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Author Topic: The Problem With This Forum: Too much damn theory  (Read 23056 times)
quozl
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2005, 12:16:11 PM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
This "the Forge is closing" Chicken Little bit is bullshit, and really, you know better. Don't be petulant. It will have an end, like everything else. Thinking about it two to three years out is good.


Actually, I agree with Chris about that too.  Thinking about it is good.  Knowing why is even better and knowing what the long-term effect will be is the best.
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--- Jonathan N.
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John Burdick
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2005, 12:28:08 PM »

Thomas,

I've posted two actual play threads. One got fairly long, and the other was very short. The long one ended when my issue was clearly laid out. No one had a quick fix to make things be the way I wanted, but I better understood what I actually was dealing with. The second was an example of how discussion had improved play for me. Mike Holmes asked some questions to encourage me to express myself. I did so, and felt content.

I like the new guide sticky for actual play. In it Ron says "You need to raise a point, something upon which someone else can express or arrive at mutual understanding with you. " In both my threads, I feel that mutual understanding was arrived at or expressed. Even though the second thread was just Mike being receptive.

John
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Valamir
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« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2005, 01:05:16 PM »

Hey Chris, as I said, I do appreciate the time you and others put in to posting.  I want to make that clear.  But what I also want to make clear is that I don't see Actual Play as being optional.  I don't agree with the "practical" vs. "pure theory" dichotomy.  I don't think there is such a thing as "pure theory".  Without a touchstone in Actual Play, purely theoretical discussions are just flailing around in the weeds.  No matter how imposing the language is, or how well thought out the arguement sounds, or how many other theorists wind up nodding in agreement...without a foundation of actual play...its just speculative noise.  I hate to frame it in a way that sounds rude...but bottom line is all of the around-and-around that goes on in many of those threads is much ado about nothing.  Because without a tie to actual play...there's nothing there of substance.

Now I'm not talking about specific Actual Play "experiments" where one proposes an idea and then runs off to the "lab" to test it out around the game table.  I am talking about a demonstratable history of regular, varied, and current play experiences.  One can theorize all one wants about the inner workings of the internal combustion engine...but unless you've actually gotten greasy under the hood with some wrenches in your hand I don't really want you trying to fix my car.

So to touch on Smerf's point above, its less important that you can point to an actual play post and say "here is the exact moment where I can see this theoretical idea at work", and more important that you've established that you have a history of playing games and not just talking about them, or remembering them from some distant nostalgic past.

To some extent, yes, that makes it a credibility issue.  When Ron formulated his model theories it was based on many thousands of hours of actual play.  Ron roleplays more than anyone else I've ever known.  At one point I remember him having 2 regular weekly groups plus his campus club.  And his experience ranges all the way from Dust Devils and the Pool back to the elder days of Champions.  Whether I agree with his conclusions or not, I know they are based on real phenomenon he actually observed in play...not just phenomenon he speculated about might be happening in play...somewhere.

For this same reason I read every single post Vincent makes.  Agree or disagree I know that his notions of credibility and the infamous "Lumpley Principle" are firmly rooted in many hours of actual play.  That much of that play experience is radically different from my own is a good thing.  Its good because now I'm not simply speculating about what such different play might look like...I now know what that kind of play can look like.  He's been playing that way for years, and I can learn from him (and the rest of his group who posts).  And I know that their examples are based on real experience and not speculation.

I know Paul Czege plays, I can read his posts, and posts by Clinton, and Matt Wilson, and other folks.  When they talk about how theory actually works in practice, I know they're talking from experience and not maybes or might have beens.


And the amazing thing is, the theory gets much easier to discuss and present when couched in the language of actual play.  That's been a constant theme of the Forge since day one (followed with greater or lesser degrees of success over time), but Ron has struggled valiantly to bring the high-faluntin' theory-talk back to actual play.

You're free to disagree, of course...but without that grounding in reality, the theory is about as pointless as pins and dancing angels.


So I'm not trying to reprimand you.  I'm certainly not trying to tell you (and others) to stop posting about things you care about.  But what I am asking for is specifically the following:

1)  I'd like to see more actual play posts from you et.al.  In the world of Peer to Peer file downloading many sites have a credit system where you're allowed to download 1 meg of files for every 3 megs you share.  I'd like to see a system like that here, where posts in Theory Threads are "paid for" (so to speak) by posts in Actual Play.  Obviously we don't want some kind of mechanical system, but I think its something we can all do a better job of policing ourselves on.

If your last 50 posts are to RPG Theory / GNS and the last time you even commented to someone elses Actual Play post (let alone started a thread of your own) was several months ago...then IMO you're not participating in the Forge in the manner in which the Forge was designed to be used (and more importantly in a manner that maximizes value to others here).  Actual Play was moved to the top of the forum list for a reason.  

So my request is, take a look at the frequency of your posting.  If you're posting 3-4 times per day, try to make 1 of those at least to Actual Play, or one of the publishers forums, or even Indie Design from time to time...but especially actual play.


2) Be quicker to take threads to PM.  If you've just spent 3 or 4 posts replying back and forth to some other poster in you/them/you/them/you/them fashion...that's a pretty good indicator that the two of you are having a discussion better handled by PM or email or chat room and not with a Forge posting exchange.  Come back and post the executive summary version for the benefit of other potentially interested parties if desired, but there is a line between appropriate forum discourse and personal discussion and too often recently that line has been crossed in the theory forums.


Again, I'm trying to not be overly critical, but I think way to much time is being spent out in the weeds.
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LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2005, 01:11:44 PM »

John,

In the threads I have started in Actual Play that have gotten any significant number of replies from people not involved in the game I tend to feel the same way.  I try to always include a question or appeal to the more experienced with my Actual Play posts.  It doesn't always happen, but it often does little good.

I think it was especially telling for me in the thread I mentioned earlier: I had something I thought was really, really cool.  And I wanted to know: "Hey, is this something that happens a lot or have I found something sort-of new here?"

Now, I don't want to point fingers, but none of the old hands, none of the people who have mentioned their desire to discuss more Actual Play said anything.  It's entirely possible, maybe even likely, that they just didn't notice it or something.  It just comes across (to me) as somewhat hypocritical.

This sounds quite a bit more harsh than I really intended it to.  Ah well.

EDIT: Crossposted with Ralph (Valamir).  Here's a question that arises from his post:

Quote from: Valamir
I know Paul Czege plays, I can read his posts, and posts by Clinton, and Matt Wilson, and other folks. When they talk about how theory actually works in practice, I know they're talking from experience and not maybes or might have beens.

Do you find yourself paying more attention to the Actual Play posts of these people?  Since you know them, and you've found their play interesting, or their insights into play interesting, or whatever do you read them at the expense of posters you don't know as well?  I know that I find myself doing that, and skipping Actual Play posts about games I'm not all that interested in...

Thomas
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2005, 01:24:08 PM »

Thomas, are you suggesting that by not posting, people are being hypocritical? Whom? Everyone? What should they be saying? What is sufficent for an actual play poster to hear?

My observation is that people need to stop "feeling rejected" and start realizing that they don't even really know what they want people to say in response to their Actual Play posts. One response? Good for you. No responses? Think no one's really reading it? Think again, and get over your dejection. There's none, and no evidence to say people don't like you or think your game sucks or whatever. That's a needless assumption formed by habitual notions of what Internet talk "should be" like.

On the Forge, where "me too" posts are discouraged, silence is at least as plausibly read as "way to go!" as it is "I didnt' bother acknowledging your existence."
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Matt Snyder
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Valamir
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« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2005, 01:24:44 PM »

Good question.

I think the answer is probably yes, and that's not a "good thing".

Its the old "you can't get hired because you don't have experience, and you can't get experience unless somebody hires you" paradox."

Too often I think time constraints force us to filter down what we can read and what we can respond to, and often times the filters we set are designed for expediency rather than value-added.

I'm endeavoring to make a point recently (since the new "Actual Play" sticky was added) to try to read all of the actual play and see if the sticky is impacting how those threads go.  

I think it has been of benefit as John notes above.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2005, 03:35:15 PM »

Hi Chris,

Quote
Of course, what's going to happen is that we will shut down the Forge because not everyone has quite the same perspective and goals, all of a sudden, something that of course wasn't in any way true a couple years back.


I call bullshit.  Or poppycock, or rubbish, or whatever word works for you.  Check out this thread:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=229

or this entire forum:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewforum.php?f=22

Disagreement has always been here.  

Closing the Forge is nothing about control or censorship.  Ron & Clinton have basically been providing a free service to those who wish to use it.  They don't "owe" the community anything more than you yourself "owe" a charity you've donated to for the last few years.  By letting folks know that things will wind down, and that it might be a good idea to set up infrastructure to continue any community or discussion you're into, at any of the other venues online- that's being responsible.

Chris
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LordSmerf
Member

Posts: 864


« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2005, 04:02:24 PM »

Quote from: Matt Snyder
Thomas, are you suggesting that by not posting, people are being hypocritical? Whom? Everyone? What should they be saying? What is sufficent for an actual play poster to hear?

My observation is that people need to stop "feeling rejected" and start realizing that they don't even really know what they want people to say in response to their Actual Play posts. One response? Good for you. No responses? Think no one's really reading it? Think again, and get over your dejection. There's none, and no evidence to say people don't like you or think your game sucks or whatever. That's a needless assumption formed by habitual notions of what Internet talk "should be" like.

On the Forge, where "me too" posts are discouraged, silence is at least as plausibly read as "way to go!" as it is "I didnt' bother acknowledging your existence."


Matt, I think you're reading a bit much into this.  I'm not "feeling rejected" over this, but I am noticing a lack of attention.  I have this interesting Actual Play exprience I want to share and discuss.  I want to benefit from the accumulated and varied wisdom of the Forge, especially those who have been doing this whole "Narrativism" thing longer than I have.  I kick off a thread, there's some interest in it but it's mostly new blood.  It seems to me that we're all struggling around looking for help, and none is available.

On the other hand, if I begin discussing something in RPG Theory, experience has taught me that I'll get some discussion.  My thinking will be stimulated, I'll be able to move forward with some ideas.

Honestly, I'd love to get some hot discussion going int Actual Play.  So, what I'm saying (I think) is: If you guys are so hot for Actual Play discussion, where is it?  It's not like heavy posting in Theory is holding you back.  Maybe I'm missing something...  But, as I said, I actually get feedback on topics in Theory...

Thomas
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TonyLB
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« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2005, 04:40:15 PM »

Quote from: LordSmerf
I kick off a thread, there's some interest in it but it's mostly new blood.  It seems to me that we're all struggling around looking for help, and none is available.

I agree with Thomas that ye old ancients of the faith have a huge and disproportionate impact on the excitement level of new folks when they post.  Star-power, celebrity, whatever.  A blessing and a curse.  I don't know whether that imposes a responsibility on them.  Not my place to judge.

That having been said:  getting help from the new blood is not the same as not getting any help.  Y'know how many of the founding folks at the Forge are in the acknowledgements of Capes?  None of 'em.  They're nice folks, all, but Sydney Freedberg, and Doug Ruff, and Thomas himself were the keystones of the community that supported the game.
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2005, 04:47:30 PM »

Tony,

Agreed.  My point here, and this is more specifically in relation to the specific thread I'm talking about, is that I specifically want input from people who have had experience with Narrativism.  It's new to me, and really fun.  I also get the sense that it was new to most of the other participants in the thread.  I wanted to measure what I had experienced against the wisdom of those who had come before.

Was this a new thing?  Was this something that got talked about a lot way back when?  Is this something that's obvious to everyone else?

It's entirely possible that I didn't phrase my questions well in that regard, but I was specifically (if poorly) soliciting contribution from people who have been doing this for years.

That said, I don't consider the thread a total loss by any means, but I definitely didn't get what I was hoping to get out of it.

Thomas
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clehrich
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« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2005, 07:44:43 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
Quote
Of course, what's going to happen is that we will shut down the Forge because not everyone has quite the same perspective and goals, all of a sudden, something that of course wasn't in any way true a couple years back.
I call bullshit.  Or poppycock, or rubbish, or whatever word works for you. .... Disagreement has always been here.
Yeah, it's called irony, Chris.  Sorry.  My point was precisely yours: there have been multiple perspectives from the beginning, and I think that some of the cry to get rid of the Forge is because people are now noticing that there are indeed lots of perspectives.  As you note, there is nothing new about this.  That's one of the best things about the Forge.
Quote
Closing the Forge is nothing about control or censorship.  Ron & Clinton have basically been providing a free service to those who wish to use it.  They don't "owe" the community anything more than you yourself "owe" a charity you've donated to for the last few years.  By letting folks know that things will wind down, and that it might be a good idea to set up infrastructure to continue any community or discussion you're into, at any of the other venues online- that's being responsible.
As I've said elsewhere, the only reason I see to close the Forge is because Clinton and/or Ron want to do so, for personal or time or whatever reasons.  The idea that it needs to close because we've moved on or something I think is nonsense.
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Chris Lehrich
Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2005, 07:44:58 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Without a touchstone in Actual Play, purely theoretical discussions are just flailing around in the weeds.  [cut] I hate to frame it in a way that sounds rude...but bottom line is all of the around-and-around that goes on in many of those threads is much ado about nothing.  Because without a tie to actual play...there's nothing there of substance.


Ralph, it sounds to me as if you've noticed something that you don't like and have found what you think the problem is.  I agree that many theory discussions are less than helpful, but assuming that "those guys obviously aren't roleplaying enough" is the problem... well, that seems presumptive and unfair, honestly.  How can you really know how much people are playing?  By their posts in Actual Play?  I don't think so.  And how can you say that it's simply the amount of play that's important and not the quality of individual experiences?

I find that people who play constantly without taking time in between to really reflect and think things through write theory that's just as problematic as those who theorize all the time but never play.  They rarely alter their overall approach to roleplaying and so keep reenacting the same kinds of Actual Play experiences, which simply reinforces their own ideas about roleplaying, unaware that the play that they're experiencing is, in fact, just a small subset of what's possible and not the be-all and end-all of roleplaying.  So there's another side of this story that I don't think you're fully acknowledging.

I think it's really important, critical even, that we continue to have these conversations about what we find valuable at the Forge, especially as Clinton looks to transform this site in the next few years, but coming down hard with the opinion that a certain kind of discourse is the source of all our problems is oversimplistic and ignores wider issues.
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clehrich
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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2005, 07:53:02 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Hey Chris, as I said, I do appreciate the time you and others put in to posting.  I want to make that clear.  But what I also want to make clear is that I don't see Actual Play as being optional.  I don't agree with the "practical" vs. "pure theory" dichotomy.  I don't think there is such a thing as "pure theory".  Without a touchstone in Actual Play, purely theoretical discussions are just flailing around in the weeds.  No matter how imposing the language is, or how well thought out the arguement sounds, or how many other theorists wind up nodding in agreement...without a foundation of actual play...its just speculative noise.  I hate to frame it in a way that sounds rude...but bottom line is all of the around-and-around that goes on in many of those threads is much ado about nothing.  Because without a tie to actual play...there's nothing there of substance.
Ralph, re-read the post. I did not say that Actual Play was optional.  Obviously we disagree about the value of pure theory; that I thought was equally clear.  I would like to see applied theory and pure theory differentiated, precisely so that you and those like you, who I think are in the majority here, can focus on what you consider important.  The little hierarchy I proposed was: Actual Play, Indie Design, Applied Theory, Big Model Q&A (if you care).  Then, if you want to go on in some particular direction, which is totally optional and not in any way to be understood as dominant or superior, read Pure Theory or Big Model Discussion.

I happen to think that you are quite wrong about pure theory and its ultimate value and relevance.  Fine.  So let's put it in its own forum so you don't have to deal with it.  Why is this such a problem?

What bothers me is that you, and many who agree with you, feel that such theory is, because you don't see the value in it, valueless.  I'm sorry, but that doesn't follow.  You don't like it, don't read it.  And I'd like to see the Forge slightly restructured so it's easier not to read it.  But for those of us, and we are not all that rare, who think there is value in pure theory, can we get on with what we're doing and not have to be slapped at by people who state flatly that they have no intention of reading our discussions?

Here's a nice example: Jay's recent thread on a 1/3-baked idea.  It got messy, but it developed something interesting in the end.  It was pure theory, at base; concrete examples were not the point.  Do you care?  Perhaps not.  Was something accomplished there?  Yes.  Even Ron, who is not exactly Mr. Pure Theory, felt that we had achieved something there.  So can we please just set up a forum for stuff like that so you can not read it and not get shirty because you are reading something a little different than what you want?

I cannot see why this is such a big deal.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2005, 08:00:52 PM »

Quote from: Bob Goat
Quote
Which, let's bear in mind, was the situation that prompted Ron to develop the Big Model in the first place. So we will have achieved essentially nothing, except that some great games will have been developed along the way.
This is just silly.  The whole point is to design good games that people play.  It is the reason this whole place exists, the promotion of the development of DIY games.  That is the achievement.  Not cyclical conversations about what X means.
Well, Ron likes to call this synecdoche, of course.  "The whole point is" what I consider important.  No, actually, "the whole point is" to have intelligent conversations about RPGs and do anything else about RPGs that seems to fit the current discussion.  For some, that, whatever it is, is then applicable to design.  For others, it is applicable to play.  For others, it is applicable to broader questions of culture.  Why are #1 and #2 okay but #3 is bad and stupid?  Sure, Ron and Clinton started this as about design.  Okay, so go through and eliminate every single post that is not overtly and explicitly about design.  For example, eliminate almost every post in Actual Play.  Doesn't that seem like a bit of a problem?

The point being, Actual Play provides data that people analyze and use to produce theory that is then applied to design.  This apparently is OK with you and Ralph.  But god help us if we analyze that data and use it to produce theory that does something different!  Then we are violating the Forge.

Come on, step back a second.  I realize that a lot of folks here do not like pure theory.  I do not contend that you or anyone else ought to do so.  But is it really such a big problem to section it off as its own thing, blazon it around with stickies and neon lights saying "Warning!  Here be weirdos!" and leave us in peace?  I would genuinely like to know why this is something you all think is such a crime.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2005, 08:05:46 PM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
This "the Forge is closing" Chicken Little bit is bullshit, and really, you know better. Don't be petulant. It will have an end, like everything else. Thinking about it two to three years out is good.
Bearing in mind that you are picking up a very small piece of the post that was demarcated as a rant, fine, we're on the same page.  But what I have yet to hear, here or anywhere else, is exactly why this forum is closing.  I have said, repeatedly, that if you or Ron or both do not want to run it, that's inarguable.  But what I keep hearing is justifications based on "there isn't anything interesting happening here" or "nobody posts here" or whatever.  I think that's crap.  Can't I be a little petulant and rant-y in a thread started by a rant?
Quote
Otherwise, I disagree with you on just about every other point in your post, but that's the only offensive one. Discussing the rest would end up at the same point we are now: I think most of what gets posted is pointless, and you find it fulfilling.
See, this is the only reason I hear.  What I have not yet heard is why you think this.  Obviously if you feel this way, I can certainly understand why you wouldn't want to keep the thing afloat.  But I hear a lot of chatter about why the Forge is Falling --- Chicken Little bullshit in your terms.  I have not as yet heard a clear statement from you or Ron as to why you want to close it.

Thinking about it two or three years out is good.  Deciding that everyone knows it's dead two or three years out, then defending that position without ever stating why you hold it, is not good.
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Chris Lehrich
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