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Author Topic: Who cares?  (Read 12525 times)
Christopher Weeks
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« on: September 08, 2003, 09:21:53 AM »

In a current thread:

Quote

Quote
but what I care is secondary to what the character cares


Sorry.  Characters are pencil scribblings on a piece of paper.  No RPG character has ever cared about anything...ever.  They don't exist.  They are figments of the imagination and so can not, ever, exist independently of the person portraying them.


I've seen this stance expressed here several times in the few weeks since Gen Con that I've been reading here.  Has this been seriously discussed?  Does anyone have pointers or search hints for those threads?

Chris
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2003, 09:51:18 AM »

This tends to pop up in a thread whenever someone tries to say "the cahracter want this or that." I don't think it's even been discussed on it's own, but what's to discuss? The characters are not real. Plain and simple. What ever reality they have is from the players. If the character wants something, it's because the player wants them to want it. That's it.
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Christopher Weeks
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« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2003, 10:12:45 AM »

I think that for day to day operation, your stance on this is the most utilitarian and is the one that I, too, stick with as default.

However, there are big unresolved (unresolvable?) philosophical issues revolving around free will, existentialism, The Creator, oversouls, solipsism, etc.  There are real, serious philosophers who believe that our existence can best be explained by the notion that we are running in a sim.  And from my perspective, that's not nearly as silly as most of what we call religion.

I think it's easiest to first consider the notion of computer "game" characters as we approach real AI.  Assuming that at some point, a piece of software will pass the Turing test, and that those utilities continue to gain sophistication, at what point do they count as "real?"

If we decide that at some point these software agents are "real" and can genuinely want something.  What does that mean about other kinds of man-made entities?  The solipsist questions whether you can actually want things just as much as your character (but not himself).

I've gotten the idea that this kind of discussion isn't normally what the Forgies groove on, or maybe it's just off-topic, but I figured it was worth asking for references if there happened to be past discussion that I'm not finding with the search.

Chris
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Marco
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« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2003, 10:23:38 AM »

Quote from: Christopher

If we decide that at some point these software agents are "real" and can genuinely want something.  What does that mean about other kinds of man-made entities?  The solipsist questions whether you can actually want things just as much as your character (but not himself).

I've gotten the idea that this kind of discussion isn't normally what the Forgies groove on, or maybe it's just off-topic, but I figured it was worth asking for references if there happened to be past discussion that I'm not finding with the search.

Chris


Variations of that do come up here from time to time, actually. I don't think it's especially "off topic" (there's a strong current of thought here that isn't all that interested in what you have to say about your personal preferences on a matter, preferring to work from what observable behavior you make available).

I think characters can "want something their player doesn't" or "not want something their player does"--this often stems from the interpertation of things like Psych Disadvantages or "Alighnment Conflicts."

In this interpertation, what a character wants is seen as being inferred by the systemic definition of the character ("He fights for GOOD!") rather than an in-play statement or imagination of "want."

As such, the Gamist (perhaps) sees character-wants as required drawbacks necessary to purchase effectivness, the Sim player (perhaps) sees character-wants as defintive of the character, and the Nar player sees character-wants as fulcrums on which to hang a premise-exploring conflict.

When the game system's definition/handling of these artifacts is out of touch with the player's at-the-moment preference you get friction.

-Marco
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2003, 12:03:20 PM »

Quote
I think characters can "want something their player doesn't"


True, one can play a character who's a pedophile without being one.

But characters can never want something that their player doesn't want them to want.

As in any creative exercise, there can be those magic epiphany moments where some idea pops seemingly unbidden into ones head.  But whether that idea gets realized in actual play is completely up to the player.  

There is no time at which "my character wants..." has any meaning whatsoever outside of short hand for "I the player decide that my character wants"...philosophical dialogues into the nature of man and free will aside, as interesting as those may be to muse about.


I for one make an effort to draw this distinction whenever opportunity presents itself for a number of reasons:

1) Wide spread assumptions about playing "in character" being the "proper way" to role play are often based on the mistaken distinction between "what my character wants" and "what I as the player wants".  When one accepts the fundamental truth that these are essentially the exact same thing, then one realizes that the distinction between "game" mechanics and "meta-game" mechanics becomes an equally arbitrary and unnecessary one.

2) One of the common criticisms of "meta-game" mechanics is that they serve to break "immersion" (insert "channeling" or word of your choice here).  While there are many potential reasons to critique a mechanic, IMO "breaking immersion" isn't a valid one, because it relies on the same assumption about seperation of character and player that I not above.  Since ALL roleplaying involves what the player wants, a mechanic designed to specifically target what the player wants cannot be any more immersion breaking than any other mechanic.  Now if one wants to argue that *ALL* mechanics serve to break deep immersion, I won't disagree, I will strongly disagree, however, that "meta-game" mechanics do so to a greater degree than non meta-game mechanics do once one discards the false dichotomy.

3) [rant warning] I define deep immersion as a player who seeks to play 100% from an in character first person portrayal of his character, actively and aggressively seeking to minimize any exception to that.  It is a style of play that I believe to be essentially a selfish one, as it deprives all other players at the table from full enjoyment of the character in question.  Only the Immersed player gets to enjoy and appreciate all of the detail nuances of personality and decision making of the character.  Theater has long used monologues and soliliquy in places where straight first person perspective cannot convey adequately to the audience.  TV and movies make ample use of flash backs and cutting to action occuring elsewhere where the protagonist is not involved for the same purpose...conveying important information to the audience in an entertaining manner.  Deep Immersive roleplaying as I defined it above, prohibits the use of such techniques...thereby robbing the audience (the other players) of potential entertainment value in order to maximize the enjoyment of the Immersed player.  This meets my definition of selfish play.

I actively seek to avoid play with such players for the same reason that I avoid play with power gaming munchkins.  Both are selfish play styles which seek to maximize their own enjoyment at the expense of others and IMO only produce functional play if all other members of the group are equally committed to the same style. [/rant]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2003, 12:27:21 PM »

Hello,

A couple of relatively acrimonious threads which demonstrate different outlooks about this issue include:
Mechanics, emotions, and Amberway II
Player-character distinctions
Brief critique of relationship mechanics

In the interest of disclosure, my position is pretty extreme and very much in line with Ralph's statements above.

Best,
Ron
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John Kim
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2003, 02:15:44 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
  As in any creative exercise, there can be those magic epiphany moments where some idea pops seemingly unbidden into ones head.  But whether that idea gets realized in actual play is completely up to the player.  

This may be correct in some gross physical sense, but I think it has some important assumptions.  Your view here is that the player always looks inwardly at his mental model of the character in isolation.  An epiphany may happen in private thinking, but portrayal is a totally separate act from thinking about character.  So any aspect of character can only be a conscious choice on the part of the player.  

In my experience, this isn't true.  Characters will often show aspects which weren't consciously intended by the player.  For example, I might watch someone else's portrayal, and then tell them my observations about the character which they may not have noticed.  i.e. After a game, I might say, "Your character seems to instinctively distrust authority."  "Hmm.  I think you're right.  I hadn't noticed that."  

I suspect that you would label these as mistakes.  Given that you dislike deep immersive play, you would say that any epiphanies showing through are strictly to be avoided -- and if I notice anything not intended by the player, I should ignore it.  In contrast, to me these are valuable insights, and at least as interesting than the conscious choices of the player.  

Quote from: Valamir
  I define deep immersion as a player who seeks to play 100% from an in character first person portrayal of his character, actively and aggressively seeking to minimize any exception to that.  It is a style of play that I believe to be essentially a selfish one, as it deprives all other players at the table from full enjoyment of the character in question.  Only the Immersed player gets to enjoy and appreciate all of the detail nuances of personality and decision making of the character. Theater has long used monologues and soliliquy in places where straight first person perspective cannot convey adequately to the audience.  ...

OK, here you've entirely lost me.  Who the heck are you to tell other people how to play?  If you don't enjoy immersive players, then fine.  Say that you personally don't like it, and don't play with them.  However, that doesn't make their way of playing inherently less valid than yours.  

For example, I might be annoyed by your habit of soliloquizing your character's thoughts.  But I wouldn't say that this makes you a selfish player.  Other people might enjoy your soliloquys.  It just means that you and I enjoy different aspects of play.  

I enjoy watching immersive portrayals.  It is generally more interesting for me to interpret what a PC's actions mean than to have a player talk OOC about what they mean.  For that matter, I also enjoyed Rain Main as a movie even though Dustin Hoffman never stepped forward to say what his character was thinking, and was generally mysterious.  Of course, part of this goes back to the idea that I think a PC can have more nuance than the conscious choices of the player.  Your desire to have soliloquys is just as valid, of course, but it is just a preference.
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- John
Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2003, 03:26:09 PM »

Quote from: John Kim

In my experience, this isn't true.  Characters will often show aspects which weren't consciously intended by the player.  For example, I might watch someone else's portrayal, and then tell them my observations about the character which they may not have noticed.  i.e. After a game, I might say, "Your character seems to instinctively distrust authority."  "Hmm.  I think you're right.  I hadn't noticed that."  


What you're noticing is simply a pattern that has emerged.  Absolutely possible and not at all contradicting my assertion.  The player may not have noticed he'd fallen into a pattern you did.  Great.  But that in no way shape or form means that the player wasn't the one making the decisions that lead to that pattern.  It in no way indicates that the pattern of behavior comes from some mysterious "my character" entity.  No the decisions came from the player.

Exactly the same as the players decisions about his own behavior.  You could just as easily observe a friend and say "You seem to exhibit an instinctive distrust of authority" (speaking directly of the person himself), to which he may reply "Hmm, I think you're right.  I hadn't noticed that. "  This is not surprising or unexpected.

And hear's the next phase to your example.  What does that player do now that you've pointed out that behavior?  Does he say "no that's not what I wanted to portray" and change his characters decisions.  Does he say "yeah, that's the character image I want to project" and continue to reinforce that pattern?  Does he say "whatever" and go on next time to just play his character without thinking in terms of such things, in which case he may again exhibit the same pattern, or, given a different day and a different set of external stimuli on the player's mood, may exhibit a completely different pattern...equally unintentionally to the first one?

Ultimately it still comes down to what the player wants his character to do.

Quote
OK, here you've entirely lost me.  Who the heck are you to tell other people how to play?


Did I?  I think not.  I simply asserted how that style of play is inherently selfish and that my preference is to avoid playing with such players.

If you're objecting to the use of the term "selfish" to describe this mode of play, then do so.  By that I mean, actually object.  Raise an arguement, make a counter point.  I'm happy to discuss it with you.  I'm entirely disinterested in any "how dare you" protestations.  


 If you don't enjoy immersive players, then fine.  Say that you personally don't like it, and don't play with them.  However, that doesn't make their way of playing inherently less valid than yours.  [/quote]


Quote
For example, I might be annoyed by your habit of soliloquizing your character's thoughts.  [snip]  Your desire to have soliloquys is just as valid, of course, but it is just a preference.


The rest of your post is argueing against a point that I never made.   At no time did I suggest that all first person portrayal was bad, nor that the only valid way of communicating character was OOC.  In fact, I was pretty specific in how I defined Deep Immersion above.
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John Kim
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« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2003, 04:08:02 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Quote
OK, here you've entirely lost me.  Who the heck are you to tell other people how to play?

I simply asserted how that style of play is inherently selfish and that my preference is to avoid playing with such players.

If you're objecting to the use of the term "selfish" to describe this mode of play, then do so.

OK, I will.  You usage is based on a false projection of your preferences onto everyone.  You interpret immersive play as being selfish because you would prefer to have the player expose their inner thoughts about the character.  Thus, you claim that immersive players are selfishly withholding what you want.  But that's just you imagining that your preferences are universal.  With just as much validity, I could say that someone who soliloquizes her character's thoughts is being selfish -- because she is ruining my enjoyment of the game by playing to just her own preferences to parade her character around.
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Marco
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2003, 04:47:38 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Quote
I think characters can "want something their player doesn't"


True, one can play a character who's a pedophile without being one.

But characters can never want something that their player doesn't want them to want.
 [/rant]


I don't think so--and I'm surprised that you'd say that.

In order for that to be true, you're gonna have to throw out the game system's role in defining character-wants (which both you and Ron seem weirdly eager to do and which, I think is at odds with SDM).

A randomly rolled psych-limit would *define* a character as wanting something the character doesn't want him to want. That's the trivial case.

The more likely case is the Redemption Game. I have a lawful evil character and I'm gonna make him Lawful good by the end (yes, AD&D may not support this well. No, it doesn't matter for this discussion).

The character is defined as wanting to be Evil.

The character is, by my *portrayal*, defined as wanting/trying to be Good.

I'm rooting for him to be Good.

I arranged for him to want evil (at the start).

Now you can say that I: (deep breath) wanted him to want something I want him to want not to want.

And yeah, that's trivial (unless, as I said, I rolled randomly for alignment).

But it also ignores the extant case where a character's actions (as dictated by the game) are at odds with what the player wants (i.e. the character blows his Virtue check and torches the village that isn't paying it's taxes: the player goes home with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach).

Not only does/can that happen--it can be a very powerful part of roleplaying (mostly, I guess, for Simulationists--which may be where the disconnect is coming from).

-Marco
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ejh
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2003, 05:10:43 PM »

If I had a nickel for every time I've read some author claiming that their characters took on a life of their own and made decisions independently of the author, well, I'd have a whole lotta nickels.

And many creators talk in terms of "discovering" their creations as much as in terms of "creating" them.  Tolkien used to say that he eventually came to feel as if Middle-Earth existed independently of him, and he was learning about it, not making it up.

That suggests to me that whatever may be the philosophical truth about characters' "reality," at least for some creators, the character's independence has some kind of subjective truth.

However, I see the point that is being made by objecting to that kind of talk, and I think it's a reasonable one.

And I think that all competent creators, while they may have the experience of their fictional worlds or characters having an independence from themselves, have to keep a firm grasp on the fact that they are producing a work, and a lot of decisions have to be made about how that work will come together -- decisions that must be made by them, with skill and judgement.

(Speaking of Inklings, somewhere C. S. Lewis wrote about how critics who never write stories vastly underestimate the number of details of story structure which are simply attempts to elegantly solve problems of constructing a tale.  They'll read psychological or other significance into what the artist knows he did for reasons as sheerly structural as the reasons for putting the struts a certain way when you build a house.  So that's another side of things.)
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2003, 06:20:52 PM »

Quote from: John Kim
OK, I will.  You usage is based on a false projection of your preferences onto everyone.


wrong

I said:

Quote
I define deep immersion as a player who seeks to play 100% from an in character first person portrayal of his character, actively and aggressively seeking to minimize any exception to that.  It is a style of play that I believe to be essentially a selfish one


I could just as easily as said:
Quote
I define XXXXXXX as a player who seeks to do blah blah blah 100% blah blah blah, actively and aggressively seeking to minimize any exception to that.  It is a style of play that I believe to be essentially a selfish on


It would also be equally true.

ANY style of play which holds as one of its tenet "this is the way I prefer to play and I will refuse to make any concessions to any other style of play at the table" is a inherently selfish one.  This is entirely independent of preference.  It is a simple application of the very definition of selfish behavior.  To the extent that the idea of "deep immersion" as I defined it above meets this criteria it is a selfish playstyle.  Regardless of whether or not someone happens to enjoy it.

Whatever value judgements you care to apply to "selfish" being wrong, or "selfish" being human nature (ala "greed is good"), is up to the reader.


Quote
You interpret immersive play as being selfish because you would prefer to have the player expose their inner thoughts about the character.


wrong.  First, please do not try to broaden the scope of my claim.  I specified the term Deep Immersion, and provided a specific definition of my useage.  Second I interpret Deep Immersion as I defined it as being selfish precisely because the player engaged in it does not care what my preferences are.  They will play their character they way they play their character, for better or worse, with utter disregard for other options or other preferences.

As I already stated, this produces functional play IFF all other players at the table share similiar goals.  Just as any other form of essentially selfish play, such as rampant power gaming, can.


Quote
With just as much validity, I could say that someone who soliloquizes her character's thoughts is being selfish -- because she is ruining my enjoyment of the game by playing to just her own preferences to parade her character around.


If I did so in spite of an in total disregard to your desires on the matter...yes.  Let me try another approach to clarify.

Fanatical adherence to a single mode of play to the exclusion of other players interests or preferences is selfish.  Deep Immersion, as I've defined it, is a form of Fanatical play.  Ergo it is selfish.  Just because you can list off a dozen or a thousand other equally selfish forms of Fanatical play, does not invalidate the essential selfishness of Deep Immersion.


Quote from: Marco

In order for that to be true, you're gonna have to throw out the game system's role in defining character-wants (which both you and Ron seem weirdly eager to do and which, I think is at odds with SDM).

A randomly rolled psych-limit would *define* a character as wanting something the character doesn't want him to want. That's the trivial case.


This is covered by the basic Lumpley principle.  Since rules have no credibility on their own, and all ultimate credibility resides with the players, the decision to portray a character according to the determinates of a random roll, is still the player deciding what he the player wants for the character.  In such a case the player has decided that he wants to obey the die roll.  Surely you can't claim that some entity known as "my character" chose to have its actions defined by a random roll.
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MachMoth
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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2003, 07:00:58 PM »

While a character needs its creator in order to want, that does not mean the character does not have motives.  When I play a character, I play by his motives.  I've found myself, from time to time, not picking a choice I'm comfortable with, because it's what the character "would" want.  

Truely, my wants are secondary to my characters wants, defining wants as an expression of the character's motives.  That's probably the key right there, motives.  Yes, the character doesn't exist.  But throwing that around is like saying "It's just a game."  It has little meaning, other than to upset those trying to take their character seriously.

I've only seen character immersion to be a problem, when it is used as an out.  It's one thing to seriously play a character, and another thing to use a character's motives when it is useful (eg. the "that's what my character would do" person.)  

As for selfish, well yeah, I guess I am.  I don't want to play in a game where my character is just writing on paper, or a jumble of stats.  If there isn't some sort of personality, some kind of emotion to work with, then I'm going to get really bored, really fast.  As a GM, I'm plot oriented.  As a player, I'm character oriented, and a narrativist through and through.  That's how I view roleplaying.  It's wrong, I know, but that's why I play, so that's how I play.  And if I'm selfish for wanting to enjoy myself, then I'll assume that's a good thing.  After all, "It's just a game."
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Valamir
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« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2003, 07:11:15 PM »

Quote from: MachMoth
While a character needs its creator in order to want, that does not mean the character does not have motives.  When I play a character, I play by his motives.  I've found myself, from time to time, not picking a choice I'm comfortable with, because it's what the character "would" want.  


Your missing the point entirely Moth.  The issue is not "playing in character" vs. not playing in character.  You as a player are identifying what your character wants.  You as a player are choosing to portray that in the game.  You as a player may not want what your character wants, but you do want him to want those things.  You choosing to portray your characters motives, is exactly what I'm saying.  You as a player are choosing to do that.  The character isn't choosing that, you are.  That's the point.
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Marco
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« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2003, 07:11:15 PM »

I'm not claming there's an entity known as "my character"--I'm saying that "wants" as dictated by the game system can conflict with "wants" from a player.

I.e. that in the context I'm describing a character can "want" (as "want" is defined by system) something that a player would rather not him "want."

In your example, that's a case of me having a roll I don't like--but having to abide by it.

In your example it would mean that if you rolled to hit and missed you "wanted" to miss, right?

The real meat of the question is: can a character's dictated endeavors, aims, or goals, be in opposition to what a player would have them be if the player had complete directoral/godlike power to rearrange or redefine the system as wanted.

The answer clearly seems to be 'yes'--if there is another meaningful interpertation of the question, I don't see it (is there an entity known as 'my character'? No--few of us actually believe that's the case).

-Marco
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