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Author Topic: Bricolage APPLIED (finally!)  (Read 55415 times)
clehrich
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« Reply #30 on: February 17, 2005, 09:42:49 PM »

Quote from: Sean
Thanks for this - I found it educational and useful. Also slightly subversive!
....
...explaining it, on two levels (the mechanics-fiddling and the act of play, which you bring together nicely and convincingly for that example at least).
I'd like to thank you for two things, Sean.  (1) For recognizing the somewhat subversive nature of the claim; (2) for recognizing that the issue of mechanics and play-as-act is an example, not a totality.  It's really lovely to have that kind of careful reading, elegantly expressed!
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Vagueness and ambiguity are one set of tools for designing mechanics for games that help with using the game as an open platform for individual groups to make meaning together. Another is the design of endless situational rules and an encouragement to your players to do the same: the baroque, which eschews the lawless for the recondite.
And good writers.  That is a lovely phrase.  Levi-Strauss, who is a master of that kind of dense but perfect phrase, would be pleased, I think.
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What are some others? This is an important practical question for design, I think. I'd actually like to see some narrow and even 'accumulationist' mechanics for this sort of thing, like a Collection of Meaningful Facts, the character as a curiosity cabinet. More magical than the list of magic items maybe.
Hmm.  Interesting.  Have to think about that quite a bit.  It's a matter of how to put this into effect, I think; the concept seems to me good.
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I think this article also may shed some indirect light on the curious need of many role-players to feel like a 'game' or 'campaign' is open-ended and indefinite even though in practical fact they know that it's unlikely to last more than six months. The feeling of open-endedness or indefiniteness is necessary for many minds to get into this kind of meaning-making process, I think.
That is very much my feeling.  "Shed some indirect light" also hits the nail on the head: I have not explained this.  Fair do's, I haven't tried to very much, but I do think that this can be explained by such a model, even if I have not as yet succeeded in doing so.  Any suggestions?

I realize this is mostly a "wow, cool" sort of post.  I have to sit down and really think hard for a while about what you've said, though.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #31 on: February 17, 2005, 09:54:06 PM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Continuing on that vein, I got to thinking about the different kinds of roleplaying bricolage. Is there a synergy between narrative bricolage (what's been discussed as mythmaking sim) and mechanical bricolage (outlined here)? Chris suggests that mechanical bricolage is a GMing technique that can be reinforced by repeated use. The same holds true for myth-making, if I'm fit to judge that. But if a game applies large amounts of bricolage in rules construction, will that have any affect on it's narrative quality? Or vice versa?
Yeah, well, again, this is a problem of attempting to compress.  Is there such a synergy?  Yes.  Without it, in fact, it's not bricolage.  I tried to formulate some mechanical examples, because I thought they'd help; the reality as I see it is that that is a particular and narrow application of a total process.  I see the distinctions of structures, the various implements and bits and pieces of the Big Model, as by this perspective not necessarily hierarchized or even discrete.  The distinctions are made by the way we look at them as players, not intrinsically.  Thus the synergy you talk about is an artefact of an internal perspective: to you, they seem like different things weirdly interacting; in reality, they are all the same sort of thing interacting the same way you'd expect within one of the levels you project or structure.

I know that's not clear.  I need to try to step back and give another stab at the totalizing issue.  That, at least, is very clear to me from so many of these responses.  My apologies: I'm trying to compress and apply a conception that took one of the greatest masters of analytical compression at least 25-odd pages to formulate without application, and by another way of reading it took him over 200.  So when I skip over things, I'm losing big chunks of the total argument.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #32 on: February 17, 2005, 10:13:04 PM »

Quote from: Nicolas Crost
The problem I have is the following: I think that Chris' posts do not help a great deal in answering that question. This may just be the particular type of scientific training in my field speaking up. But I don't find pages about irons and helium balloons and other analogies very helpful. Neither are pages about native tribes and their behaviour (to me).
Nicolas, what is your field?  I'm not looking for an expertise claim; I just am looking to formulate something that may help.

The problem is that the type of thought, and it is thought, that we are dealing with here is not something that can be directly formulated in propositional logic.  It is not founded on those principles, and resists such structuring.  People in the humanities and social sciences have commonly found the bricolage analogy helpful; some have also found Levi-Strauss's discussion of the visual arts helpful, thought I am not one of them.  He also has a fascinating way of talking about this process of thinking with reference to music/poetry, as poles of a strange dialectic.  The thing is, the bricolage bit is an analogy; the others aren't, so you actually have to understand what he's talking about to make it work.

I'm not Levi-Strauss.  I am quite bright, in all modesty, but Levi-Strauss is undisputedly one of the very few true geniuses of the 20th century.  The best I can do is try to work out how his analyses apply within RPGs, or to another analogy from another discipline.  I'm pretty good at that, having taught this book for a while.  But if all else fails, I cannot do better than to ask you to read The Savage Mind (or La pensee sauvage, even better, if your French is that good, as the translation sucks).

What I am trying to do in this article is probably impossible.  I'm trying (1) to explain what Levi-Strauss is up to; (2) to explain how that applies analogically to RPGs; and (3) to explain what some of the practical, concrete implications are for RPG play and design.  I am not convinced that this is even possible, as I say, at least in a space shorter than it took him: some 200+ pages.  Certainly I don't think it could be done by any other than a genius.  In the meantime, I can't do better than to ask you to help me explicate this in a way that works for you, or to read his work, or both.  I mean, we can certainly hope that someone draws his attention to this discussion and he weighs in on it, but I'm not holding my breath.

Can you give me any sort of concrete help in what's not working for you?  I gather the irons and helium balloons don't work; can you help me see what might?
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I would rather stick to the facts we observe: some people like it, some don't. Why is that? How are they different? What processes underlie the enjoyment of "fiddling"? And the answer "they like it, because it reinforces the social structure of the group" could have been given in a paragraph or two, without the rather longish analogies.
Well, my sense is that everyone likes this and everyone hates it.  Which is no answer at all.  As to the fact that it reinforces the social structure of the group, the problem is that this is a huge statement.  How so?  Why?  Because for me, the whole point is that it's something that happens almost by itself.  "Savage thought" (the totally non-analogical term Levi-Strauss likes) is deeply embedded in the mind, because of our positioning with respect to the world and ourselves, as an implication of the reflection problem.  But to say that reflection, the self/other or culture/nature binary in our lives, is not only universal (that's agreed usually) but also implies a whole mode of grappling with concrete objects in order to reinforce certainty that is not possible while deceptively mystifying what we are really doing, is an extraordinary claim.  There is genuinely nothing like it earlier in the history of Western thought.  And the implications for a particular artistic medium, in this case RPGs, are so vast that it's difficult to know where to begin, or where to stop.

I haven't succeeded fully, to my own satisfaction; not really much at all, in fact.  I haven't succeeded for you, clearly.  But you've got to work with me here: what can I do to help?
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #33 on: February 17, 2005, 10:27:24 PM »

Quote from: LordSmerf
I think your analysis is solid, I'm going to try to spring-board off of this...
Good, I'd like that.
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Vincent Baker talks about "Brittle" systems (and of course his site is down so I can't give a link).  Brittle systems are (paraphrased): "Systems which only work within a narrow Social Contract (context)".  Vincent also talks about "strong" systems which are good at getting people to do what they say (so Strong/Brittle is good at getting players into that narrow context).  Just thought I'd point out this cool parallel.
That is indeed interesting.  The odd thing is that for me, it's backwards.  In the long run, what he describes as a Strong system (essentially an engineered one) should end up fragile, dependent on factors ultimately exterior to the group; a Brittle system should end up being the really enduring one, something that is not breakable from within.  This is the reinforcement aspect coming into play.  I'm trying to work out how to explain this concretely, and having trouble, but this whole thread is both helping me and telling me that this bit is absolutely essential.
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When you say that as we approach higher and higher levels of abstraction we come closer and closer to analysis of the underlying social structures, I read that as (admittedly simplistic): bricolage and immersionism are very closely related.  This highlights the idea that bricolage is a really great idea, for pursuing a specific type of play.  It also seems to indicate that bricolage is not good for certain other types of play.  From my reading of the article this was not clear.  Chris, would you agree that for certain groups bricolage is actually a huge negative?
Two points here.  I do think that immersion is a crucial data-point for figuring this out.  But to put it rather confusedly, I think this points toward multiple kinds of "immersion."  It's as though one can be immersed in mechanics, for example, without that entailing that one is not immersed in the usual sense.  I don't know how, for the moment, to put that better.  But it's not all discrete like we usually tend (engineer-minded as we are) to think about it.

Second, as to what it's good for: no question, this isn't good for everything.  More precisely, to emphasize this element or aspect of what's going on is definitely not always a desirable thing.  What I have not as yet nailed down, in my own head, is the kinds of distinctions that leads to.  Got any suggestions?
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I would be really interested in a discussion of the different types of play in relation to bricolage: what kind of play (or group) really loves it, and what kind of play (or group) really hates it?  Is there a middle ground?  Can you find bricolage okay, or do you either really like it in play or really dislike it?
To me, the "middle ground" question is the really telling one.  Levi-Strauss would, I think, tend to say that these are opposed poles.  But I'm not sure what the implications are, nor whether he is quite right about this.  My suspicion is that he's right, and I have not yet grasped what the actual poles are in RPGs, but I can't as yet figure out what I mean by that, if you see.
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One of the interesting implications I see in this is that "System doesn't matter as much"
Well, Sean's remark on "subversive" certainly hit some chords, now didn't it?  I have to think about this.  Put that way, out of context, it sounds so anti-Levi-Strauss it's got to be wrong.  But given that the phrase "System does matter" means something specific here at the Forge, I have to wonder whether you may not be right, or whether it entails a different conception of "system," or what.
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One of the interesting things about bricolage is that it seems to be self-reinforcing in this context.  I think that this could be one of the reasons that RPGs have traditionally had so many things in common with other oral traditions (taught by other players the "right way" to play).  I think that a lot of work at the Forge has been to break away from the idea of bricolage, and with that break I don't think much analysis has occurred.  So, Chris, I think you're onto something really interesting here.
Yes, for me this is something that really works.  It's to me a kind of proof-text: it just "fits" really well in this context and with this issue.  The problem is that I'm not yet entirely sure why....
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I think that Nicolas is onto something good here, especially with "normal people are turned off by this".  If RPG play has traditionally been very heavy on bricolage, how has that contributed to the current mainstream view of RPGs?  How has it contributed to the gamer's view of RPGs?  How are these views changing?
Again, a powerfully historical question, and as I said earlier the history and structure issue is something that has yet to be dealt with adequately in even the most established ends of this discourse.  I'm working on it, is the best I can say.  But any historical data you folks can provide may really help!
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #34 on: February 17, 2005, 10:29:12 PM »

Quote from: Paul Czege
What's interesting to me is that it offers insight into how fantasy heartbreakers get created, and why they fail in the market. You can engineer a product for sale to bricoleurs, but the products of bricolage can't be sold outside the local context in which they were created. And I suspect it's characteristic of bricoleurs to over-estimate the size of the local context.
Give that man a cigar.

I hadn't thought of it quite that way, but yes yes yes.

Thank you, Paul!

(Any thoughts on the revised Levi-Strauss in Amazonia project?)
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #35 on: February 17, 2005, 10:38:29 PM »

Quote from: shaheddy
I am confused as to what bricolage looks like in RPGs. It seems what you are saying is that the evolving application of mechanics is itself part of the shared imaginary space, hence constitutes a complementary narrative (or game, or whatever) to the, uh, plot.
Well, the problem is that mechanics are only one type of effect.  I chose that because it seemed to me the most concrete and straightforward, but theoretically this sort of procedure would be happening at every level simultaneously.  I'm thinking hard right now about another post about how bricolage could work with respect to other elements of RPGs, as formulated in Big Model terms for local convenience.
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The only examples I can think of off the top of my head are when there is an unhealthy dynamic amongst the players (favoritism, someone who is picked on) which over time is reflected in and amplified by the evolving system.
Oh yes, this is definitely a down-side of such play.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that bricolage is always necessarily a good thing.  It isn't.  For one thing, it is extremely conservative.  Once it has formulated itself strongly enough, radical transformation of social dynamics becomes impossible, or nearly.  While that may lead the in-group to find their play very rewarding, it may also have very ugly implications for new players, shifting to new systems, and the explanation of "One True Way-ism."
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I like the idea, but I’m not sure what you mean. There seem to be different ways systems can be deliberately ambiguous.
No, you're quite right.  I need to think that one through, and a lot of comments here---including yours, very much---are helping me to do this.  But feel free to start without me!  

As I said, my suggestions for design are rather tentative, and you folks out there are much, much better qualified to speak to that than I.  I have designed one game, which seems to work pretty well.  But some of you guys have really done the whole thing many times, hard-core.  Your comments and suggestions, from your actual lab-tables of design, would be immensely valuable to our mutual figuring-out of how this sort of thing could be taken into a practical direction.
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #36 on: February 17, 2005, 10:43:15 PM »

Quote from: Harlequin
I suggest that when polishing up to article status, you enhance the prescriptive at the expense of the descriptive.  And that you either define "adequating" as a verb, or dispense with it in favour of more intuitive terms like "confirming" and so on.
I'm terribly sorry.  That term has gotten so much play in my local fields that I just totally forgot that it isn't normal English at all.

Adequation is essentially the process of tinkering with an analogy until it works.  So you have X and Y objects or structures.  You say that they are analogous.  Then you tinker with the formulation of the analogy, and the actual things themselves in some cases, until they really fit very well together.  This, for example, is how I would argue the Big Model works: we don't tinker with the examples much, but we tinker with the formulations and definitions of the terms in the Big Model until they apply quite rigorously to those examples.

Hope that helps.

Oh---and I love the robot game, which works for me as a way to play with this in design.  Tell us more about it as it comes along!
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #37 on: February 17, 2005, 10:54:08 PM »

Walt,

I love that example.  I need to think about it really hard for a bit, though.  Back soon....

----------------------------------------------
Quote from: Dobamine
When I first saw Chris 's posts loudly claiming that 'Simulationism is Bricolage!', I said to myself, "Hmmmm..... What the heck is bricolage?"
....
Now, I guess Chris has backed off from claiming that this is unique to Simulationism, and has identified it more as sort of process - a means of enjoyable play and design that’s independent of CA, and I certainly can see bits of that in old style AD&D (not d20), my own GURPS Psychosis campaign (essentially take 250 points, every GURPS book I own, and make whatever monstrosity you like), and most especially Rifts. Rifts is the perfect example; it combines bricolage of setting that plunders all RPG genre sources happily with bricolage of system. The Palladium system agglomerates D&D combat (heavily tweaked) with percentage skills, ‘Feat’ like skills, separate damage tracks, a complete handful of magic systems and much more. Perfect Bricolage and in my experience very prone to needing heavy local interpretation.
Couple points.  I'll get back to the rest soon --- I need to sleep eventually!

1. If I said that bricolage was unique to Sim, I didn't mean to.  I did mean to say that it is uniquely dominant in Sim.  I haven't changed my mind much on this point, but I may have expressed myself exceedingly badly at one or the other end of this, or both.

2. When you say that this "perfect bricolage" is "very prone to needing heavy local interpretation," I think you're dead right.  That's in a sense all it is: local interpretation.  The tricky thing is just how damn large that turns out to be, because although we like to think of what we do as broad, in fact it's always grounded in the local.
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To me the old-school bricolage that Chris talks about is almost a synonym for what Robin Laws called Crunchiness. This goes a lot farther than Robin did in identifying why it’s popular and how it works, but at heart it seems to me more or less the same thing.
I don't remember his definitions.  Can you remind me, or give me a link or something?
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Am I missing the point here- taking it too literally? Is the simple process of taking one cultural form (say Wu Xia movies) and gluing them to another (Tabletop Role Playing Games) inherently Bricolage, even though it's largely just bolting one intact thing onto another? How about the raft of recent 'D20 Blah' games where the D20 system is more or less directly grafted on to some other genre with an absolute minimum of retooling of either the genre or the system?
You're missing something, but it's my fault.  At every possible level, whether it be mechanics or setting or GURPS supplements or the Big Model, it's all the same thing.  The trick is, the hierarchy that we see here, quite automatically, is not intrinsic; it's imposed by yet another cultural structure, which is another thing we bolt in there.  The fact that we readily hierarchize all those levels of structures and so on is nothing to do with the process of play; it's a way of thinking about what we are doing and how.  And that process works strictly by adequation of analogies, which is a fallacy of propositional logic but very much how bricolage works.  I realize this may be incomprehensible or simply insanely abstract, but I'm struggling with this right now myself.

If that does mean something to you, or you can be specific about why it doesn't, can you post to that effect?  I really need all the help I can get!  (Possibly of the "professional help" variety....)
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #38 on: February 17, 2005, 11:09:31 PM »

Finally, one I can answer directly!  (Of course, as usual, it's because I haven't expressed myself clearly.)
Quote from: M. J. Young
Quote from:
“It is a basic postulate of sociology,” he says, “that no human institution can be founded on error.” In other words, if these practices don’t do anything, people will stop doing them. Since the rain dance doesn’t produce rain, it must do something else, or nobody would do it, and chances are it wouldn’t have been invented in the first place.
....
Looking at the rain dance example, we'll accept arguendo that it doesn't really work. What you say Durkheim says is that the natives must know this; but there's no reason why they must know this. Obviously, nothing works every time.
No, sorry, I'm not being clear.  The natives quite possibly do not know this.  In fact, probably not.

Durkheim's point is that since it doesn't work, and since they think it does, there must be some other reason for why they are doing this rain dance.  I.e. some reason they don't know about, but which is operative despite them.

Here's a very Durkheimian example: home-court advantage.

The natives (basketball fans) think they are screaming because they are really into the game.  The players think they are screaming because they care about the players.  And everyone thinks that because of all this screaming somehow it's going to help the players play ball better.

Now that is sort of true, because of mass psychology and the like.  But for Durkheim, that's interesting and an essential data-point, but it's not the real point to be drawn.

The question is really why the fans give a damn about some guys throwing a ball through a basket.  I mean, who cares?  What is achieved through this vast process?

What is achieved is social solidarity with the group.  If everyone shouts and screams together, then they affirm that they really are a functional group.

Two concrete applications of this:

(1) When the Patriots first won the Superbowl, there was a riot in Boston.  As that riot went on, everyone started shouting in unison, "Yankees suck!"  Which of course is totally irrelevant to football.  What has happened here is a recognition, at a deep level, that this is really about Boston and identity with the Boston "clan."

(2) When a soldier crawls out across the battlefield, under the machine-gun fire, to save the American Flag, everyone holds this up as wonderful and a great human-interest story.  Why?  It's stupid.  It's a damn colored piece of cloth.  So why has the soldier done this?  Because the colored cloth is a representation, in concrete form, of the society for which he fights.  And thus everyone else cares about this because they too see that he saved The Flag, not "a stupid colored piece of cloth, you idiot."

The point being that any sort of social activity like this cannot be examined on a purely local level.  At a local level, it's silly, very often.  Just like a rain-dance, it doesn't really do anything, and if it does, it doesn't do anything worth doing: it makes some guys throw a ball through a basket better.  If you want to be cynical about it, how come so many middle-class white fans are so insistent that it matters whether a bunch of inner-city black guys can throw a ball through a basket, since after all they like black guys so long as they don't marry my sister?  The reason is that this isn't about balls in baskets, or black guys, or anything like that.  It's about group unity and identity.  And the reason to do all of this, what later scholars would call the function, is to create social unity and cohesion around a concrete, specific object or structure (the game, the team, etc.).

Does that help?
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Also, this doesn't take away from the possibility that these people who believe it really does work are also unwittingly doing other things through the practice, such as reinforcing societal unification.
Bingo.  That's Durkheim right there.  They don't know this, but that's why they really do it.  If it was really just about causing rain, they'd long ago have stopped, because it doesn't cause rain.  They still think it causes rain, but they keep doing it because it causes social cohesion.

Levi-Strauss, by the way, thinks Durkheim is sort of wrong about all this, but that's another question.

I'll have to get back to the rest of your post later; I have to go to bed, just after this one last brief post in general....
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Chris Lehrich
clehrich
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« Reply #39 on: February 17, 2005, 11:38:10 PM »

After all those response-posts, a few comments.

1. I need to talk a great deal more clearly about the totalizing nature of this kind of process.  I am struggling with this, but it's important.  I want to make clear, as I did not I think in the first two posts, that mechanical examples are only examples; they do not reflect the breadth of the issue.  We're really talking about a model that is somewhat larger in scope than the Big Model; much larger, if we recognize that the Big Model deliberately sets aside the broad and deep questions about Social Contract.  My applications to mechanics are isolations of particular effects in what might be concretely illustrative fashions.

2. I am genuinely very interested in all the various sorts of data people have suggested posing here.  All of it.  Maybe some should go in other threads; you're as good at figuring that out as I am.  I was not fooling around when I said I don't want this all to turn into "Chris teaches everyone."  I don't want that.  I want to think with you.

3. A number of you have raised very difficult and complex questions for which I do not as yet have good answers.  I will work on this, but it may take time.  Please don't feel you have to wait for me.  Jump right in, if you have ideas.  I personally find that grappling with multiple really different perspectives on an issue is very helpful for understanding something, and I too am trying to understand.  Academics always say they learn the most from their students.  This is not because their students figure out the good stuff or something; it's because the students ask questions and propose arguments that depend on completely different perspectives than the academic is used to, and that forces him or her in turn to think through all the issues all over again in a new and illuminating way, not bounded by traditional disciplinary constraints.  While I am not trying especially to teach you all, that's the position I'm in: the weirdest, silliest, most seemingly trivial example or question will help me, because you are not bounded by my disciplinary presuppositions and assumptions.  But I also think it will help the broader discussion.  So please, just dump it all out here.

4. I am not a genius.  Claude Levi-Strauss is.  I use the term advisedly, and it is not one I like, any more than I like "masterpiece."  But The Savage Mind is a masterpiece by a genius.  It is not compressible.  I teach writing, as some of you know, and I hold that book up as an example of compression taken to its ultimate extreme.  Therefore in explicating some bits and pieces in the context of gaming, in what may seem long but isn't the 269 pages of that book, I am cutting the overwhelming majority.  I just want to state that directly right here and now, so you understand my constant apologies.  As I've said in PMs to some folks, this is a book that I think all responsible scholars in the many relevant fields should be re-reading for the umpteenth time when they are in their 80s.  It really is that deep, and that important.

5. Following from that, nobody I know of has completely mastered the thought of Levi-Strauss, with the possible exception of Levi-Strauss himself.  Reading him is sort of like dealing with the aliens in 2001: they're just so damn much beyond it's hard to understand anything.  I would urge you, if you find this stuff interesting, to read The Savage Mind; if you read French, read La pensee sauvage instead, as the translation is bad.  It could be much better, but it could never be perfect or even fully acceptable; I have discussed such a translation with Carol Cosman, who I think has the best chance of doing it really well, and she is considering it---maybe in a few years there will at last be a good starting-point!  But there is no doing him justice; it's like a brief summary of Ulysses standing in for the work.

6. That said, I don't agree with everything he argues.  I am not a Structuralist by inclination, really.  That the work is a masterpiece does not mean it is right.  Nor is my argument about RPGs entirely one I think he would agree with.  One particular point about this is that Levi-Strauss thinks history and anthropology, the latter including everything I explicitly talked about here, are totally opposed.  I think he is wrong, and importantly so.  But I am trying to constrain what I am doing so that I don't write a vast book just to be a little bit helpful here and there about gaming.  My next big professional project is going to do nothing at alll but try to work out why history is not at odds with what Levi-Strauss (and Eliade) mean by anthropology (or morphology); that book will be long and deep, and I'm not sure what it's going to look like.

All that said, what I'm asking is for you all to think with me.  I don't mean agree with me.  I mean that I am thinking along in steps.  I haven't reached the end.  I laid out a solid block at the start, to get things going, but I don't know where this all goes ultimately.  Join in, ask for clarification as it helps, propose conflicts and debates, give examples (hypothetical or actual).  Everything, and anything, is welcome, so long as it tries legitimately to think with me about the extent to which this works as a basic modeling, and the implications of that model for gaming.

I am confident about one thing only: I do believe that RPG play is a procedure that could be classified under the heading of "savage thought."  That is at base at odds with Levi-Strauss, though he might agree in a weird way I don't want to get into just at the moment as it would take us very far afield.  If you don't agree, I want to know why in very concrete terms.  But for the rest, anything you can offer is very welcome.

Good night!
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Chris Lehrich
Nicolas Crost
Member

Posts: 61


« Reply #40 on: February 18, 2005, 02:46:00 AM »

Hi Chris,

thanks for putting up with my rather negative post. I really appreciate it because I think understanding the process beneath the fact that some people are really into the whole fiddling thing is necessary to improve RPG design. In some discussions on my German board it always struck me as strange that some people insisted on liking incoherent RPGs better than “Forge type” rather narrow games (which in my eyes are often real design masterworks). So I think you really might be onto something here.

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Nicolas, what is your field?

I’m a psychologist in psychophysiological research mostly. Which really might explain why I can not really connect to the way your essays are structured. Experimental psychology is all about the typical (experimental) science thing: observe something, build a model, derive hypothesis, test hypothesis, interpret results, change model, restart. Which might explain why I don’t really get the point of your analogies. To me an analogy is always a model of reality. So the model should explain something in terms of concrete and testable (observable) terms. Which I kind of miss in your explanations (perhaps I really just missed it). Anyway, my problem might very well arise from the experimental paradigm being ingrained in my mind…

As to the whole “reinforcing the social structure” thing: this is again the psychologist speaking, but I think modern social psychology has a lot more to offer in the analysis of roleplaying than turn of the (last) century analyses of mythology or analogies about bricolage. An awful lot of research has been done on small college groups which are very similar in structure to roleplaying groups. Things like identification with the group, emergent norms, interaction and more have been discussed to great lengths. Of course it might just be my familiarity with those theories but I think that they have a lot more to offer with a lot less complicated models involved.

I am afraid, I don’t have to offer much on the ongoing topic of bricolage and its application to roleplaying. I just think that it is not the best way in trying to understand roleplaying as a social interaction. But, as I said, that might just be me. And still, I am very interested in the topic of intentional vagueness and related topics. I am looking forward to what you guys figure out (in terms of practical design implications or explanations of actual group behavior). And if I find the time to do it, I might even post some of my thoughts on social contract and social interaction in roleplaying. But don’t count on it being soon, I have to get 2 articles published and my thesis done about … right now. :)
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komradebob
Member

Posts: 462


« Reply #41 on: February 18, 2005, 09:38:50 AM »

So, quickly, to recap and see if I'm understanding-

bricolage= Found Art+ constraints on materials ( limited choice of materials, reuse of materials) ?

bricolage as applied here is basically doing the same thing, but with ideas rather than physical objects?

If this is essentially correct, why are we using bricolage instead of the (arguably) more accesible Found Art?

I find this interesting because over on the History of the GM thread, a tangent had come up regarding the evolution of RPGs. I stated that rpgs had not, in fact, solely evolved from miniature wargames. FFilz responded ( correctly) that, in fact, D&D ( as our origin point for the RPG) had in fact directly evolved from miniatures wargaming, and provided a brief summary of why that is also true. Strangely, I don't think this is exactly the paradox it appears to be.

What I'm getting at is that RPGs appear to be a product of bricolage themselves, with miniature wargames being the primary core object/material used in the first thing that we recognize as being an RPG (D&D) and not something else.

If that is true, it would seem to imply that bricolage has always been a part of rpgs from the conception, and does perhaps point to a source for the apparently common urge to tinker with them.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #42 on: February 18, 2005, 09:45:06 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
First, can you explicate this distinction (eidetic reduction vs. detachment-based?  Or give a reference?  I don't quite follow.


A Husserl-derivative way of describing the difference between tabletop rpg (and larps very much like it) and experience-creation larps. In the former, the diegesis ("that which is true within the story", the in-game reality) is experienced by people through imagining it completely (maybe from source material, but still). Theyre in a state of epokhe, with the ability to analyze the entire game situation (as it is at that moment) and to apply any rules and narrative bricolage as needed, by way of player-player/player-GM negotiation.

In an experience-creation larp, the players create their view of the diegesis by selectively (by individual choice guided by GM instructions) refusing to see things that exist in reality as existing in the diegesis, or transforming those things into other things in the diegesis. ("the car isn't there in the game" or "in the game, there's a cart where the car is"). This latter approach, eidetic reduction, doesn't allow for bricolage because the players are essentially too far within the game, and therefore unable to neither perceive the entire game situation nor be in a position where they'd be able to negotiate on its premises.

In essence, "to negotiate on game elements, you have to have enough distance from them, and a holistic view about the game's current and intended state and form."

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Quote
... In a sense, to enable further bricolage, you actually have to engineer new parts. How do you get past this?

But that is an error, or artefact, of my weak formulations.  I just cannot, as yet, think past it.  I know from the examples of tribal societies that this is not necessary.  I know that it is almost disturbingly self-sustaining, in a sense formulating exactly those contracts in the very procedure, such that you don't have to jump out at all.  But I cannot see how to do this in gaming.


The difference, I think, is in what science of religion calls "unyieldable elements" (translation mine). It means a system of bricolage-based rituals can take certain things as unquestionable - and for granted - and build a system of self-evident limits on bricolage based on that, while preserving a lot of freedom in interpretation. (A brilliant example of such a stucture is the current Cathecism of the Catholic Church.) Rpgs do not have such a base, and therefore have to engineer new rules to support new kinds of bricolage. Without elements that can't be negotiated - and thus reliably built upon - they can't reach the same structure that societies do. In that way (in my opinion, at least), it truly is a problem of the medium. (I'd love to see someone prove me wrong on this theory, though. That would open up great possibilities for game design.)

-Jiituomas
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Sean
Guest
« Reply #43 on: February 18, 2005, 10:40:47 AM »

Tuomas -

Superficially, I'm inclined to disagree with you. What you see as a difference in kind I see as simply an additional technique: the reassignment of functional roles within the imagined space to real objects. Not much different than waving a pencil around as a magic wand, or handing out a 'scroll' or similar widget, in a tabletop game. Just a matter of degree.

In a game of mud pies, pieces of mud get reassigned roles as pies, according to rough rules (size of mud glob is roughly equal to size of pie; ingredients gradually get correlated to the bits of junk you put in your mud glob; etc.).

But the rules get formed as you go, of course, especially during the first few games. Acorns don't become raspberries until someone makes it up; they seem to me to do this within the mud-pie-space, without breaking out.

So anyway. I agree that in a certain kind of immersive LARP there's going to be relatively less bricolage-in-play than in an RPG, but it seems to me that it still happens, and has to. You don't leave the real world in your immersive LARP, so you have to reinterpret its objects in terms of the SiS. Even if most of the time this interpretation is 'it's nothing, ignore it', surely the room for creative transformation of these entities is there, and is at times taken advantage of.


Chris - thank you in return once again. Whether this stuff turns out to deal with specific techniques or exploration as a whole or something weirder and more wondrous with respect to the Big Model, I think it's really interesting. I also think I understand a certain mindset brought about by many early RPGs, and especially D&D, better than I ever did before; and the importance of the social group not only to actual play but to mechanical tinkering. Really interesting stuff - it's helping a ot.
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xenopulse
Member

Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite


WWW
« Reply #44 on: February 18, 2005, 11:15:12 AM »

Wow, that was a lot to read. both in terms of the article (which I read completely) and all the comments (which I tried to read completely, but failed :). I do think it was valuable written like this, with enough theoretical background, but then, I also spent a lot of time in academia. Here are my comments, both less sophisticated than most others and more from my particular perspective.

First, I think you are right in that bricolage exists and is a factor in many RPG groups. Especially the part about taking elements with all their attributes struck home with me. My actual play example: The current AD&D 2e group I am playing in (which is completely dysfunctional regarding CAs, but that's another story) decided, before I joined, that crossbows really should be more dangerous. They doubled the damage for them. Now, when I played, I was the first character in their group to be a thief. I used a heavy crossbow, being hidden in a tree, to shoot at a Frost Giant. I was level 5, the backstab tripled the damage. Therefore, my character suddenly did 6 times the damage of a regular crossbow, which killed the Frost Giant outright (I rolled high). There was a moment of astonishment. Oops--this is what we've done by changing the rules. Here's an unintended side effect, because this element works with these others. Do we need to do something about this? More fiddling? (My question usually is, does it really matter? But I'm a lone Nar-longing player among Sims and Gams.)

That's where, I think, this whole idea of bricolage has an important point to make. We often don't think things through when we design mechanics or fiddle with the rules, and that leads to more fiddling. Now I know bricolage has this whole aspect of reinforcing the social group, but I think this particular point emphasizes the need for thorough analysis and playtests of systems.

Secondly, it helped me to understand this phenomenon when looking at it from the perspective of my own field. I have my M.A. in Political Science. It seems to me that what we're seeing is a constitution--i.e., the social contract--and the specific laws that are created based on that. We always check: Does this specific law (action, mechanic, IIEE distribution) violate our constitution? If so, it needs to be changed. Now, people change, groups change, and so the interporetation of the constitution changes. And sometimes the damn thing just needs to be rewritten. The important part about it is that it's vague. It has some clear guidelines, but overall, the implications and implementations are open to discussion, testing, and fiddling.

AND--the process itself of voting for lawmakers, writing laws, arguing about them, and most of all, always referring back to the constitution, in itself reinforces the society. A BIG part of what it means to be an American is the support of the constitutional-representative democratic-republican process. Even though I am German, I live in the US and have studied American culture, and in an immigrant society like this one which is not a Nation-State, the support of the process (expressed most often through voting and working) is the defining feature of belonging. This might be a more chronologically-direct analogy than ancient cultures.

Blah blah, I could of course blabber on and on about it, but I'll spare you. My RPG-related point is that as a gaming group, you need a social contract like this country needs its constitution. There might be other factors that keep the group together--friendship, blood relations, etc.--but it all works best when people make explicit their basic tenents and agree on the process of working through problems, always with reference to the basic contract.

So much for now. Thanks for sharing, the article did make some things clear for me (e.g., I always misunderstood what you mean by "myth").

P.S.: As to your point about translating the French originals, translations never perfectly work, actually for bricolage reasons. Language is a prime example of bricolage. You cannot export ideas one-on-one in every aspect from one culture to another (see Peter Winch, The Idea of a Social Science). I am frequently frustrated with English translations of Kant and Hegel. But there are just basic cultural interpretations in there that are really tough to translate properly. I guess we all just need to learn more languages and spend some time immersed in other cultures :)
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