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Author Topic: Jargon  (Read 10165 times)
Vaxalon
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Posts: 1619


« on: July 26, 2004, 06:59:14 AM »

As some of you may be aware, I joined up here recently and started doing my best to contribute... and while I find the theory discussions mildly interesting, I have had a real hard time with the jargon you guys have developed.  I don't mind new terms (gamism, frex) for things that people generally haven't talked about, I have a REAL problem with renaming things that already have names in the common parlance.

When someone in the "real" gaming world (by that I mean people outside this ivory tower says "system" they know what they mean.  A system is a published game... DnD 3.0, GURPS, Shadowrun, etc.

You guys mean something completely different... you mean a SPECIFIC instance of an implementation of a particular game for a particular group of people.

I'm sure there are other instances of this, but I haven't learned enough of the jargon in the past two weeks to have noticed them, but this one troubles me.

It seems to me that the Forge is building itself a nice, cozy, self-referential ivory tower, and by doing so, the Forge is eliminating whatever relevance it ever had.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
timfire
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2004, 07:07:44 AM »

Have you read the Provisional Glossary? I'm sure Ron would love to get feedback from newer members on whether it helps or not with the jargon issue.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Vaxalon
Member

Posts: 1619


« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2004, 07:11:13 AM »

I have.  There's a LOT of information there, and I'm still digesting it.  I have to refer to it pretty much every day to make sure that I am properly understanding the posts in GNS and Theory.

But that's not really the problem... what bothers me is that the glossary is so NECESSARY.  I know of no other gaming site that needs such an extensive glossary.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
Christopher Weeks
Member

Posts: 683


« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2004, 07:36:02 AM »

I empathize.  I've been here almost a year and I'm still looking stuff up.  Jargon is a bitch.  But without it, we'd be limited to the same conversations that can be found everywhere else.  So I think overall the Forge has a real niche in large measure because of the willingness to accept and adopt such Jargon.

That said, I think there are specific examples -- and "system" is one of them, that I think would be better off changed, for the same reasons that you cite.  There's no cost to our ability to communicate by finding another word for "our" "system" and using it to refer to rules.  There is a gain in external communication abilities, so it seems like an obvious choice.  But it's not my choice.

Chris
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Matt Machell
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« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2004, 07:50:54 AM »

Do terms have a common usage in the RPG community? Ask a dozen gamers what any term means and you'll get a dozen radically different answers. System, Cinematic, Rules-lite, Crunch, all are pretty casually thrown about and nobody seems to agree on what they mean.

The Forge is very good at looking at RPGs from a different angle.  Its terms reflect that, and are used in particular ways that works here.  Yeah, Jargon can be frustrating at first, but it aids better communication in the long run.

-Matt
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2004, 08:21:56 AM »

Hiya,

One point to consider is this:

Does the Forge community's discussions have a meaningful audience outside those who would like to participate here?

To many, the answer is Obviously Yes, and they appropriately conclude that Forge discussions therefore benefit greatly from being as easy-access as possible. A first step then would be to invent, all-at-once, a set of terms which are unique to the Forge to avoid confusion with existing terms.

To many others, the answer is Obviously Not. Think about that for a minute - the site is open to anyone, it has a high effort/study bar for entry, and the benefits are great after that (yes, even if you primarily disagree with everything). But it is only for those who do that.

Now, I cannot in any way dictate which of these answers are your answer. Clearly both outlooks are common.

The Forge was begun very much in the second context, and most of us who've been here for a while were primarily concerned with understanding one another, not with constructing a primer or summary that would be understood cold by newcomers or casual drop-bys.

What is it now? I dunno. But I do think that people holding either outlook are going to have to cut the other outlook some slack - the Forge cannot 100% please both. To date, I think that the Outlook #2 folks have made a fair effort (which does vary, but is ongoing) to welcome those who would indeed like to participate. However, and not surprisingly, the Outlook #1 folks are not especially inclined to respect the other outlook. I'm asking for fair effort on that side too.

Best,
Ron
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John Kim
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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2004, 09:25:56 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
One point to consider is this:

Does the Forge community's discussions have a meaningful audience outside those who would like to participate here?

To many, the answer is Obviously Yes, and they appropriately conclude that Forge discussions therefore benefit greatly from being as easy-access as possible. A first step then would be to invent, all-at-once, a set of terms which are unique to the Forge to avoid confusion with existing terms.

I think the question is somewhat misleading, because I believe that avoiding such confusion is useful even for Forge participants.  It's not like everyone who participates on the Forge has memorized Ron's glossary, let alone many of the other terms used around here.  Indeed, in my experience, there are a great number of people who do participate in the Forge who still claim to have problems understanding the jargon.  In practice, Forge participants continue to use many common RPG terms invented outside the Forge rather than exclusively switching over to Forge-specific lingo.  So we have a mix of terminology used.  

My point is simply that we shouldn't needlessly redefine terms that are already in common usage.  I wouldn't think this is very controversial.  I think the question is more "How much effort should we spend to come up with non-clashing terms?"  i.e. If it just takes a minute's thought to come up with a non-confusing term that is just as appropriate, then it's probably worth it.  

To Vaxalon: you might also check out my RPG Theory Glossary, which tries to be inclusive of the Forge as well as other communities.  It also includes working links with many of the terms to relevant discussion.  
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/glossary/
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- John
Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2004, 09:28:04 AM »

Quote
When someone in the "real" gaming world (by that I mean people outside this ivory tower says "system" they know what they mean. A system is a published game... DnD 3.0, GURPS, Shadowrun, etc.


I want to emphasize Matt's comment above because this is a very common criticism that gets leveled at the Forge.  Basically your statement is fundamentally wrong.

The only thing you CAN say is that when someone is YOUR little corner of the gaming world says "system" that you and YOUR friends know what YOU mean by it.

But that definition (along with the others Matt noted) is hardly universal.

System is used to mean alot of things out there.  Some use it to refer to a published game including everything between the covers of the book(s).  Others limit it only to mechanics as distinct from setting.  Some will allow houserules to be included so that they'd say "we're using the Hero system" even if they'd made some pretty radical changes that other Hero system users would not accept.

When JoeGamer puts the word system in a sentence it could mean almost anything...because JoeGamer (like most folks in casual conversation) is very very sloppy with his terminology relying on 1) context and 2) the listeners not really caring all that much what he's talking about anyway to get by.

At the Forge we need something a little more precise than that.


We also need something a little more profound.  Quite frankly I find using "system" to mean "a published game" to be a pretty useless word.  It tells us nothing.  It gives no insight.  It serves no purpose.  You might as well just say "published game".

Here, the disection of system and what it really is, begun by Vincent Baker, has had some pretty profound implications.
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Mark Johnson
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2004, 10:54:23 AM »

Quote from: Vaxalon
When someone in the "real" gaming world (by that I mean people outside this ivory tower says "system" they know what they mean.  A system is a published game... DnD 3.0, GURPS, Shadowrun, etc.


I thought in the real gaming world that a "system" was the device that you hooked up to the TV to play your games.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2004, 11:05:47 AM »

I'm going to comment on the specific use of "system" here because it illustrates the way jargon has developed here.

My recollection may be a tad faulty on chronologies sometimes, but as I recall the five "elements of exploration" had been defined as setting, system, situation, character, and color some time back. Interestingly, it has been very much since those five elements were identified that serious discussion concerning them occurred.

Thus I think at the time "system" became one of the five elements of exploration, very little had been done even to distinguish "system as used in play" from "system as written in game books", beyond identifying that these were not the same thing. It was perhaps rather fuzzily thought that they were the same kind of thing, and that in theory if the "system" in the book was well written they could be the same thing.

Lumpley gave a completely radical insight to the matter, recognizing that no matter what was in the book, the "system" that was one of the elements of exploration was ultimately a means of apportioning credibility and applying authority between players and various documents in determining the content of the shared imaginary space. "System" in play and "system" as writ were suddenly seen as two entirely distinct kinds of things, the latter a listing of useful mechanics and helpful descriptions which informed our thinking of how to resolve the contents of the shared imaginary space, the former the actual social interactions between the players which applied those ideas.

Because of the focus here on actual play, it was easier for us as a community to retain "system" as that which actually controls play, and then to distinguish "rules" as something separate and different, which informs the players regarding how they might implement their actual system.

Even if I were to agree that most of the RPG world thinks of "system" as meaning a rules set, because of the nature of discussion here that has always ultimately been the less common meaning. The more common meaning here, built from the recognition that the majority of gamers modify and adapt the majority of games and so are actually running games on some "house system" (they would use that phrase if they were aware of their own influence), was not about what was in the book but what was actually done at the table. As we came to understand what was actually done at the table more clearly, the meanings diverged sharply, and confusion was created by calling those game texts "systems" when it was more and more clear that it was not they which controled what happened in the game world.

There are many terms for which this sort of process has applied over time. "Setting" may be going through a similar transformation now, as we search for words which distinguish between what is actually envisioned in play and what is presented in the texts. Illusionism, Force, and quite a few other words have come to have particular meanings here (some of these in flux) because once having brought up a concept we have analyzed it to the point that we've discovered that the common usage doesn't really describe what is really happening in play. Once we've reached that point, we're sometimes left with a bit of a mismatch, in which our definition for a term doesn't completely match what we anticipated when we selected the term initially, because there were facets to it no one expected.

I hope this helps.

No one here will take away your birthday or your posting rights if you misuse a term. It may confuse us, and we may ask for clarification and offer definitions of terms as we understand them, but that's not a foul around here--you just have to explain what you mean, and we'll build on that.

--M. J. Young
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Christopher Weeks
Member

Posts: 683


« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2004, 11:13:54 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Basically your statement is fundamentally wrong.

The only thing you CAN say is that when someone is YOUR little corner of the gaming world says "system" that you and YOUR friends know what YOU mean by it.

But that definition (along with the others Matt noted) is hardly universal.


Come on!

While there are certain (important!) elements that might get included or excluded at the whim of a person or group, to claim that his statement is fundamentally wrong is, well, fundamentally wrong.  Or at least misleading.  I don't want to take away from your larger point which is that the dissection of "system" that takes place on the Forge is incredibly valuable, but your implication that Vaxalon is hailing from some backwater province with unusual quirks of vocabulary is unreasonable.

I've gamed in Los Angeles and Chicago; in rural Missouri and St. Louis; and in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  I've been to 22 GenCons and dozens of small cons.  And while I haven't taken a careful survey of what everyone ever meant by system, we got along in conversation just fine and if you asked a whole mess of randomly selected players of RPGs, I'm pretty sure that you would get something that looked like:

"The core, mechanical subsystems of the rules that make coordinated gameplay happen."

from greater than 80% of them.  Maybe much greater.  And I'm not understanding how you can really believe something but.

Chris
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2004, 12:19:57 PM »

Chris you're falling prey to the same sloppy terminology.

I submit that 1) you haven't had all that many conversations with people you don't know well where the word "system" was actually used, 2) that from context you were able to ascertain close enough what the person(s) actually meant, and 3) that the conversation was not so deep or intricate that any variation in definition really mattered to the extent that you'd even notice.

Questions like "So, what's your favorite system?", or "What system were you using?" provide a pretty easy context to guess that what the person is really asking is "What's your favorite published game?".

But such questions are also pretty empty.  They are the sort of questions that gamers use to make idle conversation when they're just looking for something to talk about.  They are therefor not well suited for judging what the average gamer really thinks the word "system" means if they were to actually sit down and really think about it.

In other words, when a gamer asks you one of the above questions and you respond "Cyberpunk 2020" (or whatever) it makes absolutely no difference to the conversation whether to him "system" includes mechanics and setting both while to you it is just the raw mechanics.  He might have visions of you playing a chromed out game of full bore cyberpunk while you were really playing a game of gritty modern action and all you meant was that you were using the Cyberpunk system (aka rules sans setting).  Such differences make no difference because 9 times in 10 when you strike up a conversation like this with average joe gamer at a con you aren't really interested in answering his question and he isn't really interested in your answer...

Its just the gamer version of "hey how are you doing" or "nice weather we've been having"  

The fact that two people can engage in polite dialog while waiting in line for a dry cheeseburger and cold fries says very little about whether or not they truly have a shared understanding of the words they are using.  Any difference in such understanding just doesn't really matter.

And by "doesn't really matter" I mean that literally.. just as when someone says "I heard it was supposed to be nice this weekend" it doesn't really matter whether they really heard that or are just filling the silence with environment appropriate verbiage...aka small talk.

So unless you're prepared to argue that you hold regular deep intellectual conversations with people around the country on the nature of roleplaying and what constitutes system from a philosophical standpoint and you STILL find 80%+ agreement on the issue, then I'm inclined to standby my statement in its entirety.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2004, 02:02:15 PM »

Whether or not Ralph is correct, Chris, that definition for us would not be useful. Now, to avoid people conflating the version of the definition that we use here, we could write System Component refering to the five components from which the term comes from (as MJ outlined). Would that satisfy you? Because we need the definition as presented for discussing the topic. That is, whether or not it matches anyone else's is not important. We need a term for this definition.

And even if we were to use something like System Component, it would still get mistaken for something else. We'd have to call it Epistemological Throughput Methodology or something. And even then somebody would complain that the parts of the phrase were incorrect. So then what are we left with to construct our dialectic? We could make up a word. How about Syrmestulum? People would then argue about what sounded better.

Or we can just put up a sign at the front gate saying "watch out for Jargon" and avoid all of that. Guess which I'm for?

Mike
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2004, 03:12:20 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
System is used to mean alot of things out there.  Some use it to refer to a published game including everything between the covers of the book(s).  Others limit it only to mechanics as distinct from setting.  Some will allow houserules to be included so that they'd say "we're using the Hero system" even if they'd made some pretty radical changes that other Hero system users would not accept.


Noone anywhere else but here uses it even REMOTELY like it's used here.

Noone else includes the social contract around the game table, for example.

Noone else includes the tone of voice the GM uses when he switches from speaking-as-himself to speaking-as-NPC.

Yeah, they mean different things to different people, but those definitions cluster in a much smaller piece of meaning than it does here.

The fact that horses come in fifteen different colors, doesn't make your giraffe a horse, and when you guys are all riding around on your giraffes, I feel really funny riding in on my horse.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
Jaik
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2004, 07:26:08 PM »

Quote from: Vaxalon

Noone anywhere else but here uses it even REMOTELY like it's used here.

Noone else includes the social contract around the game table, for example.

Noone else includes the tone of voice the GM uses when he switches from speaking-as-himself to speaking-as-NPC.

Yeah, they mean different things to different people, but those definitions cluster in a much smaller piece of meaning than it does here.


Not to be snarky, but maybe they should include those other things you mention.  I've read an awful lot of advice about roleplaying games and running them.  I've had good groups and bad groups, good times and bad times.  Until I came here, nothing much made sense and none of the advice was all that helpful.

Ever play in a game where the GM and one of the players were dating/married?  Ever notice how that changed things?  Even if there wasn't rampant favoritism, things were off a little.  Nowhere else did I find advice that aknowledged this without labeling it as bad or telling you to suck it up.  Placing it into system, and with system itself taking its place under social contract, makes it discussable.  It says 'THIS is how things work.  You can spend all the time you want talking about the way things should work or should be, but you're playing with people, so things will be more like THIS.'

Jusr for another quick example, consider the word bug or bugs.  If you and I were having a conversation and I mentioned that I squashed this big bug, you could nod and move on.  If we're both entymolygists (Okay, I butchered it, I know, but bug scientists) then 'bugs' doesn't cut it.  We need better terms.  We need clearer, more precise terms.  We need jargon.
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For the love of all that is good, play the game straight at least once before you start screwing with it.

-Vincent

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