Can't we all just get along?

edited October 2006 in Story Games


  • Curly,

    I think the thing that's most driving strife (at least here) is a set of passionate people speaking very loudly about their particular beliefs, and imagining that we're having a conversation. I'm at least as culpable as anyone else, which is why I've resisted furthering certain discussions. I'm publicly willing to listen to (and question) anyone who feels like there's something I need to be convinced of - as if I matter enough to be convinced.

    On the other hand: passion! I mean, that's the good stuff. No matter how much I think anyone around here is wrongheaded, I'd rather everyone were off thinking about their own approaches than marching stolidly behind any banner, even mine.
  • I'd just like to echo that sentiment and add: getting along is boring. Being a total asshat isn't good, but I don't think that everyone trying their best to like everyone else is the best way to go, either. It bothers me when conversations stop because people think it's getting 'too heated' - usually it seems (at least to me) that we're a mile away from 'heated'.

    Passion is a good thing - about the only thing you really have in this endeavour.
  • Passion, yes. Rudeness, no. It's possible to be a passionate advocate of a viewpoint, even to play hardball, and yet not be rude or insulting.

    As Curly brought out on the Theory Zealots thread, a certain very prominent theorist is rude and insulting sometimes, and I think that's unnecessary and unhelpful to discussion and generates undeserved negativity towards his theories. Now, that's something he has to deal with himself in his own time, but there's no need for us to join him in his rudeness in order to make our points. (Incidentally, what I pick up from the reactions of people who know him is that as well as being highly intelligent he is also, in person, a very nice guy - and there are times, probably in the majority, when he's that online as well.)

    I understand that he's frustrated from explaining the same things over and over. He's smarter than the average bear, and smart people get frustrated when they're not understood. But that doesn't excuse behaving like a bear with a sore head.

    Curly's absolutely right, too, in pointing to adversarial political public debate as a bad model for discussion. Insulting and running down your opposition hasn't ever produced good results in the past, why would it suddenly start being a good idea?

    Mutual respect and listening. Harder, but worthwhile.
  • edited October 2006
  • Posted By: Call Me CurlyI'm referring to ideals such-as the notion of a "Marketplace of Ideas" as a neo-liberal free market. I'm suggesting the ideas being sold and bought here aren't competing entirely on the basis of their actual merit. The market value of ideas is skewed by friction in the form of spin/propaganda/monopoly/rhetoric/dysfunctional social techniques.
    Uh... yeah? Which is why the marketplace of ideas as a paradise of equal opportunity is bupkiss. The only place where I disagree with you here is your equating spin/propaganda/monopoly/rhetoric with dysfunctional social techniques. I mean, come on, rhetoric? The science of making your point clearly and persuasively? That's a dysfunctional social technique?
  • Posted By: Call Me CurlyThis is to be expected from a self-selected community of game players; who have honed their ability to optimize systems competitively.
    Players who haven't-necessarily schooled themselves in the pitfalls of employing such tactics beyond the game table.
    While I agree with everything but this. And my dispute is: I think the tactics are working fine, but the goals aren't ideal. The goals aren't mutual understanding, or even a general understanding of an idea, but to convince (regardless of the content of the conviction) and failing that, spirited debate. To those ends, precisely the tactics you describe are ideal.

    But, this circle of self-selected system-gamers should be able to see pretty quickly what the solution is, if that's correct. Change the reinforcement cycle. Laud above all else he who says "Wait, I don't know if I understand. Explain again while I listen closely." Award victory to he who says "Aha! Now I understand you. Very interesting."
  • Judson's only saying that cause then he'd win all the time.

    Oh, burnnnnnnnn. ;)
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyJudson's only saying that cause then he'd win all the time.

    Oh,burnnnnnnnn. ;)
    I'll take that as a deep compliment.

    And, of course I re-write the rules so I win. That's what winners do.
  • edited October 2006
  • Curly, I have no idea how I'm supposed to respond to that, lest I might accidentally punch your lights out with my words. You're invalidating the very operation of communication by making it some sort of violence against the listener.
  • I'd suggest that you guys are using different meanings of "rhetoric." And much as I want to, I don't think I can really suggest that either is right. Would you explain your position more clearly, while I listen carefully?
  • edited October 2006
    Firstly, there's an excellent article on Rhetoric on wikipedia, greatest creation of mankind.

    Simply: rhetoric is the organized body of knowledge and techniques available for speakers to use to get their point across. It does involve strategies, yes; it does involve predicting the listener's disagreements and overcoming them. That doesn't make it intellectually dishonest or ethically questionable. It's saying words and making sense to the audience.
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  • edited October 2006
    Good Faith in what, for clarification's purposes?

    I suspect you mean sophistry instead of rhetoric.
  • edited October 2006
  • egads...

    I am 43 (not a child been around the block), eligbilbe for Mensa, 3rd generation Sales person (at times), above average IQ via IQ tests, got a few years of classes towards a BA in Philosophy, parent in the counseling field, and generally able to figure things out.

    egads gentlemen The Philosophy of Language was less convoluted and self-referencing than this forum.
    Love you all, but come
  • edited October 2006
  • Curly...I can go there.....cutlasses at dawn perhaps.......3rd touch so you dont win so fast :)
  • edited October 2006
  • Tad,

    You must not have read any Philosophy of Language recently :). Wittgenstein is way harder to follow than this is... At least for me.

  • Thomas,
    I admit it was a good 11 or so years ago so memory (failing fast) could be the fault. But it still illustrates the point of rehashing already regurgitated raw animal flesh that seems to follow along the My Narrative Powers are Stronger than your Storytelling/Improvisational cards to evoke a sense of femme fatale' (to mangle it all horridly).

    I must admit having been gaming since '77, reading some of the threads, some of the posts, some of the statements, makes me wonder how we all ever had fun making characters, creating settings, carrying campaigns from one person running it to another, dialogue, description, converting stuff from one setting/published piece of work to my own, etc.

    The discussions on reward mechanisms makes me wonder what the hook was all those nights of gaming, besides the friendship, the fun, the character development and relationships. The discussions on all the different conflict models and what not makes me wonder why do i still prefer a more rules massive (compared to most items I see on here) rules systems. I just wonder is all. I then think this forum is not the right one for me, and then gems like Japanese RPGs comes up and here I stay. But this should be the longest post I will make......
    Odds are I get the thread-kill for this one. :)
  • Posted By: Call Me CurlyHere's a game idea: last one to post in a pissy thread-- loses!
    That would actually encourage more bombast. On the other hand, it'd make a good kata for presenting adversity, in the Dogs style "something you can't ignore." In short: bad idea. Mine was better. Nyah!
  • Tad,

    I do apologize for the snark, it wasn't really necessary. I've just been dealing with good ol' Wittgenstein lately, and he's a big meanie.

    You said: reading some of the threads, some of the posts, some of the statements, makes me wonder how we all ever had fun.

    Here's my question. Your wondering here, is it wondering of the type 'Hey, we had fun doing all that stuff, I wonder what it was about that stuff that we thought was fun?' or is it 'These people seem to be saying that the stuff we were doing can't be fun, so what was it we were having?'

    If it's the former, then I'm right there with you, and that's what I like about theory: trying to figure out what it is about what we do that is so awesome. If it's the latter, then I think you are mis-interpreting what people are saying (though I may be being too charitable, could be that people really are saying that; I just know that not all of them are).

  • Naw, Thomas, you're right. If I doubt that someone is having fun doing something, I'm not doubting that they're having fun; only they know the answer to that, and they're probably not lying about having fun; there's no percentage in it.

    What I can doubt it someone's analysis of what makes it fun. Most of the time, it doesn't matter if their analysis is right or wrong, so long as they're reliably hitting those high notes. It only matters when either a) you're not hitting those high notes or b) you write down rules based on your wrong analysis and then make other people unhappy with them.

    Who cares what the theory says if you're getting everything you want? Who cares if the theory explains it or not?

    Game design — and ideed all creative endeavors — stem from a dissatisfaction with the status quo. Something doesn't exist that, in the eyes of the creator, should. That means that those creators will develop processes through which they can figure out what it is that they want.

    Sometimes, what someone might want in a Cornotaur in a corn maze. Sometimes, it's rules that let you address issues of theocratic power. The former need can be satisfied by any GM who can recognize that they need more Cornotaurs and corn mazes and knows how to stat them out. The latter requires the ability to actually build a rule system. But both are there to increase how much "fun" the players are having, to fill a perceived need.

  • edited October 2006
  • Okay, I took a crack at the essay. To be honest: it was dense and I didn't see the immediate relevance, and my threshold for going out on someone else's reference limb has gotten absurdly short.

    Let me set you up a really easy argument against your position: I'll contend for the sake of argument that no example of insurgent rhetoric in legitimate indie discourse exists.

    Now, that's a strong statement, I'll grant, but all it takes is one tangible example to disprove. It'd be awesome if, in addition to a link to where-ever, you quoted here the specific language you're pointing to.
  • Posted By: Call Me CurlyThe language of the Embattled & the Oppressed has been used to rally and promote an alternative to rpg status quo.
    I know I feel oppressed and embattled. Oh, yes. My hardship cannot be borne; as a guy that pitches self-made free gaming stuff out there, I am being kept down by The Man.


    No, that's not right.

    What the hell are you talking about?
  • Curly,

    I think a better model for understanding what goes on in situations like this is the realization that we are wired up to "take sides" and treat "our" side differently from "their" side. And when I say "wired up," I mean deeply and fundamentally built in to how our brain works. Doing a bunch of reading in Evolutionary Psychology has really changed my view of stuff like this. And I try to take it into account, to view myself an others through that lens.
  • Totally true, Mark, and the main reason that expanding our concept of "us" is so important.

    I like the idea myself that you can have multiple opinions in a debate but still have only one "side". In other words, this is all "us" sorting things out among ourselves.
  • edited October 2006
    Posted By: MikeRMIn other words, this is all "us" ....
    Lunar scum!

    Sorry. I know it's bad form, but I couldn't resist the Glorantha joke.

    To get back on topic: we're not members of a political party, we're not cultists, and most of us even have at least a few philosophically divergent ideas about the hobby that's brought us all together.

    Every single one of us speaks only for ourselves (and yes I see the irony in this statement). Anyone that paints all members of this community or the Forge or RPGnet or pretty much any other community with the same brush is deluded in their thinking. And worrying that someone out there has the wrong idea about our community, or is getting their hate on about us over something they think we said or meant, is an excise in pointlessness.

    Even the biggest stink, one that reverberates across the online RPG community, means nothing. Gaming is vast and RPGnet and The Forge and Story Games are tiny. We don't need to evangelize. Nor do we especially need to defend ourselves. All we need to do is be nice, play great games, make great games, and talk about both with our friends and colleagues.

    And if you're commercially minded, be grateful that there are guys out there that care enough to hate you. When they're public about their hating, they're selling your game for you.
  • edited October 2006
  • Example #2 is bogus. That's not at all what he's talking about.

    The first sentence in that thread:

    The purpose of this blog is to judge people's fun. We begin by judging our own fun, but in doing so we will and always will judge others' fun too.

    That's not about being embattled or anything. It's about being able to seriously critique something.

    Example #1 is clearly "embattled" language. But read the rest of the thread, including Ron's statements that "the 'war' shouldn't have happened."

  • Posted By: Call Me CurlyThis is where it gets real touchy, because I'm criticizing people personally.
    Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanThat's not about being embattled or anything. It's about being able to seriously critique something.
    Am I just high on Dada this week or what? This juxtapose pulls a particular nerve out by the root, grips it in tweezers and takes a blowtorch to it.

    I find it incredibly difficult to approach certain subjects because I can't see how to talk about things without saying "You! Over there! You're doing this thing, and it's bad!" But I know that a lot of people will get up on their hind legs and stop listening when singled out that way. Some won't - I want to believe that I don't - but I don't know how to predict who will and who won't. I tend to think of the quality that accepts unalloyed criticism, and gives back just as much as "punk rock" (and I'm reminded of the Muy Macho thread of 6 months ago). At the same time, I don't want anyone to feel like they're being kicked in the stomach for what they're doing, you know.

    Anyway, I realize I'm straying a little bit, but I wanted to get that off my chest.
  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanThat's not about being embattled or anything. It's about being able to seriously critique something.
    While I like and respect Vincent (and even more so, his right to conduct affairs as he sees fit in his forum--and my experience there has never been anything but positive) I think that saying "You are not safe here" as a headline isn't, in essence, a warning is a serious stretch. Whatever it says underneath (and we'll get to that) it's a bold-face large-font warning when you arrive.

    What it says underneath is even more telling, though: it opens with a short post about judging and being judged. However, if you read down, you discover that it's telling the person who comes there two things that are *not* clear from the original post: 1. That thematic and empowerment standards of play are the only two objective qualities of value for discussion and 2. That it's okay to make (presumably offensive) value judgements of people and play-styles but, so long as they are done within the rules It is NOT okay to judge that person back.

    In other words: "You" aren't safe. But someone else probably is (and there's a named person and topic to go with this example).

    This, again, is quite fair--I approve of laying the ground-rules (and think they are decent ones for this blog)--but to suggest that's not an entrenched position is, again, IMO, quite a stretch. As long as you obey the rules (and the rules are things that a vast majority of people on this board and his blog agree with), you are protected by the voice of the moderator. Safe as houses.

    (In terms of #1, I think the war metaphor with Ron goes way back to Nuking the Apple Cart and describing Indie games as a New Revolution. I agree there's a message that: the war "shouldn't have happened." But in the essays and the stories, it clearly did and it's the other guy's fault (I think--been a while since I read those).

  • edited October 2006
  • I feel like you are making pretty much a big ol' crazy mistake saying that there is stuff like "indie-heads" and "indie rpg thinking" and until you are past that, this discussion is a whole lot of noise.

    I've said it before and I will say it again now - while it happens that there are prominent communities where people have developed their skills and opinions together, and thus those skills and opinions reflect that shared environment, they do not make those people, skills, and opinions homogeneous.

  • edited October 2006
    I think the "everyone is right" post is on the money.

    Where I see the problem is the proposition (here and in the 'zealots' thread and in that general area of the discussion) that no one on the 'theory'/'anti-theory' side is doing anything [that could possibly add to the negativity in the discourse]* (such as the assertion that "You Are Not Safe Here" isn't a warning-sign posted to protect certain kinds of discussion and weaken others--i.e. 'embattled.' Or that vitriolic attack on indie games is necessary to save the industry)

    Arguing that Vincent has the right to this position is fine. It clearly is--and is a positive thing for Anyway. Arguing that no one who reads it carefully could take it as an entrenched position stating a protection of a preferred dialog is one of the primary foundations on which the unnecessary 'theory-vs-anti-theory' conflict thrives.

    * Changed from "wrong" because I don't think what Vincent is doing *is* wrong--but it is, IMO, an entrenched position.
  • This reminds me of Rorschach's line in Watchmen: "That's what they're saying about me now? That I'm paranoid?"

    I guess that I would respectfully disagree with the contention that "there's a tone of Insurgency built-in to the very idea of indie rpgs." As an indie game designer, I don't feel like an insurgent, I feel like a hobbyist with the luxury of print-on-demand publishing. I was in a garage metal band in the early nineties. We played a few shows, did some really bad recordings. We weren't insurgents, we were just into it on the amateur level. Fun, but not worth quitting the day job over. Too risky, you know, the music biz. For me, it's the same with indie RPG development. I like it, I do it, but I don't feel like I'm sticking it to the man.

    This is mostly because the "mainstream" RPG scene is so, um, small.

    That's my $0.02.

    -- Rafael
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  • Posted By: Call Me Curly'The paranoid style' is a hallmark of some of Alan Moore's greatest works.
    Especially Lost Girls.
  • edited October 2006
  • edited October 2006
    Posted By: Call Me CurlyAnybody still disagree?
    With the notion of guilt by association? One hundred percent. I still disagree with that.

    All of your "Well, they're not really homogenous, but they're homogenous enough for government work" stuff might work for talking about the population as a statistical entity. I'm not sure it does in this instance, but I do believe in the useful power of statistics carefully applied. But it's utterly worthless when talking about individuals.
  • There is a difference between "guit" or "responsibility" and "wanting a different situation."

    No one is *responsible* for what anyone else says. However, that doesn't mean that if you're outraged or demoralized by the state of the dialog there's not something you could do that might improve it (for yourself, maybe for others).

  • Boy, at this point I really, really, just want to re-invoke Wittgenstein's ghost (probably using a little Robert Brandom-style necromancy) and extract from him one very important lesson (so I will because I can't quite help myself):

    Words are much clunkier and clumsier than we imagine them to be. We frequently start talking because we are inspired by something that happens, but pretty quickly what we end up doing is just talking about words. Now, the irony here, is that we need these words to actually say something to someone else and, being social animals, we get really caught up in agreeing or disagreeing--more than we think, we want to agree. So we hammer out terms that bring us consensus.

    However, consensus is a social notion, not, in fact, driven by the same factors that started us talking. Taken to an extreme, this drive for consensus basically leads to this whole 'paranoid' style--the case where what people are responding to is words as social tokens rather than words as tools for discussing the happenings that got us started talking in the first place. Pretty soon, you end up with slogans whose content is basically "I stand with Joe because I really like him and if he says..."

    Now, the problem is that the paranoid style is itself an extreme of sorts, forged of words, with all the social architecture attached. It is pretty good at describing some extremes, woo-hoo, but gets deeply problematic when it is applied to groups whose drive to consensus has not reached fever pitch (i.e. indie games).

    So, rather than talk about a parnoid style in the indie gaming community, we should probably be talking about the social dimensions of indie-speak and trying to parse out where they are serving functions related to creating new games and where they are serving functions related to building a community around that project. that can be more or less difficult depending on what exactly is going on in the social situation.

    But wait, you should be saying, how can you easily divide the social group and its practices? You can't--that is why Wittgenstein rightly gives us headaches even when many of us think this is important stuff. You just do your best, which often begins with a healthy suspicion (not paranoia, not rejection) of how language operates and do your best, trusting that if enough people do that, then you might actually get somewhere without falling upon each other with paranoid fervor.

    There is a tendency toward the paranoid in any use of language, period. But using big scary labels like paranoia to describe the tendency toward a pole of language is probably not the best idea, since it carries too much baggage in 'everyday' language. And we ought to be suspicious of those sorts of... (and the cycle beigns again, because Wittgenstein really does see this as a perpetual problem that cannot be done away with once and for all).
  • Thomas
    Here's my question. Your wondering here, is it wondering of the type 'Hey, we had fun doing all that stuff, I wonder what it was about that stuff that we thought was fun?' or is it 'These people seem to be saying that the stuff we were doing can't be fun, so what was it we were having?'

    You are correct there. I read some of the posts, some of the forums, and i wonder why the heck do i come back to this site, these forums. By what i 'perceive' the mainline of the people here, I am so Rightwing Conservative Mainstream gamer compared to the 'majority' of the posters on this site. I admit i am not a systems guy (see many other posts on this one thread) but more a setting guy......I can wake in the AM and driving in my car have the urge to make an entire new setting, new game world, etc....but system changes is not my want, not my forte...sure maybe minor tweaks, but not new for me I would rather take Joshua Bishop Brady's Full Light Full Steam in my fave existing system like Hero System, and play it with those rules...because I know i can use the rules to make it feel the way I want it to feel....
    Or i can grab up my copy of Cyberpunk 2020, change Corporates to be Naval Officers, change Medtechies to be Doctors, change Solos to be the descendants of the French Musketeers and have my bit of fun all the way down the gangplank doing boading an example of how system is less important to me than setting and feeling....than what I want...

    But i personally do not need a new system to do that in....this from someone who considers himself a dabbler in many "mainstream' systems....

    So back to the point i was working on, I sometimes wonder if the social activity i call gaming was run by the 'indi' definition with mainstream rules that we mostly followed, with having multiple people running, focused on plots and development (benefits of a bunch of HS debaters and english majors with a few near genuis iqs in there not me), doing things like setting up merchant empires in Traveller, setting up caravans in DnD, building island monastery retreats, etc.....that is the fun we had....interlocking campaings spread across iowa, minnesota and virginia that 4 different GMs kept adding to intentionally and unintentionally over a decade of time for Champions / Superheores.....

    That was my idea of fun, and it still is....

    Wow long post..time to go get something to eat for lunch...
  • Tad,

    I'm not sure precisely what you're saying, but let me ask you this because I'm curious: Do you wonder how and why you're having fun at the structural level? Do you analyze it and go, 'Oh, wow, this is the fun part, let's make sure we do more of that next time!'?

    If not, it's no big deal. You don't have to analyze things to have fun doing them.

  • Thomas:
    No to be honest in the years since '77 when i started gaming in the 9th grade i never once analyzed how or why were were having fun....I was focused on enjoying playing, having fun running games for friends, and to be honest a lot of the enjoyment for me comes from the social/socializing/friendship component of gaming...

    No I dont analyze it, but I do recognize and modify my gaming and activies at the same time....So yes there is modification and alteration of the actual experience without a conscious decision to do so, just a gee that does not work and so diminish or eliminate that element...and take steps to have more of what the groups I gamed with enjoyed.....

    You are right in your last statement, and you point out my personal hang ups over some of the rhetoric and theorizing that goes on here....

    But thank you for listening and responding as well..

  • Tad,

    That's all cool stuff. Seriously. A couple more questions to cause I wanna know where you're coming from.

    Have you ever had a terrible agenda clash in a game? Like, you're playing with someone new and what they think is fun (as indicated by the way they play) totally doesn't mesh with your own fun? Like, they keep doing things that not only fun, but that ruin the fun of the rest of the players?

    My guess is that you've run into this rarely or not at all. The thing that got me so interested in theory was that I personally kept running into this. And I wanted to know why it was happening. It seemed a bit harsh to just assume that some significant number of gamers I ran into were utter jerks, so I started thinking about possible other reasons for it.

    For people who have incompatible ideas of what's fun in roleplaying, identifying what each person thinks is fun is suddenly very important. If you don't run into these sorts of problems regularly (or at all) then the importance of understanding the 'why' of things is clearly not as high.

  • Thomas,
    No I have rarely run into that issue. where one persons idea of fun was so different from mine there was not a meeting ground....
    I gamed with 2 separate (mostly I was the common point) groups during high school and slightly past..then life hit like college and the navy for me....
    I gamed with a few others during the next few years, mostly 1-1 or 1 - 3 sizes so no issues there.
    Then a larger group for a while but similar playing styles, more character and interralationships
    then back with the original group for several years
    still game with them when i go back up north for famliy visits
    I really dont have a gaming group now, life again and a non-gaming spouse.
    But I have rarely encountered where one person's idea of gaming fun I could not adjust to or accomondate...I have ran games more than played, so perhaps I just adjust more to bring more entertainment ( I do look at gaming as interactive storytelling more than anything else with a lot of strong narrative elements) so maybe I have lucked out more so than you.
    If you were in Florida we could work on this easier.

  • Tad, have you seen

    More to the point, I run into this problem when dealing with established Forgey theory all the damn time. Most of my tabletop gaming was with a relatively small number of people, and therefore our "house style" was pretty well-developed and we had few agenda clashes. So much of Forgey theory is based off of a profound dissatisfaction and frustration with play ("My straightforward observation of the activity of role-playing is that many participants do not enjoy it very much."), that I often find it difficult to find the common ground. Terms and concepts that I thought were about things that I have experienced turn out to be regarding nightmarish scenarios which I'm glad I haven't experienced (the recent Force discussion being a prime example), which often makes it difficult for me to engage in theory discussion with other folks whose gaming experience has been so profoundly different than mine.
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