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Author Topic: Audience  (Read 5166 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2001, 10:28:00 AM »

At the risk of repeating myself, but to keep the discussion in one thread, here's something that came to me on a potential true "audience stance"  You be the judge.

It's something I came up figuring out how my game would work, but let's use SOAP so I'm not plugging my own crumby game all the time.

This seems to be a feature found mostly in so-called GM-less or GM-full games, but that remains to be seen.  

Say a player is describing a scene in SOAP, exploring their ancestral masion house that soap opera character always seem to have.  The player sets the scene using description.  But as the player describes, the other players ask questions about the scene, the setting, the material in the floor, the furniture, any odors or sounds and so on.

I daresay I'd call this a stance since the players are not completely passively absorbing what the other player is saying/describing.  They are interacting with it by having the first player fill in the gaps in the description to give them a fuller picture.  In so doing, they help create the scene.  The first player probably never considered what the floor was made of or what the room smelled like, but because the others asked, that player creates it.

If there is such a thing as Audience Stance, it probably works more along these lines that simply listening to the player speak and sure as hell isn't "Where're the Cheetoes?"

What say you?

[side note:  Ron's article is leading to game design.  A friend of mine is putting together a drinking game for every time Ron uses the word "disfunctional." :wink:]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2001, 10:39:00 AM »

Jack,

I'd call it co-Director Stance. Nothing about Author or Director Stance suggests that they can't be shared.

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2001, 12:31:00 PM »

Shared, yet, but is it really shared?  If a player asks what a character is wearing or what the location looks like or smells like or anything else just to clear up the picture in their own head, is that really Director Stance?

The definitions of the stances as per the article are defined in relation to the character.  But then the definitions are about Players, the GM & stance isn't explored yet.

I suppose we should take a step back and ask what we're talking about here.  

First of all, we started with the name, which makes sense.  If there are actors, authors and directors they may be an audience.  But we had this name yet nothing to go with it.  So we're looking for something to go with the term.  Problem #1

Some things, like the "where're the Cheetoes" mode aren't worth coining a stance for since it's not anything useful that goes on at a gaming table.

My suggestion may is probably a better suggestion since the players in question are exploring the environment pretty much from an actor or author stance, from the perspective of a character without any control over the environment as in director stance,  but without a character persent to be seeing things from.  I think this could use an explanation about what's going on here.  I suppose it could be seen as director stance, but it isn't director stance proper since no direct control over the environment is present and there is no character in the scene for the players in question.

I suppose a GM could play in this stance as well, but in traditional play the GM has direct control over the environment, the distiguishing feature of director stance.

As an interesting side note, the Pokemon Jr. RPG fro WotC uses this strange subset of director stance or audience stance, whichever we decide it is.  The GM is the parent while the children are the players.  But in play, the GM doesn't describe the scene, setting or characters present.  The GM asks the players to describe the scene.  This makes sense since the kids (players) probably know about Pokemon that the parent (GM) and having them describe the scene saves time.
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Laurel
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2001, 01:38:00 PM »

Meta-game questions and comments are going to color the decisions and actions of other -players- including the GM, not characters directly.  I don't think of influencing other players through meta-game behavior as a stance, but people who used a broader definition of stance (to cover both in-game and meta-game) probably would.

So for me, while audience participation could influence what my choices while I'm in an author/pawn stance, its not a stance because those people aren't role-playing right then and there.  They aren't directly involved.

Although... I suppose that in a way that is a stance, but its a "meta-game only" stance.  Because what they'd be doing is (deliberately or otherwise) influencing the story by influencing the other players or the GM in the meta-game.  They have no direct influence over either the character (actor/author) or the setting (director) but what they say can still effect the game if it effects those who are role-playing.  Once a person gets directly involved in the game ("The room has yellow wallpaper"; "My character opens the door") they assume either an actor, author, or director  stance.

No, I'm going to stick with audience participation not being a stance unless stance can include indirect/non-RP involvement in the story.  It seems to me that's where the big division in defining a stance sames to lay.  Some people want stance to be only about how one role-plays; others want it to include meta-game participation.
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contracycle
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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2001, 05:44:00 AM »

Hmm.  I've always thought of stances as a description of human behaviour.  I suppose this is my familiarity with stance as a physical thing, something you "adopt" or "go into" into a tangible and material way (I'm thinking martial arts here).  Anyway, those are the echoes I get from the term.  This is why I like audience stance; it describes the player behaviour accurately, seems to me.  And in fact I think I adopt audience stance as the GM, from time to time: if the characters are having an in-character natter and all I have to do is hang about until they start doing stuff, I, even as GM, am in audience "stance".  As you can see, I have not hitherto thought of stance as having any realtionship to character.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2001, 07:03:00 AM »

Gareth and everyone,

One of the issues we run into a lot is that we cannot use definitions based on "what I first thought when I heard it," or "what it reminds me of," or "how it makes me feel." Definitions are constructed openly, not based on associations, and certainly not on multiple, individual associations. I am not claiming to be the dictionary for role-playing theory, and so definitions can come under debate - but we have to use standards that are stronger than that.

And then, we hit the other issue: words have pre-formed meanings and connotations. Those connotations force clarifications and continuing ambiguities in use. From "Actor" to "Gamist" to "story" to whatever, people see the word and a ton of apparently obvious or important meanings are invoked.

In combination, these issues can create real brick walls. ("Of COURSE that's what 'relationship map' means ... what, it doesn't? What?? No! That's not what I thought, it can't be right.") I'd rather they didn't, but they occasionally do. My training and inclinations lead me to favor the first over the second, if necessary.

In my classes, for example, "selection" confuses people, as they cannot imagine using the word without including a deliberate, planned selector who is picking and choosing. Well, that's too bad. We go back to the specialized definition, for purposes of the topic, and start over. The connotation inferred by the student simply has to be discarded.

Academic? Yes. The only path to rigorous understanding? Yes.

(Whoops - have to edit this in. Again, we are not in a student-teacher environment here, so it is the DEBATE over definitions, not the dictation of them, that is the task at hand.)

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-10-19 12:15 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: October 19, 2001, 08:19:00 AM »

Ralph,

I agree with you about the Director Stance not being about a character's decisions & actions. My thought is that it is still ABOUT a character, namely the environment relative to that character's decisions and actions.

Is that wriggling out of an argument, rather than addressing it? Maybe ... but that view toward Director Stance isn't something I just made up, but what I've thought all along.

Now, all of this still awaits a solid inclusion of your work on Universalis, which is innovative in many ways, not the least in terms of what the hell a Stance would be. I think I have an answer, but since this is not yet really a public topic, I'll wait on that.

Vive la debate!

Best,
Ron
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #22 on: October 19, 2001, 07:20:00 PM »

Well, if I'm understanding this whole stance thing is it's describing a mode of behavior as well as a set of opitions presented to the people sitting at the table.

This Audience Stance discussion is about whether a phenomenom, or possible phenomenom is worth naming with a stance or not.

I dunno.  after all of this I'm willing to say no until it occurs enough to make it worthwhile.
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Ampersand
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« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2001, 12:32:00 PM »

Valamir wrote: And if this violates some age old definition of Stance as developed in some 50 post thread back in 1999 in some other forum...so what.

This is a minor quibble, but actually, http://www.hoboes.com/pub/Role-Playing/Rec.Games.Frp/RGF.Advocacy%20Glossary">the original definition of "Narrative Stances" included audience as one of the stances.  The idea that audience isn't a stance is a later development.

Personally, I think it's important to acknowlege that audience is a stance - the degragation of the audience stance as "pass the cheetos" encourages bad role-playing.  It encourages players to, if their character(s) are not part of the current scene, to disengage and go get the Cheetos - or to feel that they're not engaged in roleplaying unless they've got the spotlight.  

Which is unfortunate, because both good authoring and good acting (I have quibbles with the way the "acting stance" has been redefined over the years, but that's another discussion)  are entirely dependant on good audiencing - which makes the audience stance, contrary to Ron, part of "in-game-influencing behaviors."

Authoring, of course, is dependant on audiencing.  If I think "well, Smendrick could climb those vines up the wall, or he could sit down and write another chapter of Buff Men in Bodices, and both decisions would be in character," my ability to decide which course Smendrick takes is dependant on my having been an active audience member - listening to the scenes I'm not in, recognizing plot developments and story themes, knowing what's enjoyable and what's not to my fellow audience players, asking questons to get information I need, and finally using all that audience information in making an authorial decision to move in one direction or the other.

Actor is also dependant on audience; I can't make Smendrick react to the world around him unless I'm aware of what's in that world, and maximum awareness depends on being a good audience.  If a scene I'm not in includes a minor background detail of boiling cabbages - a minor detail to the characters in that scene, but a major detail to a boiled-cabbage-lover like Smendrick - then when Smendrick later walks into the kitchen, my ability to act-in-character relies on my having been a good enough audience earlier in the game to know about the boiled cabbage.

(An extreme example from a real game: a dialog between two other characters I listened to, one of whom said "Yeah, I saw Murray [my character] drilling the grogs in the yard really hard this morning."  Well, I hadn't known that Murray had been conducting hard drills that morning, but it was useful information to have, both as an actor and as an author.)

Audiences also actively participate in the game by providing feedback.  We do this actively in the way other folks on this thread have suggested - "hey, excuse me, but is anything being cooked in the kitchen right now?"  The suggestion that this is just co-authoring or co-acting is a useful debating strategy, because it let's the audience-is-not-a-stance folks rescue their position; but it's degrading to the stances system, because it obscures how role-playing actually happens by mixing together two very different experiences.  

If I ask "what's on the stove" while playing a character, I'm asking this because it's something my character would naturally be interested in, or something that I think might affect my performance of the character or the direction the scene I'm in is moving.  I'm asking things, in other words, to improve my ability to be able to play the game in my current stances of actor and author.

If I ask "what's on the stove" while in the audience, I'm asking this because knowing the answer might imptove my experience as an audience member.  Perhaps by asking the question, I'm better able to visualize and enjoy the scene; or perhaps I'm trying to influence the scene to move in a direction I'd find more entertaining to watch.  In either case, the experience and motives of asking "what's on the stove" are very different from asking that same question from the author-stance, in a scene I'm acting and authoring in.

Conflating these two different things is, as I said, useful for logically upholding the "there is no audience stance" position; but it's damaging to any attempt to describe how role-playing actually happens.

Another way the audience provides feedback is through reactions.  If a player and a GM are doing a funny scene, and no one in the room seems even slightly amused, that's an audience participation which will affect the flow of the game (most likely, the people participating in the scene will bring it to a close in a hurry, or move it in another direction).  More positively, if a player is taking big chances as an actor - going places she might not normally dare with her performance - if she notices that the other players are in "rapt audience mode," that might give her the encouragement and courage she needs to continue taking chances.  That, also, is an "in-game-influencing behavior."

Anyway, viva la debate. :razz:

Amp
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2001, 12:59:00 PM »

Interesting thread.  I started by somewhat blithely thinking, "Audience Stance? WTF?" but have since given it some thought based on my observations of gameplay and the discussion here.

If there is such a thing as Audience Stance, I'd be inclined to distinguish it from an offstage application of Director Stance.  Alternatively, we might refer to Active Audience Stance (exercises some Directorial power from the wings) and Passive Audience Stance (observes without influencing the scene).  I like the latter division a little better, since I associate Director Stance with character-centered metagame behavior.

The reason I came to this conclusion is as follows:  In my games, I encourage players whose characters are not currently involved in a scene to fill in details and create new elements of the scene, including insertion and playing of NPCs, addition of props, or expanded description of the setting.  This kind of participation strikes me as an exercise of Directorial power on the part of the off-stage players, or Active Audience Stance if you prefer.  It certainly can be as low-key as questioning the on-stage player in order to draw out details, but most often, the off-stage players just run with it.

On the other hand, I've witnessed scenes where the roleplaying and dramatic conflict is so damn good that everyone not involved falls into a non-intrusive audience mode.  I'd definitely call this Audience Stance.  Moreover, I've had times in a game where I or another player keep quiet and watch what's going on with another player and GM, in part because we want to follow what's going on, whether our characters know about it or not.

So I guess I'm convinced there are good reasons to support the existence of Audience Stance.  I'd be interested in further discussion, as well as an examination of whether any games make overt use of such a stance in their metagame rules.

Best,

Blake

[ This Message was edited by: Blake Hutchins on 2001-10-20 17:01 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2001, 01:25:00 PM »

Hey,

Someone correct me if I'm mistaken about this.

It looks as if everyone is pretty much agreed that there ARE behaviors that are not, themselves, role-playing that are affecting the role-playing in the room positively. Blake and "&" (hello, welcome!) have described them well.

So the phenomenon itself is not the issue. What is?

It may be me, in being reluctant to call such things "Stance." I hasten to add that when they do directly impact play, they seem to me to shift instantly into plain old vanilla Director or Author Stance. Jack and Laurel, I think, are also looking at it this way.

After all the flyin'-around posts over several threads, I guess I need an orientor. Is the reluctance in the above paragraph the issue at stake? Or is it the existence of the phenomena? Or something else?

Best,
Ron
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Laurel
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« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2001, 02:33:00 PM »

I'm with Ron's last post.  There seems to be consensus that audience participation can effect the game positively.  The disagreement seems to on definition of stance.  Three opinions being expressed seem to boil down to

1. stance= all forms of participation in a game.

2. stance= way a player determines their own character's action.

3. stance= how events in the game happen.

Without a definition for stance itself that everyone agrees upon, I think we're stuck in contention.

((correct me if I'm off base here))
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2001, 02:55:00 PM »

Nope, that sums it up nicely, Laurel.  A closer look at the definition of "stance" itself is what will clear the logjam.

Best,

Blake
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Ampersand
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« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2001, 07:11:00 PM »

Thanks for the welcome, Ron. :smile:

Ron wrote: It may be me, in being reluctant to call such things "Stance." I hasten to add that when they do directly impact play, they seem to me to shift instantly into plain old vanilla Director or Author Stance.[...]  Is the reluctance in the above paragraph the issue at stake?

Yes, that's the issue, but it may not be the sole issue.  Clearly, the definition of "stance" is at issue, and that's the main issue here.

But I'm a very disagreeable person :razz: , and I can therefore find other issues.  I'd also disagree with you (for the reasons mentioned in my long post earlier today) that "audience" is interchangable with director and/or author.

Laurel wrote: 1. stance= all forms of participation in a game.

Hmmn.  This is closest to my own view, I guess, but I'm not sure about it.  It seems to close to your concept of "role" - in  which case we'd have to add the bringing-snacks-for-the-group Stance, the arranging-babysitting-Stance, the locking-the-dog-in-the-back-room-so-her-whining-doesn't-bug-us Stance, and so forth.  All of which can be very valuable things, of course, but they're not essential parts of roleplaying - they're merely things we might do in support of roleplaying.

For me, I'd rather define it as Stance = The perspectives players (including the GM) shift through while viewing a game in progress.

Amp
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2001, 07:35:00 PM »

Hey Ampers,

I need to clarify a bit:
"I'd also disagree with you ... that "audience" is interchangable with director and/or author."

Hmmmm. I did not intend to imply or state that, so maybe we don't disagree. Let me try to say what I do mean correctly this time.

Audience-ing (whatever) is itself and only itself, until a moment when a person literally influences a character's action or the events/environment pertaining to a character. (I use "character" pretty loosely here, by the way; shall we say, active agent in the game-world.) At that moment, the audience-ing has stopped. It is not interchangeable with Director and/or Author, but rather has STOPPED and the more focused/Exploratory (literally role-playing) act has BEGUN.

What would the audience-ing include, then? To my current thinking, it would be any sort of attention given to the role-playing individuals by non-role-playing individuals. That means ANY sort - hanging out and simply listening, adding commentary (NOT color and input; that's Director stance), maybe bringing some drinks or otherwise encouraging a nice social scene, or anything like that. It could even be tossing a couple of jokes around - in some groups, including those I play with, jokes or other interactions are often a "layer" that accompanies the rather intense role-playing, serving as kind of social glue for the real people and actually enhancing the play experience.

The border between this and Author or Director stances is definitely fuzzy. One second, I may be saying, "Cool!" in reaction to and support of a friend's role-playing. The next, I might be saying, "Whoa - and that means the branch just curls out behind him, you know, we [meaning the audience] see it before he does!" with an accompanying branch-curling gesture. "Yeah," confirms the GM or someone else, "Like that." My current outlook suggests that my second statement, the branch-y one, becomes Director stance - all of a sudden, for that sentence, I'm out of Audience-ing and into role-playing again.

That's what I was muddingly attempting to say, at any rate.

Best,
Ron

P.S. I hope you don't mind my playing with your codename. I'm not making fun of you - it's just kind of a mental hobby or humor thing. Tell me to stop if you want me to.
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