*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
December 18, 2014, 08:38:26 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 68 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Frustrated Gamism  (Read 2851 times)
Luke
Member

Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest


WWW
« on: February 01, 2004, 11:22:58 PM »

I played a game of Risk this weekend with some of my close and dear friends. I know Risk doesn't qualify as an RPG in the terms stated on these boards. However, I thought the circumstances of actual play were interesting, and reflected on some of the other theory and play here. (Also, Jared tweaked my brain this weekend!)

The crux of the matter: Risk is essentially a gamist experience. It is a game of luck and minimal resource management with the expressly written goal of "total domination." Each player takes a side and competes against the others. (This seems to me where it really breaks from traditional RPG status, since Gamism type games seem to me like a race that everyone can win at.)

In our game, we had a player, Bob, who absolutely refused to win. Whenever an opportunity arose to win -- to take out another player and cash in and keep the steamroller going -- he threw himself in another direction. The other three players (Dro, myself and another friend) were absolutely intent on playing the game "as written" -- we wanted "total domination."

Thus the Bob's behavior went from funny, to frustrating to excrutiating.
It's possible to drag that game in circles forever, and eventually, after 4 hours, we just stopped playing because it got so ridiculous. No one could win unless everyone was playing the game -- ie, to win.


The game designer in me was tweaked by this. By simply deciding to play out his emotions of revenge and honor, Bob completely fucked up the game as it was. "You're supposed to fucking risk to win, Bob!" we found ourselves screaming at him. Even though he was breaking no rules, and not doing anything "wrong" per se.


I imagine such a phenomena must be present in games like GURPS and DnD (and others). The disconnect between the game and the way it was being played was very clear in Risk, and it essentially broke the game. In an unnrelated discussion, Jared mentioned that "roleplaying" in DnD does the same thing. "There's no rules for rolepalying in DnD. If you're rolepalying, then you're not playing the game."

I really think Risk illuminates this point in relation to RPGs. A game without mechanics to back how it's actually being played is difficult to enjoy.

A simple observation, I suppose, but one I found enlightening on consciously experiencing it.

-Luke
Logged

JamesSterrett
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2004, 07:01:03 AM »

Is there only One True Way to play a given game?

System Matters, but there are limits to that maxim.  Risk is explicitly designed to support one kind of play; however, your friend appears to have chosen to play it in a different manner that breaks the initial design asumption, but is still reasonably well supported by the game system.  You were playing to conquer, and it sounds to me as if he was playing to ensure a never-ending game of see-sawing battles and intrigue.

Is either objective inherently wrong?

It seems to me that the flaw was that not all of you had signed onto the same social contract regarding the objective of the game.  Isn't that an issue that's wider than any game's rules?

After all, even with an explicit "This Is The One True Way to Play" written into the rules, there's nothing preventing a player (or players) from going off on a tangent that ignores all or part of those rules.  If they all agree that the tangent is fun, then where's the problem?

When they disagree on the tangent's fun factor, then you're into Social Contract territory, no matter what kind of game it happens to be.
Logged
MachMoth
Member

Posts: 130


WWW
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2004, 07:19:29 AM »

I can think of numerous times this has happened in Gamist context.  Others as well, but the "play to win" goal seems to be the easiest to throw off.  I've even had some DM's in DnD literally say "Would you stop roleplaying and just play the game."  Now, this sounds harsh, but it just shows what they want from the game.  Play to win.  I have a plot here, I have bad guys.  Follow the plot, kill the bad guys.  

Just recently, I had a DM that was upset by the fact that I wouldn't fight the town guards, after they falsely accused me of murdering a noble.  He liked even less that I was considering just going with them.  Now, I wasn't actually considering it.  Having a general knowledge of where he wanted to go with this, and the ability to read his plot hooks like a book.  I simply couldn't take this generally passive character, and whoop butt on a bunch of guards doing their job.  So, keeping the plot moving, I bluffed my way out the window, and we escaped to the sewer, right where he wanted us to be.  My punishment for this little flourish of character, no kill, no XP.  *shrugs*  I upset this DM a couple more times, with comments (entirely within discussion and IC roleplaying moments) that implied I 'might' not continue with the others.  Why does all this bother him so much?  Because everything I'm doing are the hallmarks of another player in the group.  One who has know problem stepping the plot aside for character reasons.  There is nothing wrong with this style of play.  Hell, I love it too.  But, it's not the goal this DM sets out to play with.  Play to win.  And, it really throws the game off, when he's playing for other reasons.

Okay, looking up, other dysfunctions exist there, but basically, it's an example of everyone not playing on the same page.  It effects not only that game, but in the case above, it's driven the DM to paranoia.  He's literally on the lookout for every possible attempt to ruin his game with this premise.
Logged

<Shameless Plug>
http://machmoth.tripod.com/rpg">Cracked RPG Experiment
</Shameless Plug>
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2004, 07:44:57 AM »

Hello,

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, one of the most charming characters is Reepicheep, an oversized mouse who is, essentially, D'Artagnan on speed. Lucy, one of the protagonists, whiles away some shipboard time playing chess with him ... and discovers that he's a terrible chess partner, because he keeps identifying with (e.g.) a knight and hurling the piece into impossible-odds situations, entranced with the drama of the "character" in such circumstances.

I like that bit, a lot. It struck me hard when I read it as a kid, and I still enjoy it.

James, you wrote,

Quote
It seems to me that the flaw was that not all of you had signed onto the same social contract regarding the objective of the game. Isn't that an issue that's wider than any game's rules?


In a word, yes. The question is whether "rules" (game text, procedures) do or do not help bring that social context into a satisfying interaction. Two basic mess-ups are possible:

1. Unified/compatible social contract (actually, creative agenda), but rules which make no sense in reaching that contract's "satisfaction" condition.

2. Adequate or even excellent rules for satisfying a particular "satisfaction" condition, but a dis-unified, incompatible set of priorities at the social contract & creative agenda levels.

The phrase "system does matter" concerns both of these possibilities, but its message is very different for each one.

However, I think you're agreeing with Luke, hands-down; you'll see that he doesn't blame the Risk rules for failing them, or even cite them in any way that lays responsibility on them. Luke says:

Quote
"You're supposed to fucking risk to win, Bob!" we found ourselves screaming at him. Even though he was breaking no rules, and not doing anything "wrong" per se.


Which seems to me to be exactly what you're saying too.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Luke
Member

Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest


WWW
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2004, 07:53:04 AM »

Quote from: JamesSterrett

Is either objective inherently wrong?


Hi James,

I've got to disagree. As far as I understood it, One True Wayism was a little more broad and a little more arrogant: The idea that there is only one true way to play any game at all. Meaning: Exalted is the best, and my way of playing it is the only way to play rpgs, period. Perhaps i'm splitting hairs thought.

But in our situation, I really don't think it is a One True Way thing. The player in question was not playing by the rules of the game. (Nor was he playing in their intent as written.) I strongly believe, if you're not playing by the rules, then you're not playing the game. Another player likened Bob's behavior to us deciding we could attack across the Atlantic from the  US to Europe (which you cannot do in Risk).

I see this like sitting down at a DnD game and insisting on talking about Flower Arranging the whole time. Sure, you might be roleplaying. In fact, even playing a game (with yourself), but you're not playing the game at the table.

Is that wrong? Yes and no. Of course we cherish our freedom of choice, but I  suppose this does dip up into Social Contract -- we're all here to play this game; by the rules, the way it was meant to be played. You cease to play by the rules and you're really exiting the group and probably disrupting enjoyment for all.

I have a sneaky feeling that this ties obliquely round to what Ron is hashing out with his Bat Shit theory, but I've got to think more on that.

-L
Logged

JamesSterrett
Member

Posts: 118


« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2004, 10:45:13 AM »

Split some hairs.  Problems don't make sense until they're defined.  :)

I agree that we disagree, and I'll try to be clearer on where I think the crux of it is.

We agree here:

Quote
You cease to play by the rules and you're really exiting the group and probably disrupting enjoyment for all.


- if you'll let me edit that to "You cease to play by the rules agreed to by the group (tacitly or explicitly) and you're really exiting the group and probably disrupting enjoyment for all. "  (My addition in italics.)


The One True Way comments came from your descriptions of the rules of Risk.  As I understand it, you see there as being one way to play Risk - or, perhaps better stated, there's one way you *want to* play Risk:

Quote
But in our situation, I really don't think it is a One True Way thing. The player in question was not playing by the rules of the game. (Nor was he playing in their intent as written.) I strongly believe, if you're not playing by the rules, then you're not playing the game.
[...]
...we're all here to play this game; by the rules, the way it was meant to be played.


Our cardinal disagreement may be purely semantic.  I don't find your rebel to be violating the written rules of the game exceptionally strongly - certainly not in the same category of violation as a Trans-Atlantic invasion.

To my mind, however, he did very much violate the social contract on how the game was to be played - a key part of which, to three of you, was that "everyone will play to win".   [And I do concede that, without discussion of the point, it's a fair assumption.]

I can see an entertaining game of Risk played the way your friend played it, or after the manner of Reepicheep - if everybody had signed onto the concept.  It's my impression that you don't see that as a possibility.  I'm happy to let social contract trump the rules as written.  If all of you had agreed to play Risk in a character-driven cabinet war mode, it could be a fair amount of fun:  Risk meets Diplomacy, perhaps.

If I'm understanding your position correctly, you are generally unwilling to rewrite the game rules on the basis of social contract.  If that's not true, then it seems to me we agree your group suffered a contract failure [three playing rules-as-written, one rewriting them without prior discussion]?  [This is what Ron suggested we agreed on.]

Which brings me back to:

Quote
I really think Risk illuminates this point in relation to RPGs. A game without mechanics to back how it's actually being played is difficult to enjoy.


And your point there, I do disagree with, when taken as a general principle.  A social contract that suits everybody makes it possible to have fun playing baseball without a bat.  [I've done it once - you do have to skip the catcher and the pitcher, and let the "batter" throw the ball - but if you've got rock as bases, a ball, and no stick, what the heck!  If you'd suggested to us at the time that what we were playing as "not baseball", we'd have looked at you funny.  :)  ]  If everybody sits down at the DnD table to play characters involved in the floral arrangement business, more power to them - the dysfunction occurs when somebody decides to go it alone outside the social contract.

I do agree that rules that support a given social contract's desired modes of play will tend to make the experience a lot smoother.  [Has there been any discussion already of the "Uncanny Valley" in this regard?]


Good point on the Bat Shit column.  Had this friend played Risk or other similar games before?  Was he altering things into a mode of play he preferred in other games?


It occurs to me that I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that part of social contract includes "these are the rules we alter to suit our preferences".  If I'm wrong about that, then I need correction.[/quote]
Logged
Bob McNamee
Member

Posts: 685


« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2004, 05:07:50 PM »

Any chance this fellow just always loses at Risk?

Who then developed a really good, if annoying, defensive strategy to last as long as he can, with a goal towards perhaps not being the first person defeated?
Logged

Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!
chadu
Member

Posts: 134


WWW
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2004, 03:46:20 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, one of the most charming characters is Reepicheep, an oversized mouse who is, essentially, D'Artagnan on speed. Lucy, one of the protagonists, whiles away some shipboard time playing chess with him ... and discovers that he's a terrible chess partner, because he keeps identifying with (e.g.) a knight and hurling the piece into impossible-odds situations, entranced with the drama of the "character" in such circumstances.

I like that bit, a lot. It struck me hard when I read it as a kid, and I still enjoy it.


A-fricking-men: Reep is my favorite Lewis character, bar none.

CU
Logged

Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

Atomic Sock Monkey Press

 Available Now: Truth & Justice
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2004, 04:52:07 PM »

I was always partial to Tash myself...heh...
Logged

Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2004, 05:00:10 PM »

I'd like to disagree with one notion I read here a lot.

To say that I'm not playing the game if I'm not slavishly obeying the game book strikes me as incorrect.

If the social contract of the gaming group is that we roleplay while playing AD-&-D, and then we roleplay
while playing AD-&-D, then we ~are~ playing the game (or at least a variant thereof).  This is supported
some by the game books in that many of them validate the use of house rules, and I've noticed that
bringing roleplay into games without specific roleplay mechanics is a common house rule.

It's the violation of the social contract more than any sort of heresy against the game book which is so vexing
in situations such as those mentioned in this thread.

Doctor Xero
Logged

"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2004, 05:00:50 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
I was always partial to Tash myself...heh...


Eek!

^_^

Doctor Xero
Logged

"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
clehrich
Member

Posts: 1557


WWW
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2004, 09:48:51 AM »

Quote from: Doctor Xero
To say that I'm not playing the game if I'm not slavishly obeying the game book strikes me as incorrect.
I don't think you're reading such threads correctly.  The point here is not that one has to slavishly obey everything in a game book or elsewhere, but that radical disagreement with other gamers about the point of the game should be made explicit early.  Thus if everyone thinks the point of the Risk game is to win, and one player refuses to see it this way, the game goes on forever without purpose.
Quote
If the social contract of the gaming group is that we roleplay while playing AD-&-D, and then we roleplay while playing AD-&-D, then we ~are~ playing the game (or at least a variant thereof).  This is supported some by the game books in that many of them validate the use of house rules, and I've noticed that bringing roleplay into games without specific roleplay mechanics is a common house rule.
I'm not sure what you mean by "roleplay."  This is such an open concept, especially here at the Forge, that without my knowing what you mean by it it's very difficult to parse your example.
Quote
It's the violation of the social contract more than any sort of heresy against the game book which is so vexing in situations such as those mentioned in this thread.
I think the point here is that violations of social contract are, in this case, violations of the structure of the game as written.  Of course you could have everyone play Risk as an RPG, but everyone would have to agree about this.  The game as written makes pretty clear that this is not the writers' intention.  If everyone in the game agrees to set aside the writers' intent, then that's fine and you have a whole new game.

This is where the System Matters thing comes in: if you want to do Risk as an RPG, you might want a system that encourages and supports other kinds of play, which is not the case with Risk.  If everyone is going to turn the game into a cooperative RPG, you're going to need to reconfigure the system.  There's no heresy here, just an alternative mode of play.  But if only one player decides to play by a different system, you have incoherence and unhappiness.

Chris Lehrich
Logged

Chris Lehrich
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!