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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 91 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Jargon and legacy  (Read 14067 times)
Adam Dray
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« on: May 11, 2004, 05:15:25 PM »

Chris Lehrich in this post listed ten reasons why people might use jargon. I wanted to add another (and that thread is closing).

I think some people create new jargon to establish a legacy for themselves -- to make their mark on their society. It's another kind of hubris, really.

It's like the games that come up with yet another "clever" term for game master. If the new term actually adds color or otherwise improves the game, that's fine, but if the designer changes it without a system reason, it's to make a mark of some kind.

Do I think the members of the Forge are "guilty" of needlessly creating jargon to establish their own legacies (or even the legacy of the Forge itself)? I think yes, sometimes, but I give the forum's members more credit than that. By and large, I think we really just need terms to discuss things, and we enshrine the first useful term that arises for a concept.[/url]
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
clehrich
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2004, 08:38:26 PM »

At the end of the same thread, Walt made the point that:
Quote
Angsting about jargon doesn't make any sense to me. I own a set of allen wrenches. They serve only one purpose I'm aware of, which is turning allen screws. I could probably think of hundreds of things I shouldn't do with allen wrenches, and enumerate a dramatic and impressive-looking list of them (sticking them in my eye, dropping them off tall buildings, heating them in the microwave...). Which would prove nothing, and certainly not convince me to throw the allen wrenches away.
While I agree with the general point, I do think that worrying a little about jargon is worthwhile.

I listed off a whole bunch of problems with jargon, and Adam has added another good one.  If we keep thinking about it, we'll come up with a considerable list.

None of these things makes jargon not useful.  But every one is something we ought constantly to bear in mind.  So long as we are very self-aware about our uses of jargon, we can use it precisely, effectively, and constructively.  But when we get slack about it, we start giving support to those who think the Forge is pseudo-intellectual, elitist, or exclusionary.

My own inclination, after these threads have run their course (along with sub-threads), is to write up a little article about jargon, its values and its dangers.  That way we'd have a kind of perpetual reference-point to remind us of what we should be wary of.

I'm not pointing fingers here.  Adam's point, about jargon as legacy, is a very apt one, and I think that in a thread about a year back I started to slide into this myself.  And I think most of the regular contributors to the GNS and RPG Theory forums have, at one time or another, slipped into one of the dangers we've already listed.

Does this mean we should stop using jargon?  Of course not.  But we should be perpetually on our guard against the tendency to use allen wrenches as awls.

One last point: what I do not think should happen is for people to police others' posts.  I'd hate to see someone saying, "No, you've fallen into Mystification, ha ha," which just transmutes a criticism of jargon use into another piece of jargon.  I like to think that Forgers are pretty self-aware folks, and thus if we periodically remind ourselves of what to watch out for, we will generally keep the level of discourse high.
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Chris Lehrich
Rob Carriere
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« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2004, 12:28:33 AM »

First, I agree with all the dangers of jargon listed. I've seen most of these in actual operation in multiple places. The Forge seems relatively clean, though.

Second, I want to add another use for jargon. It alerts a newcomer that there is a concept to be learned.

When I arrive at The Forge for the first time and read something like `to play narrativist D&D, you have to seriously drift.' I may not understand the sentence at all, but I immediately know that this is because I'm missing two concepts required for understanding and I know that these concepts are known under the labels `narrativist' and `drift' (and presumably grammatical variations thereof). Cool, now I can do a key word search. Without the jargon, I might still pick up that I'm missing concepts, but it is now much harder for me to go and find explanations. Even asking for an explanation is easier with jargon (`what does "drift" mean?')

So, I claim that, used properly, jargon can actually help newcomers.

SR
--
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2004, 05:57:25 AM »

I agree with Rob. Jargon can be useful as a signal. Remember, though, when you read message after message and you barely understand a word printed, it is a barrier to entry.

Right now, we have the new glossary, which is a huge step towards educating people about the Big Model. We have the articles section.

We also have scads of discussions, but those are difficult to filter through. When someone says to a new poster, "we've discussed this before; go search the archives," it's very off-putting. With 400 MB of material, it's hard to know where to start. Even if you are good with a search tool, it's difficult to learn a concept that is changing and growing over time.

That is, a lot of the threads show the making of the sausage, not the finished sausage. When there are so many new concepts to learn, we don't need to confuse new people by inundating them with the history leading up to the ideas. Let's just present the ideas in their current state. There's more than enough material there to occupy the mind of a new visitor.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Asrogoth
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Posts: 92


« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2004, 07:11:11 AM »

Adam,

You're very right with your sausage metaphor.  I think it is generally accepted that it often is difficult for "newbies" to understand the sausage by having to search out the sausage making process themselves.

As you stated, the glossary should alleviate much of this frustration.

In addition, I would suggest something to you, or to anyone truly interested in "streamlining" the way for new members of the Forge to engage in quality discussion.  Create your desired article or work that you think would be the most beneficial.  I am still working on my own "Streamlining Design" document to assist game designers.  Perhaps you have something in mind to assist with your concerns?

Just a thought.
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"We know what we know because someone told us it was so."
Emily Care
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2004, 07:20:40 AM »

Quote from: Asrogoth
I am still working on my own "Streamlining Design" document to assist game designers.

I'd love to see this happen.  Jonathan Walton and Chris Lehrich are working on a guide presenting the big model theory to rpg players, a similar document (or documents) aimed at designers would be very helpful.  

Also, although it is all well and good to have this info available here, it might be useful, too, to send it out to more "mainstream" venues.  As may be your plan.  It'll be much easier to bring people into jargonville if they've had some exposure coming in.

Best,
Emily
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Black & Green Games
Adam Dray
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« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2004, 07:26:21 AM »

I have often considered writing these articles myself, but I simply do not understand the model well enough -- and I've been a member for three years. I may just be particularly obtuse, or I may not put in as much time as others, but learning the ins and outs of the Big Model well enough to explain it to others isn't something that comes in a couple days of reading.

Not yet, anyway. I think with the right introductory materials, one could learn the basics in a day.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
AnyaTheBlue
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Posts: 187


« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2004, 09:31:20 AM »

Quote
I think with the right introductory materials, one could learn the basics in a day.


I think this is a key point related not just to the jargon, but the whole GNS theory and it's attendent modifications and applications, not to mention the whole concept of 'Forge Hubris'.

For the most part, the Forge and it's discussions are opaque.  The jargon is used to clarify the topic, but the jargon itself is hard to learn, and it is very densely used here.  Possibly overused, in fact.

In my personal opinion, the jargon is actually harder to get a handle on than the concepts it is trying to shorthand for.  Ron's ASCII pseudo-zen diagrams for premise are an example of something that really isn't that hard to grasp conceptually, but which is kind of hard to get from the chosen jargon shorthand.  I'm not trying to pick on Ron specifically here, it's just a good example.

Discussion here seems primarily focussed on an academic pursuit of analysis and explication, and not so much on teaching and clarifying.  That may well be because what we have right now are largely academic theories clashing against one another, with little or no ultimate agreement on which is 'right' or 'best'.  The concern seems to be explaining the theories to other theoreticians, not necessarily to laymen.

To put this all another way, we have an awful lot of physicists, but not so many engineers, architects, or construction workers.

Anyway, I want to really thank Emily for broaching these topics over the past few days.  Her approach is one of thoughtful diplomacy, and I for one am grateful for it!
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Emily Care
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2004, 10:12:17 AM »

Quote from: AnyaTheBlue
Discussion here seems primarily focussed on an academic pursuit of analysis and explication, and not so much on teaching and clarifying.  That may well be because what we have right now are largely academic theories clashing against one another, with little or no ultimate agreement on which is 'right' or 'best'.  The concern seems to be explaining the theories to other theoreticians, not necessarily to laymen.

To put this all another way, we have an awful lot of physicists, but not so many engineers, architects, or construction workers.


Teaching and clarifying. Yes! There's so much ground that has been covered, theory-wise, the logical next step is to bring it out to the world.
Or at least make it bloody comprehensible!

There may be some dire questions to be answered, but there are many things that don't need to be argued--just communicated.  And not in a talking-down kind of way.  Just simply, clearly and with respect.  

And to be clear, myself, I think the jargon is absolutely critical.  But we need to be bilingual if we want other people to understand us, much less care about what's being said here.  Along with the architects and construction workers, we need some translators!

Thanks muchly, Dana! :)
Yrs,
Emily Care
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Black & Green Games
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2004, 11:36:21 AM »

Translators to what? What coherent language exists out there to translate to? Note how often our jarogn is merely a clarification of some commonly used term in RPGs that's meaningless because of the multitudinous meanings that are applied to it by the gaming public at large.

We don't need translators, we need classrooms with students. I'm absolutely serious. You want to teach this stuff? It should be part of a college level curriculum.

Note that, for the "average" gamer, that I don't think there's any need for him to understand anything that's done at The Forge. That doesn't make what we do here impractical, it means that it either applies to designing, or we can apply it in fora like Actual Play translating as well as we do as we go.

Or, IOW, the problem doesn't exist.

Mike
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AnyaTheBlue
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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2004, 11:52:48 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Translators to what? What coherent language exists out there to translate to?


Well, I personally would favor English, as it's the only language I speak fluently.  I could handle C or C++, for that matter, but I don't think they're quite as widely accessable (yes, I'm being sarcastic, but only a little -- I've had dreams in C)

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Note how often our jarogn is merely a clarification of some commonly used term in RPGs that's meaningless because of the multitudinous meanings that are applied to it by the gaming public at large.


Er, this is certainly not something that I've noted.  Most of the Jargon I've noted has been describing bits of the gaming universe that are invisible -- hidden assumptions.  By giving them names and labels, they become more prominent.  I personally feel they're still a bit more out of focus than they perhaps could be.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
We don't need translators, we need classrooms with students. I'm absolutely serious. You want to teach this stuff? It should be part of a college level curriculum.

Note that, for the "average" gamer, that I don't think there's any need for him to understand anything that's done at The Forge. That doesn't make what we do here impractical, it means that it either applies to designing, or we can apply it in fora like Actual Play translating as well as we do as we go.

Or, IOW, the problem doesn't exist.


Really, Mike -- is this kind of elitism necessary and desirable?  I experienced an awful lot of "Well, it was hard for me, so I'm going to make it hard for you" approaches in my dalliances with Grad School.  I didn't find that a very practical approach there, and I don't think it's useful here, either, for fairly similar reasons.

How do you know what an average gamer needs to understand?  What about gamers who want to understand?

Is it useful to make it harder to understand Forge discussions?  Why?

Or is it somehow harmful to make it easier to understand Forge discussions?  Why?

Just because some people don't perceive this issue doesn't make it imaginary.

I'm not sure that the caliber or tenor of discussion here really needs to change much.  I do think, however, that the Forge community would benefit from a more active attempt to mine and summarize the archived discussion here with an eye towards explaining what has already been covered, and what conclusions have been reached.  The current work on the Glossary is an excellent example of this kind of thing.
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Emily Care
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2004, 12:29:37 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Note that, for the "average" gamer, that I don't think there's any need for him to understand anything that's done at The Forge. That doesn't make what we do here impractical, it means that it either applies to designing, or we can apply it in fora like Actual Play translating as well as we do as we go.

I don't see what's done here as impractical either.  Just losing potential audience by lacking easily understood presentation. (That's what I got out of some bits of the recent controversy, you may disagree)

Quote from: AnyatheBlue
How do you know what an average gamer needs to understand? What about gamers who want to understand?

I suspect Mike just meant that most gamers would choose to happily go about their business gaming and not deal with theory be it gns or what have you.  As long as they can get good games, and play and understand them, it's all good.  Not everyone has to be into theory.

But I disagree with Mike that there is not a problem.  I think simple attention to how we say what we mean is as important as what we mean (to paraphrase Dana) and will make a big difference in the long run.

There's lots of things happening to this end:

*The glossaries are welcome and long awaited.
*All the games people publish--and projects like the IGC sampler--contribute to giving folks a taste of different ways to do things.  *Various projects are underway to present basic topics in a comprehensive fashion.

These are good things.  The daily translation that happens in Indie-Games and Actual Play are good things too.  It's important work and is sort of the front lines for where theory hits practice.  (other than in play of games, of course)  And the more aware we are of whether we're actually communicating with people there, the better off we will be.

yrs,
Em

edited to add: Adam, apologies if this is a threadjack. Say the word.
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Black & Green Games
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2004, 12:36:30 PM »

You're putting a lot of words in my mouth, Dana. I have no problem in general with anyone wanting to make it easier to understand the concepts here. And I certainly have no desire to make them any more difficult to understand. I never said any such thing.

And how am I being elitist? I'm not saying that we should hide anything. Anybody who wants to come play in the pond is welcome to do so, and, in fact, is trained when they get here to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately we don't have classrooms, so the training is often quite rough.

But I'm serious about the classroom thing. I think this stuff should be in textbooks and taught to people. I think those textbooks should be as easy to understand as possible.


To make an analogy, would you expect doctors to create a "Medical Jargon to English" translation? To what end? They already are smart enough to do such translation when they think it's neccessary. And, really, what does it matter to the patient what the jargon means? As long as they understand in the end what they need to know?

Moreover, even if there was a way to "translate" that didn't end up being just dumping the definition of the term on the person, what good would it do? Sans an understanding of the rest of the terms, how does that make the person understand the overall concepts involved? It simply doesn't. Just laying out definitions is a good thing - I'm all for the Glossary. But as people are noting about it, it's not going to make all of the theory instantly accessible.

I completely agree about your "mining" concept. I think, however, that's a lot of what we do here every day.

Mike
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2004, 12:47:43 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care
I suspect Mike just meant that most gamers would choose to happily go about their business gaming and not deal with theory be it gns or what have you.  As long as they can get good games, and play and understand them, it's all good.  Not everyone has to be into theory.
Precisely.

We don't disagreee, Em. But you'll note that the glossary was in the works long before any of this hubris hoo-ha started. As were most of the projects that you mention, and, of course, the "translation" that you mention that happens on the fora. I'm not saying we shouldn't do any of that. I'm saying it's already being done.

Hence, no problem. Basically, what I want to know is, if there's a problem, what can be done that's not already being done? Maybe if I see the solution, then I'll see the problem.

Mike
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AnyaTheBlue
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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2004, 12:51:26 PM »

Mike,

Sorry, I wasn't trying to put words into your mouth -- I was taking my cue from what seemed a kind of dismissive tone in your previous post.   Saying that the pool is open to everybody, but there's no need to do anything other than we already are, that "there is no problem", feels at least a little elitist to me -- "I understood this stuff by jumping in, and if it's good enough for me, it's good enough for anybody else who wants to jump in."  Maybe that's not your point, but it still seems like one you are making, even in the post I'm responding to.

I agree with Emily -- I think there is an unnecessarily steep learning curve here at the Forge.   I think you are saying that while it might be steep, it's climbable, and therefore not worthy of, say, a bike-path or a set of steps.

I do agree that most gamers don't give a flying handshake (to paraphrase Buckaroo Banzai) about game design theory.  But some who aren't designers do, and I don't think they find a very comfortable home here at the Forge.  I don't see how that's good or useful to the long-term goals and health of the site.

As for a classroom -- I certainly think it belongs in a classroom about game theory and design.  As you say, we have a lack.  So why don't we do something else to help teach in lieu of these sadly scarce classrooms?

Sorry, again, for any offense -- I'm going to plead enormous stress, as I'm going through a fairly big life-changing event right now.  I think my core points, though, are still valid ones -- summarizing and introductory materials are good, and I think the Forge community could be doing a better job of it, and it would benefit everybody.
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
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