from the newspapers versus an action flick with exploding cars. They're not comparable by the same criteria because the "genre-logik" which governs their respective realities isn't even comparable.

Hrm, and one requires more suspension of disbelief than the other.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2003, 12:29:02 PM »

Quote from: Raven
We're talking Reality Logic vs. Story Logic, here, after all...


Perhaps not. Can't a player act sophisticated about story logic too? Except in parodies, Spock never said "Captain, I'm detecting a plot complication on our forward sensors." But Buffy characters do occasionally say such things. (And quite plausibly, too; our real world mass media entertainments also exist in their world, and do often parallel the characters' experiences, so they'd come across as rather oblivious if they didn't notice.) The point is, a Buffy mindset can be just as out of place as a modern scientific mindset in a mythic fantasy world.

In fact, I'm having trouble building anything so far from "naive vs. sophisticated" because there seem to be too many forms of naivete and sophistication to easily pin down. For example, the naivete of not searching for more magic beans seems related to, but not the same as, the naivete of not re-using solutions from earlier episodes. (Sure, Spock invented a mechanism that can home a torpedo in on cloaked ships, which can be assembled in minutes, but generations later the Federation is still being menaced by cloaked enemy ships...) I'm also wondering whether certain types of naivete have to imply a form of participationism. If you don't trade the cow for the magic beans, or if you don't plant the beans right away (or plant just one, to see what happens), are you faulted for acting insufficiently naive?

One truly realistic way to depict naivete (more irony there) would have a character making decisions based on an alternate world view subscribed to by the character, and just as important, interpreting the outcome of those decisions as always confirming that world view. But this can become absurd (or at least, distractingly self-conscious in a Candide sort of way) after a while if the game world consistently challenges that view. But if it doesn't, then in what sense is the character naive?

Sorry, I have no conclusion or focused point to make. Several days after Christopher's first suggestion of the naive-sophisticated distinction, I'm still rather struggling with it.

- Walt
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Marco
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2003, 02:02:44 PM »

Again, Walt is brilliant.

I was having the same reaction but couldn't pin it down. In Signs the characters were faced with something they *knew* was more than a little weird (I won't put in spolilers) and sort of acknowledged it and drove on. But essentially the characters made more-or-less logical decisions based on what information they had.

A more traditional group of PC's might have loaded up on guns "just in case they work"--or spent time 'reasearching' (which the kids did) ... or gone into the house where they knew something was ... maybe ... but over all while Signs works as a fairy-tale on the whole, it relies on the characters to make logical, analytical choices at each turn.

The fact remains that in a fairy-tale the narrative is fixed--the story is in the book--and it isn't subject to co-creation by players. Thus logical paradoxes not-explored are unasked and unanswerable. But the protagonists in all cases behaves according to logic. Jack is curious about the bean-stalk (but, IIRC, doesn't Jack's wife complain quite logically/Sophisticatedly that he was taken by a con-artist?)

I don't know where to draw the lines (Jack doesn't call the local university and say "I have a giant botanical oddity--wanna come look?" but then again, a PC in that situation might not just climb the stalk in the first place--why would he think there was anything other than empty up at the top?).

-Marco
[ Another thought. Chris mused that no matter what terms you pick, someone will be offended. Possibly true--but that *can* be mitigated: as Greyorm pointed if one chooses terms and one has a bias, the terms will likely reflect that bias. ]
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greyorm
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2003, 03:54:10 PM »

Walt and Marco, I put forward that you are confusing two different levels of behavior. Yes, one's character can use logic or critical thinking...behaving logically and analytically in either mode, as given the structure of their world.

What I see as the main confusion is the lack of distinguishment between character and player behavior. That is, the terms we're discussing, whatever we end up choosing to use, are applicable ONLY TO THE PLAYER, not to the character.

Otherwise, it's rather like saying, "Oh, that's a Gamist character."
Characters and their decisions/actions cannot be interpreted as Naive or Sophisticated. The player either acts in accordance with the social contract imposed by the world or not.

For example, take a stereotypical action movie: cars blow up, guns never need to be reloaded in the middle of a firefight, the good guys are guaranteed to kill the mooks with some ease (to show off their butt-kickingness), and so forth.

The characters behave logically for their world.
The people in Signs are in a world that is eminently akin to this one...is, in fact, this one, with the minor detail of an alien invasion and a Premise to explore. So they behave as though we would in similar circumstances.

However, above their level of existance is the reality of the movie -- that it is a movie. If this were a game, a player would either be in on it -- the fairy-tale aspect and the Premise of the movie -- or not.

The fact that the players know this is a narrative created to explore a Premise would curtail their behaviors -- at least it would if they were Naive players, because they know it is a game meant to explore a particular situation with a given Premise.

The Sophisticate, however, ignores the fact that this is a story, ignores that it is a narrative and ignores the fact that it is a game. They want it to be a simulated reality, in all ways coherent with the real-world they, as a player, know and live in.

This is where the problem arises, the game breaks down because they've dropped out of story-telling/experiencing mode and into analysis/experience mode.

The fact is that in a story-telling fable, that fact is part of the world, even though the characters themselves don't (and can't (shouldn't?)) recognize it, and instead behave just the way we think they should. But the players in control have to maintain that seperation and strive for the Premise, even though their characters are clueless to the fact that there even IS a Premise.

EDIT
Quote from: Paul Czege
I'd say logically for their story.

Much better, thanks Paul.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2003, 04:51:01 PM »

The characters behave logically for their world.

I'd say logically for their story. Where the hell is Fang? http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=33956">Experience Dice and Genre Expectations?

Paul
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2003, 05:53:04 PM »

Hi everyone,

While I was cleaning the apartment I thought... exactly what the good reverend has already posted.  Specifically, I thought of Ron's comments about Relationship Maps -- they're not there for the characters, they're there for the players.

Thoughts on the terms... I too am coming to like them, if only they tend to waddle off in too many directions.

Actually, one greyorm used the word "fable" there was a distinct "ah-ha" moment.  So, let me suggest the labels Fabulist to replace Naive.  I'm not sure how to replace Sophisticate (Realiststs?)  Note that a Sophisticate can use the most fantastical material imaginible -- as long as it's somehow roped into conventions that map onto standard assumptions about cause and effect and so on.

What I'm getting at here is an active use of the imagination that, in the context of the shared story between players, possesses a logic that defies physics and responds to poetic concerns.  Vague, you bet.  But recall, this was all spun off dung beetles and the sun's course across the sky.

To get concrete for a moment, Ron's combat rules for Sorcerer, which are driven by rewards for coming up for compelling description (for lack of a better word), lean toward Fabulist rules when compared to say Role Master, which doesn't ultimately give a lick which words are used by the players, but only the conditions of the imaginary environment.  If a player in Sorcerer game magically refernces an emotional moment in his description (a gesture repeated from when he last saw his wife alive, say), he's probably getting a bonus even though the physics of the action have little to do with kicking the snot out of a monster.

To get really specific: Puppetland is completely a Fabulist game.

Take care,
Christopher
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Le Joueur
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2003, 06:42:35 PM »

Quote from: Paul Czege
The characters behave logically for their world.

I'd say logically for their story. Where the hell is Fang? Experience Dice and Genre Expectations?

You sure know a 'hell' of a way to invoke the Executive Regional Field Director of the Devil's Advocacy Department at Large, for the Midwestern United States.

Tell you what, in the spirit of my duties, I'll whip something up; keep your eyes peeled.  I'll be back as soon as I sketch something out.

And I think Paul has some plans that way...

Fang Langford
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clehrich
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2003, 08:09:14 PM »

Not to heave a pin-less grenade into the middle of this, but....

greyorm has very accurately and effectively described Naive and Sophisticated perspectives at the player level, and I think (with small tweaks here and there) we're all on the same page about that.

But are you sure these approaches do not have character analogues?

I'm thinking on web here, but it seems to me that such analogues do exist, and furthermore are worth considering with respect to identifying how players think, or want to think.

Suppose we're in a "classic mythic fantasy world," assuming we can more or less agree what that is --- I'm thinking the sort of place where we can talk seriously about dung beetles in the sky and whatnot.

Now I have a character who is in some way "investigative," and tries to find out how things really work.  This can go a couple of ways:

1. I can have a character who simply applies every bit of empiricism known to me, and tries to break the mythical structure of the world.  This is a very extreme example of what greyorm means by a Sophisticated Player, if I get his point.  Please note --- this is an extreme, not a norm.

2. I can have a character who tries to figure out the structure of the universe from within, which may nevertheless at times challenge the GM.

I'm sure there is a Naive variant of this distinction, but I think this is sufficient for my point.  Which is, I think, that the difficult and occasionally problematic behavior associated with Sophistication (not that Naivete doesn't have its own problems) can come from both a player and character perspective, and are not necessarily cognate.

Does that make any sense, or am I totally lost here?
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Chris Lehrich
contracycle
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Posts: 2807


« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2003, 01:25:20 AM »

Quote

1. I can have a character who simply applies every bit of empiricism known to me, and tries to break the mythical structure of the world. This is a very extreme example of what greyorm means by a Sophisticated Player, if I get his point. Please note --- this is an extreme, not a norm.


I would not see this as correct; such a player is simply overriding the social contract to play in THIS world.  An empiricist in a fantasy world would try to empirically validate that fantasy world according to its own internal relationships of cause and effect.

What is here being described as the "sophisiticated" mindset is a player who rationalises that if the sun is being pushed by a dung beetle, and I need a sudden patch of darkeness so that I can break into the Pharoahs harem, then I can acheive this effect by doping the beetle and making its muscles weak.

I think in this specific case the distinction between character and player is being overblown unless, as Walt identified, the actual goal is participationism in which the player in no manner exerts any analysis threough the vehicle of their character, and it is that distance ebtween player cna character under discussion.

When we are discussing vanilla play with character identification and problem solving behaviour, it IS strongly overblown becuase the player is operating on inputs which are validated by the characters perceptions as their fictional persona in a fictional world.  If the player is unable to engage with a given world proposition becuase the character is not equipped to comprehend it, then I suggest that play will be unsatisfying.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2003, 06:08:09 AM »

Quote from: contracycle

What is here being described as the "sophisiticated" mindset is a player who rationalises that if the sun is being pushed by a dung beetle, and I need a sudden patch of darkeness so that I can break into the Pharoahs harem, then I can acheive this effect by doping the beetle and making its muscles weak.


I believe such characters are commonly refered to as magicians.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Le Joueur
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2003, 06:54:43 AM »

Quote from: Earlier I

Okay, I got something in there; I need to go over it and see what I wrote (I was quite tired and sick, so who knows?)

The point in this example is to emulate the light, 'only what supports the message,' kind of narrative.  At the extreme, you could do a Baron Munchausen style:
    But how could I get down from the clouds?  Just then I noticed a farmer threshing some wheat; I gathered up the chaff and formed, from it, a rope.  I tied this rope to the edge of the cloud and lowered myself down.  About half-way I discovered that my rope wasn't long enough; thinking quickly, I cut off the top half and tied it to where I hung.  Thus I was able to climb down from the sky.[/list:u]Because it serves the message (especially in that being 'trapped in the clouds' didn't), not only is the player allowed to do this, but rewarded for it.  None of such goings on make any rational or empirical sense, but are taken for granted in such a game.

    Upon reflection, I realize I did not capture this spirit very well in
what I wrote, but you can see the beginnings of it.  On the whole, it needs to be much more fleshed out in the Sequences section, being what delivers the message elevated by the Central Concept in the Auteur Approach.

I realize that the conversation has gotten a bit farther than this point, but I'd just like to take a moment and weigh in on the whole 'sophisticated' versus 'na´ve' terminology.  Personally, I think you have it all backward.  I'd have to say that a game such as I have presented would require a high degree of sophistication from it's players to prevent continued challenges on what the modern mind knows is impossible, standing in clouds, talking to wolves, and et cetera.  This sophistication grants the ability to put these challenges aside (as well as a concentration upon things like character sheets, die rolls, and rules in general) and just letting the wonderment flow.  I'd argue that you couldn't play such a role-playing game in the absence of rules, but there needs to be this 'compartmentalization' of thought to keep the rational from overwhelming the notional.  That is what I would call 'sophisticated gaming.'

On the other hand, playing 'by the rules,' using our own experiences and thought processes is very simple and, I think, a na´ve way of playing.  Concentrating on when to roll dice, whose turn it is, and such is very superficial and rudimentary.  To me this speaks more of naivetÚ than sophistication; I do appreciate that a more sophisticated (or modern) audience in necessary to make the kinds of challenges I've described, but such an approach is still quite na´ve about gaming.

I really like the term 'Fabulist,' it really speaks to the 'letting go' of the (possibly mistaken) termed 'sophistication.'  Contrasting to 'sophisticated' will be both confusing and misleading for the reasons I have given.  There doesn't really seem to be an obvious replacement for what might be called 'vanilla gaming' except possibly 'superficial,' and I'm not so sure that that is terribly useful either.

Fang Langford
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contracycle
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« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2003, 07:17:25 AM »

Quote from: simon_hibbs

I believe such characters are commonly refered to as magicians.


Usually, yes.  Although they are employing a very rational mindset, just one based ona speciific set of givens.  Your magicians are not exhibiting the "naive mindest" IMO, but its very opposite.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2003, 07:33:48 AM »

I think the terms need to be nailed down a biot or else it will get hopelessly confusing and any value they might have had will be lost as they become like terms like "realism" or "balance" where the simply term tells us nothing but we need to ask more questions to find out what the hell the speaker is talking about.

So do Sophisticated and Naive refer to:

    [*] A mindset taken on by the Players?
    [*] A mindset taken on by the characters?
    [*] A general style of playing that may or may not require a mindset from the players, characters or both at various time?
    [*] Something else all together?
    [/list:u]
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    Valamir
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    « Reply #14 on: January 17, 2003, 07:34:09 AM »

    Quote from: Christopher Kubasik
    Hi everyone,

     So, let me suggest the labels Fabulist to replace Naive.  I'm not sure how to replace Sophisticate (Realiststs?)  Christopher


    What about Literalists.

    In referencing the Dung Beetle/Sun example it was suggested that if it is actually a dung beetle, than one could create darkness by impeding the beetle in some way.  This seems to be a very literal interpretation of what the myth says.

    SO one could have 3 designations actually:
    The Fabulist who as a player does his best to accept the fantastic elements of the game world without cringing to much when they seem to conflict with our modern logical minds.  Such a player does (as pointed out above) share certain characteristics with Immersive RPers in that he is likely attempting to approach the mythology of the world the way an actual native of that world would approach it.

    The Literalist who wishes to ensure that the fables of a game world can withstand empirical challenges.  Such a player could be seen as immersive too if he were playing a character who was supposed to be such a "philosopher/scientist" pondering the mysteries of the world.  

    And the Figurativist.  The player who assumes that the fables of a game world aren't necessarily "true" in themselves but representative of another truth or cultural mindset (pretty much how most people would interpret our own mythology today).
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