In another recent thread, James Nostack wrote about the difficulties he's having with a Firefly
-influenced game of Traveller
Posted By: James_NostackWe actually ran into some trouble with theFireflypoint of reference: it was something the GM had flagged as, "You knowFirefly? That's like the perfectTravellergame." So I'm like, "Whoa, I really digFirefly, this will be great." But the GM really meant to say, "Gang of misfits go on the mission of the week. They talk about their feelings and whatnot in between." Whereas I seeFireflyas, "Adorable character archetypes resolve their personal issues through mission-of-the-week shenanigans." This was a little frustrating to me, as I'd based my character on a mixture of Simon-the-Doctor and Jayne-the-Lout, only to be told this wasn't really appropriate to the game. I think I've managed to resolve that dispute, but I think we were both frustrated with each other.
Now this strikes me as somewhat challenging to a common way of thinking, particularly hereabouts, that a group playing an RPG needs to be on the same page with respect to elements of thematic focus, even to the point of employing mechanics that enforce focus in various ways ̣̣(such as concretizing mechanisms for abstract concepts such as love, friendship, or humanity). Yet here we have a situation where a non-interactive fiction was equally enjoyable to two people who interpreted it rather differently. I think it's reasonable to suggest because
they interpreted it rather differently.
On one hand, it's undoubtedly true that in interactive fiction with multiple participants/authors, varying interpretations can feed back into the fiction where they'll conflict.
But the challenging question is: to what extent (and how) can participants leave room for each other's interpretations ("aethetic reception") while sharing construction of the fiction? Is there some reason that the narrative sequence (the events) and treatment (the way the events are related) in Firefly
couldn't have been produced as, essentially, a series of RPG sessions?
Personally, I think they could, and that many RPG groups enjoy their games in pretty much this fashion--the events of play, along with the manner they're related, are a sufficient common basis for mutual enjoyment; there isn't much need for shared thematic interpretation--but this doesn't mean the game lacks depth of meaning for the players.
On the other hand, one thing that's missing in the experience of non-interactive fiction is specifically the interaction between participants on a level outside of their relation to the fiction. Put simply, the content & expression of the fiction isn't all that's going on--there's also the matter of how it actually gets created, by whom, etc. I.e., just because, conceivably, James and his GM might each write exactly the same Firefly
-inspired story, that doesn't mean they'd be satisfied with each other's approach to the process
Nevertheless I have a pretty strong preference for the messy approach that largely leaves thematics up to individual interpretation, and I feel this is an approach that's both underappreciated and poorly understood in Story-Games circles.
(I haven't watched the series, personally, outside of one early episode, but I don't think that matters.)