We know so little of our hobby

24

Comments

  • edited September 2014
    I've just finished watching program from a series about quantum mechanics, and that episode gave me the same sensation as your post.
    Something here and on other threads made me wonder how much of my personal experience I have thrown into GMing and I suddenly realized that for years I've been using my knowledge of advertising to make illusionism work! /.../ Of course, players start to wonder about this and asked questions about it. Once this becomes the topic, it feels more like they are leading the way, instead of me plainly railroading.
    Yes! This is how I interpreted the above, and correct me if I'm wrong. You've drawn from your pool of experience, and using structures [techniques from advertising] that your players have become aware of. The players recognizing [a structure] gives them self-courage to bring something of their own to the mix. Assuming they like what's being talked about in the first place.

    If I were to tell you to make palt - a dish typical for Sweden - you will probably hesitate. If I said it was dumplings made out of potato and flour, you would draw from your own experience in how to make dumplings. If you instead knew how to make palt, and like to make food, you could get enough self-courage to even suggest changes to the recipe. Perhaps using bacon instead of salted pork, or combinations (from your pool of experience) that I couldn't even dream of. That's also how a typical conversation work (in a simplified way).

    A healthy group has it's own (often unspoken - paidia) ways of communicating. A game should provide a way of communication in the same matter (but in form of ludus), and it can even add things to, or make the group aware of, the group's social hierarchy. All to make the communication more fruitful.
  • Well, in my case it was more like yes, I had drawn techniques from my own experience, but they were so subtle that players didin't pick'em up conciously. In fact, they were so subtle I didn't realized I was using them until now. I'm aware that each group has it's own ways of comunicating, their own spoken and non-spoken language.

    Yet we all humans share some sort of common background in our most basic forms of comunication. Gestures that allow us to share emotions. Our nature still makes us negotiate and put an effort on interpretation, for most of the time misunderstandings makes us miss a lot of opportunities in life. I still think that these are assets that can be exploited to make RPGs easier to learn, more eficient at helping people reach the gameflow and leave space for the games to grow in other senses.
  • edited September 2014
    We all know how to communicate. It's something we learn as we're growing up. A story told by a ten year old is sometimes hard to follow, because the lack of consistency. A fifteen year old telling the same story would be more consistent and therefore easier to follow. We learn how to listen, and when to cut in. We also learn when enough is enough, and that you should after a while let someone else take the lead. We learn to build from each other. One thing I find interesting is that one or two people are always leading the conversation. It's not always the same persons, as the topic mutates into something else. We take on the lead when we got something to say, or something to add to what someone else just said.

    This is something I think we should use better in roleplaying games. At the moment, we dressed The Lead in game mechanics. We got "speaking points", initiative systems, limited use of powers, the game master taking care of describing the environment, and much more. I would rather see one or two people narrating, and letting others cut in when they got something to say. If we see our game as a conversations - a moment of exchanging ideas - things would sort itself out. I'm not saying that we should build a storytelling game with one narrator relieving another. We can still play like we always have, but with an awareness of each other. An awareness built by taking the unspoken rules (paidia) of a conversation and bring it out to the light, revealing them to everyone.

    When talking about roleplaying games, 95 % of all examples are about combat, so I shall do an example about that. How should a combat be handled if we created an initiative system based on a conversation? How should people respond? Who should respond on what? Obviously, the person who has something to say should be the one who should talk, and all the time be aware of other people wanting to cut in. We can still have a game master responding to what the first person said, to create new situations. Situations that other people can cut in and build on. We can still have some sort of game mechanic to lean on, but it shouldn't cut off the talking (no failed rolls) or decide who gets to talk. Instead, the rules should give incitements of where the game wants to go. About what the game is about. To take into account the theme "crying", "space ships" will create a totally different combat compared to the themes "blood", "unforgiving".

    What is the combat about, and how can it escalate into something else? Like I said before, topics in conversations mutates in a natural way. So should conflicts in roleplaying games too.
  • We all know how to communicate. It's something we learn as we're growing up. A story told by a ten year old is sometimes hard to follow, because the lack of consistency. A fifteen year old telling the same story would be more consistent and therefore easier to follow. We learn how to listen, and when to cut in. We also learn when enough is enough, and that you should after a while let someone else take the lead. We learn to build from each other. One thing I find interesting is that one or two people are always leading the conversation. It's not always the same persons, as the topic mutates into something else. We take on the lead when we got something to say, or something to add to what someone else just said.
    This reminds me of something. My wife is very naive. Sometimes, she asks questions and the people around just answer "funny stuff", impossible stories. We never tell her it is false and sometime, a couple of days/weeks later, she comes back saying "he, that other night, you were fooling me!! It's not true!! I've told some co-coworkers at they laugh at me". So, she's getting more suspicious with time ...

    So, some evenings, when we're having diner with some friends, there are some moments when we know we can tell my wife a story. A fantastic fable to answer one of a her question. And it is really a story, all made up. And since she gets suspicious, she asks around the table, so we have to build a story together. There are of course, no rules, but there's this dynamic between us ... and it's not improv either. It is something everyone knows how to do ... And there is some kind of pure pleasure in it. It is all about make believe.
  • edited September 2013
    Yeah. We all (I generalize of course) can say if a picture is good or bad. That's something we learned with time. The same goes with stories. We know, even if we don't know why, if it's good. We also kind of know what to strive for to create good stories, but without actually knowing it. We have picked up all the unspoken rules for creating stories. I was planning on talking about what makes a story good or not, because Keith Johnstone and more have said some wise words about it. But I need to do some rereading first. :)

    I really like people post anecdotes like yours because those continue to show how much in common we have with other things. Me and my friends are building jokes together, just in the same way as you and your friends are collaborating in fooling your wife. :) Also, I came to think of this sequence from Scrubs.
  • Do you know this? It is called "start with why". The book is also very good. It is a 20 minutes video. I think you will like it.
    This ... was awesome!
  • edited September 2013
    To follow up pells' video, StephaniePegg gave a link to a video in another thread of mine.



    It's about rewards, and how bigger rewards works better for physical labor but not for the ones that requires intellect and creativity. What strikes me when watching this video, and pells', is that both are talking about the purpose. The WHY, and how working for the Why is a reward in itself. It explains who you are as a person (also called "autonomy") - much like the Expression that I have in my own theory of engagement, that I talked about earlier in this thread. The Why can also help you refining your mastery - much like Competition (theory of engagement).

    This is why I think it's important to find the purposes of our hobby, and be sure to make every game tell about the purpose of playing the game. Not HOW or WHAT to use, but WHY to do it.
  • edited July 2015
    Chris Bateman writes:
    It is oft said that "stories are about conflict", but this is a gross simplification. /.../ What is common to all well-regarded stories is uncertainty, the desire to discover what happens next, and conflict (i.e. competition) is just one of many ways that uncertainty can be generated.
    One thing I can add is that stochastic randomness, such as using dice, is decreasing the choice from the participants. That's bad! (Hello, Chess! Good bye, D&D!) It's good, however, to blur the outcome for a participant. What I mean by that is that others can give input to change the outcome. To cut in and build on another person's narration. You can also create an emergent complexity, where the outcome is hard to predict due to the many possibilities that the system gives. Remember, system in this case consist of several components, where game structures and participants are only two.

    You can also create uncertainty by having hidden resources. In Lady Blackbird, each role got a secret to be used once over the session. In Det sjätte inseglet, all participants write secret truths about the setting that will be revealed while playing. Thomas M Malaby and Marc LeBlanc has given us a list of different kinds of uncertainties:

    MALABY
    Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games

    Stochastic Contingency: stochastic is just a fancy word for "random".
    [see Randomness below]
    Social Contingency: about never being certain of another person's point of view.
    having someone other than you in charge of saying what happens...
    ...a strong GM role with great control over the world / plotline...
    one participant's interpretation, perhaps having a rule system with open-deterministic results or using cards that are open for interpretation.
    enforcing of people's opinions, like voting for outcomes or making pacts.
    using different techniques or rules during a scene, which may steer the story in a certain direction. "What? Is someone going to fall in love?"
    Performative Contingency: you either succeed or fail at a task.
    one participant's effort in succeeding. (performance uncertainty)
    two or more participants against each other.
    Semiotic Contingency: the outcome is open for interpretation, changing the meaning of all the previously actions.
    The good person was the bad person all along.
    The game Train, where you discover the theme of the game while playing.
    LEBLANC
    Lecture at NYU

    Incomplete Information: if you don't have all the pieces, you don't know where it's going.
    ...players pick elements of the story that other players must include in other characters' storylines.
    ...picking a different oracle and elements for each session inspires the players to create an interesting history full of twists
    ...hidden or undefined knowledge about something the players /.../ care about.
    ...exploration and mapping...
    I would see Exploration and Mystery as two genres / elements that use curiosity at their core.
    ...Hexploration genre, where you can travel to each place in a sandboxy way...
    one participant adding something that isn't obvious what it's for.
    Randomness: the general solution in roleplaying games.
    conflict resolution /.../ task resolution
    ...a random table or a deck of event cards or a stack of map tiles.
    the use of real world happenings, like having the weather or certain events in the newspaper affect the session.
    Emergent Complexity: the interaction between the pieces of information or the overflow of information makes it hard to predict the outcome.
    parallel stories with one ending. How will the stories change each other?
    telling a story with a fixed ending. Now you know how it's going to end, but not how the story will travel to the end.
    Escalation: early points of the game doesn't matter as much, because the stakes are increasing all the time. Like the three rounds in Jeopardy.
    I think that the games people really like have good conflict escalation mechanisms (either formal mechanisms like in AW or Polaris or in terms of initial set-up like in Poison'd.)
    ...strong characterownership where you can keep and reveal a secret about a character under your control.
    Potential Barrier (Decelerator): you don't know if you will overcome them. They are there to change the scale and the pace and to make the end seem closer than what it is.
    Sometimes you want to put out hints, create an expectation by having set up scenes and finally a big reveal that might lead to new questions.
    Hidden Energy: saved up resources that may come in handy later.
    Cards on hand.
    Turned down tokens and other fog-of-war mechanics.
    Secrets. Information, powers and more.
    Cashing Out: the game score (or resources) resets so everybody starts at the same level. Anybody can win.
    From one combat to another in D&D4. Who will be standing the next time?
    (Examples are taken from this thread.)

    [edit: addentum]

    COSTIKYAN
    Uncertainty in Games

    Performance Uncertainty: [see Performative Contingency (Malaby) above]

    Randomness: [see Randomness (LeBlanc) above]

    Analytic Complexity: [see Complexity (LeBlanc) above]

    Player Unpredictability: [see Social Contingency (Malaby) above]

    Hidden Information: [see Hidden Energy (LeBlanc) and Incomplete Information (LeBlanc) above]

    Solver’s Uncertainty: finding out the solution given by the designer.
    Discovering the algorithm behind the game, like figuring out how the AI works.
    Resolving a murder mystery.
    Doing things in the right order.
    Narrative Anticipation: to awaken a curiosity of what to come.
    Knowing the end doesn't mean you know the way to reach that end.
    Learning more about the characters over time.
    Twists in story.
    Creating tension within the setting.
    You wont understand the story unless you puzzle the bits together. (ex. Kishotenketsu)
    Development Anticipation: when the developers add more stuff to the game.
    Release of expansion sets.
    Updates, changes or corrections of the rules.
    Change of playstyle or genre.
    Schedule Uncertainty: resources limits the amount of time the player can spend on the game.
    Energy in social games.
    It takes a long time to build a certain element, where the player can't do anything but wait.
    Resources to build things are generated over time but runs out quickly.
    A cap on the internet restricting the time for the player.
    Perception Uncertainty: difficulty to perceive what's going on.
    A clogged up interface, like in Nethack.
    Scanning the playing field, like the pieces in Tetris.
    Finding the rhythm in, for example, dancing.
    Jigsaw puzzles.
    Trying to search a room to find more about what's in it.
    Malaby’s Semiotic Contingency: [see Semiotic Contingency (Malaby) above]
  • edited February 2014
    But we got even more ways of creating uncertainty. In the Chinese and Japanese narrative form kishōtenketsu, you will never know what will come. When used in a poem, the first two lines establish and develop, the third introduces a new element, and the fourth line ties everything together. Keith Johnstone is talking about reincorporation in his book Impro. It's easy to create a story by constantly adding new elements, like the first three sentences in kishōtenketsu. But constantly adding new elements to the story will mean it's hard to know if the story is coming to it's end. It can end in the first sentence, in the third sentence or in the fourtysixth sentence. That's when the fourth sentence in kishōtenketsu comes in, and reincorporate the first ones with the third. Now the audience knows the story will come to an end. Both Dan Harmon's Story Circle and the Campbell's Monomyth ends with reincorporation. The Story Circle even keeps on reincorporating from the second half of the story. Comedians reincorporate too when they are performing an act.

    Johnstone is also talking about routines. To shop groceries is a routine. To drive to the store is a routine. To keep up an interest, break the routines before they come to an end. "You're driving to the store when suddenly ..." or "You're pushing the trolley before you while looking for tomatoes when something comes over you that haven't happened in years.". This is somewhat I'm talking about when conversations mutate; when they change before they will come to an end. You can do this, not only with situations, but also with narrating techniques. Focusing on one character walking, changing the view to another person's footsteps, describing emotions, the wind is playing with a plastic bag, and how a body is falling onto the bag. Do you see what I did there? I broke routines and then reincorporated elements to end my story. I created uncertainty by breaking routines and then ended with something familiar by reincorporation.
  • edited September 2013

    Summary

    The purpose of this thread is to relearn our hobby by seeing the similarities from other mediums and take knowledge from that. In the same matter, we need to spot what we nowadays implies through our design (ex. "A game master should balance the game to make the players finally succeed") and keep on remember people about those things. Rules of Play, by Salen and Zimmerman, talks about constitutive rules, meaning two games that may look different share the same structures of play. For example, Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy. The following below are some similarities from other mediums that roleplaying games share.

    - Every participant is part of a closed system.
    - In a perfect world, all participants wants to contribute to the interaction that takes place in the system. You can achieve this by making each participant comfortable in the situation. To make each person feel unique. To make each person feel like they are being listened to. To create spontaneous and creative participants. To make them be flexible to the situation and also free to express themselves and their emotions.
    - When interaction happens in a system, a result will emerge.
    - The interaction is nothing more than communication. When the participants talk or discuss, it's as much communication as if they are using the game mechanics.
    - Communication mutate in a natural way in order to keep it interesting.

    - A system consist of several, but not necessary all, of the following components: meaning, fiction, setting, group and structures.
    - The communication, the interaction, between them are part of these structures (mechanics and techniques).
    - Structures comes in pools and procedures, often mixed in each other.

    - A system should make the reader understand it's purpose (WHY).
    - A system should be clear of what components to be used.
    - A system should teach how to use these components. This often means creating a positive group relationship where everybody feels comfortable.
    - A system should have uncertainty.
    - A system should reincorporate.
    - A system should provide feedback. To reinforce. Examples may be: feeling good while doing a task, getting praise from others, or the result of the interaction (emergence).

    - A game is a learning process.

    I will add a thought to all this, and I got it from reading An Adaptationist Model of Pretense and Entertainment: boredom is the default state, and we fight this by taking part in an activity. By stating this, I can finally include Marc LeBlanc's submission; game as mindless pastime.
  • edited March 2014
    I said above that a system should have uncertainty. I feel that that's not the whole truth. If we look at flow again, it states: "One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills." This means that if the task is to simple, it becomes boring. If task is too hard, it creates anxiety. In Bernard Suits' attempt to define a game, he propose that games are inefficient, meaning that you need obstacles on the way, to make the game interesting. You may think about physical objects, but rules creates obstacles through their limitations. To score a goal in soccer, you're limited not only by the opponents but also by the rules of the game. You can't pick up the ball with you hands, and you can only move within the play field. Following these rules, play will emerge.

    Following the rules ... takes effort.

    Effort comes in many forms. The easiest way is to divide different kinds of effort into physical, mental and social. Effort isn't about succeeding or not, because that's part of uncertainty. Effort is about participating. When you're done, you're done and we can move on to the next part of the game. You don't create obstacles for the players so they will fail, as little as a creator of a crossword would make it impossible to solve. When designing the rules, you could do it with different kinds of effort in mind. I will take the theory of multiple intelligences as suggestions of how to think when designing efforts:
    Musical/rhythmic & harmonic: sounds, rhythms, tones, and music.
    Visual: either noticing or visualize the environment, forms and movement.
    Verbal/linguistic: reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with date.
    Logical/mathematical: logic, abstractions, reasoning, numbers and critical thinking.
    Bodily/kinesthetic: bodily motions, the capacity to handle objects skillfully, a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses.
    Interpersonal: interaction with other people.
    Intrapersonal: having a deep understanding of the self; what your strengths/ weaknesses are, what makes you unique, being able to predict your own reactions/emotions.
    Naturalistic: nurturing and relating information in nature.
    Existential: understand spiritual or religious traditions.
    All these categories can be divided into smaller categories. Puzzles and riddles are not exactly the same as calculating probabilities, but they all belong to logical intelligence. Me using the multiple intelligences is just a suggestion. You can pick other sources. Inductive and deductive reasoning, sports, Edward de Bono's six thinking hats, and much more.

    [edit] Effort is about participating, and while it's good to think about in what way a person may participate, it's also important to think about how to make a person participate. All the things I've written about creating a positive group feeling, where everybody feels that they want to contribute, is to lay the grounds for effort.

    [edit 2] Above I've talked about different aspects of participation, but I would like to add that talking about effort is also about how to make someone wanting to participate. I wrote about how this in my very first post in this thread, quoted below
    Eleanor Chase York says in Children's Theatre and Creative Dramatics that children [exposed to creative drama] becomes more
    creative, by suppressing the school's one-sided reinforcement of the intellectual capacity, which makes the creativity suffer.
    sensible, by teaching the children to react in a more aware and natural way on the things they perceive. /.../
    flexible, by training the ability to adopt to changed situations (to suppress a rigid state of mind).
    original, by believing in their ideas and have the courage to tell them.
    emotional stable, by an constructive outlet of feelings and tensions.
    co-operable and group orientated.
    /.../
    I'm not saying that we should play roleplaying games to become these points, as Eleanor Chase above, but roleplaying games are about these points. We must learn to break free from our self-censoring and become original. Play Unsafe (which took it from Improv) tells us that our ideas may seem unoriginal to us, but that doesn't mean that they are for the others. Your ideas will feel unique for me. And those ideas should be celebrated as much as you should be recognized as an original human being.

    We need, during a session, to work as a group - to form a communication in how to play. To think as a group. To feel as a group. To co-operate in creating a story - or a sense of feeling - together.
  • edited October 2013
    I said that interaction is communication, but interaction is twofold. You can usually choose what structure to use when communicating. Greg Costikyan goes as far in I Have No Words And I Must Design to say that interactivity is nothing more than decision-making. That games are about making decisions, and without them you got a linear activity.

    Ian Schreiber lists different kinds of decisions over at his blog.

    Decision-making done wrong
    Obvious decisions. There is clearly one right answer, so it’s not really much of a choice. Getting a +2 to include an aspect while making an action is an obvious decision.
    Meaningless decisions. The choice has no effect on gameplay. Attacking orc #1 or #2, where both have the same stats, is a meaningless decision.
    Blind decisions. Without knowing the outcome of the decision, the result will be random. Choosing to go left or right in an intersection without knowing where any way will lead is a blind decision.

    Decision-making done right
    Tradeoffs. Weighing one resource against another. Trading with other players, auctions, purchases of equipment and much more. This could turn out to be obvious decisions, where if the sword is always better than the axe.
    Dilemmas. Similar to tradeoff but where all choices will harm the player.
    Risk vs reward. One choice is safe. The other choice has a potentially greater payoff, but also a higher risk of failure.
    Choice of actions. You have several potential things you can do, but you can’t do them all.
    Short term versus long term. The player must balance immediate needs against long-term goals.
    Social information. In games where bluffing, deal-making and backstabbing are allowed, players must choose between playing honestly or dishonestly
    Responses. How should you respond to certain actions? Duck? Attack? Create a trap? Find an ally?
    Emotional. Decisions that have an emotional impact on the player. It can be something in-game or meta, like how you always playing the dog in Monopoly. The latter is a pretty meaningless decision for the game, but not for the player.

    Note that using stochastic elements, such as dice, decreases the weight of a choice. Sometimes so much that the choice itself is turned obsolete.
  • edited October 2013
    It may look like that I dislike using dice, but that's not true. I like craps just like the other, but rolling one dice after another isn't fun in itself. Something is missing. Investment - something to put at stake. Something to care about. If you're playing a in Poker tournament and the winner will get a prize, that will perhaps motivate you. On the other hand, if you pay an entry fee, you've made an investment and your motivation will increase. Here is a list of different investments:

    The character's inner and outer sphere, such as ...
    ... self respect.
    ... drives. Goals that can be fulfilled in the short or long term.
    ... moral.
    ... the time it takes to build relations.
    ... family and different kind of groups that the player has created.
    ... status.
    ... the loyalty against different factions.
    ... and other things that the player, through the character, care about.

    The game mechanics, meaning ...
    ... resource management, with finite resources.
    ... resources that you can put at stake to either gain more or loose.
    ... the character's competence.
    ... the character's advancement.
    ... the character's health.
    ... and other things that is a part of the character's freedom to do whatever it want.

    The gaming experience, with things like ...
    ... positive engagement, where you care because the things happening are so god damn cool.
    ... control over the narrative.
    ... the time an adventure takes to play.
    ... positive feedback from the others.
    ... emotional investments, where what you play out get a response.
    ... sharing experience/background from real life with what happens in the game.
    ... spending time creating things.
    ... and other things that is happening around the table.

    I want to pick out two words in that second last sentence: "time" and "create". By having the player spend time on something, you raise the player's investment. When playing that Poker tournament, even if you haven't paid an entry fee, reaching the final means that you have invested time into it. The longer you play, the more you have invested. I played games that became boring to me after a while, but I still played it to it's end because I invested a lot of time in it. Time I didn't want to feel was spent on nothing.

    The player creating something is an easy way to create a bond. Making up elements in the story (fictional positioning), putting a character's life at stake in horror games, or even creating an unknown uncle for that Call of Cthulhu game are all ways of creating investments. All games should involve investments in one way or another.
  • edited June 2017
    I will now tie everything together.

    WHY - the purpose of playing
    Competition: to try to beat the game or the other participants in different aspects of the game.
    Exploration: to explore different WHATs in the game and their interactions.
    Expression: to express yourself in different ways through the game.
    Sensation: to get an experience, to get an insight, to feel, to escape from reality, to be nostalgic.
    [edit] Destruction: the thrill of destroy things created or of render something useless, like powergaming in a system. More information appeared later in this thread.
    HOW ... to play
    Uncertainty: uncertainty creates curiosity.
    Decision: what you basically do in games. REMOVED. Decision is to participate
    Effort: to participate in a task.
    (Investment: something to care about. REMOVED. This one is instead a result of a constant loop.)
    WHAT ... to use
    Meaning: philosophical, ethical, spiritual and social questions.
    Structures: pools and procedures. A way of communicating within the game.
    Group: the participants and their relations within the group.
    Fiction: the story being told.
    Setting: the place where the story is being told and the people occupying it.
    It's important to notice that alone is nothing, and that a game is a combination of different WHYs, HOWs and WHATs. I want to point out that you normally can't avoid including all of the WHYs and HOWs, even if some of them seems almost diminishing, and that it's good to see each one on a separate scale. You can have a game with 90 % competition and 75 % exploration, or a game that mostly is based on dilemmas (a kind of decision) but that will still include investment, effort and uncertainty in some grade.

    I'm personally not interesting in categorizing games, and I wont support that idea. What I've been doing is stepping outside roleplaying games to see what other things that are out there. Use this above to create sparks of ideas and also to find new ways of playing. Perhaps you want to make a game about decisions. What kind of decisions and how should you use them? Perhaps you would like to create a setting to play in, or make a game about expressing who you are. You could also play around by mixing elements that you have no idea what to do with. What would a game be like that is based on exploration, sensation, investment, effort and group?
  • edited October 2013
    [edit] Ops, I accidentally clicked Save Comment instead of Save Draft. A moderator can remove this post.
  • What I find interesting is how many games never tell the WHY, but let the players figure it out by giving out an object of the game. By trying to reach that goal, the players will understand the purpose of the game - which doesn't have to be related at all with the object. A game who's purpose is to create a comfortable feeling within the group can have a goal where it's about creating a solution to a problem. In the same way, a lot of board games gives out the object of the game in the beginning of the text so the reader has to figure out the WHY while reading the HOWs and WHATs (read: how to handle the rules).

    In a way, the object of the game is a WHAT that tells HOW to reach WHY. Or is it? Could it be a HOW, together with decision, uncertainty, effort and investment, but it doesn't tell how to use the WHATs, only what's expected of them; on why to use them. Emergence is the result of the WHATs interacting. The object of a game is like that, but just as emergence it stands outside the model. It's something that makes the participants act in the first place. This is as true as in any activity, may it be sports, video game, board games, or roleplaying games. If the player, and not character, has no goal, the player wont know why to play the game in the first place.

    Few games tells the WHY, and that makes me wonder. Instead, we got this mysterious "object of the game".
  • For me, at least in boardgames, unraveling the WHY is an additional nice exploration experience (think of how good it feels to open up the box and check the contents for the first time; or in subsequent times when you show it to new players, how their expression changes to show the same emotion), but it depends on having a direct WHAT and a clear HOW, otherwise the original intent of the author is lost, unless the intent was to make me complete the WHAT or the HOW and enjoy the ludic part of the creative process.

    But then we're talking about a deeper and more detailed design, which I can't say it hasn't been the intent of any designer whose game I've seen -not that they didn't achieve it. I've hacked stuff from a lot of RPGs and had a lot of fun toying with the pieces.
  • edited October 2013
    For me, at least in boardgames, unraveling the WHY is an additional nice exploration experience ...
    Yeah, this is usually what I think of when combining exploration + structure. I also like that you brought up the sensation of going through all the stuff for the first time. :) I wonder if there are any games that let the participants enjoy creating rules on the spot. One may say "roleplaying games" but I can't think of any roleplaying games are created with that in mind. The Rule 0 is more an excuse for a) not making people understanding WHY b) being chicken when targeting an audience by making everybody make it their own game, or c) creating IMHO bad rules.
  • edited June 2014
    Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is about more than just creating comics. It's about designing art - and I would even go so far to say it's about designing activities. It is funny, because McCloud did exactly what I'm doing now: he had to step out of his medium to be able to understand it better. At pages 165 and forward, things get interesting. There he talks about the primal brain, and how people are saying that we just want to eat and copulate. But there is more to it. To beat boredom, the cave man activated in physical activity or an outlet of emotional imbalance (self expression). These random activities led to discovery. Again, I can look at my own WHYs and find similarities: competition, expression, exploration, and sensation.

    He continues with saying that creation of any work in any medium follows the same six steps.
    Idea/Purpose: the creator's drive of why to do art.
    Form: book, chalk drawing, song, sculpture etc.
    Idiom: what kind of style to use, what kind of genre it's about.
    Structure: story arcs, game mechanics - in how to compose the work.
    Craft: how well the art is created.
    Surface: what the things that stand out, and are first to be noticed.
    Ian Schreiber makes a comparison on his blog of the six steps and Marc LeBlanc's MDA - mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics - which is basically about how the mechanics have a dynamic that creates an aesthetics. What's interesting is that both McCloud and LeBlanc says that the creator is going from one direction (idea...surface or mechanics...aesthetics) but the audience takes in the art/game from the other direction, starting with surface or aesthetics.

    Schreiber goes even further and states that McClouds six steps is an extension of MDA where structure, craft, and surface corresponds to mechanics, dynamics and surface. He's half right. MDA and my Why, How, What is similar, but when I'm applying my principle to comics, I see a pattern.

    CREATOR
    Idea/purpose: WHY
    Form: HOW
    Idiom: WHAT

    PARTICIPANT
    Structure: WHAT
    Craft: HOW
    Surface: WHY

    [edit] A game theorist pointed out that Surface should be WHY and Structure is WHAT, and not the other way around. I agree, and changed my opinion.

    In other words, we have two layers of the same principle, but from different people. This made me think. I wrote the following about objects of the game: "If the player, and not character, has no goal, the player wont know why to play the game in the first place". I would say that we in roleplaying games have three layers: creator, participant, character.

    Think about this: the creator has an idea and creates a game that the participants experience. In that game, the participant has an idea and creates a character that is experienced by the others in the game. Add the game master to this, and my brain will explode. And as well as the participants can go from surface and discover all steps up to idea/purpose, it's the same thing with the participants experiencing the other characters. So it's actually nine steps, and not six.

    A conclusion: so far, I've been talking about WHW (why, how, what) where the participant has been involved - about the medium itself. The lowest layer of Scott McCloud's six steps. The object of the game is possibly the WHY in that. I've also been talking about the creator's WHY, but that's a layer above what I thought I was talking about.
  • edited May 2014
    I'm quoting from Skapande dramatik (eng. Creative drama) that I started with in this thread. Replace "creative drama" with "roleplaying games" below and you will find I how I want to play roleplaying games. (My translation)
    Creative drama is a creative activity. Play is the essence. Not to play alone, but together. It's not being aware of or compare performing that's most important. We need to do things for their own sake - without thought of reward from audience. Children playing, aren't interrupting from time to time to receive applause, right?
    - page 8
    The most important thing with creative drama is to create comfort, so no one is feeling targeted of the leader's or the group's dislike /.../ To reach this comfort within the group, each individual should feel comfort and nerveless. It's of course an exchange between the individual comfort zone and the group's. /.../ The comfort depends on the group dynamic. It's not up to one, but everybody, on how the activity is proceed. If the individual is just one part of the whole, the pressure of perform will succumb and, with that, the risk of feeling personal failure.
    - page 25
    One of the questions that occur with improvisation is to use speech or not. Nothing is more right than another, but many feels it's easier to do improvisation without speech. /.../ That feeling can possibly come from the fact that we're using speech regularly in communication.
    - page 27

    The author Rickard Wikholm gives some non-verbal collaborative exercises as example to release tension or to build a group dynamic. I've been thinking about this, and I'm almost always use verbal exercises (at conventions) to make the players understand how to play the games. Perhaps we should, instead of verbal exercises, draw a map together first, or do non-verbal communication exercises, like learning hand gestures for how to hand over a topic to another participant.

    I have a verbal exercise to introduce "Yes, and" and "Yes, but" and I thought up to this point that I did that as a pedagogy tool (I included it in This Is Pulp). That's only a part of why it's successful. It also builds a group dynamic, so we know how to communicate. It creates a comfort, and by telling the players that we are all in this together (I almost never put the GM above the players) and that the players can use these two phrases to build on each other's ideas, I reduce the pressure of performing.

    Of performing.

    When I wrote about effort as a HOW, I talked about participating. These things that I talk about here is nothing more than structures for making people participating. To release tension, to make them comfortable in improvising, and to make everybody feel that they add to the whole. That's what will create an intrinsic award ("feeling good"), rather than us giving out dog candy such as XP, artha and whatnot. Wikholm writes "We need to do things for their own sake", and I can't do any else than fully agree.
  • edited October 2013
    You just reminded me, I've always wanted do design a game around the concept used for the language learning method "Where Are Your Keys"
  • edited October 2013
    You just reminded me, I've always wanted do design a game around the concept used for the language learning method "Where Are Your Keys"
    If you do, I will playtest it and I will probably steal the ideas. :) It seems like the method of fluency play but with a hive mind principle, or gamification taken to the next level. I really liked this part in their technique map: "it's more important to learn the structures the language uses to talk about things, than it is to learn long vocab lists of nouns or adjectives. Once players have learned to talk about three nouns fluently, new nouns can be added quickly and easily."

    This is what I'm doing with my "Yes, and/but" exercise. Showing the structure of communication.

    The following also gave me something to think about: "In an ideal WAYK language-learning setup, the game is designed so that it's perfectly obvious what everyone is saying, even if you aren't familiar with the actual words they're using."

    I'm playing with the thought of using hand gestures to steer the conversation. The last year, we've been playing Svart av kval, vit av lust - a game that uses a hand gesture to order a player character to do something, and another gesture to signal that it's time to cut the scene - and it worked beautifully. So off course, I want to expand this. Perhaps a signal for "I don't know where to go anymore, can someone take over?", "I have in idea, I want to cut in." and similar. Sure, people can say this but hand gestures doesn't break the flow as a verbal commands would do. What I also thought about was introducing these by playing out exercises at the beginning of the session.
  • Learning how all the components in the system interacts, and what kind of input results in what kind of output. Note, the participants are also components and learning them is learning to predict the outcome in the whole gaming experience. We also got Nicole Lazzaro's hard fun, easy fun, serious fun, people fun - that mostly are feelings we get from the emergence that appear.

    To design a game is to design for emergence, and by doing that you have to create a system where the participants are one part of the components in that system. Add to this what I've written earlier: "We need, during a session, to work as a group - to form a communication in how to play. To think as a group. To feel as a group. To co-operate in creating a story - or a sense of feeling - together."
    Yikes. I really have to voice my objection to some of the ideas in this thread. Other people have voiced their concerns over the adoption or creation of a language of aesthetics which can describe role-playing and I can agree with this.

    What do you want your theory to do? As a latecomer to The Forge I found it an interesting place where people appeared to use theoretical ideas from GNS Theory to develop games with a largely narrativist bent based on people describing what happened in actual play. That's great - it did what it set out to do. But what are you trying to do in this cut and paste approach? I don't feel particularly enlightened by drama teachers saying how to build a group dynamic.

    Human systems are much more confounding that a lot of these "experts" appear to understand. I say this as a systemic psychotherapist and someone with 12 years of experience running psychotherapy groups. Your ideas about systems are just plain wrong. In such a creative endeavour as role-playing you cannot predict the outcome of a system cased on its inputs. When I'm working with families I have no idea of the outcomes of any of my therapeutic input. I know that what they are saying is that things have become unsatisfactory for them. Often one person assumes I will take their side and whole-heartedly agree with them in a dispute. It just doesn't work this way. I'm trying to understand the pattern and history of this disagreement.

    Group thinking and group feeling is a slippery slope. Who gets to say the group is performing well? Your experience of a group being wonderful might be my experience of a group being sucky. Based on Bion's theory of groups a group needs a primary task. Fine, how are you going then to define the task of a role-playing group?

    There is something in looking at the patterns of communication within RPGs that might be worthwhile but the idea that you can create a game system that will give you a guaranteed output is absurd. To use a drama analogy I can read Shakepeare but he doesn't tell me how to act. I can read Stanislavsky but that won't make me an actor. I can go and see King Lear performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company or the local school. I cannot say which one will be "better," as I might derive a greater enjoyment from seeing a friend in the school version.
  • edited October 2013
    If I said that all emergence can be predicted, then I made a mistake. What I thought I wrote was that learning emergence is fun. "We got Theory of Fun, that says that learning the system is why we play. Learning how all the components in the system interacts, and what kind of input results in what kind of output."

    "Learning emergence is fun, so design for emergence" was the motto. Not "A game designer should predict the players' behaviors".

    If the following sentence was that threw you off, then ignore it: ""Note, the participants are also components and learning them is learning to predict the outcome in the whole gaming experience."

    It was a poor choice of words. I mostly had in mind, when I wrote that sentence, a group that I played a lot of GM-free and structured freeform with, where the game itself didn't give much input. After a while, I started to see pattern in how people thought and every game seemed the same. Not in what happened but in how it happened. However, people could still surprise by taking on an unexpected role or even game style. That was usually the high-light for me during those sessions.
    Group thinking and group feeling is a slippery slope. Who gets to say the group is performing well?
    I'm aiming for a group where everybody are in the flow and participating.

    ---

    Be sure to read on and point out more mistakes I've done.
  • edited October 2013
    More thoughts from my side. Ideas raised by Dom over at lumpley, and I think it's an interesting angle. When it comes to the WHY, I guess it's basically the object of the game. What I think is interesting is how a WHY on a higher layer creates a limitation for the WHYs on lower layers.
    CREATOR: the object of the game is to make people discuss strategy.
    PARTICIPANT: the object of the game is to survive.
    CHARACTER: the object of the game is to find treasures.

    CREATOR: the object of the game is to make people behave like douchebags.
    PARTICIPANT: the object of the game is to make the character fail it's goal.
    CHARACTER: the object of the game is to follow my religion.
    In roleplaying games, the game master should also be inserted here. I will leave it open if it's just another participant or if the game master is a layer atop of the other players. I will leave it open because these are ideas that are new to me. What is a good WHY, and how should it participants get to know them? To answer the second question, games usually leave out the object for the game that the creator had in mind. The participants normally get to know the goal for their sake (in boardgames: winning condition), and from that form a strategy for their character to fulfill that goal (in boardgames: the tokens to move on the board). By experience the other characters' objects for the game, and then the participants, the group can then explore and perhaps discover the creator's WHY. I'm not saying that this is the way to go, but it can be a part of the playing experience.

    So what is a good WHY? For the creator, a loose one will not help the participants at all. "To play for fun" is an example of this. I wonder however what the downside is with having a too narrow WHY in the top layers. Will the game be predictable (no uncertainty)? Will the decision be fewer? Will the chance increase of one participant destroying another participant's object of the game earlier in the game because they will clash?
  • edited May 2014
    I will continue trying different angles from what I've come up with so far. This time it's about the HOWs.

    image

    You can't really have a game that doesn't include investment, uncertainty, decision and effort in some way, but what does it mean to combine them?

    Gamble (investment+uncertainty): Rolling a die isn't fun in itself, even if you invest time in doing it, because you want something out of it. If we instead put something at stake, like money or the character's life, you will get excitement from the progress.

    Planning: (investment+decision): You're driving a car. You got the option of driving to your destination fast and spend a lot of gas, or driving economically. You will save gas money but the trip will take time. When you got decisions about different investments, tension will build. What will the consequence be of your decision?

    Struggle (investment+effort): You want to get fit, so you start to run every third day. You will spend time (investment) and it will take effort, but you will get something back. Effort isn't about if you make it or not, that's uncertainty, and it has very little decision-making in it. While running, it's a challenge for you. According to flow theory, you need to keep it challenging for you to not be boring or to avoid frustration because it's to hard. You can do that by changing the distance of running.

    When creating a game, you can look at these feelings. What do you want from your game? Excitement? Challenge? Tension? What components from uncertainty, effort and decision can you use to build that? What will be put at stake, and what will the participants gain from it?

    You can go even further and combine gamble+planning, planning+struggle, and struggle+gamble. Combining for example gamble and planning is another way of saying uncertainty+investment+decision. This will also create excitement and tension, if built in a right way.

    Like I said in the beginning, you can't really avoid having each one of investment, uncertainty, decision and effort. That's pretty much the same thing as saying that a game consist of the feelings excitement, challenge and tension. You can opt for one or two of these feelings, but the third one will always show up in some minor degree.
  • edited February 2014
    Personally, I think that stochastic uncertainty (dice and similar) has a too big influence in roleplaying games today. People tend to think that rolling for Lockpick is a challenge, when it's more about excitement. I would love roleplaying games to explore other kinds of uncertainties, like emergent complexity, hidden energy and such. Archipelago is a perfect example of social contingency with it's ritual phrases. "Describe more" or "Try another way" are perfect examples of social contingency, where the other participants can steer, or put obstacles in the way of, the one who narrates.

    We got a lot of decision-making in "indie games", but these are often obstructed by the stochastic uncertainty. For example, I have two options: Alpha and Beta. Alpha is easy to go through with but gives very little back. Beta is harder, but the payoff is greater. I feel that roleplaying game designers then throw in dice rolls in this because that's how roleplaying games normally work. If I have a 95 % chance of succeeding with Alpha, and 60 % chance of succeeding with Beta - the die roll can render my decision useless. I can see the same tendencies in video games. Golem Arcana is a successful kickstarter project by Jordan "Shadowrun" Weisman. It's launched as a strategic game, but the game mechanics has still stochastic uncertainties.

    And where's the love for effort in roleplaying games? The game master got effort, when improvising, and so do GM-less games. "Creating a story together" is nothing more than effort. I like Dread only by the fact that it takes a physical effort to play it (drawing tiles from a Jenga tower). In video games, you got FPS where shooting someone serves both as effort and performative contingency. In Diplomacy, you have to convince people to make allies. In the roleplaying game Magicians, you learn Korean while playing.

    I will summarize these three paragraphs with an example. Let say that I got the task of creating Game of Thrones: the RPG. [EDIT] The players choose characters that will compete for the throne. They got five procedures to choose from when they want their characters to achieve something. Perhaps one procedure is about establishing something in the game. It could also be about brainstorming together. Or setting up a scene. The game master can apply "Say yes, or answer back with a procedure" at any time when one of the procedures are used. No dice, but still effort (competing within the rules), investment (the struggle to achieve the character's goal), decision-making (what procedure to use and when) and uncertainty (not knowing what procedures the other participants will choose).
  • edited October 2013
    "And where's the love for effort in roleplaying games?" Well ... effort is basically participating: by following the rules, by making an effort in contributing, by adopting to situations, and much more. In combination with investment, it's a struggle. It's a struggle to follow the rules while taking care of your investment. In my third post in this thread, I talked about how we have forgotten to include the basics. In how to participate - in how to play - a roleplaying game. In my second post, I talked about what creative drama does with children and how that's the essence of roleplaying games. To be creative, sensible, flexible, original, emotional stable, co-operable and group-orientated.

    It's good to think about how to create effort in a roleplaying game, by making the players describe their actions, calculate outcomes, seeing connections, forming plans, talking their way out of things, and other mental, social and even physical tasks. But what I rather talk about is how to make the players participate, instead of what they have to do while actually participating. That's what going back to the basics is all about!
  • edited May 2014
    I glanced through the table of content in Start With Why by Simon Sinek. One headline says "Communication is not about speaking. It's about listening".

    Think about that when it comes to roleplaying games.

    I thought it was so brilliant so I had to share it to you. If you need to kickstart your mind, let this previous post shed some light in how I think the statement of that headline is relevant to roleplaying games.
  • edited November 2013
    I actually joined the board because of this thread. You've mentioned Improv as one method of storycrafting. As someone who has practiced improv for years, I thought I might add something for you and everyone to think about.
    One of the questions that occur with improvisation is to use speech or not. Nothing is more right than another, but many feels it's easier to do improvisation without speech. /.../ That feeling can possibly come from the fact that we're using speech regularly in communication.
    - page 27

    The author Rickard Wikholm gives some non-verbal collaborative exercises as example to release tension or to build a group dynamic. I've been thinking about this, and I'm almost always use verbal exercises (at conventions) to make the players understand how to play the games. Perhaps we should instead draw a map together first, or do non-verbal communication exercises to learn gestures for how to hand over a topic to another.

    I have a verbal exercise to introduce "Yes, and" and "Yes, but" and I thought up to this point that I did that as a pedagogy tool (I included it in This Is Pulp). That's only a part of why it's successful. It also builds a group dynamic, so we know how to communicate. It creates a comfort, and by telling the players that we are all in this together (I almost never put the GM above the players) and that the players can use these two phrases to build on each other's ideas, I reduce the pressure of performing.

    Of performing.

    When I wrote about effort as a HOW, I talked about participating. These things that I talk about here is nothing more than structures for making people participating. To release tension, to make them comfortable in improvising, and to make everybody feel that they add to the whole. That's what will create an intrinsic award ("feeling good"), rather than us giving out dog candy such as XP, artha and whatnot. Wikholm writes "We need to do things for their own sake", and I can't do any else than fully agree.
    "Yes, and" is the foundation of improvisation. "Yes, but" gives me pause, because it causes problems.

    When an improviser on stage gives a line, they are saying (either aloud or implicitly) "Yes, and." This is actually a standard introductory game when learning improv theater: progressing a scene by starting with a "Yes, and" with each line:

    "It's a lovely day outside!"
    "Yes, and that's exactly why I brought a picnic!"
    "Yes, and there are now dinosaurs following your scent!"
    "Yes, and I'm glad I left my superpowered weapons arsenal in the back seat of my car!"

    In four lines, probably less than a minute of speaking on stage, you've added more to one scene than you might ever be able to address and fully resolve in some game systems. It appears as if there's no complex "system" at work, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

    Line 1 establishes a setting for the players.
    Line 2 accepts the setting, establishes goals and motives for the responder, and establishes something for both players to participate in.
    Line 3 adds a complication that escalates the situation, provides both players with context to further progress on their situation, firmly establishes a motivation for both players to resolve their situation, and provides both players with a tool (the scent) they could potentially use as part of their resolution.
    Line 4 proposes a solution to the escalating situation, creates tools for both players to enact the proposed resolution, and a means to which they can further develop their relationship and the situation - either towards more escalation or a resolution.

    "Yes, and" is the fundamental purpose of improvisation. "Yes" accepts what you are offered; "and" allows you to offer something of your own. When your gaming group continues on these lines of "Yes, and," you build the dynamic you've described. This touches at the core of just about every story game you could possibly cook up, and everything out there already. And Improv!

    My issue with "Yes, but" as a method of teaching a game is that it seems contrary to the goal of fostering group creativity. For example:

    "It's a lovely day outside!"
    "Yes, but instead of having the freedom to enjoy the outdoors as you please, your supervisor has asked you to hold a picnic. What have you prepared for your picnic?"

    Stopping here because two cardinal rules of improv have already been broken.

    1) The responder's "Yes" firmly denies the speaker. "Yes" is an acknowledgement, but (see how it works?) it is immediately turned into a rebuke. If it wasn't clear by "Yes, but," the continuing explanation is a MASSIVE denial of the speaker's statement. "Yes, what you said is true, but I am going to reduce and lessen your offering."
    2) Anything could happen during this "lovely day outside," but now the speaker's freedom to actually interact with this setting has been greatly diminished. This scene is set to move forward within the confines of the explicit and seemingly arbitrary directions. Purpose and action is still provided, but the flat denial makes it seem as if the first speaker's offering of "a lovely day outside" was not enough.
    3) The offered situation isn't further developed, and is instead rebuked with a question. Instead of an affirming "and" along with an offering of more supporting detail and development, the question asks for more from the first speaker. "What more can you give me? What else should you have added to this?" This creates a one-sided relationship between players: always taking, never giving in return.

    The end result is quite the opposite of the happy "Yes, and" scene. As a fellow GM I am plenty guilty being this GM, rather than a "Yes, and" GM. Instead of accepting what's given to me by a player and working with it, I deny creativity and demand more detail, more minutiae that may or may not actually move the narrative forward. The point is that in storytelling, "Yes, but" can deny creativity and shut down the shared creative process, even if your intended purpose is to inspire the creative process.

    I don't want to suggest that any sort of setting would constrain players and kill the creative process. A firmly established setting (and even a scenario with motivations and goals for player character(s) built right in) can produce wildly creative scenarios. In improv all players are on an equal footing, and no one player is supposed to manipulate the scene in a way that cheapens the other players' offerings and creativity. I feel that in some games the opposite is encouraged or at least practiced: the GM feels responsible to manipulate players by limiting their options or placing needlessly difficult impediments and denials ahead of their players' creativity.


    There's plenty more stuff that improv touches on: nonverbal cues and gestures, mechanics/process and complexity, etc. You can see how anyone that has practiced improv could go on for days about any one particular aspect...I had to stop myself from delving into anything else.

    Many improv teaching manuals have gamified methods of practicing the fundamentals outside of just "here's one word, make a ten minute scene out of it." Improv teaches things that I've felt make me a better GM*, and GM'ing has taught me things that make me a better improviser. If any GM is concerned with group participation and inspiring a sense of shared creativity and spontaneity, instead of trying to devise any sort of Universal Player Engagement Core Rulebook, just pick up an improv manual. Academic theater has its place, but modern improv theater relates more directly to storytelling games in my opinion - to the point that a decent storytelling game could derive its mechanics from any number of improv games already in existence....and maybe a small handful of dice.

    http://improvencyclopedia.org/index.html
  • edited December 2013
    Excellent post, and I agree. It seems like roleplaying gamers has taken "yes, and" but interpreted it into their own style and, by doing that, kind of lost the purpose of the technique in the first place. Games like InSpectres, as an example, where instead of using "and" as an acceptance of what the other did, the system force the player to add something more to the description.

    (I could say that your "Yes, and there are now dinosaurs following your scent!" is nothing more than a "Yes, but" and it is a way of creating obstacles, but that would just be ignoring the point that you're making.)

    Something I like about improv - I haven't done it myself but read a lot about it and adore shows like Whose Line Is It Anyways - is two of the words you used. Accept and offer. That what you say is offered by you to the others to build on. That others should accept what you have to offer. By knowing this the angst about what you're about to offer will decrease. I also like what you wrote "In improv all players are on an equal footing,", and that is what I feel when I'm a game master. I'm not "above" the rest of the participants. I just have different tasks at hand. (This is why I write "participants" and not "players" in this thread.)
  • edited September 2014
    Raph Koster writes in Theory of Fun, 10 Years Later:
    Fun is the emotional response of learning.
    - page 7
    Fun in games arises from mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun. With games, learning is the drug.
    - page 13
    The basic idea came out of cognitive psychology and evolutionary psychology.
    There's a lot of evidence now that "thinking" is actually "memory"
    We learn patterns and apply them to reality, often unconsciously.
    The idea was, games are systems built to help us learn patterns.
    And fun is a neurochemical reward to encourage us to keep trying.
    - pages 15-19
    You can find the same thing mentioned in Understanding Comics and Games are designer food for infovores. This changed my view in how to design games and I now always aim to design for learning. Lets see how learning is part of the WHYs (the purposes of playing).

    Competition: learn how to beat the others.
    Exploration: learn through discovering how the rules or the group works or through it's setting. (I'm only giving three examples of WHATs. All five can be included in exploration.)
    Expression: learn different perspectives, on how they are intercepted, or learn more about yourself.
    Sensation: a revelation, or to feel something, is nothing more than the joy of learning something.
    [edit] Destruction: learn how to overpower something and see the devastating result of your actions.

    Lets me now show you the likeness in Understanding Comics. Scott McCloud talks about boredom instead of fun and how we activate ourselves to fight boredom. (The whole book is a comic so the quotes can be weird.)
    It's a happy fact of human existence that we simply can't spend our every waking hour eating and having sex! No matter how frantically we pursue our goals, there will inevitably be times when we just don't have a thing to do.

    What may look like a tribe of bored, inactive cave-dwellers below us is, in fact, a thriving art colony!

    See that old woman with the stick? Notice the lines she's making the the dirt?

    /.../

    Nearby, a boy kicks up pebbles and dirt.

    /.../

    Because of its independence from our evolution-bred instincts, art is the way we assert our identities as individuals and break out of the narrow roles nature cast us in.

    /.../

    First, they provide exercise for minds and bodies not receiving outside stimulus! (MCloud's remark: sport and games) [my remark: what I include in "competition"]

    Second, they provide an outlet for emotional imbalances, aiding in the race's mental survival! (he: self expression) [me again: expression]

    Third and perhaps most importantly to our survival as a race, such random activities often lead to useful discoveries! (exploration) [exploration AND sensation]

    - pages 165-167
  • I've been reading the railroading threads lately and I have to come in defense of the "Yes, but" as a powerful tool to re-ignite players creativity, but only when used in the right moment. You see, applied like Bape_Escape described it will do nothing but work in detriment of the group's fun, no discussion there. And I admit there's a lot of groups that make this mistake and limit their own fun. But then, why does this technique still sees use?

    Because there's actually an appropiate moment to use it, and that's when it looks like the fun is over. Say, go for a while with "yes, and" on the picnic example. You'll probably come to the moment where you have a dead dinosaur over your picnic and you're standing victorious over it. Everything is all right, you've got a happy ending and the current flow of creativity has been exhausted. And then somebody has another idea to keep the fun going on. That's the moment when that person says "Yes, we won, but now we see this isn't the only dinosaur around! It's an alien dinosaur invasion!". I think I'd safely assume it also works with bad endings.

    So there, crativity re-ignited and the game can continue. Not necessarily blocking anything else but the conclussion of the story/game. Only then this tool will work properly.
  • edited December 2013
    I think you missed his point, which my comment within the brackets was about. There are a lot of things to say about this, but to be short: it's like dog candy (now you did something, gain XP): they work, but for the wrong reasons. Perhaps it's better to start a new thread about it instead to sort out what those reasons are?
  • edited December 2013
    No, I do get his point, and I find it accurate, interesting and fun. And I agree about the dog candy part. I'm just advocating for a different kind of fun here, that comes from using "Yes, but" in a different moment, context and situation, where it actually helps creativity and indicates a player desire to keep the fun going after certain point, instead of giving the player a tool to block other players creativity.

    My bad, I should have said: "There's another way of using "Yes But" that actually makes it useful and non-blocking" instead of "I've to come in defense of"
  • edited December 2013
    I would say that you're talking about a different kind of Yes and/but. How "Yes, and" is handled in roleplaying games is that the player creates the "...and". The game master creates obstacles through "Yes, but". What I thought was so refreshing was that @Babe_Escape wrote about how "Yes, and" should be used by the others. It's what I've been talking about in this thread: building on each other's ideas. How "Yes, and" usually is handled in roleplaying games (like in InSpectres) is almost like a variant of the Czege principle.

    I totally get your point in creating obstacles and I can see how it creates creativity - because I usually play like that myself - but what if you don't seek conflicts in a roleplaying game? We are so keen on creating conflicts that we somehow thinks they must be a part of roleplaying games. (See also my quote)
  • edited December 2013
    Here's an idea from another discipline: computer science brings us the Operating System.

    I would add this to the discussion of pools, processes, and procedures. RPGs include a lot of rules that look like "when X happens, do Y".

    • I think Y is generally referred to as "a procedure" -- roll these dice, ask the player to your left this question, pick from this list, begin tracking combat rounds, etc.
    • X may be referred to as a "trigger" or "what the game's mechanics cover" or even "what the game's about". This makes sense to me -- a game where all the procedures are triggered by entering combat is, fundamentally, a game about combat.

    What's interesting to me from a CS standpoint is the combo of the two, how "if X then Y" is always "running in the background" for every moment of play.

    I dunno if that analogy is useful in any particular way, but this seemed like the right place to post it.

    On another topic:
    Raph Koster says in Theory of Fun that fun is an emotion that comes from learning.
    Wait -- did he say fun only comes from learning? To claim that is to use a definition of "learning" so broad that I find it meaningless.

    Certainly fun can come from learning, but there's nothing wrong with designing for other sources of fun, right?
  • edited December 2013
    Here's an idea from another discipline: computer science brings us the Operating System.

    I would add this to the discussion of pools, processes, and procedures. RPGs include a lot of rules that look like "when X happens, do Y".

    • I think Y is generally referred to as "a procedure" -- roll these dice, ask the player to your left this question, pick from this list, begin tracking combat rounds, etc.
    • X may be referred to as a "trigger" or "what the game's mechanics cover" or even "what the game's about". This makes sense to me -- a game where all the procedures are triggered by entering combat is, fundamentally, a game about combat.

    What's interesting to me from a CS standpoint is the combo of the two, how "if X then Y" is always "running in the background" for every moment of play.

    I dunno if that analogy is useful in any particular way, but this seemed like the right place to post it.
    This is really interesting. I will look into this more, but if you have any links to share I would be glad. :) I come somewhat to think about the skill atom by Raph Koster and Dan Cook (I think). About how a game consist of a few basic atoms that are then built upon, and how it works with the interaction between the game and the user. I found the link somewhat hippie in how it's written but I haven't come up with a better source than the (free to download) Theory of Fun.
    Raph Koster says in Theory of Fun that fun is an emotion that comes from learning.
    Wait -- did he say fun only comes from learning?
    No. If you want distinctions in different kinds of fun, check out what Nicole Lazarro's and Marc LeBlanc's lists (4 and 8 different kinds of fun).
  • edited December 2013
    No. If you want distinctions in different kinds of fun, check out what Nicole Lazarro's and Marc LeBlanc's lists (4 and 8 different kinds of fun).
    Oh good. Yeah, I read those. I was just hoping you hadn't left them behind in favor of a new theory. You had me worried when you said "I now always aim to design for learning" and tried connecting it to Competition, Sensation, and Expression in ways that I found unconvincing (Exploration is a more natural fit).

    My take: any game that I don't yet know requires me to learn it in order to play it, and may require still further learning to pursue Mastery and goals like Victory or Maximum Impact of Expression. I suppose going from "never seen this before" to "mastery" is pretty universally fun, but it's not a big part of the experience for many games (e.g. games that area easy or impossible to master). As for learning enough to triumph, I'd say the fun comes more from the triumphing than the learning, but I could be wrong.
  • edited December 2013
    You had me worried when you said "I now always aim to design for learning" and tried connecting it to Competition, Sensation, and Expression in ways that I found unconvincing (Exploration is a more natural fit).
    What was it that made you think it was unconvincing?
    My take: any game that I don't yet know requires me to learn it in order to play it, and may require still further learning to pursue Mastery and goals like Victory or Maximum Impact of Expression. I suppose going from "never seen this before" to "mastery" is pretty universally fun, but it's not a big part of the experience for many games (e.g. games that area easy or impossible to master). As for learning enough to triumph, I'd say the fun comes more from the triumphing than the learning, but I could be wrong.
    Note how it's written. Koster doesn't say "Fun is another way of learning". To quote from his A Theory of Fun: 10 Years Later, where he quotes Chris Crawford: "fun is the emotional response of learning".

    Let say we have a procedure. We got "before procedure", "during procedure" and "after procedure". If you give the Bible to me and says "Read it", I'm not going to respond "Oh, this is going to be so fun learn things from the Bible". I'm might not even think that while reading the book. It's not until after the procedure that I can feel the joy of learning something: perhaps I got answer to existential questions or perhaps getting hope in my life? (These are examples of sensation.) "Fun" occurs after the procedure. When I read Start With Why (a suggestion from this thread), I got revelations while reading the book and the book made me start thinking. That's, for me, a good grade of an activity. Here's an example of when my thread made WarriorMonk start thinking, and that made me feel good.

    Catharsis (triumph) comes from learning that you mastered the system. It's not perhaps what you would think when you beat the system. The thoughts could instead be "I made it!", like when you finish a crossword or laying the last piece in a jigsaw - but you wouldn't done that if you haven't learned how you would do it.

    [edit] I edited the original post where I talked about fun and WHYs and added a lot of quotes. It was sloppy written of me from the beginning where I didn't explain my conclusions fully, and I can understand how it formed any questions marks.
  • What was it that made you think it was unconvincing?
    The stuff you've subsequently deleted. All good now. :)
    Let say we have a procedure. We got "before procedure", "during procedure" and "after procedure". If you give the Bible to me and says "Read it", I'm not going to respond "Oh, this is going to be so fun learn things from the Bible". I'm might not even think that while reading the book. It's not until after the procedure that I can feel the joy of learning something: perhaps I got answer to existential questions or perhaps getting hope in my life? (These are examples of sensation.) "Fun" occurs after the procedure. When I read Start With Why (a suggestion from this thread), I got revelations while reading the book and the book made me start thinking. That's, for me, a good grade of an activity.
    Nice breakdown. "Fun during" and "fun after" both work for me. Some games have one or the other, some games have both, and I'd say it works or doesn't work depending on other factors like how many times you repeat the procedure, whether there's an element of surprise, novelty, or learning that diminishes over time ("Oh, THAT card again" in Cards Against Humanity), and more.

    Learning is a good example; no argument there! I just don't know whether it's unique as a "source / type of fun in games". Do you think it is? If so, what makes it unique?
  • or learning that diminishes over time ("Oh, THAT card again" in Cards Against Humanity)
    Yes, and Tic Tac Toe is another example of diminishing learning where you after a while learn all the possible outcomes (i.e. you've found the repeating pattern).
    Learning is a good example; no argument there! I just don't know whether it's unique as a "source / type of fun in games". Do you think it is? If so, what makes it unique?
    As for now, I will say learning is an umbrella term for different types of fun. Are you thinking more in terms of Levi Kornelsen's list of enjoyments? (Couldn't find a good non-English link.)
  • edited January 2014
    I've been thinking about this with triggers. A few years back, I coined the term "conventions" for how to use the rules. It started out with me thinking about that it's not always that important of what the game mechanics are, but when to use the game mechanics. It will be a different gaming experience if you roll often compared to if you roll seldom. The term then broadened to include where the game master should sit at the table and things like that, but I realized that the term then more became to mean a social contract.

    I really like the idea with triggers. I must say that this will probably change my way of designing games. It even got me so far that I will do major changes in This Is Pulp, and I've already done massive playtesting.
  • edited September 2014
    I played Game of Thrones: The Board Game two weeks ago and one player constantly attacked the least dominant player. Why is that?

    WHY - the purpose of playing
    Competition: to try to beat the game or the other participants in different aspects of the game.
    Exploration: to explore different WHATs in the game and their interactions.
    Expression: to express yourself in different ways through the game.
    Sensation: to get an experience, to get an insight, to feel, to escape from reality, to be nostalgic.
    I will now talk about a WHY that I haven't included because I haven't felt that it should be part of a game: destruction. I have now come to reevaluate my opinion, and it's mostly because of Roger Caillois' ilinx. Ilinx is part of his Pattern of Play where you can find terms as agon (competition), mimicry (simulation and characteration), alea (randomness), and also ludus and paidia which I talked about earlier. From his book Les Jeux et Les Hommes ("Man, Play and Games").
    Ilinx. The last kind of game includes those which are based on the pursuit of vertigo and which consist of an attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind. In all cases, it is a question of surrendering to a kind of spasm, seizure, or shock which destroys reality with sovereign brusqueness.
    In parallel fashion, there is a vertigo of moral order, a transport that suddenly seizes the individual. This vertigo is readily linked to the desire for disorder and destruction,
    It's the second part that I find interesting. Crashed cars at the side of the road has a tendency to be set of fire after a while. Why is that? Boys throws rock at windows to shatter them in an abandoned factory. You slay countless of mooks in Feng Shui. That's destructive ilinx. Why I haven't included it before was because I felt it only had to do with shadenfreude: the joy of another person's misfortune. Why did the player attack the least dominate player in the boardgame? That has very little to do with competition, but to thrive of the power of suppressing another player. I don't think that belongs in a game, especially social games like roleplaying games.

    But shadenfreude is just one part of destruction. You can thrive on destroying your own character. To see it's misfortune and feel sorry for that character. You can build up a world only for the pleasure of destroying it. You can take your character sheet and blow it up with fire crackers. Destruction has a part of gaming, just like the rest of the four WHYs.

    [edit] Earlier drafts of Marc LeBlanc's eight kinds of fun had Masochism. It was later renamed into Submission. So it seemed like he had the same idea of destruction being part of why to enjoy a game.
  • edited January 2014
    "Some men aren't looking for anything logical like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."
    - Alfred about the Joker in The Dark Knight
  • Hey Rickard, where would you classify Power Fantasy? Y'know, when people play to feel badass, such as 11-year-old roleplayers making superhero or 20th level D&D characters to basically dominate anything in their path. Does that fall under Sensation/Expression? If so, then wouldn't Destruction fall under Sensation/Expression too?
  • edited January 2014
    I want to point out that you normally can't avoid including all of the WHYs and HOWs in a game, even if some of them seems almost diminishing, and that it's good to see each one on a separate scale. You can have a game with 90 % competition and 75 % exploration (WHYs), or a game that mostly is based on dilemmas (a kind of decision - a HOW) but that will still include investment, effort and uncertainty at some grade.

    I'm personally not interesting in categorizing games, and I wont support that idea. The same goes for individual players as well.
  • edited February 2014
    As to continue with Destruction as a WHY, I just read the following.

    http://www.danmaruschak.com/blog/2013/05/07/a-framework-for-humor-in-rpg-design/

    In short: If it's harmless and a violation, it's funny. Now, Dr. Peter McGraw is talking about humor but I would like to extend this kind of thinking to all kinds destruction and the amusements you get from those, as one of the reasons to why we play.
  • edited September 2014
    A character is something the players use to explore the interactive space in a game. It can be the tokens in Ludo, a character in a video game or participating as a team member in a soccer game. Ever heard someone say "He was caught up in the game so what he did on the field isn't how he is off the field"? Yes, I'm taking the term »character« too far but what I want to show is that you always have something you can use to steer the game: to participate in the game, and it doesn't matter if it's you psychically or if it's a token on a board. My standpoint you need take into account to understand what I've written below is: a character is always present.

    ---

    You can find an article in Beyond Role and Play (2004) that Ari-Pekka Lappi has written named The Character Interpretation: The Process Before the Immersion and the Game. The article is about how character immersion happens. In order to interpret the character, in order to understand the character and to be the character, you have to constantly going through the following steps. (quoted below)
    × A player reads the character and discovers facts about her.
    × If the player already postulated a world view, she tests whether the facts fit the world view. Otherwise the players tries to find a world view that is most stuitable for the character.
    × A player postulates a world view, resulting in the character.
    × After a player had postulated a world view she should be able to explain why the character is described as she is. [return to the first point] If she cannot explain that, she has to choose another world view. [redoing all the steps]
    It doesn't really matter where you start, like if you like to know about the world before you read the character. That's of less importance. What's important is the constant loop you do between taking in the character and taking the world view and the interpretations you make while jumping between them. This is what creates character immersion.

    ---

    In Media Psychology (2007), shit loads of psychologists have contributed to an article called A Process Model for the Formation of Spatial Presence Experiences. I haven't read it myself so I took a shortcut and read the following summary instead. That article talks about spatial immersion, which means that when you play a video game, it feels like you're part of the world like if you were really standing there. It suggests two steps to create that. (quoted below)
    × Players form a representation in their minds of the space or world with which the game is presenting them.
    × Players begin to favor the media-based space (I.e., the game world) as their point of reference for where they “are” (or to put it in psychological gobblety-gook, their “primary ego reference frame”)
    See any similarities to the points in The Character Interpretation? These two points have included the interpretation steps so it's basically two points: the world and where "they" - the character - are.

    ---

    When I read this, my thoughts goes as following. The setting is part of the WHATs, so to immerse in the world and/or the character is to make a loop between the character and the setting. Like I stated in my first paragraph, you always have a character even if you don't think of it as a character. What happens if you, instead of setting, puts other things in the loop. What happens if you put meaning in the loop? Will you get immersion in meaning? I myself have already experienced immersion in fiction when playing roleplaying games. When the real world around me dissolves by me being taken by the story produced while we play. I also experienced immersion in structures, when tactical games have sucked my in with it's game mechanics. So it's only one left, and that's immersion in group. I, and you who read this, have probably already been immersed in both meaning and group without realizing it yourself. Have you, for example, ever been deeply involved in a discussion with your friends or felt a connection to a NPC in a video game? These are some areas that I think we can benefit from exploring in roleplaying games. In exploring how to create immersion in the five WHATs: setting, meaning, fiction, structures, and group.

    Getting ideas like this, discovering new ways of playing roleplaying games, is why I made this thread in the beginning. To take in information from sources outside roleplaying games to better understand what we do when practicing our hobby.
  • edited September 2014
    The 100th post in this thread. :) I will do some repetition of two things that I have touched and referred to in previous posts all through this thread.

    Flow Theory
    Mihály Csíkszentmihályi decided one day to try to find out what creates happiness and his research over the years gave birth to flow. "Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does." (Wikipedia)

    I really like that it says "fully immersed". I will continue quoting Flow in Games by Jenova Chen:
    According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's well-documented research and wide-scale gathering of personal observations, the phenomenology of Flow has eight major components.
    1. A challenge activity that requires skills
    2. The merging of action and awareness
    3. Clear goals
    4. Direct feedback
    5. Concentration on the task at hand
    6. The sense of control
    7. The loss of self-consciousness
    8. The transformation of time
    Take special interest in the fourth point. Not all of these eight components must be present, but to achieve flow, you need the following. (quote from Flow in Games)
    Once we have digested the above components and revisited them with a game design perspective, here are the three core elements a video game must have in order to evoke Flow experience.
    1. As a premise, the game is intrinsically rewarding, and the player is up to play the
    game.
    2. The game offers right amount of challenges to match with the player’s ability, which
    allows him/her to delve deeply into the game.
    3. The player needs to feel a sense of personal control over the game activity.
    Skill Atoms
    Daniel Cook and Raph Koster asked themselves if there wasn't anything hidden behind the game mechanics and aesthetics that comes with a game. That behind all that are some basic foundations, based on human psychology, that could be extracted from all games and could be turned into practical techniques in game design. Play is instinctual and controlled by strong feedback mechanisms in form of boredom and frustration. To beat this off, you seek out to find stimulation. As we participate in these stimulations, may it be playing, we will be rewarded by learning from it. When we're mastering knowledge, skills and tools endomorphin are released in the brain and gives us a sense of joy.

    What they came up with was the skill atom, that's the minimal requirement for how the player achieves a new skill. (quote below, source)
    A skill atom feedback loop is composed of four main elements:

    -Action:The player performs an action. For a skill atom encounter by a new player, the action might involve pressing a button. More advanced atoms might instead require the player execute a batched set of actions such as navigating a complex maze.

    - Simulation: Based off the action, an ongoing simulation is updated. A door might open.

    - Feedback:The game provides some form of feedback to the player to let them know how the simulation has changed state. This feedback can be auditory, visual, or tactile. It can be visceral in the form of an exploding corpse or it can be symbolic in the form of a block of text.

    - Modeling: As the final step, the player absorbs the feedback and updates their mental models on the success of their action. If they feel that they have made progress, they feel pleasure. If they master a new skill or other tool, they experience an even greater burst of joy. If they feel that their action has been in vain, they feel boredom or frustration.
    Now take in what you just read and connect this to what the previous post wrote about creating immersion. In order to learn, you need a feedback loop of some sort. If I compare this to character immersion: action is the player reading about the character, simulation is when the character is tested against the world, feedback is when the player learns about the world, and modeling is when the player interprets what it just learned. When you do this loop, it's a step of being immersed. When you do this loop of direct feedback, the flow state can occur. When you do this skill atom feedback loop, you will learn and from that possibly get the feeling of joy.

    So basically, what I've been describing in the two last posts is not just how to get immersed in different parts of a game, but how an intrinsic reward system can be created, in comparison to extrinsic rewards like artha, XP, fate points, fan mail and similar.
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