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Author Topic: Brain damage  (Read 157002 times)
JonasB
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« Reply #60 on: February 14, 2006, 02:55:21 AM »

By "narrativist intent" I mean intending to have stuff like "conflict yielding Premise" and "development of Premise through fictional events". These are *not* required for something to be a story, and therefore not required for storytelling.
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Walt Freitag
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« Reply #61 on: February 14, 2006, 06:59:01 AM »

Walt, you nailed it, with the exception of the "permanent" part. Never said that, actually strongly implied and support the opposite.

Actually the phrase I used was "more or less permanent" and I chose it with some care. Yes, you've asserted that repair and/or recovery are possible, with serious qualifications ("some cases," "remarkable" =/= complete):

Quote from: Ron Edwards
And recovery or reparability of functions/behaviors is, in some cases, remarkable compared to the extent of the initial impairment.

The same points also apply to psychological (i.e. associations, responses, habits) phenomena as well as morphological (i.e. injury with sharp or blunt objects).
All of which is a fancy way to say this: nowhere above did I say irreparable brain damage. In fact, rather the opposite.

However:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
[In reference to the analogy of child sexual abuse - WF] The person's mind has been damaged while it was forming, and it takes a hell of a lot of re-orientation even for functional repairs (which is not the same as undoing the damage).

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Note that I consider all of this [Indie Narrativist games] explosion to be equivalent to the martial arts stuff performed by the man with only two limbs.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I call it "damage," and I mean it. People are story-creatures. The characteristic loss of the capacity I see across almost all story-ish role-players, especially those of a certain age range, is like seeing a bunch of people with physical objects sticking out of their punctured skulls. Some of them, presented with alternative (or more accurately, functionally-prosthetic) procedures, say "oh!", extract the damaging material, and move on...

In light of "functional repairs are not the same as undoing the damage" and missing limbs + prosthetics being clearly not the same as, say, regrowing the limbs, you don’t appear to be stating that adopting "functionally-prosthetic" procedures represents truly repairing the damage. Quite the contrary.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
[In reference to story-impaired individuals whom you've ‘worked with’] They flounder terribly for weeks, and some just never get it.

The ones who never get it after weeks of what is very likely the most expert 'treatment' available today... how not permanent?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
As some of you know, I am now embarked on an ambitious project based on the idea that we "have limbs" after all, and wondering what the principles underlying the bevy of fantastic new RPGs (and RPG-ish things) would be like, expressed by and for people without the damage. I consider this utter terra incognita, culturally, creatively, and commercially. It cannot and will not have any kind of relevance for gamer culture or commerce. As a survivor of the damage, I may fail miserably. But this topic is not relevant to the present point.

If the damage threatens to cause your endeavor to fail, how is it not permanent, at least so far?

(The possibility of eventual future repair by as yet unknown means is not, to my mind, sufficient to contradict "permanent" -- otherwise the word would never apply to anything.)

Because of the importance of this topic, I'm trying extra hard to make sure you're presenting yourself as intellectually honest as possible here. So far you seem to be claiming "I said repairable" while still at least strongly implying "not fully repairable" in all your examples and analogies. If you're not willing to accept my suggested compromise "more or less permanent," then how about "persistent unless repaired, with more or less permanent post-repair residual effects?" (Though I don't think that quite lives up to the "we've all got missing limbs" imagery.) Or "sometimes repairable, with probable scarring."

Still unaddressed, and perhaps worth discussing, are the prospects of other possible avenues of repair, including gradual healing over time, especially after giving up participation in the consumer-gamer culture.

- Walt
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Bankuei
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« Reply #62 on: February 14, 2006, 08:50:07 AM »

Hi,

It's interesting that apparently everyone sees the loss of story cognition as the primary type of damage, and not the instillment of socially dysfunctional behavior.  While I believe that story comprehension is a key feature of humans, I suspect it's the social behavior that is at root, and the loss is a side effect.

How so?  Well, in normal dysfunctional situations, people focus on the "rare good times" and words of the other people to rationalize the situation.  "But he loves me!"  In roleplaying, it seems that aside from the rare good times of protagonization and/or fun, that the main thing being used to keep people from recognizing the elephant in the room- is the imaginary content.  If you're training yourself to use imaginary content as a shield against the real emotional situation in front of you, for hours at a time, on a regular basis, I suspect the comprehension of imaginary content (yours or others) would get distorted.

These folks are able to talk for hours on end about nothing really because they have become expert in maintaining an internal dialogue of rationalization- they need to keep up the ability to rationalize to themselves, and they need to be able to repeat it for long periods of time.

Regardless of whether you consider this issue life-affecting, the other social dysfunctions are maladaptations which are guaranteed to teach you nothing good except by how not to do things.  Non-communication, passive aggressive antics, using power/fear with people you consider friends or family, shutting yourself off from your own emotions, developing the ability to rationalize to oneself on a regular basis, these are things I can't possibly imagine being things we can dismiss in a haze of personal relativism.

This particular style of gaming is akin to taking the social methods of gangs, of pimps, of cults, and importing it directly into your play.  I speak from experience here, and ask others to consider dysfunctional behaviors they've seen in their lives and mirroring of social behaviors.

If this were just a "few folks" or "at random", we could chalk it up to the fact that everywhere in the world there's problems.  It's the fact that the social behaviors are encouraged in print, and as the default play- that is specifically why I listed the extreme, but accurate examples above- it is a system of dysfunction- it consistantly produces these results, with lots of different people.

I don't care what kind of damage you choose to call that, but that's clearly fucked up.

Chris
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #63 on: February 14, 2006, 08:56:18 AM »

Ron,

There's part of me that would like to rail against the brain-damaged thing, to beat my chest and champion the underdog.

But I think a lot of people have a damaged relationship to art.  Because money's more important to them, like with a lot of Hollywood-level stuff.  Or because propaganda's more important to them.  I guess Hollywood again, a lot of left-wing theatre writers.  The later Pinter stuff, the I-Hate-America period stuff.  I couldn't take myself seriously if I pretended roleplayers were exempt, and it's plausible they'd have their own kinds of damage.

So I'd just be reacting to the word choice.

What I'm interested in is what techniques you see as the prostheses.  You've mentioned protagonism but what else?  How deeply are the prostheses embedded in things: are there whole games that were necessary to getting over things, but are just going to be looked back on of historical interest?  Or are you thinking more on the level of parts of games?  Baggage, I guess.

And also, do you think the damage has influenced the formation of the 'big model'.  Are the elements of the 'big model' that wouldn't need to be there if you were formulating it for non-roleplayers?  I'm thinking, for example, of the centrality of Egri, to the definition of narrativism.  Is Egri a prosthesis that was helpful to you, or is Egri healthy tissue?

Sincerely,
Ian
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #64 on: February 14, 2006, 09:24:41 AM »

I'm not sure what isn't topic drift or threadjacking for this conversation. Ron?

Best,


Jim
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #65 on: February 14, 2006, 10:00:47 AM »

I'm letting it all burble for a while. At least while I talk myself out of splitting some posts out into their own thread, with the new title "Blithering idiots." Kind of like the village stocks, as pointed out to me by one person I mentioned it to.

Um, direct questions so far ... oh! And if anyone has asked a direct question and I didn't answer yet, as of the end of this post, remind me. That's pretty much how I decided to participate.

Levi, working on the implied direct question of "can we find common ground regarding terminology," here's my question for you that might help solidify it further. Taking my example of the (say) pre-teen person who experiences sexual contact with an adult, and with any luck having you agree that this person's sexual/romantic development has been functionally interfered with ... do you call this damage? If so, does that mean that you think the person cannot recover from it, perhaps with help?

See, I do call that person's experience "damage," and I don't think the term disrespects them - in fact, I think it speaks to the seriousness of their situation. And I really don't think the term is belied or contradicted by then proceeding to talk about recovery, healing, and similar, which I do think is possible. I'm not asking you to adopt the terminology, but I'd like to know your answers to the questions. Perhaps you can find terminology that at least we can agree is talking about the same thing.

And all of that is an awesome setup for Walt's questions. I hope I can clarify what I'm saying so the intellectual honesty of my point can be perceived. It's easy for me to see the missing piece, because I've already presented it to others. Andy did a really good job of paraphrasing a phone conversation I had with him about it; you can read it in the Story-Games thread which spun out of this thread.

The way I see it is this - with any luck, a fair number of us are amputees who have really refined and even, perhaps beautifully compensated, to the extent where our (working with the analogy) martial arts are fuckin' great. Quite likely surpassing the abilities of many people with limbs (stick with the analogy), quite likely in the high ranks of people with limbs who do martial arts. Like I said, not "oh look, 'special' martial arts."

I say that with some pride. See that whole point about Situation that Andy is making (extending from our talk)? That's what a Kicker is; I brought that into explicit game design; you're welcome. This thread began with that pride, and it is reinforced by admiration as well. I'll point to, say, My Life with Master, and openly call it a thing of beauty.

Now, and here's what I was talking about with Andy as well as others over the last few weeks, it's as if a number of us are looking down at our bodies and saying ... hey! There's my lower leg! It was strapped to the back of my thigh the whole time! I never even thought about it!

So Walt, you're right - half the time, above, I'm talking about functional recovery in terms of compensation, and half the time I'm talking about "regrowing" type recovery. That might be a big deal for some of my points. Because at this time, my position is that theoretically regrowth is possible, but the only thing we know (and it's a recent insight) is that compensation is possible. It's also an important point in terms of game design itself, especially in dealing with the usual conundrums of commerce outside of the subculture/finances labeled "gaming."

On the other hand, it might not be such a big deal after all in terms of "who we are," as I consider that guy in the martial arts demonstration to be my colleague, and if he (this was a decade ago, I didn't know his name) were to be a guest at the school I attend, he would be welcome and valuable, as classmate or guest instructor. Or the guy walking down the street with that modern prosthetic, do the old terms like "crippled" or even "handicapped" apply? No - he's walking down the street, case closed. With that in mind, it seems to me as if either solution to damage ("regrowth" or compensation of some kind) makes a whole human being, and seems laudable, fun, desirable, whatever, either way.

Best,
Ron

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jburneko
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« Reply #66 on: February 14, 2006, 10:41:27 AM »

Hello Ron,

I was having a little trouble seeing how Sorcerer and Dogs in the Vineyard and My Life with Master were prosthetics and not games for whole people until I read Andy's summary in that link you provided above.  If I understand: you're saying those games make doing the backwards thing of creating Characters *first* managable because they all have mechanisms for immediate hook-up to an appropriate Situation.   The Kicker in Sorcerer or the fact that Dogs and My Life with Master are basically front-loaded Situation to begin with.

Jesse
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Levi Kornelsen
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« Reply #67 on: February 14, 2006, 10:48:30 AM »

Levi, working on the implied direct question of "can we find common ground regarding terminology," here's my question for you that might help solidify it further. Taking my example of the (say) pre-teen person who experiences sexual contact with an adult, and with any luck having you agree that this person's sexual/romantic development has been functionally interfered with ... do you call this damage? If so, does that mean that you think the person cannot recover from it, perhaps with help?

See, I do call that person's experience "damage," and I don't think the term disrespects them - in fact, I think it speaks to the seriousness of their situation. And I really don't think the term is belied or contradicted by then proceeding to talk about recovery, healing, and similar, which I do think is possible. I'm not asking you to adopt the terminology, but I'd like to know your answers to the questions. Perhaps you can find terminology that at least we can agree is talking about the same thing.

Certainly, I would say that the person whose functional sexual development has been interefered with in such a manner has, in fact, taken damage.  I agree that recover is possible, for them, though I suspect they will likely carry some degree of 'scarring', if you will.  And even further, I agree this isn't directly insulting - I'd personally aim to phrase it with greater sympathy, but that's neither here nor there in this discussion.

But I don't agree that the example applies here.

Damage, to me, means that something is gone. That something has been lost. And I don't think that's the case here at all.  I think something has been built up, accreted.

I'll use my own metaphor (this is taken from the story-games discussion as well).

This is largely about me. I suspect it's also about other gamers that want story from their games, too.

I think that gamers that are in the habit of aiming for and attempting to get "story" from their games, especially including me, have this big chunk of habit we carry around in our heads related to that. Big chunks of habit aren't bad of themselves, by any stretch - I mean, potty-training is a block of habits, too, and it's served me very well. This particular chunk of stuff is composed of things that do work, and often things that don't work, and workarounds for the things that don't.

Now, let me mention that bit again, because I think it's important. I think there are often things that don't work in that block of habit, and workarounds for them. I think the things that don't work are there because we've been sold on them, and sold ourselves on them, and then had to work around them - again, we have a spot of overlap there, where people are being sold on things that don't actually serve them.

Now, we can put away those habits, open up, and just naturally tell stories. Some of us don't, of course, just as some fan-ficcers choose to see the real stories they fic about through the lens of that fiction. This doesn't mean that we can't.

We can try to filter down through that block of habit, and rebuild it. That's hard; it's not impossible at all, but it takes a lot of slogging.

We can ignore the block entirely, and play something else - deliberately leaving the whole mass off to one side. If what we play actually turns out to generate stories in roleplaying, without involving that block of habit, the habits rapidly start to break apart; finishing the job may still be hard, but starting is easy.  Again, yes, I've brought that chunk of stuff into story-making attempts that have nothing to do with it, tried to apply it, and come out with something lame.  But just because I've done that in no way means I must - I can, and do, put those habits away when enjoying and creating fiction outside roleplaying, and they are breaking apart as I play games that actually do naturally produce story through play.

Habits aren't damage.  You can argue that some of these habits are canalized, referencing back to potty-training, and might thus qualify in actuality, but I haven't seen that at all in my experience.  Putting the habits down is easy.  Realizing that in order to produce fulfilling story from roleplaying, you may need to put them down, that's harder.
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Roger
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« Reply #68 on: February 14, 2006, 11:01:11 AM »

There hasn't been a lot of attention directed to the basic premise of this line of thought.

I'm going to start with a claim that a human being can routinely understand, enjoy, and (with some practice) create stories.

That seems plausible enough.  However, from their, Ron takes further steps in the direction of:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
People are story-creatures.

And right there is about when I start to have objections.

To get back to the missing-limb analogies, I'm going to use the metaphor of dancing.

* A human being can routinely understand and enjoy dancing.

Sure, I'll agree with that.

* People are dancing-creatures.

Not so sure I agree with that.

* People who don't enjoy dancing are fundamentally damaged, like paraplegics.

I don't agree with that at all, though it's a perfectly valid conclusion from the premise "People are dancing-creatures."  If one accepts that people are dancing-creatures, then something which is not a dancing-creature is therefore not a person.  Airtight logic.

And there are people, generally dancers, who genuinely believe this.  They are unable to imagine there are people who are perfectly whole and healthy and yet who don't like to dance.  It's literally beyond their comprehension.

I could have drawn this metaphor from any of the classic arts.  I know people who don't like music.  I don't mean they don't like particular genres of music -- I mean they don't like any sort of music at all.  Pick an artform and you'll find people who don't care for it.

I would suggest to Ron that there are people out there who just are not terribly interested in stories.  They are not story-creatures.  They can understand them, but they don't happen to find it particularly rewarding on a personal level.  I'm not surprised that Ron and many others here find that an unbelievable, almost heretical, idea, but there it is.

It's inaccurate to think of these people who might not like dancing or music or stories as flawed, damaged, mistrained, or otherwise less-than-human.  That's not to say such damaged people don't exist.  There are people who don't like dancing because their legs were blown off, or who don't like music because they're deaf.  But it's a mistake to lump them all into the same category.

I suspect statements like "people are story-creatures" are largely articles of faith, and as such, people will either believe them or not, all evidence notwithstanding.  If you happen to believe it, carry on.  If you happen not to, arguing against the conclusions of that premise will not be fruitful.


Cheers,
Roger
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John Kim
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« Reply #69 on: February 14, 2006, 11:14:31 AM »

Regardless of whether you consider this issue life-affecting, the other social dysfunctions are maladaptations which are guaranteed to teach you nothing good except by how not to do things.  Non-communication, passive aggressive antics, using power/fear with people you consider friends or family, shutting yourself off from your own emotions, developing the ability to rationalize to oneself on a regular basis, these are things I can't possibly imagine being things we can dismiss in a haze of personal relativism.

This particular style of gaming is akin to taking the social methods of gangs, of pimps, of cults, and importing it directly into your play.  I speak from experience here, and ask others to consider dysfunctional behaviors they've seen in their lives and mirroring of social behaviors.

The problem with cults isn't what happens during prayer meetings.  The problem with cults is that they take over and fuck up your whole life.  If someone goes to a lodge meeting every weekend doing weird shit with his Elk brothers, but functions fine in his normal life, then it's an eccentricity -- not a dangerous cult.  The lodge-brothers may have all sorts of similarities to a real cult, but that doesn't mean that what they do can be characterized as objective "damage".  

Now, again, I'm willing to believe that real damage is done by these folks, and I'd like to hear about it.  But if we are talking about "damage" and not "games which aren't as fun as they sound during play" -- then I'd like to hear about the real stuff.  That people act in normally-frowned-on ways during the games isn't proof of damage.  For example, passive-aggressive antics are definitional to S&M.  It's a part of the activity.  Shutting off emotions is also common to many activities, where open shows of emotion are frowned on -- like chess, perhaps.  

Again, I'm not denying that there is bad stuff which goes on, but the approach is doing little to show it -- and is throwing around a lot of irrelevant junk.  In particular, a lot of this sounds exactly the same as the arguments which I've heard made against RPGs in general over the years. 

As for Ron's suggested "cure" of Sorcerer and My Life With Master.  Well, hmmmm.  I'm speaking as someone who has played fun, functional games for most of his life...  So, I guess I can buy that these games function as "cures" to the specific ill caused by a dysfunctional story-oriented games -- with my noted skepticism about the damage.  Do you suppose that after being "cured" by these, they can move on to other functional games not intended as cures like Ars Magica, James Bond 007, and Champions?  Or is the talk of cure a veiled way of claiming that these games are objectively better?  
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- John
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« Reply #70 on: February 14, 2006, 11:45:10 AM »

One thing to note is that successful group story-creation is problematic across media. It's a common rule in Hollywood that the more names on a screenplay, the worse it will suck. There are exceptions (Spider-Man 2, frex), but they are exceptions. The rule is so well understood that there are studios that hide the number of people working on a script - a friend of mine got only cryptic credit for her contribution to a Star Trek: NG episode she cowrote because Paramount forbade three names on the teleplay.

Television is notorious for everyone involved in the production wanting to flavor the soup with the savor of their pee, leading, until recently, to an almost universally debased quality of Story. Even this year has been, for me, spent in mourning at the swift decline in quality of Battlestar Galactica, which a mere half-season ago was gripping and fresh and has rapidly sunk back to "mere television."

In the other (non-rpg) arts, group story creation is more the exception than the rule. The best stories tend to be the products of a single creative vision. Good movies get made, and movies are inherently collaborative, but many more bad ones come through the same process. It's not surprising that when a generation of RPG designers decided they wanted to ensure "good stories" that their first thought was they needed to concentrate esthetic power in a single participant.

Best,


Jim
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talysman
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« Reply #71 on: February 14, 2006, 12:40:37 PM »

I agree that there's a problem out there, but I don't agree with this analysis of it.

I think a lot of it is just Ron and his "crazy talk", as he confesses may be the case. He's really gung-ho about a specific kind of narrativism and is really peeved that there are people who would like his brand of narrativism but are too afraid/lazy to try another system or gaming group to experience that kind of play, preferring instead to stick with a style of play that only frustrates them. As a result of his righteousness, he really believes that there is literal brain damage (a concerned belief, rather than an insulting one) behind this laziness/fear. To prove this is real damage and not just a bad decision on some people's parts, he runs through a list of various bad behaviors without really showing a link between, say, bad social behaviors and problems creating or analyzing stories. Of course, all those social defects can be found outside of roleplaying contexts; if they are really and truly caused by AD&D2e or Vampire: The Masquerade, I'm wondering why mental health care professionals haven't mentioned this and caused a media shitstorm.

So, cutting out all the righteous stuff, let's focus on the real problem: people who say they are looking for stories chose to play in GM-controlled storylines and are obviously frustrated by this choice, but don't take steps to find more enjoyable play. Ron's theory, then, is that playing the wrong kind of RPG changes people so that they become (temporarily?) unable to play a game that would really be fun for them (whether this is "damage" or "habit" is another issue; you have to accept that it changes them at all, first, before you can move on to whether it is habit or damage.)

As proof that these people are changed, Ron points to some of these people being unable to creat an abstratcion of a given storyline; when asked what a given story is, they either recount all the story events or list mere color elements without any concept of how the story moves from one plot point to the next.

But I'm inclined to agree with John Kim that malformed "storytelling" games don't cause this kind of behavior, they select for it. In fact, I will go one better: I think these kinds of story-damaged people already existed in the "dungeon-crawl" style rpg scene, and when some people got bitten by the same bug Walt describes and tried to make a storytelling game, the only way they could achieve a story was by having the GM create the story and railroad the players, because most playgroups had these story-damaged people in them already. AD&D2e isn't the cause, it's the symptom; frustrated people who wanted to tell stories couldn't do so collaboratively or with "Story Now" methods, because some of their players just couldn't grasp that kind of play. And, since the people designing these storytelling games knew that those problem players weren't a problem when playing a dungeon crawl, they didn't feel like kicking those players out of the group. In fact, they figured it must not be a problem with those players at all, but with collaborative approaches to story. The only thing that worked was treating each scene of a story as a room in a dungeon and plotting the whole story out the same way you would map a dungeon, because that made the story's structure concrete rather than abstract.

So, from that point of view, some people may have developed a bad habit of playing the only kind of game their abstraction-inhibited colleagues could play. They continue to play these kinds of games, even though it frustrates them because the story is fixed; they rationalize their frustration as "I guess I really like GMing more than playing a character" and continue to play because "obviously, there can only be one GM, and I'll get my turn eventually". Ron, even though you may be very attached to your idea of games causing brain damage, I'm sure you may agree that there may be cases where the broken storytelling game is a crude fix for a problem, rather than the cause.

I have my own differing ideas on how to fix this problem, but that's another matter entirely.
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John Laviolette
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lumpley
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« Reply #72 on: February 14, 2006, 01:12:41 PM »

Man, a lot of people are all going on about this without ever just asking.

Hey Ron, how come you think that the games in question are causing the problem in question, not selecting for the problem in question or correlating with it in some other way? What is it that indicates causation?

-Vincent
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JonasB
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« Reply #73 on: February 14, 2006, 01:30:02 PM »

My personal and subjective experience:

I myself have never taken "storytelling" as more than a sales pitch, and never heard these players even wishing for the stuff you do on the Forge (the result, not the systems). The praises have been more about "cooler setting", "emphasis on different kinds of situations" and "there are even girls playing it". Otherwise an ordinary rpg. This do not mean that some or even a lot of them would not like the narrativist experience better, but I doubt this experience was ever the intent when opening for example Vampire.

My question to Ron: How did you come to the conclussion that most players of "storytelling games" strive/strived for narrativism?
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Rustin
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« Reply #74 on: February 14, 2006, 01:42:38 PM »

It would help me if someone (not necessarily Ron) would review this (short) summary of the reasoning and analysis going on in this thread.

Issue:
Does White Wolf style role-playing stunt one's ability to use other gaming systems designed to produce true narrative stories?

Rule
A person will be stunted if they participate in experiences they do not realize are inappropriate or harmful. 

Analysis
White wolf rules are inappropriate and harmful because they mis-represent what true storytelling is.

White wolf players are stunted because they constantly mis-interpret other gaming systems and then rationalize to compensate for the lack of White Wolf elements.

Conclusion
Therefore, yes, White wolf style role-playing stunts one's ability to grasp true narrativist style rpgs.
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