I don't like the term - Story Games

edited May 2009 in Story Games
I can't stand it. I never liked it.

Keep in mind, I love the forum, Story Games, despite the name. This place is fun. I dig.

So, let me try to put what I hate that term to words.

It is like calling soccer a fitness game. "I ran around chasing this ball around and at the end I was fit!" No, fitness just happens to be one of the many by-products of a soccer game. It just happens when you run around on a hundred yards of field with twenty one other people. Soccer's no fun if all you want is fitness, in order for soccer to be fun, you have to want to score a goal and you have to want to stop the other eleven folks from putting the ball in your goal.

Story isn't something we sit around and discuss. It happens through play. PLAY, dammit. At the end, when the dice are done rolling we have a story.

Story is just one of the many by-products of sitting around with a bunch of friends, munching on food, pinging our fictional creations off one another's make belief stuff. Story alone isn't fun. Pushing a character's wants and needs or killing orcs or whatever the game encourages you to do is fun. Story just happens as a result of that. When you are done you often have something that is a story.

But the story isn't something you serve or think about or even consciously hope for. The story just happens because you and your friends' ideas rattled around the table right along with the dice and at the end of the night some kind of pattern emerged and wham-bam-shazam now that we walk away from the table, now that I look at it, I do see we made a pleasing story out of it.

Don't fret on serving some story, fret on serving some play. Think about meaningful decisions you can push your friends to make. Daydream about nexus-point, kettle-boiling over moments and how awesome it will be when your friends have to deal with your mad, beautiful ideas and through dealing with them, change them and by changing them, make them better.

Am I tell you what to think? Am I telling people who to daydream about gaming?

I don't know what the eff I'm doing.

But I do think that whatever it is I was doing, I'm now done.
«1

Comments

  • edited May 2009

    Whoa, whoa, wait..

    If we don't call 'em Story Games, what are we going to call them? RolePLAYING Games?

    More seriously, I'm mostly nodding with you, until this line here:

    "But the story isn't something you serve or think about or even consciously hope for."

    Um.. I have to assume you're talking purely for yourself?

    'cause I know lots of people who play in service to the story, who consciously hope for creating a good story, who put that as their overt purpose.

    I used to, until I realized I wasn't that sort of gamer. I mean, occasionally I still want to tell a good story, and make that my goal. But usually, I just want to see "what happens next". I want to see "what it's like".

    So, I feel you. But I think your statement is overstated.

  • But the role isn't something you serve or think about or even consciously hope for. The role just happens because you and your friends' ideas rattled around the table right along with the dice and at the end of the night some kind of pattern emerged and wham-bam-shazam now that we walk away from the table, now that I look at it, I do see we made a pleasing role-play out of it.

    Don't fret on serving some role, fret on serving some play.


    Yeah, its like that sometimes.
  • edited May 2009
    It's game research debates from the yesteryear (pdf) day at the Story Games forum, I see. ;)

    But seriously, I see what you are talking about. Even if we'd like to add some indication of the collaborative creative fiction level (yes, clouds) of this thing we do, I wouldn't use the word 'story' either. Maybe 'drama', as in dramatic action?

    On the other hand I'm not allergic to the title 'story games', quite the opposite, I've grown to like it.

    EDIT: another link to those interested in the game research battles of yesteryear.
  • Posted By: WolfeBut I think your statement is overstated.
    I feel you, feelin' me and I totally agree that my statement is overstated.

    I should be able to say for sure at around Monday.

    Also, Githyanki might be necessary to cleanse this thread's dire sin.
  • Githyanki.. That's like owlbears, right?

  • Posted By: WolfeGithyanki.. That's like owlbears, right?
    Githyanki are a monster from the FIend Folio and are also among my favorite D&D monsters/toys/bits. When I argue on the internet or post something that is kvetchy, as penance, I say that I have to post about githyanki, meaning that I have to put away my kvetchy shite and post something about the passion and fun of this hobby. It is referred to as Githyanki Therapy:


    [Githyanki Therapy] Something you are aching to play.

    Play Advice: Githyanki Therapy Redux

    [Bookmarked] Githyanki Therapy
  • I know the beasties (at least in broad strokes) and I've perused some of the threads. I meant mostly that it's kind of an inside joke.

    But, sure. If I know to look for it, it might be good to get in on the ground floor of one of these therapy sessions, rather than walking up to a new building and looking up all those steps.

  • Hey Judd, I'm with you, although probably for different reasons. It isn't a term I use to describe anything but this forum.
  • Judd, did you finish your paper, or are you putting it off? ;)

    ME
  • I personally agree with Judd, story is not a major determinant or identity issue for the games I like. At the same time I'm seeing a lot of people at these forums (mostly those who came here directly from RPGnet or such, instead of the Forge) for whom it is an important and well-expressive term. The simple explanation for the difference is that it's about narrativism vs. simulationism, so nothing new there. "Story game" perhaps works as a term so well because it allows so many to identify with it as long as their game has some story in it somewhere. A bit like "roleplaying game" in that regard. Doesn't bother me, it's just a term.
  • Posted By: JuddBut the story isn't something you serve or think about or even consciously hope for. The story just happens because you and your friends' ideas rattled around the table right along with the dice and at the end of the night some kind of pattern emerged and wham-bam-shazam now that we walk away from the table, now that I look at it, I do see we made a pleasing story out of it.
    I get what you mean, but this isn't always true. Sometimes you are consciously thinking of the story, and consciously molding it.
  • Judd, I think the "cool kids," defined as the people I think are cool, have disliked the term "story games" applied to a particular subset of roleplaying since, like, 2005, so you're in good company :) Honestly, I dislike the term "roleplaying games" too and just tend to call stuff "games" and specify what they're like individually ("Monopoly is this game where you..." "D&D4E is this game where you..."). Also "story games" often seems to be used to mean "these weird hippy indie games made by those designers who all know each other" and I think trying to break out of the "scene" mentality as much as possible is good for us.

    Hey, here's a post by John Harper agreeing with you that intentionally seeking "story" through play is something he also dislikes. In my mind, I think that varies for me. I tend to invest in games at the GM-level, even when I'm just a player, where I care about how everything else works out and have a hard time focusing just on my character. If the pacing is off or events unfold in a less-than-ideal way, it bothers me a lot. So while I definitely think there's some potential for suck in, say, pondering "what's the coolest thing that could happen next in the story" and then making that happen every time, I don't think that story consciousness necessarily creates suck. I just think it takes some finesse to figure out how finagle the narrative in a positive direction without forcing it to do unnatural things and while properly engaging whatever mechanics and social contract you have in place.

    I mean, I think there's definitely an undercurrent in indie thought right now (Vincent, Harper, you, etc.) that's basically saying "Stop worrying about how the story's turning out and just play the damn game already! The story will handle itself!" And I think that's the pendulum swinging back from a period in which people have really worried about narrative arcs and pacing and having an overawareness of these things so they could try to "fix them" or implement them on the fly during play. There's been a lot of focus on scene framing and figuring out what needs to happen next for the best pacing and narrative structure and my sense is that a some folks are getting sick of having to work that hard at the table and just want to throw down and play, while letting the other stuff emerge on its own. Yeah?
  • edited May 2009
    I would like to answer, "Yes," to every person who posted.

    To Rob...maybe...more? Examples?

    EDIT: Cool kids. Ugh.
  • On topic, I like having a framework for my games, at least an idea of what I am doing before I start. Sometimes that is a story, sometimes it is just an idea or setting. I don't think we set out to tell a story, I think the story happens, but sometimes the players come into a story already being told and have the ability to influence that story. I like both styles.

    But I don't think we've ever placed an emphasis on "story vs. play."

    And the Story Games moniker I feel can be misleading, just as I feel the distinction between "trad" and "indie" are blurry and don't really tell people anything about the games they try to describe.

    ME
  • There is definitely a pendulum for me, a spectrum.

    On either side of my comfort zones is Burning Wheel on one side and Shock: Social Science Fiction on the other. It feels like BW is more like what I talk about above,when I am playing I am looking at the Beliefs, Instincts and Traits, driving and reacting to the fiction around me. In Shock: I am a bit more into the world and a little bit less into my character. I am still invested but not in the same manner. I wonder if that is because the GM's responsibilities are so spread out, willy-nilly that I feel a kind of bird's eye view but in BW, my main toys are Beliefs, Instincts and Traits to drive story (though there's other subtle stuff too; lotsa moving parts in that one).

    So, re-reading others' posts and thinking out loud.
  • This is a big "Huh?" for me, because I never read the term as being about playing FOR story. It's playing WITH story that I'm interested in.

    The fiction matters. That's all that I read into the term "story game".
  • edited May 2009
    Posted By: Mark WThis is a big "Huh?" for me, because I never read the term as being about playing FOR story. It's playing WITH story that I'm interested in.
    Me too, actually. Boardgames use boards (and tokens and maybe dice). Storygames use story (and maybe dice and maybe boards).

    Edit: Actually, what I'm thinking of is a post some 2,000 years ago on another forum from you, Judd (?), where you responded to a budding designer and asked if the game needed attributes, dice or a GM, as if those elements were interchangable.
  • Posted By: Mark WThis is a big "Huh?" for me, because I never read the term as being about playing FOR story. It's playing WITH story that I'm interested in.

    The fiction matters. That's all that I read into the term "story game".
    But the fiction has always mattered to everyone. It might not be thematic fiction or your kinda fiction but every type of gaming's got fiction. If you play some RPG like a board game and go in and kill and orc and at the end, when you hit the king orc, you roll a 30 in your d30, that is fiction. It might not be deep exploration of that character's soul but fiction was created. You all saw the blood spray the underground walls.

    I think I'm agreeing with you in a disagreeable way.

    Mark. Yes.

    I just don't like the term.
  • Posted By: Joe MurphyEdit: Actually, what I'm thinking of is a post some 2,000 years ago on another forum from you, Judd (?), where you responded to a budding designer and asked if the game needed attributes, dice or a GM, as if those elements were interchangable.
    I'd love to see that post if you know where it is, Joe. I love reading long-ago posts from way back, where I can see how my views have changed in some way. That is neat.
  • edited May 2009
    Back in '05 (or whenever it was that the term came about), I think there was a certain value in distinguishing what the Forge folks where doing from what the mainstream RPG crowd was doing. Today, since the Forge movement has splintered and begun penetrating the mainstream, I can see that the term has lost a lot of its meaning.

    I always liked "Story Games" as a descriptor for thematic games, specifically. I like that it's a bit a broader than "Role Playing Games", and could thus be more easily applied to a variety of story-generation techniques from across related art forms. But as a simple stand-in for "RPG"?... Meh, what purpose does that serve?
  • Posted By: JuddEDIT: Cool kids. Ugh.
    Sorry, Judd. I guess our levels of sarcasm about the "sceneness" of the indie community have exceeded tolerance levels. I'll scale back.
  • Posted By: Judd
    But the fiction has always mattered to everyone. It might not be thematic fiction or your kinda fiction but every type of gaming's got fiction.
    Nearly all my pals hate the term Story Games. Personally, I don't get it. But, I don't love it ether.

    I do love my term! Stories You Play.

    I came up with that in the mindset Judd indicates here. I was thinking that any RPG produced fiction, and that was fun. But, I also worried it was just code for "narrativism games" or something.

    Nah, it's just my phrase for RPGS. I like it.

    Hey, what can I say. I like having my cake and eating it too.
  • I had this creative writing instructor who kept using the term 'pedagogy' in our classroom discussions. And I kept thinking, dude, I don't want to see behind the curtain. I don't want to know what strategies you're using to teach me, just teach me. But even if I don't like the term pedagogy, and I don't like how it changes the dynamic when said out loud, pedagogy is still there right. The instructor has a method, I just, as a student, want that method to be invisible.

    If the GM pushes for a big climactic battle at the end of a campaign, she's probably doing it to make the fiction more interesting, to create story. But if she says out loud, "hey, at the end of this session, we're going to have a big climactic battle because it would make for a more interesting story" that might upset me. Because now we've all acknowledged that there would be a big conflict no matter what we did in the past and it creates a disconnect between the narrative-so-far and the final resolution. I don't want her to say it, but I still want her to push us towards that conflict.
  • edited May 2009
    Posted By: Jonathan Walton
    Sorry, Judd. I guess our levels of sarcasm about the "sceneness" of the indie community have exceeded tolerance levels. I'll scale back.
    I was laughing when I ugh'ed but an ugh had to happen.

    No worries.
  • Posted By: JuddBut the fiction has always mattered to everyone. It might not be thematic fiction or your kinda fiction but every type of gaming's got fiction. If you play some RPG like a board game and go in and kill and orc and at the end, when you hit the king orc, you roll a 30 in your d30, that is fiction. It might not be deep exploration of that character's soul but fiction was created. You all saw the blood spray the underground walls.

    I think I'm agreeing with you in a disagreeable way.
    I think so too. As far as I'm concerned, to the extent that there's a border around "story game", it's a bigger one than the one around "RPG". It contains all games with an imaginative component that rewards investment (not necessarily concretely, but in the sense that the game is more fun if you imagine what's happening). Lots of board games in the "Ameritrash" tradition qualify. Some war games qualify (there are plenty that either are too abstract to have recognizable fiction or that actively punish investment in any narrative qualities that may emerge).

    If you define Story Game the way Vincent (in his lovable curmudgeon way) has tried to lately (no feedback from fiction to mechanics), then yeah, those mostly suck - as roleplaying games. Fortunately, I also don't think many of them actually exist - at least not in play.
  • I always liked storygames as short hand for games where the story is more important than strategy (I know that isn't what storygames means here nor is it the purpose of this forum). At local cons storygames has been an effective descriptor indicating that it is ok to act strategically unsound in favor of more dramatic and thematically appropriate actions. In light of D&D 4E's qualities, it's become even more useful!
  • So, this post from Malcolm aka Eyebeams got e-mailed to me this morning as it was linked on a blog and ...it got e-mailed to me this morning. I don't dig the post but for one line and that line is worth the whole post's venom:

    "I have these powerful memories of things that never happened to me."

    I love the phrasing that gaming is the erecting of fictional memories with friends, memories of places that don't exist and events that did not happen, not that I like the term Memory Games either.

    I am not sure how this links to story games or whatever but I feel like there is a link there.

    I can think back to storming the Mountain Witch's castle with Vincent, Joshua, Rob and Keith and the siege of Yasugi Castle I endured with Witt and Pete and on and on.

    I'm poking at something and I'm not sure what it is. Hmf.
  • Judd,

    your post dings the same notes as the Buried Without Ceremony blog that Joe McDonald recently started. Have you read it (specifically the second post)?

  • Posted By: WolfeJudd,your post dings the same notes as the Buried Without Ceremony blog that Joe McDonald recently started. Have you read it (specifically the second post)?
    It was the e-mailing of his post with lots of links in it that had me re-reading Malcolm's LJ post and remembering what I liked about it. Which post specifically?
  • Fuck that. Not only do I play story-games, I play Story-Now games.

    But seriously. I can see how the connotation-fraught character of the label "story" (with its implications of narrative coherence, plot-focused authorial intent, and so forth) would make some folks leery, just as I can see how some folks like the term for how it emphasizes the act of putting the fiction front-and-center during play.

    I can see the outlines of the concept that Judd is groping toward, and it seems to me to have something to do with emergent-story play, in the sense that "story" (however you care to define that) emerges from play as a way of making sense of what happened. So it's not exactly like "fitness" as a consequence of soccer; it's more like the score. So while the point of playing is the experience of doing the things you do when you play (the love of the game, if you like), the narrative that it produces in retrospect can be given greater or lesser emphasis depending on design choices and play preferences. And those games that give greater weight to that retrospective narrative-producing character maybe should be called story-games.
  • In other news, Bill is smarter than me.

    Yeah, man, yeah.

    Yeah, until the end when you trick me with your Jedi mind powers. But everything up until then...yeah.
  • Posted By: JuddYeah, until the end when you trick me with your Jedi mind powers. But everything up until then...yeah
    The obvious counter to my claim can be extracted from something that Tim said above. We already have a term for this kind of game: we call 'em role-playing games. That term highlights the experience of play as exactly the point of the whole activity.
  • Vincent's clouds and boxes. I like games that let my brain spend more time in the clouds. Other people seem to like games that let their brains spend more time in the boxes. They're all role-playing games.

    The cloud games, though? What do we call them?
  • I just call them all RPGs, actually. Before, I tried to think of "What *is* a story game, anyway?" and came away with "Oh yeah, Story Games is the name of this forum."

    Basically, it was an ironic moniker back when there were these raging debates on the intertubes of "what is a roleplaying game"?

    At the time, there were a lot of threads over on RPGnet to the likes of, "Oh I don't have anything against (insert game here), it's just not a roleplaying game. Clearly."

    My Life with Master was not a real roleplaying game because MLWM has an endgame condition and real RPGs can't have artificial endgame conditions.

    Primetime Adventures was not a real roleplaying game because it addressed everything in terms of the character's issue, and real RPGs have stats and skills of which your character is comprised.

    A lof of these games don't have explicit rules for combat, or drowning, or falling (this ironic debate led eventually to the game "Drowning and Falling"), and real roleplaying games require rules, however brief, which can be utilized in these situations.

    At that point, one dude was like, "LOL, then what do we call these games where you very clearly play a role, if not role-playing games? Fuckit, it's not even worth debating. i'm gonna call them Story Games or someshit."

    and the name stuck.

    For myself, I don't think I've actually used the word "Story Game" to describe an actual game for years now. I always call them RPGs, even here on this forum. The distinction of "This game, where you play a role? It's not a role-playing game, because of [this arbitrary statement that describes something I personally like about the games I play]" didn't hold after those debates cooled down. Any use of the word without knowing that history is probably a little ironic at this point.

    Yet, if I were talking about RPGs to people who had no idea of the concept? I'd probably call them all "Story Games", because that term gives you an idea of how it might be different than a board game, card game or video game. But I haven't been in such a situation since I left Japan. For example, at work recently, someone mentioned D&D. I threw out a joke, one thing led to another, and about 7 people in my group from all ages and backgrounds were talking about how they played this or that. The 50-year old dude in computer storage engineering used to be in a Shadowrun game. The manager over there played a few times in high school. So while I keep that term "Story Games" as a potentially useful tool to describe these games in my Metaphorical Toolbox, I've never really had to reach for it. I mean, who are we kidding, if you found your way here, you understand what RPGs are, and understand that games from Cyberpunk 2020 to Bacchanal, from 1st edition AD&D to Grey Ranks are all games where you play a role and do stuff.

    Anyway, just wanted to throw some history in there. While we all know that these games are RPGs, there's a lot of new faces here that might not know where the term story game came from.

    -Andy

    *Clinton
  • I saw the term "story game" used in one of the First Person / Second Person journal-style books, recently. I can't remember which one. It was used more broadly than we use it, encompassing video games and whatnot.
  • I've always called all RPGs "story games" when describing them to people who didn' t know anything about RPGs, long before there was this forum, or the Forge even. And the term has always summed up my approach to RPGs. So to me all RPGs are story games. (There are some non-RPG story games too.) I know, I know. Brain damage. But still.
  • Posted By: Adam Drayencompassing video games and whatnot.
    Ah, yeah that's another source of rich, creamy delicious irony.

    There's a lot of folks who dislike the term "RPG" when it appears in a video game, because of the huge differences in medium, plus the "it was our term first!" bit.
    Story Games is a term that has appeared recently in console RPG discussion circles, and it refers to console games that have a "deeper" story than other games, or that have branches where you can choose how the game ends (multiple endings, etc).

    It was a funny parallel, I thought. In 10 years we might see video games in the store under the genre flags: "Sports/First Person Shooter/RPG/Story Game/Platformer/Adventure/etc"

    -Andy
  • Nobody commented on my "cloud games" comment. This makes me sad. Do people know what I'm talking about?
  • I've nothing smart to add, except to say to Judd's first post "Yeah!" and then to add, I like the term as shorthand sometimes, but I've come full circle into seeing them all, from 1st Edition AD&D to the newest proto-trend experiment on a thread here somewhere, as RPGs. It's those three letters that hold the power for me.
  • Posted By: Adam DrayNobody commented on my "cloud games" comment. This makes me sad. Do people know what I'm talking about?
    I follow his blog but I just don't really understand it enough to volley back and forth. I don't really grok those diagrams at all.
  • edited May 2009
    Posted By: Adam DrayVincent's clouds and boxes. I like games that let my brain spend more time in the clouds. Other people seem to like games that let their brains spend more time in the boxes. They're all role-playing games.

    The cloud games, though? What do we call them?
    I think Vincent's been arguing for games based around the fiction. You start in the fiction, then something happens and the mechanics kick in, then the results of the mechanics lands you back in the fiction.

    I'm not desperate to label these games, but I can see them becoming a thing.

    I hate the term Story Games, because it's invented. It started as a name for a website, then people started saying "Hey, which Story Games do you like?". And there's occasionally been a move to retrospectively define this term that just started as a URL. What's the point?

    Graham
  • i thought we were using "story" as a verb and "story games" as an admonition.
    like, "yeah, i'm gonna story the fuck outa that game, man!"
  • I call 'em Role Play Games. Because we take roles in a story, and it is a game because there are rules (+ the interpretation) that can take the story (and OUR roles ) in unexpected directions.

    Story Play Games might work for me, but probably not. AFter all, a game could be (and has been) devised where Stories are made, but the players don't have Roles. A game where story elements are introduced out of hat randomly and each player must fit it into the narrative. Doesn't have to have a Role associated with it.

    And certainly what we do is Play. I love the Play part.

    But humans like to categorize. I mean, we have Art Noveau and we have Art Deco. I know the difference... but both are art, both revolve heavily around detail and pattern. But both have more in common with each other than with Impressionism.... despite that Impressionist era being bracketed by Noveau and Deco. I sorta feel like the next gen of role playing games often called Story Games for a lack of a better handle and they are SOOO freakin related, it is almost not worth describing one as a Role Playing Game and one has a Story Game. Disco is still a form of Rock n Roll. Can't say Disco is classical music or folk or blues (despite probably borrowing from all of them, certainly classical.... but then again, so does Rock n Roll).

    So, yeah, don't love the handle... but it has gone on to mean something as the English language is always shifting, always evolving. Just take a look at the original meaning of fag or bitch or that email is now a word.
  • edited May 2009
    I hate all terms for all things I do.

    I do not fit in a box!

    Unless you chop off my arms and legs, of course.

    I also hate: Indie Games, Roleplaying Games, Board Games, and so on. All of them are wrong!
  • Posted By: JuddI love the phrasing that gaming is the erecting of fictional memories with friends, memories of places that don't exist and events that did not happen, not that I like the term Memory Games either. [...] I can think back to storming the Mountain Witch's castle with Vincent, Joshua, Rob and Keith and the siege of Yasugi Castle I endured with Witt and Pete and on and on.
    That's your Story right there. It isn't some fictional by-product. It's the story of sitting around with your friends and being awesome.
  • You start in the fiction, then something happens and the mechanics kick in, then the results of the mechanics lands you back in the fiction.

    Is there a link to an example of this? I'm not quite grasping how it's different from the traditional model . . .

    Scott (who might also be dense and an idiot)
  • Judd, Chris Chinn wrote a post that was way more helpful to me than Vincent's diagrams. See if it helps you too.
  • I'm talking about games where you spend more time driving play from the fiction, rather than driving play from the stats. Do you look at the list of combat options in the book and figure out which is optimal or do you do something you think is awesome and then figure out what rule applies best to it? I want more of the latter.
  • Posted By: Adam DrayI'm talking about games where you spend more time driving play from the fiction, rather than driving play from the stats. Do you look at the list of combat options in the book and figure out which is optimal or do you do something you think is awesome and then figure out what rule applies best to it? I want more of the latter.
    Adam, I dig - couldja give a real life example of both?
Sign In or Register to comment.