"Storyjamming"

edited August 2009 in Story Games
Do you use this term? What does it mean to you? Where did you first hear it?

Comments

  • edited August 2009
    Obviously, I use this term.

    To me, it has come to mean playing with the Story Jam system that I developed (with the help of my crew) and intend to publish someday soon.

    It's almost always my favorite way to game these days.

    I originally heard the term from Willem Larsen, who talks about it on his blog "The College of Mythic Cartography". As far as I know, he coined the term in this context. The term and his discussion of it rang so true with me that I applied it to my efforts (with Willem's permission) and have spread the term around quite a bit now.

    I did some research and also discovered that some sort of (Disney-affiliated?) company was using the term several years ago. They may now be defunct. They're at www.storyjam.com, but fyi my security software warns me that their site is a little sketchy.
  • Yeah, Willem and Julian are the ones I've heard the term from.
  • that sounds like some kind of fibrous preserve.

  • Posted By: shreyasthat sounds like some kind of fibrous preserve.
    When the text is all written, layed out, books printed up, you should sell it with a jar of homemade jam, Julian! Or not.
  • Haha, my father suggested something in that vein, Hans.

    He suggested "A Toast to Storyjam" as the title.
  • Story jam is frequently made by scene farmers, in seasons of abundance.
  • I first heard it from Willem, as well--both in person and on his blog. At first I was skeptical of the need for a new term, but I've been warming to its validity as a descriptor of a particular methodology with an emphasis on light structure and flow.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • I don't use it. I'm not sure what it means because I haven't found the how-to doc on the techniques involved. I sometimes listen to CoMC and heard it there and have seen it mentioned around here just a bit -- probably by you(?), Jason.
  • A guidebook isn't publically available yet, but a playtest draft can be obtained by whispering me your email.
  • To answer the original question:
    I have not previously used the term "Storyjamming".

    However, reading it now, I can't help but draw a parrallel to the word "Spelljammer" (or "Starjammer") and imagine ships that either are propelled using stories as fuel or that travel through "story space" or both.
  • Story Space!!!

    I think this is what happens during the animated sequences in Run, Lola, Run.
  • Those who whispered, I think I got a copy to all of you.

    If you didn't receive one, email me at julian at michels dot com.
  • OK, thanks, everyone. I, too, first heard it from Willem, when we got started discussing how story games might achieve the things we want to do with them. I loved the musical imagery involved. For me (and while I can't speak for Willem, I think he agrees), "storyjamming" brings with it a real focus on what I think Ron Edwards meant by the "shared imagined space." We want to share the same dream, as much as we can. Like in a good jam session, you don't have a set script or plan, but by playing together, your rhythm synchronizes, you harmonize, you start playing the same song, even if it turns out as a song no one ever wrote or played before. Likewise, storyjamming aims to have us all see and imagine the same thing, telling the same story, even when we end up with a story no one's ever told before.

    So, actually, something like that, Blue, when you do it really well. :)

    More recently, I've heard some other folks use it, which made me happy. But I also heard people use it to simply mean, "playing story games," without that added dimension, and that made me sad. Most recently, I saw it in your thread, Antiquitus, and you using it to mean playing a specific game, and that really stuck in my craw.

    If "storyjamming" ends up becoming vacuous and meaningless because it gets misused so routinely that nobody even knows that it once referred to something specific, we'll just have to find some other term to define what we do—even if it seems unlikely that we might find one as good as that. But I'd hate for that to happen. While I very much appreciate people picking up the term, I hope you'll also recognize that it describes a very specific style of play, and a very specific goal to get out of play.
  • edited August 2009
    Jason,

    I agree that it describes a certain kind of play. I can also understand your investment in the term. I, too, am invested in the term, and would feel frustrated if I thought I saw it being diluted or misused.

    My efforts at designing a Story Jam method (with encouragement from Willem) emerged when I discovered that variations on the Story Jam kind of play was very much what I wanted from my game experience. Indeed, in a way, I am trying to nail down what it is that I love about this kind of play so that others can enjoy it, too. It would be difficult to describe what I'm doing with Story Jam as a "game". If you'd like to learn something about what I'm working on and then contribute your own ideas of what would make it more closely aligned with "Story Jam" as a concept, please feel free to ask me for a draft. I more than welcome others' involvement, ideas, and opinions.

    You may be interested to know that Story Jam is not that new of a term, but has been circulating for awhile in different contexts. Willem thought it up himself, poetically, as did other people in their own corners of the world. Just a couple of these are a co-operative of lovely Canadian storytelling educators (http://www.storyjam.ca) and a group that hosted creative problem-solving seminars for professional organizations (www.storyjam.com).

    Best,
    -JM
  • I also first heard it from Willem. I use it. I was hesitant at first, not because I don't think the label fits, but because it sounded kind of dorky. I got over that pretty quickly after a few discussions we had on the subject. So yeah, story engines are what I make and enjoy, and story jamming is the action of using them.
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: jasonwhat I think Ron Edwards meant by the "shared imagined space."
    Wow, just look at the cognitive drift.

    Ron talked about roleplaying as jamming, specifically in regards to GMing as "playing bass."

    SIS was coined by someone else. Ron considered it more or less identical to his "exploration."

    Neel Krishnaswami was the first person (AFAIK) to talk about each group gradually creating a "shared symbolic language" for which to communicate about play.

    The way Willem uses "story jamming" seems to be halfway between "playstorming" (which is an Eppy thing?) and traditional freeform play. It's like freeform / "lite" play but with an active realization that you're gradually creating your own informal systems for how things work. I've never felt like we needed a seperate term for that, since it seems like it's the perspective that's changed, rather than the actual practices.
  • edited August 2009
    "Storyjamming" is a pretty useful metaphor, to me. Like thinking of software creation as "engineering" or "growing" rather than "writing".

    I feel like JD calling his system "Story Jam" invites a small confusion of levels - as I am sure he would agree, it is just one framework for improv story creation out of an infinity of possibilities, more like Story-"16 bar blues in C". But it's the purest semantic hair-splitting to insist on the distinction, I think.
  • edited August 2009
    I hadn't realized that Story Jam as a term had managed to percolate much outside of Willem and the circle I've built.

    I am now thinking of calling my Story Jam guidebook "A Recipe for Story Jam".

    There can be different recipes for the same dish, of course.
  • Posted By: AntiquitusI am now thinking of calling my Story Jam guidebook "A Recipe for Story Jam".
    Which is clever but obscures the helpful musical metaphor. Names are hard - let's go shopping!
  • So there's two things then, right?

    1. Willem's Storyjamming.
    2. Julian's Story Jam system, which grew out of the first, but isn't equivalent to it.

    Graham
  • After reading the blog "The College of Mythic Pornography", we've started using the term "story humping".
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: jasonFor me (and while I can't speak for Willem, I think he agrees), "storyjamming" brings with it a real focus on what I think Ron Edwards meant by the "shared imagined space." We want to share the same dream, as much as we can. Like in a good jam session, you don't have a set script or plan, but by playing together, your rhythm synchronizes, you harmonize, you start playing the same song, even if it turns out as a song no one ever wrote or played before. Likewise, storyjamming aims to have us all see and imagine the same thing, telling the same story, even when we end up with a story no one's ever told before.

    (...)

    More recently, I've heard some other folks use it, which made me happy. But I also heard people use it to simply mean, "playing story games," without that added dimension, and that made me sad.
    What you described above sounds, to me, exactly like "playing story games", albeit in a more poetical way. I mean, who plays a story game and doesn't focus on the SIS? Who plays only stories people have told before?

    So can you describe, maybe in less poetical terms so a poor Swede can grasp it, what the difference is?
  • I can talk about some of the features of the way I Story Jam, many of which are embedded in my system and a few of which I've already talked about on this forum, but obviously I cannot speak for Jason, Jake, Willem, or the few others who use the term to describe what they do.

    Of course, for my take on that question, I think you're best off just reading the guidebook draft.
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: AntiquitusYou may be interested to know that Story Jam is not that new of a term, but has been circulating for awhile in different contexts. Willem thought it up himself, poetically, as did other people in their own corners of the world. Just a couple of these are a co-operative of lovely Canadian storytelling educators (http://www.storyjam.ca) and a group that hosted creative problem-solving seminars for professional organizations (www.storyjam.com).
    I'd posed the OP the way I did because I wondered if some people had gotten it from a different source, with an altogether different meaning. That would certainly make some of the more diluted uses much easier to understand.
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonThe way Willem uses "story jamming" seems to be halfway between "playstorming" (which is an Eppy thing?) and traditional freeform play. It's like freeform / "lite" play but with an active realization that you're gradually creating your own informal systems for how things work. I've never felt like we needed a seperate term for that, since it seems like it's the perspective that's changed, rather than the actual practices.
    No, I don't think so. As I understand it, storyjamming doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with creating new systems for play, whether formal or informal. Willem & I have spent some time working on systems that support storyjamming, but we recognize that as a separate activity. Just like designing a game does not mean the same thing as playing that game. Playstorming focuses pretty specifically on generating a game, which storyjamming doesn't, at all. For that, we probably wouldn't need a separate term.

    I agree with Colin and Graham—JD, your game's name just makes me slightly uncomfortable because it seems like a term that already produces sufficient confusion, adding a second definition seems to invite even more confusion, and eventually, having the term cast aside as useless. Now, you certainly have no obligation to listen to me, and you had the courtesy to run it past Willem so good on you for that, but you have my opinion on it. Do with that as you like.
    Posted By: Simon_PetterssonSo can you describe, maybe in less poetical terms so a poor Swede can grasp it, what the difference is?
    In a story game, we make up a story together. We understand that the story does not exist until we make it up. So, naturally, creativity plays an important role here. We don't necessarily need to imagine the same thing, just enough to all stay on the same page. At the end, we want a good story.

    In a storyjam, we discover a story together. We understand that the story exists in some way, somewhere, and we go to find it together. Creativity has little to do with it—in fact, Graham's suggestions in Play Unsafe to play average and go with the obvious become much more important. We try to imagine the same thing as much as possible. At the end, we want a good jam session—a synchronization of our imagination, more than the story that comes out of it.

    Does that help?
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: jason
    I agree with Colin and Graham—JD, your game's name just makes me slightly uncomfortable because it seems like a term that already produces sufficient confusion, adding a second definition seems to invite even more confusion, and eventually, having the term cast aside as useless. Now, you certainly have no obligation to listen to me, and you had the courtesy to run it past Willem so good on you for that, but you have my opinion on it. Do with that as you like.
    To be fair, you are the only person that I've heard express this so far.

    Edit: Also, it's important to keep in mind that I'm not just designing for the story game community, either in terms of design innovation or in terms of play. In this case, my efforts extend to educational and therapeutic audiences, and potentially as well to the population-at-large. For such, the more generally and accessibly I can appear to encompass collaborative narrative goals and practices, the better for my work and, hopefully, for the hobby.
  • Posted By: AntiquitusAlso, it's important to keep in mind that I'm not just designing for the story game community, either in terms of design innovation or in terms of play. In this case, my efforts extend to educational and therapeutic audiences, and potentially as well to the population-at-large. For such, the more generally and accessibly I can appear to encompass collaborative narrative goals and practices, the better for my work and, hopefully, for the hobby.
    Let me expand on this a bit. I know Willem came to the term independent of story games. He used it to describe something he was already doing before he found story games. Something that grew from story telling, not from game playing. So it has a distinct evolution. More importantly, it's not a term meant for THIS community. Willem (and many of us in Portland) use storyjamming to describe what we do to people who don't know about or play/use any kind of story game or rpg. By extension, there are now a lot of people in Portland who storyjam now, that have had never role played or story games before.

    I'm starting to use the term (and the related term story engine) to describe my more recent projects that I don't consider games. I'm finding that this is helping me explain what I do and what my books are to a lot of people who wouldn't know a story game or rpg from a playstation.
  • edited August 2009
    @Jake,

    Right, exactly. It's a wonderful term for bringing the best of what we do (aka the part that I enjoy the most, the collaborative story part) to the public at large. That's really my goal.
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: jasonDoes that help?
    Not really, no. The difference seems to me mostly philosophical. Creating or discovering is just a matter of perspective when it comes to something as intangible as a story that's never been told before. I could phrase it like this: If I'm looking at you when you're storyjamming, in what way would it look different from just plain story gaming, or roleplaying? What do you do differently? If it's not seen from the outside, then it's just a personal thing. Like, you could be storyjamming when everyone else at the table is story gaming. Is that so?
  • Posted By: Simon_Pettersson
    Not really, no. The difference seems to me mostly philosophical.
    That alone makes it a significant difference, doesn't it?
  • Posted By: ccreitzStory jam is frequently made by scene farmers, in seasons of abundance.
    I believe you earn half a point.
    Posted By: jasonIf "storyjamming" ends up becoming vacuous and meaningless because it gets misused so routinely that nobody even knows that it once referred to something specific, we'll just have to find some other term to define what we do—even if it seems unlikely that we might find one as good as that. But I'd hate for that to happen.
    But... that what words do. Especially neologisms. Either they never get picked up by the population at large, are used by a tiny handful of people, wither and die, or they spread to new people, which involves their meaning and concept changing every time they are spread. Words are living things, and once they're out of your mouth they're out of your control, too. If the word is going to be used, then it's going to be "mis"used.
  • edited August 2009
    Julian, I tend to share Jason's objections, to some extent. There is something rather difficult about appropriating a theory term: if I invented the "Improv RPG", I'd expect strange looks. Still, you're clearly attached to that name, now, and no-one can reasonably expect you to change it.

    What's more difficult, for me, is that you've been doing a degree of self-promotion in this thread, especially offering around drafts. I guess I'd prefer, if you're using a theoretical term to name your game, that you be ready to explain the differences: storyjamming means this, whereas my Story Jam system is this. Self-promotion is a difficult thing. It's expected on this forum, but it's easy to raise hackles doing it.

    Anyway. There you go. This is just a personal opinion.

    Graham
  • Yay! Storyjamming. For those (like Jake) who have said so, I agree: I use it to explain what I want to accomplish together with new folks. It never fails to make a light bulb switch on above their heads.

    I agree that storyjamming differs fundamentally from a certain class of rpgs/story games in its intention. An overlap definitely exists, but it has made my play better to make the distinction. Jason's comment about discovery (rather than "creating") hits a big chunk. If this seems like picking nits or overly philosophical, you might listen to Elizabeth Gilbert's take (as just one voice on why this makes a big difference):
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

    Also the goal of group "harmonizing" really nails it. In so many discussions about role-playing games/story games, I hear the presuppostion "that you will always have some people who will want to break the game, or just be an asshole, and you need rules to prevent it". Whereas for me jamming implies that we've all chosen to play together because we share the intention of playing in harmony - quite literally. We don't play unless we have this. And because we have this, we can do things that we couldn't accomplish otherwise.
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: Mr. Teapot

    But... that what wordsdo. Especially neologisms. Either they never get picked up by the population at large, are used by a tiny handful of people, wither and die, or they spread to new people, which involves their meaning and concept changing every time they are spread. Words are living things, and once they're out of your mouth they're out of your control, too. If the word is going to be used, then it's going to be "mis"used.
    Yeah, look how much more attention Storyjamming is getting now that I'm misusing it... :-P.

    In the same vein, there will always be old schoolers who kafetch.
    Posted By: Graham. I guess I'd prefer, if you're using a theoretical term to name your game, that you be ready to explain the differences: storyjamming meansthis, whereas my Story Jam system isthis. Self-promotion is a difficult thing. It's expected on this forum, but it's easy to raise hackles doing it.

    Anyway. There you go. This is just a personal opinion.

    Graham
    Noted.

    If I'd realized that there were "storyjammers" out there beyond Willem's group in Portland and my group in Eugene, I'd have approached them as well as Willem before moving ahead. Also, I'd have been more careful about the distinction from the beginning. As it was, besides crediting Willem with the term, there didn't seem to be much distinction to be made.

    That said, I think this thread has clarified the distinction for those concerned (storyjamming is a framework, "Story Jam" is a manualized method of that framework), so I'm going to move ahead now.
  • I feel it's important to maintain the metaphorical significance of the term. It was precisely the similarity to Ron's "bass Playing" analogy (and Ron frequently more broadly compares the whole act of roleplaying to musical collaboration as well) that did attract me to "storyjamming" as a concept. If we get cute about "bread and jam" and such, that dilutes its power. For instance, Jake, I was aware you were using "story engine," but I hadn't known you had adopted "storyjamming." For me, it's confusing to mix the mechanical metaphor with the musical one.

    For the record, I like the musical one.

    Willem, would I be correct in asserting that the Csíkszentmihályi concept of Flow is integral to the process of Storyjamming? I know we've had a lot of talk (and game experience together) on the topic of flow-enhancing and flow-breaking practices. I know it's always a big deal for you in terms of whether a particular game is working for you, and after experiencing some sweet Flow myself (in our brief Polaris game), I'm drifting around to that priority myself.

    In the game we played last night, I felt downright guilty every time I had to break flow to figure out how something worked.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited August 2009
    Edit: Better off as a whisper, I think.
  • Posted By: Jopel KuresaareFor instance, Jake, I was aware you were using "story engine," but I hadn't known you had adopted "storyjamming." For me, it's confusing to mix the mechanical metaphor with the musical one.
    See, I don't see it as a musical metaphor at all. Jamming is a term used to describe all kinds of artistic collaboration (although I do suspect it originates from music). Cartoon Jamming was something I grew up with in comic clubs and communities. So when I hear Jamming I think of collaboration. I can see why it clicked that way for you, especially in relation to Ron's term. I'm not a music guy so I don't think that way.

    In any case, I see Storyjamming as the action. The Story Engine is the tool. You don't NEED a tool to Story Jam, but if you have one, it's the Engine.

    Clarification of purpose
    : I'm not trying to convince anyone else to use Storyjamming as a term, and I came up with Story Engine for my own purposes. So I'm not looking to have that term accepted or ratified either. I just find that both terms are very convenient for describing most of the storytelling (and some of the game) experiences that I've been creating and enjoying for the last year or two.
  • Jake: Yep, it originates in music (i.e. "Jam Session.") I expect you first encountered it in the comics field, where "Art jams" are something of a trend, no?

    In any case, I still feel that "jam" in the sense of an artistic collaboration doesn't mesh well with "engine" in the sense of mechanism. Like you said, you're not trying to codify anything for anyone, so how you use the terms is your deal. I'm just saying that you saying "story engine" did not in any way tell me that you had adopted the culture of "Storyjamming," or to see any relation between the concepts. I just found out in this thread that the two are related for you. Just something to keep in mind is all.

    I think the topic is getting more than a bit sticky (perhaps even touchy. . .?) because of the different people (at least 5, if you include me) using "story jam" and maybe not all meaning the same thing by it. As Nick says, that's the way the language cookie crumbles, but at the same time I wonder if there's anything we can do to improve clarity? (I'm trying, by for instance asking Willem questions. Maybe that's the answer: we each tell our own story, and ask others for clarification on theirs.)

    Julian, at this point I'm the most befuddled by your usage, because it seems like your methods might be subtly but significantly divergent from Willem's and/or Jason's. I'll have to get back to you once I've read your document, I think.

    peace,
    -Joel

    PS: Just wondering, why are people referring to Julian as "JD" in this thread? It's getting confusing and I keep jumping up to see if the inestimable Mister Corley has entered the discourse.
  • edited August 2009
    I feel that this atmosphere is no longer conducive for me to actually communicate on this subject, so I am withdrawing from the thread.

    Such is the way of forums, of course, but for folks who want to engage with me about Story Jam in a real way, I encourage your private messages!
  • Joel: Because I don't know Julian, and I saw someone refer to him as "JD," so I thought that was his name. Sorry! As for flow, I've spent some time exploring the relationship between storyjamming and flow. I think they have a lot in common, but I don't know if I'd define it that way.

    Julian: I don't know what difference it makes to what degree you've designed your game for the story games community. As Jake pointed out, the general term "storyjamming" didn't develop inside that community, either. I agree, you need an easily communicated word. I think I'd feel more comfortable if you had a name for it, and described it as a system for storyjamming. For instance, I've spent some time working on a game called The Fifth World, a set of rules for storyjamming. By which I mean a particular style and kind of play, not a module, add-on, extension, or anything else attached to your game.

    You have no obligation to make me feel comfortable about your game's name, though. I do wonder, though, if your last post doesn't illustrate something of the problem? I asked about the term in general, and so far as I can tell, we still have a discussion going about that term. Your last post, to me, seems to imply that you consider your game the subject. Have I misinterpreted?

    Simon: Depending on the people and the game, if you looked at a table from the outside, you might not tell the difference between a group storyjamming and a group playing a story game. They differ in why they engage the activity, and what they hope to get out of it. The criteria for a night well spent differ. I don't know if I would use the term "storyjamming" in the sense of "we could storyjam or we could roleplay." But it definitely does help define the kind of game I want to play, and what I hope to get out of it.

    Let me put it another way: if I tell my friends I'd like to roleplay, we could play something I find mind-numbingly boring and I end up having a terrible time at the same activity where lots of others have a great deal of fun. If I tell them I'd like to storyjam (assuming I've defined the term well enough), they come to the table with the same expectations, and we all have a good time. I consider that result well worth the term's existence.

    Which also helps explain why I feel uncomfortable with the name of Julian's game: I don't necessarily want my friends to think I mean playing that particular game, either.

    Nick: Of course, though not all words eventually degrade to meaninglessness. I'd rather see "storyjamming" retain its meaning, because otherwise, I really have no word to describe what I do!
  • It seems to me that Storyjamming is quite close to the technique of Ideafarming, although the latter breaks things down into different story seeds.

    Graham
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: Mr. TeapotPosted By: ccreitzStory jam is frequently made by scene farmers, in seasons of abundance.
    I believe you earn half a point.Since my use comes from an awesomely fortuitous typo for "scene framing," and in ignorance of Robin's memewar campaign, can I get a "super-non-ironic use" bonus of some kind? Thanks! :)

    Actually relevant: Jason tried to draw a distinction between playstorming and story jamming, in a way I found thought-provoking. I found on reflection that I disagree strongly with him on one point, that story jamming doesn't result in the creation of a system, in the broad Lumpley sense. Indeed, organically arriving at a system to harmonize the contributions of the participants seems to be vital part of jamming, in stories just as in music. I think it's more helpful to characterize the difference between the two as the relative importance of the products — that it's a matter of fine degrees, not of kind. That said, the expectation is that if we're jamming, we'll arrive at a place where "Yes, and..." and "Or was it?" might be all we need, because, well, mostly when we think of "jamming" in a musical context, we think of something very loosely structured, Phish or whatever. (I've collaboratively improvised in more structured environments, music and stories, and I don't have a problem calling that jamming either, but I understand that the connotation runs toward fewer constraints.)

    Julian's system is very loose, practically just a collection of techniques. I feel like agreeing to it wouldn't preclude storyjamming in what take to be Jason's (and Willem's, I guess) sense. But nor is it the only way, or in some sense the "always best" or "most inclusive" way, to do so — I don't imagine Julian would claim it is. So when I posted, I was trying to say something like this. It's a little imprecise for Julian to call the system "Story Jam," but it would be much worse for him to call it "One Way You Might Story Jam If Everyone Agrees" because that's a terrible name in general. What a pickle! (...jam, pickle, preserved food, get it?)

    In any case, getting into a territorial dispute is silly. Already, I hate that "Story Now", which seems like a helpful and concise description of what I love about a really great gaming session ("right there at the table, not in the GM's prep, not in the postmortem, but bam! viva voce!"), has taken on this ponderous and unfun political weight that makes it distasteful. It's in the spirit of "jamming" to be inclusive. Lots of people have already seen and used the "story jamming" metaphor. Why make an issue out of this use?
  • I honestly think the key to any of these terms is to allow them to be descriptive and for people to not self-identify with them (frex: "I am a storygamer" is an abomination, unless it refers to people who visit this website). Once it becomes, "what I do is X; what you do is Y" we are all doomed.
  • Posted By: GrahamIt seems to me that Storyjamming is quite close to the technique of Ideafarming, although the latter breaks things down into different story seeds.

    Graham
    Stop doing that to your Queen's English. You're going to make her cry.
  • In Durham, we call it story-dumping, just as a data point.
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