We know so little of our hobby

13

Comments

  • Zooming in on the modeling element: It's useful to note that players in videogames spend 80% of their time failing and yet there is a broad buffer between a tactical failure and a literal feeling of frustration with the game. In this buffer area even tactical failure is experienced in a positive light because it contains a nugget of learning or mastery (cf. McGonigal, "Reality is Broken"). So the low end of positive feedback is actually lower than the fulcrum between objective success and objective failure. This supports the notion of intrinsic rewards expressed in your final paragraph. The pleasure response requires that the player make some progress, true, but this progress does not need to be an extrinsic reward.
  • edited May 2014
    McGonigal's ideas of games saving the world are so weird, but I adore her for it. :) When you say that players fail 80 % of the time, do you mean by doing little things, like missing a jump, or grander things like failing an objective in the game (ex. by dying)?

    In flow theory, if you succeed too often, the activity will lead to boredom and if you fail to often you will be frustrated instead, like the following picture below shows:
    image
    (source: Wikipedia)

    What kind of conclusions do you draw from that when looking at the flow theory, where failing leads to frustration?

    I personally find it interesting how a frustrating game can be enjoyable, like how Flappy Birds is one of the most downloaded games to iPhone. I haven't read much about frustration but I guess that fiero - the feeling of triumph - increases a lot with frustrating games. However, you can't win in Flappy Birds so it's a conundrum for me (and my niece got 36 points when I only achieved nine - God, I hate her! ;) ). It's possible that Flappy Birds triggers that arousal in the image. I haven't read enough about flow theory to know.
  • edited March 2014
    I believe she means that 80% of game runs do not result in the completion of the level. But the player still gains some appreciable benefit (mastery over a particular element of the game like jumping while running, for instance) that makes them feel they will be able to do it soon. But I'll reread her to check that.
  • edited March 2014
    Ok, McGonigal's quote is based on the research of games researcher and design consultant Nicole Lazzaro, who reports her findings annually at the GDC. The quote is "Perhaps her most significant finding yet is this: gamers spend nearly all of their time failing. Roughly four times out of five, gamers don't complete the mission, run out of time, don't solve the puzzle, lose the fight, fail to improve their score, crash and burn, or die."
  • Thanks for checking that up. I've only read about Lazzaro's four ways of fun (covered earlier in this thread), when I did research about what engages us in games. I should read more of her research. It's was really interesting to know that we only succeed one out of five times. I can see that happening in both video- and board games, but I wonder if the numbers change when the medium change, like team sport or tabletop roleplaying games.
  • edited March 2014
    Yeah, the numbers probably do change for TTRPG. I mean, of course they do. But what we lose in somatic excitement we can easily make up in the power of meaningful drama. In the right RPG setting and circumstance, it can be amazing and meaningful and poignant and feel "complete" to totally, utterly and irrevocably DIE, never again to play that character. I've never had that feeling from a videogame.

    So... two different animals. RPG designers should learn all they can from videogames, but shouldn't stretch that metaphor too far.
  • edited May 2014
    I'm now continuing from what I said about how to create immersion and my conclusion from it. When I was talking with Ron Edwards, after a gaming session, he said that he left immersion out of GNS because it's not even a play style (it's an interpretation of what he said, remembering exact words isn't my forte). That sounded weird to me as a Swede because immersion is such a huge thing in the Nordic countries, especially with the our LARP scene.

    But while I was writing about immersion in this thread, I came to the conclusion that he's absolutely right. Immersion is not a play style, it's a reward for playing. It's autotelic, meaning why we do a task solely for the purpose of doing the task. Note that I'm not talking about the traditional meaning of immersion, to loose yourself in your character, but all kinds of immersion. If you think this is weird, let me instead present another term for immersion: presence.

    It's my suggestion that you can achieve presence in my five WHATs: setting, group, meaning, structures, and fiction. I've given the a suggestions of components to do that with my HOWs, to create a task that involves decision, uncertainty, effort and investment. I also think that the task have to do with WHY you do something - may it be exploration, sensation, competition, expression or destruction - that the task should correlate with what you find, as a foundation of gaming, interesting with doing a task. The WHYs also change depending on your preconception of the task. If you're used to play D&D in a competitive style with focus on structures, then you wont find it as amusing with another roleplaying game that instead explores fiction. It took me a few years before I liked Forge games (indiegames) before I realized their WHYs.

    I always felt that something were missing, and I could now have found the missing link - something that ties WHAT and HOW together - and that's the model for creating presence. To create a loop between what the character stands for or acting against, and what the result is that the character is given back. Let say that you use the skill atom, you first need the player to do an effort to make something happen. Effort is basically about participation, but can be turned up a notch to be more demanding, like having do to twenty push-ups. The consequence of your result will (hopefully) be enough to make you do a decision. The result should have some sort of uncertainty, otherwise you wouldn't be doing the task in the first place, and while doing it you create an investment. It's even possible that you are already invested, like betting money while playing craps.

    Something that I've been pondering these last few days is why character isn't one of the five WHATs. My thoughts goes like this: it could be, but none of the five WHATs are required where character is. You don't need either setting or fiction to play craps. You don't need group to play solitaire. One thought that appeared now was that character could be a HOW: a component of the game that must be there but can be almost diminishing. To play craps, you don't have a character per se, but you could put on a certain mask (to drag Jung into this) while playing the game. It's there, but it's as diminished as effort, compared to the other three: decision, uncertainty and investment.

    Another thing that can seem weird is that I gave an example of character immersion and setting immersion in my first post about immersion as a reward, but using the same loop. I've now come to believe that it's wrong to see character immersion as being immersed in character. It's more about being immersed in meaning. To sink into what something feels like, based on cultural, social, spiritual or ethical questions.
  • edited March 2014
    I mention this because of your final comments about Character and Meaning: I have an unpublished computer-assisted narrative debugging system in which plotlines and elements are tracked through a three-dimensional grid. The model derives partly from some observations by Brenda Laurel (cf. "Computers as Theater"). Not going to get into great detail here but just to note: The 3 dimensions that I find irreducible for such a system are Space, Time and Meaning. Space and Time are abstracted representations of locations and temporal flow, respectively. The Meaning coordinate is even more abstract, but it represents the appearance of applicable information (positive) OR unanswered questions (negative, ie "known unknowns") in the storyworld. In my 3D structure, like yours, terms like "Character" and "Immersion" are not present because their existence is assumed. Character is a substrate. Immersion is an effect.

    Also: Since you're scattershotting for inspiration from other media here, I feel slightly less than totally embarrassed to drag out this old chestnut, in which my younger self brazenly attempted to create a rating scale for "interactivity" across all media types. In this system, the "Interactivity Rating" of a given medium (from "reading a book" to "direct neural interface") is viewed as being comprised of five traits: Immersion, Realism, Range, Response Speed, and Logical Consistency, and "Immersion" is literally nothing more than the number of senses affected by input. This breakdown is sophomoric and dated, but I find that it still provides food for thought: http://asifproductions.com/systems/firm.html
  • edited April 2014
    terms like "Character" and "Immersion" are not present because their existence is assumed. Character is a substrate. Immersion is an effect.
    Feels nice that someone else has come to that conclusion as well. :) Your link was interesting and I thought about some of the same comparisons when it comes to interactivity, but for my HOWs: decision, effort, investment, decision. In what engages us with each activity.

    Reading a book is sensation (WHY) and has uncertainty as a HOW tied to it. You also invest time into the activity.

    Talking a walk in the park is also sensation, but involves effort instead of uncertainty. Again, time come in here as an investment.

    Playing a game, however, can be about sensation but also competition, exploration, destruction and expression. It can involve all kinds of HOWs, depending on the structures of the game but it should at least include uncertainty and either effort or decision. Investment is here too, not only in time but in honor, money or putting your character's life at stake (as a few examples).

    It may seem like games are the best activities to make someone engaged, but this is not a fair comparison because games comes in all kinds of shapes. You can add decision in books by reading a Choose Your Own Adventure. You can add exploration to walking by taking a hike in the mountains. Something I think is important is also the player's WHY and how it corresponds to the game's WHY. If the player comes in with expectations and those expectations are met, the whole activity will be more joyful (I'm assuming here). You know what WHY you get when you read a book, but that's not always the case with a game.

    And what happens if you're several people doing an activity where each person has it's own WHY? The next post will go into some of my thoughts about that.
  • edited April 2014
    I've been talking about player types before and from that I formed my WHYs: exploration, expression, competition, sensation, and destruction. I claimed that WHYs are on different scales of each other, where you can have, for example, 80 % competition and 70 % exploration in a game. I will now try this thought from different angles.

    An adventure I played at a convention had two distinctive act for the game master. In the first act, it was about exploring the group and establish relationships between hostages and hostage takers. Then the adventure changed and it was more about finding out clues to overcome a threat towards the group. Participants that played out the first act had trouble with the other act, and participants who didn't do so well with exploring the relations did better at finding out the clues. When talking to the other game masters, they had the experience from the adventure. What happened was that the adventure had a change in playstyle and that didn't turn out well for the whole gaming experience. At best, the session became a mediocre experience.

    The card game Once Upon a Time has two WHYs: either you compete in structure and fiction or you explore the fiction with the structures of the game. At best, you ignore the competitive element of the game and create a good story, or you play to win which resolves in a bad story. In most cases, the group hasn't agreed and the WHYs collide, resulting in a mediocre story and a mediocre competitive experience. When it came to the adventure in the previous paragraph, what I did was to try to recognize what the group wanted. If they were keen on playing out the relationships, I would hold on to the first act as long as I could and then kind of brushed over act two. If they on the other hand didn't pick up on the relationship business, I would trigger the second act earlier. So the adventure gave either a good base for playing out the character but gave a bad clue-finding phase, or the other way around.

    ---

    Robin D Laws talks about player types in Robin Laws For Good Game Mastering. He writes on page 3 "Everybody comes to the gaming table for slightly different reasons. Our biggest task as GMs is to direct and shape individual preferences into an experience that is more than the sum of its parts." He then talks about the player types.
    The Power Gamer (competition) wants to make his character bigger, tougher, buffer, and richer. /.../

    The Butt-Kicker (destruction) wants to let off steam with a little old-fashioned vicarious mayhem. /.../

    The Tactician (competition/exploration) is probably a military buff, who wants chances to think his way through complex, realistic problems, usually those of the battlefield. /.../

    The Specialist (expression/competition) favors a particular character type, which he plays in every campaign and in every setting. /.../To make a specialist happy, you have to create scenes in which his character can do the cool things for which the archetype is known.

    The Method Actor (expression) believes that roleplaying is a medium for personal expression, /.../

    The Storyteller (expression), /.../ he's more interested in taking part in a fun narrative that feels like a book or a movie than in strict identification with his character.

    The Casual Gamer (sensation) is often forgotten in discussions of this sort, but almost every group has one. Casual gamers tend to be low key folks who are uncomfortable taking center stage even in a small group.
    More reading

    I've taken the liberty in suggesting the most important WHYs in brackets for each player type above. Different WHATs can distinguish them even further, like how method actor is more about meaning/group (in that order), and storyteller focus more on fiction/meaning (in that order). Balancing the gaming experience is something that I guess most people take for granted in roleplaying games, but I have come to reconsider this. I assumed in the previous post that when our WHYs corresponds to the game's WHY, the gaming experience will be more joyful. This should mean that the games should be specialized on a single WHY but also be clear on what kind of WHY that the participants should expect? I also wonder if you can have the same WHY but with different kinds of WHATs. Would Once Upon a Time be a better game if you compete with both structures and fiction, where you play rivals in a story? Then it would make sense to win in both story and structures. Would Once Upon a Time become a better game if you explore both the fiction and the structures together?

    You could also switch between different WHYs and we have examples of that in roleplaying games. D&D4 has gotten a lot of crap because you can only fight in that game, but that's not true. You still have the "roleplaying" aspect in the game - Robin D Laws has even written about his player types in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Warhammer FRPG 3 is basically the same game as D&D4, but here it's more clear when to switch because they labeled it combat mode and story mode. When we still moved the miniatures around on the board after combat in D&D4, in we ditched the dolls in Warhammer when we realized the switch between combat and story mode. I will leave it open if this is a good solution or not but if I would like to combine different WHYs, I would try to interleave it in each other. Not by mixing them together, but having different layers, where someone who likes expressing themselves can do that in combat while another player, who wants to compete, can do that during "story mode" as well.

    I would like to see, some day, a game that can let different people combine their different WHYs in a good way and, at the same time, let it correspond to the game's WHY.

    (Side note: when writing about how to combine players' WHYs, I came to realize it was multiplexing, where WFRPG is using time-division multiplexing and my suggestion is frequency-division multiplexing. There are other types of multiplexing in the Wikipedia article that can perhaps bring new ideas for others.)

    [edit] I should point out that I'm not fond of categorizing either players or games into WHYs and WHATs. These things are there for you to understand the focus of your own game and and it's participants. I did however an exception for Laws'es player types but only to show the similarities.
  • edited April 2014
    My ideas for the HOWs originated from when I wanted to show my perspective of what kind of feelings certain mechanics bring forth. I was annoyed that people kept calling dice rolls for challenges (Hello, Mouse Guard) when the uncertainty doesn't bring any challenge. Instead, effort is what brings a challenge. I haven't got any of these feelings below from established research, but from observations that I've made through my years of gaming.

    image

    I've thought about this, and something that annoyed me with my own thesis is that challenge and tension is what happens while doing an activity while excitement is what comes after the uncertainty is solved. What would be a proper emotional response would instead be suspense, but I feel that suspense and tension sounds too alike (am I wrong?) so I would instead say uncertainty creates curiosity. Curiosity is not the whole truth but it gives a notion of the feeling I'm after.

    Excitement is instead a feeling that can come from all the three HOWs. I wonder if investment is a HOW or if I should treat that component in a game as I treat character. That it should be something that must be created through the game - either as a stake, as something you create or as something you spend time on - for the game to give excitement. Is it possible that it is investment that gives excitement? As I said before, all of the other three HOWs must be combined with investment for a game to work. If you're not invested in the activity, then the payoff wont be as big or, in some cases, wont happen at all. But like I said before, excitement is something that comes after the task is done. Involvement could instead be the feeling. It sounds a lot like the HOW Effort. Immersion, possibly? You can't immerse in something if you don't invest in it. Is that true?

    I'm writing this to show where my thoughts are going. It's possible that it can create a spark of thought for someone.
  • Just some of my thoughts,

    Why do we invest in something? I was driving past some guy fishing on a bridge late at night in the cold and drizzle. I thought to myself Why? It cant be the fishing else we would all be doing it.

    But for sure this guy was invested in fishing any time any weather.

    So if your not invested then your out side the centre of your diagram.
    As I drove by I was out of that centre struggling to understand this guys investment.

    I still don't get it.


  • edited April 2014
    @Paul88 - Remember the Fox in "The Little Prince"? He teaches that a thing can only be truly known to you once you "tame" it. By "tame" he means "form a relationship with it." Until you spend the time required to get to know something intimately (like the Prince did when taming the fox), it will seem no different to you than all the other objects in its class. It is precisely your investment in the thing that makes it unique and special to you, and you to it.

    Certainly this applies just as well to our worlds, our characters, our beloved ephemera...
    and to fishing.
  • edited April 2014
    Re Robin D Laws player types (and of course we've all seen numerous such taxonomies)...

    I'm leery of adhering too closely to taxonomical categories when talking about real things. (For game content of course, I'm often very happy to apply the simplistic and rigid structuralism of an 18th-century scientist - but that's a different thread.) However, I'll run with it for now, because it sparked another idea...

    The "first session" of a typical *W game (perhaps the most well-known example of this technique) is designed to tacitly elicit the in-game desires of each player, to a degree sufficient for the MC to recognize the leading ends of potentially emergent plot structures. If the stars line up for you and your players, you will also get an early glimpse of enough of each player's personal style to make an educated guess as to their Player Type.

    But what if we just asked them directly?

    Direct questions on performance and preference can often have problems with "Demand Characteristics" (including the "Screw You Effect"), particularly if the phraseology of the inventory tends to lend a more positive interpretation to certain options than others. So one must be careful not to sound judgmental when creating such an inventory. However, let us assume that the sentences could be written to avoid 99% of all judgmental interpretations and trigger words. Imagine if the character sheet literally had options like these on it, and each player was supposed to choose one (or maybe rank three?) when filling it out:
    • I want to make my character bigger, tougher, buffer, and richer.
    • I want to let off steam with a little old-fashioned vicarious mayhem.
    • I want to think my way through complex, realistic problems, preferably involving battle.
    • I favor a particular character type, and I would like to play it in this campaign.
    • I believe that roleplaying is a medium for personal expression, and I like games that "bleed"
    • I'm more interested in a fun narrative like a book or a movie, than I am in the character I play.
    • I want to enjoy the game but more passively; I'm uncomfortable taking center stage in a group.
  • Like the fox story and your method of questions on character sheets.. I was trying to look at the diagram from already beimg invested in the moment. Be it a wager of money or catch a fish.
    If you do invest a wager of money and gamble the feeling of uncertanty could leed to excitment , tension then relief ?
  • Or loss.
    This could all be ramped up if the wager was for my house and the wife knows nothing of it.
  • Investment is all about emotions. The fisherman out in the cold may not be thinking about it all the time, but subconciously each of the implements he was using, every movement that he uses to manipulate them, the actual feeling of being soaked while working or waiting to catch something... everything in his mind is related to memories and more than that, to the memory of the things he felt the first time he did that or the first time he mastered his act. That whole river of soothing emotions is good enough to have him glad of waking up early and enduring any weather.

    It's the same for any "type" of player. Everyone ends up enjoying a different combination of aspects of the game, which is what makes taxonomies sorta possible. Of course, the player personality also plays an important role. Patience is a good virtue for any fisherman, to the point it helps him enjoy fishing more than the average person. Yet the imprinted memory can be strong enough to make the person accustomed to a conduct different than their usual.

    So, how do we apply this knowledge to the game? Well, to have players invest in the game you have to ingrain their emotions in the game. It's actually easier and less "manipulative" than it sounds. Here's some GM advice:

    -First of all, people WANT to play. Just by calling the whole activity a game is enough to make them remember similar activities they enjoyed in the past. Newbies will ask "It's like X or Y game" to make sure it's related to a good experience or a bad one, but when they do that question you can be sure you already have their attention.

    -Second: use rules everyone is comfortable with or that actually help generate content. That's why ditching encumbrance rules is okay after a couple sessions at least or whenever they don't actually matter. Comfortable in this case also means reliable, practical and efficient for the purposes of the session, which are conveying emotions, allowing players to project back their emotions, built the fiction on that and keep this exchange going, changing and increasing, as this is the nature of what we call now the Flow.

    -Third: observe carefully which elements of the fiction receive any kind of emotional charge (which characters they hate, which they like, what objects and places are loaded with meaning for them) and come back to them/reuse them at least once. Actually, once loaded, re-use them to guide the story/build the story around them. But only ONCE if you can help it. If the players bring that element with them into the adventure, feel free to use it more times.

    -Fourth: Don't contaminate the fiction with the feelings you have for your creations (as in NPCs, monsters, dungeons, tactics, detailed background, rules which some players are uncomfortable with, etc) because that leads to imposing your feelings about something to the rest of the party. THAT IS ACTUALLY MANIPULATIVE, and while it can be done trough illusionism and collaborationism, both require a lot of work in prep and/or in sweetalking the players into it. If you absolutely go that way, be ready for it or at least be ready to watch players try and destroy your work.

    -Fifth: If your answer to the threath above was in the lines of "let's see them try -evil grin-" then what you enjoy is the competition in metagame terms. Before you go there, make sure your players are okay with this kind of competition. It's actually a valid form of fun, as long as everyone is fair with it. Nobody goes changing rules to win or adding points the didn't earn to their character sheet. Decide which manuals you will be using and let the best ruleslawyer/munchkin win. If what you really really like is to cheat in games, screw you.

  • edited April 2014
    I think what @Paul_88 brings up is interesting. When I first came up with investment, and attacked it from different perspectives, one of the perspective was about people that are cheering for their favorite football team. There is nothing there that is "theirs", there is nothing there that they can influence, but they do invest a lot into the activity. It's the same deal as following a TV show for seasons after seasons or subscribing to someone on Youtube: after a while, they become part of your life.

    If we look my original list of investments, being a fan is connected to your inner sphere for the character (as in "being a fan" - yes, I realize the strained use of the term). But being a fan, or a fisherman, also says something about who you are. It's connected to something in your earlier life, for example, where you grew up or how influenced you were by your acquaintances.

    What I think is interesting, when I read what Paul wrote, is that investment somewhere along the way - after spending a lot of time with it - becomes expression. If you do a lot of thievery, you will - after a while - consider yourself a thief and use that to express yourself. All this makes me question whether investment is a HOW or not. Perhaps it's something that must be a part of it's own, and stand above the whole model, just like "character" is.

    Also, think about how some video games - I have games like The Walking Dead and The Last of Us in mind now - creates investments in characters through choices or sharing experiences with the characters - either by playing them or getting to know them through interaction.

    (As a side note: I like how my play of thoughts created more of a discussion than my other posts that more "stated/listed facts". Investments are something I think we all need to be more aware of when designing activities, and I really like discussing them with you guys.)
  • I like how my play of thoughts created more of a discussion than my other posts that more "stated/listed facts".
    I'm beginning to think that EVERY topic should have a functionalist thread and a structuralist thread. :-)
  • edited April 2014
    Re Robin D Laws player types (and of course we've all seen numerous such taxonomies)...

    I'm leery of adhering too closely to taxonomical categories when talking about real things. (For game content of course, I'm often very happy to apply the simplistic and rigid structuralism of an 18th-century scientist - but that's a different thread.) However, I'll run with it for now, because it sparked another idea...
    I'm not a fan of categorizing players either. I'm mostly talking about WHY - which are based on player types - as an awareness of why someone would play your game and, in the future, also give guidelines of how to convey this information to the participants. I'm experimenting with this myself, at the moment, with This Is Pulp.
    The "first session" of a typical *W game (perhaps the most well-known example of this technique) is designed to tacitly elicit the in-game desires of each player, to a degree sufficient for the MC to recognize the leading ends of potentially emergent plot structures. If the stars line up for you and your players, you will also get an early glimpse of enough of each player's personal style to make an educated guess as to their Player Type.

    But what if we just asked them directly?
    I haven't read Apocalypse World, but I have read a lot about it and listened to sessions. I do think, and I adore AW for it, that choosing a playbook is an unasked question. Each playbook will affect what the session will be about. I am, however, in favor in making questions like this more apparent, much like your questions would be. D&D4 had some incredibly corny bullet lists in "Play this race if you...", but even if the execution was bad, I think it's a neat idea. I would like to see a game that stated "Play this archetype if you want intrigues in the session" or "Play this role if you want love to always be present". AW kinda missed that opportunity, and the game master must instead describe each playbook for the players, and also develop an understanding for each one.
    Direct questions on performance and preference can often have problems with "Demand Characteristics" (including the "Screw You Effect"),
    I got the notion that you got the terms from some theory. Do you have any suggestions of reading about them, or possibly talk a little more about this subject?
  • edited April 2014
    The words are used in psychology and business communications.

    "Demand Characteristics" are things the answerer says because she believes that's what the asker wants to hear.

    "The Screw You Effect" consists of things the answerer says because she resents being led by the asker, or perceives some sort of unfair judgment in the question.

    Two types of backfiring didacticism, basically.
  • edited April 2014
    Everyone ends up enjoying a different combination of aspects of the game, which is what makes taxonomies sorta possible.
    Can you elaborate what you mean with this? What kind of aspects do you have in mind, and how are your thoughts about how the taxonomies are used?

    I think the list you wrote was spot on, but a little too general in this discussion about investments.
  • edited April 2014
    "Demand Characteristics" are things the answerer says because she believes that's what the asker wants to hear.
    "The Screw You Effect" consists of things the answerer says because she resents being led by the asker.

    Two types of backfiring didacticism, basically.
    I see. So it's about, in the examples above, research in feedback? Yeah, that can be tricky. Good point, in how questions about game styles can fall into the same trap.
  • What I meant there is that is harder to make a taxonomy of personalities since the variables are way too many. However games have less variables, effectively limiting the amount of ways anyone can enjoy a game and thus making a taxonomy of players sorta possible. "Sorta" because it won't be perfect given how player's personalities will affect any archetype determined in such taxonomy.

    About the different game aspects, well the player's types taxonomy you posted above among some other stuff I readed before made me think of many of them. Allow me to adopt some of these terms by the moment, but correct and replace any of them if you know a better word for them:

    The Power Gamer not only enjoys the Competition, there's also the Fantasy of Power. The Butt-Kicker enjoys Destruction and Venting Frustration, but there's also the component of Expecting Consequences, as in curiosity for what will happen if I press the red button.

    The tactician also enjoys competition, perhaps even more than the power gamer (who mostly wants to win) but enjoys it through the Intellectual Challenge I've seen tacticians who also enjoy variant Historical Reconstruction, as in "what could have happened if X went this way instead of that?"
    There's Exploration, which mostly happens when the GM is good at framing scenes, creating a feeling of mistery around new places, objects and people. The method actor does enjoy the Expression aspect of the game, however it depends on the acting method: if the player is playing himself as the character then she's going for Showing off, a sorta meta-power fantasy of being the center of attention. If the player is playing the character by going into the very skin of the character and watching the world trou it's eyes, then this is more like Psychological Immersion. Often method actor switch from one method to other to obtain different feelings from the character and the audience.

    The storyteller also goes for Expression. Some like to immerse others in a controlled enviroment and thus work through illusionism, railroad or collab (since this can be done either from GM or player's side, I remember we discussed this a long time ago in this forum) Some enjoy and embrace the randomness of the group creation and sandbox the game by roaming free trough improvisation or just built upon the other players input and dice results. Of course all storytellers enjoy a good story above winning all the time or identifying with their characters.

    Game design and Rules improvisation are other forms of Expression, even when they are into the meta-gaming side.

    Actually I believe the Specialist and the Casual Gamer are less-investing forms of the player types mentioned. Their fun may even come more from aspects outside the game that not even touch the meta.
  • edited April 2014
    What I meant there is that is harder to make a taxonomy of personalities since the variables are way too many. However games have less variables, effectively limiting the amount of ways anyone can enjoy a game ...
    I agree with your categorization but I actually believe that roleplaying games, at least in how many are written today, are hard to put into categories too. The person will always be limited by it's own view of the player type or the game - which you correctly pointed out with my categorization. Someone could say that D&D is Step On Up, but that would only be half the truth and probably say more about the person making that statement rather than the game itself. This is why I'm hesitant to use the WHYs to put labels on games or players. The only reason to use the WHYs in my model is to make an understanding of what's important in your game, or to create new ideas - by combining a WHY with a WHAT - in how to play roleplaying games. This is why I say that people are a combination of all the WHYs, and that's probably true for most roleplaying games too.
  • I'm confused how your diagram is linking to actual emotions?

    What I do like is a clear link from gamble, planning and struggle to uncertainty, decision and effort.

    Gamble comes down to that uncertain moment.
    Planning has to stop at a decision.
    Struggle will require effort.

    The emotional descriptions?
    Is challenge a good emotional description for struggle effort, could it be stress, anger or other ?

    I might be off topic but it seems the emotional descriptors could be linked to the investment.

    Investment is a valid term but its like the number zero, it has no value.

    so if you gave it a value you would get the sum of your diagram in the emotions.




  • I had to take a few days to think about this. Great question!

    I think I will use "suspense" instead of "curiosity" as a response to uncertainty.
    The emotional descriptions?
    Is challenge a good emotional description for struggle effort, could it be stress, anger or other ?
    I dunno if "emotions" is a good descriptor of what I'm getting at. I can't even make up a word in Swedish for it. It's more a ... mental state(?). They - suspense, tension and challenge - can probably all result in stress, anger, frustration, joy or whatever feeling that you got. It's when something is in the way that these states occur. When you have to choose between two things you can't choose between. When there is something holding you back in your effort. When the only thing that lies in the way towards your goal is uncertainty.
    I might be off topic but it seems the emotional descriptors could be linked to the investment.

    Investment is a valid term but its like the number zero, it has no value.

    so if you gave it a value you would get the sum of your diagram in the emotions.
    Oh, so you mean that investment is zero at the start of an activity and when the investment grows (through time, for example), it creates challenge, tension or suspense? I really like that thought and it can be some truth to it. When I read this, I started to think of the fisherman standing at the peer, two armwrestlers putting their reputation at stake by challenging each other, and someone who plays craps and putting money at stake.

    Would you say that the investment is zero here or are you thinking of investment being zero in terms of emotions?
  • I think I will use "suspense" instead of "curiosity" as a response to uncertainty. Suspense hits the mark better but that's instead of excitement? Yea.

    I dunno if "emotions" is a good descriptor of what I'm getting at. I can't even make up a word in Swedish for it
    This is a mind bender but I get what your after on the outer edge. Suspense, Tension and Challenge,
    The emotions are the choice or predicament of the player character and need not be shown in your diagram.
    (Your not forcing emotions on them)
    As for a name descriptor, is it like mood or atmosphere its seems more to do with the type of scene.

    Would you say that the investment is zero here or are you thinking of investment being zero in terms of emotions?
    I was thinking like the character being an empty vessel filling up with a situation and becoming aware of his predicament.
    The fisherman becomes aware of the deteriorating weather - he struggles with the simple tasks his tongue pushing out with the effort.
    The two arm wrestlers sit down and become aware of the gamble and uncertainty in the faces of fans family/child.

    Its like your diagram helps to channel the flow of energy the investment could be awareness? becoming aware of what's at stake.
















  • edited May 2014
    I think I will use "suspense" instead of "curiosity" as a response to uncertainty. Suspense hits the mark better but that's instead of excitement? Yea.

    As for a name descriptor, is it like mood or atmosphere its seems more to do with the type of scene.
    Excitement changes name to suspense, yeah. I will change emotions to one of your suggestions too, or something similar at least. I will use "mood" in this post.
    I dunno if "emotions" is a good descriptor of what I'm getting at. I can't even make up a word in Swedish for it
    This is a mind bender but I get what your after on the outer edge. Suspense, Tension and Challenge,
    The emotions are the choice or predicament of the player character and need not be shown in your diagram.
    (Your not forcing emotions on them)
    My thought is that suspense, tension and challenge are states of mind that the player can be put into, depending on which HOW the designer focus on of either Uncertainty, Decision and Effort. If you want to challenge the player, and not the character, then create a game that takes Effort. What I rebelling against is that some people use the word "no challenge" when there are no obstacles, and obstacles in roleplaying games are simulated by dice rolls, i.e. the locked door. A locked door is a challenge for the character but never for the player, unless the game demands some sort of effort from the player. The only thing the locked door bringsto the player, in form of a dice roll, is suspense.
    Would you say that the investment is zero here or are you thinking of investment being zero in terms of emotions?
    I was thinking like the character being an empty vessel filling up with a situation and becoming aware of his predicament.
    The fisherman becomes aware of the deteriorating weather - he struggles with the simple tasks his tongue pushing out with the effort.
    The two arm wrestlers sit down and become aware of the gamble and uncertainty in the faces of fans family/child.

    Its like your diagram helps to channel the flow of energy the investment could be awareness? becoming aware of what's at stake.
    When I reread this over and over, I got this weird feeling in my stomach as if I discovered something. I like this. I like this a lot. Investment creates awareness. I will take that with me, for sure.

    ---

    The HOWs - uncertainty, effort, decision (and investment) - are something I've come up with from analyzing games and activities, and through discussion with other game designers. They are all there in an activity, but the game designer can basically concentrate one or two more than the others in their game. The moods suspense, tension and challenge are a minor part of the HOWs, and I'm uncertain if I should even include them in the whole model of WHYs, HOWs and WHATs. I also feel that the moods are there as an explanation of a mental model of mine (a perspective/interpretation of game elements) and they are so theoretical, and not based on anything empirical/scientific, that I feel that I need to do some research about emotions in gaming to have a ground to stand on. At least, when it comes to the rest of the model, I can show other peoples' ideas and say "See, they got it too" but I can't do that with the moods.

    I will probably attack this problem by reading the following articles by Jane McGonigal, but it's such a small part of the whole model, and such an amount to read, that I feel I could spend my time in better ways. I still got articles and essays to read about what engages us in games, and I will prioritize that more. But I will come back to the moods in the future when I got more meat on my bones.
  • edited September 2014
    A different topic now. Not that I think the old one is done in any way, but because what I read gave me an insight.
    -Second: use rules everyone is comfortable with or that actually help generate content. That's why ditching encumbrance rules is okay after a couple sessions at least or whenever they don't actually matter. Comfortable in this case also ...
    A friend of mine must always plan ahead. He spends hours after hours writing scenarios and laying out the road. He tells me that he can't improvise, and have therefor to plan everything. It's important in improv not to plan ahead. To plan ahead is to block yourself into taking other's ideas into consideration. What would happen if someone does something that destroys your plans? Would that make you perplexed? You can probably work around this problem most of the times and some have even put this into structure as how they prepare a scenario.

    To spend hours to prepare creates a comfort zone, much as following rules. To throw out the idea of planning isn't really about removing something from how you do things - to destroy a structure that you use - in favor of free improvisation. Like I said before, there is no such thing as improvisation (paidia). Only unspoken rules. So when someone says "No planning", it actually means to follow a different structure that responds on other's contributions rather than planning ahead to create situations, or a sensation, for others.
  • edited July 2014

    Summary

    The purpose of this thread is to seeing the similarities from other mediums and, through that perspective, learn more about our own hobby. 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 to keep remembering 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. An example of that is Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy. The following below are some similarities with roleplaying games from other mediums.

    – Boredom is the default state. We fight boredom by taking part in an activity.

    – Each participant takes on a role. It may be a character, but it can also be a game master, a storyteller or role like that. (Note to self: Jung's masks comes into mind.)
    – Each and every one that participate in the activity are one 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.
    – Communication is not about talking, but about listening. About being aware of the surrounding.
    – When a participant controls a certain component of the game, and gets feedback from the surroundings, immersion will appear. Immersion depends on what component the participant controls.

    – A system consist of several, but not necessary all, of the following components: meaning, fiction, setting, group, and structures (WHATs).
    – The communication, the interaction, between them happens through the structures of the game (mechanics and techniques).
    – Structures comes in pools, procedures, and triggers. They are often mixed in each other.
    – Relying on structures gives comfort. Improvising is nothing more than using unsaid structures.

    – A system should make the reader understand it's purpose (WHY).
    – A system should be clear of what components to be used (WHAT).
    – More importantly, the system should teach how to use these components (HOW).
    – A system should have uncertainty to create curiosity to move on or suspense on what to encounter. Breaking a routine is one example of how to keep up the interest.
    – A system should take effort. It should make each participant want to participate; to invest in it. The very basics of this means creating a positive group relationship where everybody feels comfortable.
    – A system should have decisions. Decision-making is interactivity.
    – A system should reincorporate to create a limit in where the participants can move. Can also be used to create a sense of when things are going to end.
    – A system should provide feedback; to reinforce. Examples may be: getting emotions from doing a task, getting praise from others, or getting a result through interaction between different parts (emergence).

    – A game is a learning process.
    – Fun is the emotional response of learning.
    – Immersion comes from a constant loop between learning the response and adopting to it.

    To fail is never bad if you learn from it. This is why I prefer "No, because" (as compared to "No, and/but") as a failing forward mechanic. "No, you couldn't lock pick the door because guards arrives before you can attend to it". The player fails but get a chance to adopt to the new information that is given.
  • edited June 2014
    I think the last three-point-list in the previous post is really important, but so also the fact that we always take upon a role when we do an activity. I named this "character" previously but changed the term to the more vague "role". What happens when we immerse in the activity is similar to flow: loss of time, feeling energized, we become one with the task, and we enjoy doing the activity. The default meaning of "immersion" in roleplaying game is to lose yourself in the character, but because role is something we always take upon, there is more to it. It's instead about taking on a perspective; a sense of meaning in life.

    A role is something you take on, and immersion is what you want from playing a game. But you can be immersed in more ways than just meaning.

    I've been playing with character focus (immersed in meaning) most of my life and, when I stumbled upon Forge games, I had a hard time to understand how to take them on. I had a hard time understanding how to think to enjoy them and it took a couple of years before I realized that those games were instead more about creating fiction with others. It was what kept me in the hobby today, because I was getting tired of my old play style. The last few years, I've come upon world building games like MicroScope, The Quiet Year and A Thousand Days Under the Sun. I'm not fully enjoying those games but I think that's because that I haven't realized how to think - in what mental state of mind I have to put myself into - to benefit from the gaming experience.

    I want to relearn the hobby as a game designer by going back to the basics. I will do that so I can discover what we taken for granted and forgotten to explain to thers, or discover new ways in how to play roleplaying games and then explain them to others in how to design them. That's what the following post is about.
  • edited June 2014
    It really doesn't matter whether you begin with WHY, HOW or WHAT when you start designing a game, but you need all three to create a gaming experience. What's important to understand is that, for a game at least, the participants and the activity are each a specific combination of all the WHYs and the activity is also a combination of all the HOWs. What a game designer can do is to focus more on some of those to make one game differ from another. Even with the same play structure, Monopoly will change a lot if you focus on Competition compared to if you focus on Expression.

    WHY we play
    Expression: to show who you are as a gamer. To take on a role. To be creative. Communication and agreement.
    Sensation: to experience something. To escape from reality. To get an insight or to live out a different perspective.
    Exploration: to discover and learn different aspects of the game or emergence created through the interaction between the different parts.
    Competition: to beat others or the game in different aspects of the game.
    Destruction: to destroy what's created. To render something useless, like finding loop holes in the rule system to make yourself unbeatable.
    Combine a WHY with a WHAT to gain completely different gaming experiences. This could mean that you got 25 different playstyles, but even if you settle for Expression+Fiction, there are multiple ways of make this combination differ. What Expression+Fiction really means is how the loop between the role and the WHAT is handled. This is the loop that creates immersion in the WHAT. Will the participant, through the role, express the role's perspective and get a response back? What would happen if it's instead a competition between the participants about who controls the fiction?

    HOW we play
    Investment: investment is something that's created through time or put at stake at the beginning. To create something of your own is a greater investment than be given something. Investment isn't really part of the HOWs, but by combining investment with any other HOW creates the following below.

    Gamble = investment + uncertainty: the joy in suspense. To be able to put things at stake and risking loosing it while trying to gaining something else.
    Planning = investment + decision: feeling the tension from having to do decisions. Decision-making is also what creates interactivity.
    Struggle = investment + effort: if you don't have any opposition, you would loose interest after a while. It's about participation instead of observation.
    HOW is a strange gem and it's what binds WHY and WHAT together in a way. In MDA, it's the dynamics that ties mechanics and aesthetics together and HOW fills the same purpose. There are heaps of ways in how to use each HOW, which can be found in the links above. Just like WHY, all HOWs are present in a game but in various degrees. If there are any other activities, like taking a walk, some HOWs wont hardly be present at all. There is almost no uncertainty that you wont be able to finish the walk and the tiny obstacles that can do that wont create a suspense. If you however compete with someone else, both effort and uncertainty will be present.

    WHAT we play with
    Meaning: spiritual, philosophical, ethical, social and cultural perspectives of life. It's something that the game provides or the character provides.
    Fiction: the story produced by playing. Note that to be able to learn something, we tend to create fiction to be able to understand it easier.
    Structures: game mechanics and techniques sorted into pools, procedures and triggers. The structure of how the game or the participants should communicate with each other.
    Group: the participants taking part in the activity. According to research by Nicole Lazzarro, emotions produced by games are increased a lot by doing something together compared to playing alone.
    Setting: where the play takes place or where the story being told. Also involved all the characters.
    This is what the player is given to handle during a game. A game is nothing without it's participants so they should always be considered to be parts of the game itself. It's my observation that many game designers forget about this and only focuses on what the game should do.
  • edited September 2014
    [edit] I realized that WHY is actually Aesthetics and WHAT is Mechanics in MDA (corresponding to Surface and Structure in Understanding Comics). A thanks to Bart Stewart for pointing that out.
    WHY, HOW, WHAT
    According to flow theory, you achieve flow by doing a task, but you have to want to do the task in the first place. It sounds so obvious that it seems stupid to point it out but it's more important than people may think. I'm a firm believer that not all people should play all games, but instead playing the games that they think is fun. To be able to attract the right consumer, the game must first convey the WHY so the player type corresponds to the playstyle that the game have. Simon Sinek talks about this in Start With Why. Apple's vision is to challenge the status quo. They do it through intricate and innovative design. They just happens to make computers. You have an Apple because you share their vision, and not entirely because of what they produce. It's a pride to some to own an Apple. You own it because that will tell others about who you are as a person: someone who challenges the status quo.

    My conclusion from reading that book is that we should do the same with games. If you ever read a game pitch that start with how many classes and spells it got, that's starting with WHAT. A game description could say that it's about strategy and betrayal, and that's a HOW. "Do you want to be on top of the food chain?", now that's a WHY. Which pitch appealed more to you?

    Scott McCloud says in Understanding Comics that the creator starts with Structure (WHAT), goes on with Craft (HOW) and finish off with Surface (WHY) but the consumer takes in the art from the other way: Surface->Craft->Structure. Marc LeBLanc's MDA says something similar, while a game designer can start with any step, the gamer will experience first Aesthetics (WHY), then Dynamics (HOW), and finally Mechanics (WHAT).
    Immersion is the result we're after
    In order to attain presence (spatial immersion), you have to do a loop between the role you take and the game world. To be able to gain flow, you will do a task and get constant feedback. If you want immersion, it will be a constant loop between the player's self-awareness about the character and the response from the game world. The skill atom claims the same thing, that a loop is happening. Each time you will have to update your own thinking. Each time you get a response, you will learn something from this loop. And what is an emotional response to learning..?

    image
    When playing a game, you will take on a role and that role will come with a WHAT. The HOW then creates the dynamic between that WHAT and the game world. The game world isn't exactly a world per se but can also be a game board, a discussion or possibly even a theme. I don't know what to call all this, where the interaction takes place, but "game world" suits the purpose at the moment. When you implement your WHAT through HOW into the game world, the response it will give is a WHY. In other words, the response can give you a sensation, give the feeling of competition, enhance your love for destruction, or a combination of those.

    While doing this loop of feedbacks, you will become more and more invested: you will bond with your task. Getting a feedback is also learning and the brain's response to learning is the release of dopamins—liquid fun. This is why we play games, but it may differ WHY we think it's fun. What we're after when playing is immersion, flow, being the zone, being invested in, or whatever you want to call it. The loop will constantly give you more dopamins.

    One of my purposes of writing in this thread is to discover new ways of playing. Make what I have written about into a play of thought, just as I do. Take any WHY and combine it with any WHAT. What would that look like? Competition + group, can that be a debate? Are there any HOW that you want to explore, what kind of WHAT is suited for it and what WHY could be the response to it? If you then changed the WHY, would that affect how you look at the already picked WHAT and HOW?

    This model has helped me discover new ways of playing. It will help me as a game designer to explore new areas in our hobby, and all I can hope is that it can do the same thing for you.
  • Focused Play = Total Fun
    When I say that you should only play the game that suits you—that suits your WHY—I also think that you should design in the same way. Focus on only one or two WHYs in your design. This will also help you find your target audience, where a group who enjoys a certain WHY, or at least understand that it's important, will benefit more from playing your game. Otherwise you will end up with group that consist of Robin D Laws' player types and the game master will have to dedicate different segments to what different players enjoy. That's how you end up with 20 % fun during a session when I think it should be at least 80 % fun for the whole group.
  • edited June 2014
    Not saying you're wrong (because you're not). But to me that sounds like a key engineering challenge for the next gen. :->
  • edited June 2014
    ...that sounds like a key engineering challenge for the next gen. :->
    I would love to hear more about your thoughts on this.
  • edited June 2014
    Changes keeps up the interest
    Keith Johnstone talks in Impro about constantly breaking the routines, and when I read it the first time I instantly thought it had to do with uncertainty. It's not. Over the last year when I tried this out in narrating, I realized breaking routines is about change. When something is coming to it's end, it's over and will loose it's interest. If I instead describe a place like "Trees in a row. Footsteps from someone lonely. An owl is watching. A smile appears when two people meeting. A scent of roses.", I constantly breaking the routines. If I would had continued describing who made those footsteps, the interest of reading it would diminish.

    Johnstone also talks about this when it comes to status. There are three ways of achieving status; high status through forced dominance (the teacher everyone were afraid of); low status by leaving room for others; high status by adopting to others though constant change between high and low status. In similarity, the same thing can happen in a play. The evil monarch and the beggar will switch places during play, which will keep up the interest for the audience in what's happening.

    In roleplaying games, there is usually rules for improvement, but getting better is only a subcategory to change. We don't need improvement rules in roleplaying games, but we need the characters, or story, to constantly change. Something I did the last years of playing only trad, was to think of how my character would change personality over time, and play against that. FATE got both change through keys and improvement, and I think that's just cake on cake. I love cake, but sometimes it can be too much.

    An online CCG I'm currently playing - a card game that is very well thought through - has four different factions with different cards, but what I really enjoy is that the factions doesn't play out in the same way. So it's not only different cards, they feel different to play, much like the design of the colors in Magic gives a different feel. So when I get tired of playing the game, I just switch to another faction to get a different experience.

    Nicole Lazzaro talks in her four keys of fun, about how a game can manage to enjoy someone by only having a loop in of the keys (recognize this?). I did talk about focused play in my previous post, but what she also suggest is to create a change in what to enjoy by having the different keys loop into each other. So you can, for example, have people fun, where it's about enjoying the company of other people, turn into hard fun, where the group is trying to beat something. I did this in a tactical RPG of mine, where one of my design goals were to make people discuss tactic. I managed to achieve this fairly easy by letting each power for every character to be used on anyone. So to be able to use the powers in the best way possible (hard fun), the group needed to discuss (people fun) how to distribute the use of the powers.

    (Note that she mostly talks about changing between different loops in the matter of attracting as many people as possible to do the activity, and in terms of gamification. I'm not fully sold on either idea, but I think she has otherwise some sane ideas to take into consideration.)

    When I talk about the loops above, and how they create immersion/investment/flow, it's important to realize the change that occurs when the player get a response and adopt to it, and how important that change is to keep up the interest.
  • Just an observation that doesn't really fit anywhere else...

    If we go with Bernard Suits' definition - "Playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles" - we can find evidence that humans aren't the only creatures who do this. Many animals can be taught to play simple games. Domestic cats actually invent their own.
  • edited June 2014
    Yeah, playing is a basic behavior to learn. Before we had computers, boys jumped between stones in the water and girls played house. I quoted Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics in an earlier post, that activating oneself in random activities may lead to discovery. So it's important for a species to play.

    I'm amazed by crow birds. They not only play, think several steps ahead by creating tools to reach other tools so they can get food, or use things in the environment, like dropping nuts on pedestrian crossing and wait until the green light so they can get the nuts that the cars have crushed for them. They also show social tendencies, can cooperate to get food, and even take in behavior from other species, like looking where a human is looking.

    Social behavior is also mostly learned through interaction but also through play, like the cubs wrestling each other. This is why I often say that roleplaying games are like a conversation. The game teaches us to communicate with each other.

    (Dunno where I went with this, but I think you brought up a good point.)
  • edited September 2014

    Reading Impro, and How the Book is Beneficial for Roleplaying Games

    I usually mark down important bits in books with dog ears, but Impro by Keith Johnstone got dog ears everywhere. It's not that I'm a huge fan of improv, which is an art I surely enjoy experiencing, but because the book contains a lot of basic foundations in how we communicate with each other. To design a roleplaying game is to design a conversation. It doesn't matter if you got game mechanics, using techniques, or only have a structure of play. They all share the same purpose, to make people interact with either the game itself or with each other.

    I'm now going to quote from Impro and give my interpretation of why I think that text is so important for roleplaying games. It's going to be a lot of text, so I will break it down into four chapters: notes about myself, status, spontaneity, and narrating with theater. These are four chapters from the book. I will translate back from Swedish into English so some terms will change. I should also say that the page numbers may be wrong too, compared to the English book.

    NOTES ABOUT MYSELF
    When a book has interesting stuff as early as in the introduction, I know it's going to be a good book.

    p. 13When I grew up, the world started to become gray and boring. /.../ I thought a diminish of perception came with age /.../ I didn't realize, that the ability to experience clear and intensive is a matter of mind. Since then, I've discovered techniques to make the world rise in flames again on fifteen seconds with effects that lasts for hours.
    He then goes into describing an exercise where the people in the group goes around and saying out loud the wrong names on objects in the surroundings. About ten names will do. Johnstone states the effects are, among other things, making the colors brighter, the people smaller and the counters sharper. What happens is that our brain sorts out visual sense, our strongest one of all the (20+) senses we got, all the time. We stray through the day noticing things unconsciously, but by breaking the conceptions about what you have in your surroundings, you can force the brain to become more aware of the situation. A similar related effect can happen if you shout out the name of the object.

    So why is it important to be aware of the surroundings? Because you become more aware of your friends, of how they react, of how they think, of what they contribute with. Even if you're not looking right at them, you can sense their feelings, and adopt to it. I think this is one step in achieving group flow; where the whole group are in synergy and inspire each other. You know those times when you brainstormed, or had a lively discussion, and the whole world disappeared around you? That were the moments when you had group flow.

    p. 27As Edward Bond said: "The community of authors taught me that dramatic is about relations and not characters."
    The quote is taken from it's context, but when I read this I instantly thought of my fish tank. It's a scenario writing technique for creating mysteries, and the clues that should be given to the players are the relations between the different factions nor the MacGuffins. A place is seldom interesting without a relation to something else, like being the camp for raiders or a reminder of the great battle that occurred. The relations should be thought of when it comes to everything, even the personal characters in roleplaying games. A relation to the scenario is normally created in-game through a mysterious stranger in the corner of a tavern, but there are lots of other ways in how to incorporate this.

    p. 29-30Soon we were a significant troupe and the only improv group I knew of. /.../ It was horrifying to wake up in the morning, only to know that you will stand on a stage in twelve hours without being able to prepare for success. /.../ ...if you're lucky, the flow wont be broken /.../ Other days, cold stare will meet you /.../ After some time, a pattern started to take form and the performance gradually improved, up to a point where the audience becomes like an animal that turns over to be scratched. /.../ Hubris grabs you ... /.../ ... you expect to be loved ... /.../ All comedians know this feeling.

    When I came to realize these techniques, that releases the improviser's creativity, I started to use them in my own work.
    That last sentence. I have already said that there is no such thing as improvisation. There is no such things as paidia—free imagining without any rules. The only thing improvisation is, is the use of unspoken rules. So even if you improvise, you use techniques to inspire you and to release creativity. Gnome Stew is releasing a book about improvisation, and from what I can tell from the preview, it's a book that teaches you techniques to use in different situations.
  • edited September 2014
    Still hungover from yesterday's Midsummer Eve so my English might be even crappier than usual.

    STATUS
    p. 42If status is something common, what is it then that happens between friends? Many would claim that we don't play status games with our friends and still every moment, every intonation, is status. My answer is that acquaintances becomes friends when they agree that they play status games with each other. If I serve an acquaintance a cup of tea one early morning, then perhaps I would say "Slept well?" or something similarly "neutral" and status is established through voice, posture, eye contact and so on. If I serve a friend a cup of tea, then I can say "Get up, you old cow!", or "The duchess's tea!" and pretend I raise or lower my status. When the students understand that they play status games with their friends, they also realize that they already know the most of the status games I'm trying to teach them.
    Usually we got a social hierarchy within the gaming group, even if you play with strangers on conventions. The person who explains the rules will automatically raise their status towards the rest in the group. I think this is really important to realize when you play collaborative storytelling, and I myself usually joke about myself to lower my status after or during the explanation of how to play the game. There are tons of other ways to do this: you can make others look cool or taking on roles that got a really low status for example.

    If you want creative players, whether you play collaborative storytelling or traditional gaming, then make them comfortable. Raising their status is one way of achieving this feeling.

    p. 51When status becomes automatic, like it is in real life, then it becomes possible to improvise complex scenes with any preparation /.../ This is not that far way from Stanislavsky [creator of method acting, my comment] as some may think, despite the fact that Stanislavsky wrote in An Actor Prepares(?): "Play out the outer task." /.../

    Some "method actors" interpret this in a way that they must know all "given circumstances" before they can improvise. If I ask them to do something spontaneous, they will react as if I asked them to do something indecent. /.../ All you need to know when you enter a room, is what kind of status you have.
    I wish some roleplaying games experimented with different kinds of scene framing, where we play to find out where we are. I fantasize sometimes about playing out a full conversation about something ordinary, like taking the kids to the zoo, and finish off the scene with "Do you think the holes are deep enough? Ask Peg to drag the bodies here."

    p. 58, p. 60If you can make the students insult each other in a playful way, then the status exercises will become easier. /.../ When they do that, the actors becomes absorbed and often impossible to stop. /.../ Teams of, for example, master-servants can meet and insult each other. But there has to be a purpose, something they want to achieve in the scene, except "getting insulted". The sudden drop in status is so drastic as well as pleasurable, that typical status scenes never seems as threatening.
    A good exercise, before playing with strangers, to make them relax? Johnstone also suggest writing down a list of insults to incorporate in the normal dialogue so it becomes more apparent that there is no mean, conscientiously as unconsciously, to it.

    p. 64-65The movement teacher Yat Malmgren told me, that he as a child discovered that he didn't end where the body ended, but that he really was an oval "Swiss Cheese shape". To me this is the "space" that surrounds you, and that you experience if you close your eyes and feels with the body outwards, into the surrounding darkness. /.../

    "Much like the Earth is surrounded by atmosphere, the living human is surrounded of a magnetic aura, that reaches contact with the outer objects, without having contact with the human body. This aura, or atmosphere, varies in depth, depending on the life force of the human . . ." (The Theatre of Jean-L
    ouis Barrault, Barrie and Rockcliff, 1961)
    When I read this, I think of the astral lines that are sent out in the movie Donnie Darko. Astral lines, or astral traces, are also talked about in parapsychology. I also think of Cesar Milan - The Dog Whisperer - and how he always talks about sending out "energy" that the dogs can pick up on. Keith Johstone talks about people being like magnets in the space, with iron filings on the floor, and when someone move then the movement will change the iron filings.

    But even if it all sounds like magic when he and several others talk about it, he also acknowledge that it's adopting to others through body language, posture and even the tone of the voice. When talking about status, it's about adopting to the "lines" of the others. If I point somewhere, people will (follow that line and) turn to that point. Someone who doesn't want to be seen, someone with low status, will adopt to the lines in the space, or make itself invisible by trying to be so small as possible.

    I said earlier that you can raise someone else's status by making them cool. Cesar Milan does this with nervous dogs by raising their tails. Change the body and the mind will follow. This happens with humans as well. It's an effect called »mirror neurons«. If you see someone cry, then you may mimic their face and feel their sadness. Play in pairs and raise you head and make the other person do the same thing. The person will feel more confident, as holding the head high signifies pride. You can also raise someone's status by mimic their posture to send a signal that you agree; an effect called »mirroring«.

    But what I think is really important is the awareness of space and how you can influence it. Lower your status by following "the lines" or raise your status by breaking them.

    ---

    Something I'm a little surprised over is that I didn't make dog ears on the pages talking about different kinds of status. About the teacher that everybody was afraid of (high status by forced dominance), about those who are submissive (low status), and those who are admired by everyone (by changing between low and high status). Cesar Milan often talks about dominant behavior but if you watch his shows, you will see that he actually switching between both high and low status. If a dog is nervous, then he will first lower his status to gain trust before he enforce assertiveness.

    Keith Johnstone also talk about change in status in play, and how the change between servant and master (the jester and the king, etc.), where the master will serve the servant, becomes interesting for the audience. Play Unsafe talks about this but I think it kind of misses the point. "All you need to know when you enter a room, is what kind of status you have." and using status to bring comfort within the group is really what I want to take with me from this chapter. Both these points, and also change of status within the play, are important for improvising but for different ways; one is helping how to (re)act; another to make people comfortable; the third to make things interesting through the change of status.
  • edited August 2014
    SPONTANEITY, part one
    There will be longer quotations here because you have to understand the whole chain of thoughts. I will therefor break this chapter into two posts.

    p. 85Most schools encourage children to not show creativity and ingenuity. Research has up to this point shown that creative children are disliked by their teachers. Torrance gives an eyewitness of an "exceptional creative boy" who questioned on of the rules in the textbook. "The teacher became furious, even in the presence of the principle. She boiled of anger: 'So! You think you know more than this book!' ..." (E P Torrance, Guiding Creative Talent, Prentice-Hall, 1962)
    /.../
    One of my students spent two years in a classroom, where the teacher had hung a big sign over the black board. It said "Your attitude should be 'Yes, teacher!'".
    The first rule of roleplaying:
    1. The game master is always right.
    The second rule of roleplaying:
    2. If the game master isn't right, see rule no 1.

    In the first chapter, Johnstone wrote: "When I grew up, the world started to become gray and boring. /.../ I thought a diminish of perception came with age /.../ I didn't realize, that the ability to experience clear and intensive is a matter of mind.", and it's the same thing with spontaneity. We learn as we grow up to adopt to others—to not stand out. This is a sort of self-censoring that we need to break down in order to become creative in roleplaying games.

    When I read about the teacher and how she treated the creative boy, I remember a conversation I had with a game master that were so annoyed when the players didn't do what he expected. This, and rule 1 and 2, is an attitude that chokes creativity in roleplaying games.

    I usually say that to be able to play This Is Pulp or InSpectres, with me as a game master, it takes experienced roleplaying gamers 20 minutes and non-gamers 10 minutes to understand how to play the games. This is because I have to break down and rebuild the attitude that the experienced roleplayers have, in order to make them more creative and spontaneous.

    p. 90-91It may seem like humans aren't that creative, but they are extremely ingenious when it comes to rationalize their own actions. /.../ A friend of mine got discovered buck naked in a closet, of a furious husband. The wife screamed: "I have never seen that man before in my life!" "I must be on the wrong floor", said my friend. None of these explanations are satisfactory, /.../ but they came automatically.

    Sometimes I shock my students that has be taught by extremely orthodox "method" teachers.
    "Be sad", I say.
    "What do you mean, be sad?"
    "Just be said. See what happens."
    "But what is my motivation?"
    /.../
    "That's not in particular sad. You're only pretending."
    "But you asked to me pretend."
    "Raise one arm. Well, why did you raise it?"
    "Because you asked me."
    "Yes, but why would you had raised it?"
    "To get a hold of a strap, on the subway."
    Say the first thing that comes into mind, because that is usually the best idea. I would never had thought of a subway as a reason of why I raised my hand. Don't hesitate, that's what being spontaneous is about. Thinking that it's too ordinary? Obviously not. Your own thoughts are ordinary to you, but they will almost always seem unique to me. Even if they aren't unique, it's what I will expect, and you fulfilling that expectation can also be a good thing. I will talk more about this in the next chapter called Narrating With Theater.

    p. 103"There are humans that prefer to say "Yes and there are humans that prefer to say "No". Those who says "Yes will be rewarded through the experience of adventures, and those who says "No" are rewarded through the safety and comfort that they achieve. There are a lot more "Naysayers" than "Yeasayers", but you can train one to be another. ("Yeasayers and Naysayers", Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol 160, No 2, 1960.)
    /.../
    There is a connection here to status play, because low status players tend to accept and high status players tend to block. They block every transaction, if they feel that they can't control it.
    What does "rolling the die" means? What does it mean to have a game master with unlimited power? What does it mean to have game mechanics, that the game master can enforce, to limits what the players can do?

    When I playtested The Murder of Mr. Crow, a game where you aren't allowed to say "no", some people said that they wanted to sometimes be able to say "no". If we assume that the game has a working rule set for interacting with each other, what does that tell you about them?

    It's my belief that the game master needs to let go and start accepting the other participants' ideas. I'm not saying that we should get rid of the rule mechanics, because that will leave the game master empty handed, but what I have been talking about all through this thread is the use of structures in play. Structures can come in form of game mechanics or techniques. I also been talking about how there is no such thing as improvisation but instead the use of (unspoken) structures. Thirdly, I also mentioned that the structures are there to make people communicate—to make them interact with each other.

    So try to create an interaction through saying "Yes", by taking what others have contributed with and give it a spin. Also, when someone feel that they are acknowledged, then they will feel good about themselves. So what this means is not only a fruitful interaction model that frees spontaneity and creativity but also a reward system. And if I say something, you reply, and I adopt to it and reply, then we got this circular feedback system that brings both investment and immersion/presence/flow.

    ---

    Why I'm quoting from this book isn't because it's a sort of Bible that everyone should listen to, but because here are ideas that I had for the last five years about roleplaying games. What Keith Johnstone writes corresponds so perfectly with my own ideas, that he's actually verbalizing them.

    The next part will be about blocking and accepting, and the huge difference between "Yes, but" in roleplaying games and improv, even though roleplaying gamers got that technique from improvisation theater in the first place.
  • edited July 2014
    There are some contradictions in what I wrote above.

    People are afraid to stand out, but they also want to provide original ideas. The original ideas are often the dull ones, because the ordinary ideas are something everybody can give a response to. If I explained Hitlers return through a metaphysical aspect that involved the Illuminati, I would exclude a lot of people from adding ideas to it, compared to if I said "Hitler fled". How did Hitler flee? That's up to you to add.

    I and @Hasimir talked about the the power of saying no a few months back. While it may seem like I despise the use of "no", it can come in handy sometimes. Hasimir talked about his veto rule and how it was used to make people be on the same wave length. If someone didn't like what another participant contributed with, that person could use the veto and then explain why the rule was used. The first person could then adopt to it and change it's contribution. (Again with the loop.)

    I've noticed how "Yes, but" can bring comfort when I game master InSpectres or This Is Pulp. Not so much for me, but for my players when I say that they can invent anything in the environment as long as they leave room for me to fill in with "Yes, but". If I don't introduce "Yes, but"—a technique that can negate what they came up with—it can otherwise leave the players uncertain in what they can fill out the environment with.

    Another thing that brings comfort in playing is the use of the X card. If we're about to play a game on conventions that are about sensitive topics, we always introduce the X card. Whenever someone feels unease of what occurs in the scene, that person can take the X card to end the scene. No questions asked, and another scene is framed instead. I have never seen the X card been used in play, but I think that's because it brings comfort having it. The player know that the scene can always end at any moment, and is therefor in control over the situation.

    And control is what "no" is about. [edit] Control brings comfort.
  • edited June 2014
    Yes but. :-) I think control is usually what "no" is about, but there are other reasons besides control qua control. Some people will say "no..." (implied ellipsis) if they feel something suggested was technically accurate but aesthetically wrong or illogical for a given character or location (in other words, saying "no" in this case is more like defending a mood/theme/stylistic choice, editing for continuity, or pointing out a narrative gaffe; If the gaffe can be corrected without destroying the whole suggestion, then someone usually proposes an alternate pretty quickly. That suggestion often comes from a player who isn't involved directly in the scene.) In other words, sometimes "no" means "not quite exactly", which is effectively similar to a "yes but".

    This is a picayune point in most cases, but when the call precedes the fiction it can be an important distinction.
  • edited June 2014
    In other words, sometimes "no" means "not quite exactly", which is effectively similar to a "yes but".
    Yeah, I forgot to say that in the post, but a "Yes, but" is the same thing to me as a somewhat good way of using "No". If knowing my stand on "Yes, but" as a "No" then the sentence "I've noticed how 'Yes, but' can bring comfort..." is probably clearer.
  • edited July 2014
    SPONTANEITY, part two
    This time, it will be about accepting, offering, and blocking.

    p. 105Blocking is a form of aggression. I say that because if I let two students act out a scene, where they have to say "I love you" to each other, they always almost accept each others ideas.
    It's important to help the group to be in the right state of mind. If the players are competitive, or think that it's the game master versus the players, blocking will occur as a natural response to all kinds of interaction.

    p. 108-109I call everything that an actor does for "offering". An offer can either be accepted or blocked. /.../ Blocking is anything that hinders the story to develop, or rendering the possibilities useless that the partner has earlier established. If it contribute to the story, then it's not blocking.

    "Are your name Smith?"
    "And what if it were, you disgusting creep!"

    This is not blocking, even if the answer is hostile. Another example:

    "I had enough of your incompetence, Perkins! Please leave!"
    "No, Sir"

    /.../ The other one, who talks, has accepted that he is a servant, and he has accepted the situation,

    I talked earlier about the word "No" but what's important is what the word usually leads to: blocking. This is what I mean when I said that "Yes, but" is a good version of "No". I will restrict what the other person is saying but it will hopefully lead to something else. In the same matter, when I used "Yes/No...and/but" systems, I never used "No...and/but". I preferred to instead use "No, because" so I could provide more information to create a new situation that could be solved. That's not blocking by using "No", that's offering a new situation.

    p. 112These "offer-blocking-accepting" exercises are useful outside the acting career. People who live a dull and boring life thinks their lives has become like that by chance. In reality, all people choose, more or less, what kind of events that they will experience, through their conscious patterns of blocking and submission. One student objected to this idea and said "But you don't choose your life. Sometimes, you're in the hands of people who demands and controls." I said: "Are you avoiding those people?" "Oh", he said. "I understand what you mean."
    A word of wisdom, according to me. I noticed this as well. People that had bad things happening in their lives will continue to have bad things happening to them, but that's because they don't dare to choose paths other than wrong ones. I've seen my fair share of people who finally got into a good relationship or any other kind of healthy life, but screwed it up because they didn't think that they deserved it.

    (I do wonder there is a mistranslation in "conscious" from English to Swedish because I would say it's an unconscious pattern. It's possible that it's a »consciousness« that Johnstone is talking about, because that's the word that is used everywhere else. "...through their patterns of the consciousness..." That word assumes both the conscious and unconscious mind.)

    p. 115"Yes, but . . ."
    This is a well known "accept-and-block" exercise. /.../ I will describe it because there are two ways of doing it, that gives opposite results—and it says something about the nature of spontaneity. /.../ If you do this exercise in a bad way, B will come up with the answer before he starts to talk.
    "Excuse me, is that your dog?"
    Yes, but I'm thinking of selling him."
    "Do you want to sell him to me?"
    "Yes, but he's expensive.
    "Is he healthy?"
    Yes, but you can take him to the vet and give him an exam."
    /.../
    ...the actors has probably not that fun on stage. This because it's the logical and rational part of the consciousness that is in control. If you instead answer "Yes, but..." with enthusiasm, /.../ and answers the fist anything that appears in the consciousness, the answers will be different. /.../

    "Do I know you?"
    "Yes, but I have to go."
    "You took my money!"
    "Yeah, but I've spent them all."
    "You're a bastard!"
    "Yes, but everyone knows that."
    /.../
    It's /.../ very funny to throw yourself out with "Yes, but..." and have to end the sentence on the spot.

    What he talks about is basically to have the right state of mind, but also to force yourself to answer the first thing that comes into mind. To avoid self-censoring yourself.

    ---

    The last one is a long quote, but I want to show the difference in attitude in how "Yes, but" is handled in improv compared to roleplaying games. I feel that "Yes, but" in roleplaying games are used to create an obstacle, pretty much as in the first example. The second part is accepting what has been said and giving it a spin, even though it's blocking.

    To create obstacles in roleplaying games is an attitude that I think hurts the collaborative experience in roleplaying games. It's what make the game to become the game master versus the players. We are so damn focused on using conflicts in attempt to create uncertainty, that we haven't thought of what it really does to our games. Some games thrive on having the game master as the adversary, and that's fine, but not all games need to be like that.

    I believe that ALL Forge games suffers from this, and I think it's because the roleplaying game theorists/designers have played traditional roleplaying games and brought over a lot of stuff to their designs without thinking of what it actually does. They thought that conflicts were something that needed to be included in a game to make it interesting. In The Murder of Mr Crow, there is no conflict between the participants. There is no way of saying "No". What I used instead was social contingency from the large list of uncertainties.
  • edited July 2014
    Another major difference between roleplaying games and improv is the use of "Yes, and". In improv, it's used by another participant to accept another person's contribution, and give it a spin. This is acknowledgment, which gives an (social) intrinsic reward, as I have mentioned earlier. In roleplaying games, it's the same person that does both the description of the action and provide the additional information. This is, to me, a form of violation towards the Czege principle, even though the principle is stated in a somewhat weird way: "if the same person generates the adversity and also its resolution in an RPG, the result is boring." (source)

    The important meaning in the Czege principle is that one player should not respond to it's own action, but instead let another person respond to it. That's what interaction is. Without interaction, the game becomes "boring". "Yes, and" is all about this in improv, but the use of that phrase has lost it's original purpose in roleplaying games.

    If the same person do an action and responds to it with an "and", that is responding to it's own action. This actually happen in a similar way when someone else has to respond with "No, and". Sure, that person says "No" and explaining why—which is a good thing because that person is answering someone else—but what then happens is that the same person, who did the explanation of why the action didn't succeed, then do an "and" and responds to their own description.

    (And why is the Czege principle phrased like it is? Well, reread the last two paragraphs in the previous post.)
  • edited July 2014
    NARRATING WITH THEATER, part 1
    The post was too long, so I had to break this chapter into smaller bits.

    p. 124I decided that the implication should be ignored. /.../ I tell the improvisers to follow the rules and see what happens and never feel singled out from what comes out of it. If you improvise in a spontaneous matter, you have to accept that your inner self will be revealed. /.../

    Alex Comfort filmed my work once, /.../ He had just explained that I worked as a therapist, that I drew the students out to areas that were normally "forbidden" and that spontaneity were about abandoning your defenses.
    Self-censoring again. This time it's not so much about wanting to fit in and having good ideas. It's instead of the fear of what others can interpret. I remember a session that I game mastered with non-gamers (with "non-gamers", I mean no experience in roleplaying games). It's a game that is all about being creative and it takes around 1,5 hours to play, including adventure writing, explaining the rules, making characters and all of that. One participant said that she had a hard time making things up, but I reassured her that it wouldn't be a problem.

    It was. The game took almost twice the time to play, because she constantly self-censored herself so whenever it were her turn to contribute, the whole game halted because she couldn't come up with anything. In retro-perspective, I thought first that I should had stopped the game and done some exercises to release spontaneity and creativity. While this may had helped, I think it was something I did in the prep phase of the game. To start off the game, the participants draw things on a map, and she drew a mountain. It looked like a dick, which I jokingly insinuated, and it got even worse when someone drew a stick figure standing on it's snow-covered peak.

    I do think that humors is great to relieve tension but in this case, I brought out her implication in the open, thus making her more anxious for what else that could had come out of her while we were playing. She then over-thought her contributions in attempt to self-censor herself. Self-censoring is an attitude that hurts creativity.

    p. 125-126When you decided to ignore the implication, it's possible to understand exactly what a narrating progression is, because you can concentrate on the structure. /.../ Even the smallest child knows that a story isn't a sequence of events.
    /.../
    The problem with such a sequence is that there isn't a point where it can end, or more rightly: it can end anywhere. You wait conscientiously on something new to begin, not on free association but on reincorporation.
    Johnstone then gives an example of a man that's being chased by a bear, and the story ends when the man is transformed into a bear and realize that he was the bear that chased him. He brings up what implications that the story probably had, which shouldn't be important, because it disrupts his ability to do free association.

    What he also brings up is the basic structure for creating a story. Free association and then reincorporate. I think it's really important to establish things; to establish things in roleplaying games to be used later. Sow and harvest. Setup and payoff. You could say that to buy a skill is to establish it, but it's not established until it comes out in play. I really like the first scene in Dogs in the Vineyard where you play out a scene based on one of the traits that your character got. It not only makes the player more invested in the trait, because framing a scene about an object is spending time on it, the scene also establish the trait for the other participants.

    I wish more roleplaying games used setup and payoffs. I wish they pointed this out, incorporated it into the structure of play, as an important part of story building.

    p. 130The improviser must be a human who moves backwards. He sees where he has been, but he never worries about what to come. His story can bring him anyway, but he still needs to "balance" it and give it's form by remembering episodes left "hanging" and reincorporate them.
    You can see this A LOT in stand-up and any form of improvisational comedy. For the latter, it's not even like the comedians think about what they are doing (or how), it's just the way they are. It comes naturally for them. We, roleplaying gamers, should to do this too.

    p. 143-144Suppose that I say "Imagine a box". A student can anticipate that I should follow up with something like "What's inside?" Instead I say "Who has put you there?".
    /.../
    We all laugh. I presume that it's because of the implied homosexuality. If I singled that out, then the student would feel like he had to put up his guard. I ignore the implication but concentrating myself instead on pulling the answers from the student as fast as possible. /.../ To answer these questions are easy. The hard part is to ask them, because you need a new angle for each question.
    I did some hard cutting in the quotes, but I wanted to repeat the message from previous quotes rather than having a coherent text.

    I always say "Ask leading questions instead of suggesting" to a group that I'm about to game master when I talk about helping each other out in a collaborative matter. Why? Because leading questions makes the person take a stand. If I ask "Is it raining?", that would be a very leading question, because it's obvious that I want it to rain. To leave it up to the other person gives that person a choice but also control (the power of be able to use "no"), compared to if I said "It is raining".

    But what Johnstone writes in the last sentence is brilliant and something that I will take with me into future session. You shouldn't only ask leading questions, but also bring new angles to every new question.
  • edited August 2014
    NARRATING WITH THEATER, part 2

    p. 148One-word-at-the-time-letters usually goes through four stages: (1) The letters are usually careful and filled with nonsense and hidden sexual implications. (2) The letters are obscene and psychological. (3) They are filled of religious feelings. (4) Finally they express vulnerability and loneliness.

    Improvisations goes through the same stages if you don't censor them and work in with the same group over time.
    If I apply this to some of my own experiences. (1) Dick mountain! (2) Surreal events in order to wait for something to happen. (3) As me being an atheist in a secular country, I'm having a hard time to imagine any of this taking place, but the religious feeling is probably replaced with something else. Perhaps a sense of meaning (WHAT)? (4) Immersion—being invested in something, like a story, the setting, or a character's emotions to mention a few different things.

    p. 154An improviser can study status transactions and how you develop an improvisation and "reincorporation" and he can learn how to associate freely and how to spontaneously develop narration through the form of the theater, and still feel it hard to "compose" a story. But this has actually to do with aesthetic and conceptual reasons. He shouldn't spend energy to invent stories, but to breaking "routines".

    If I say "make up a story", most people will get paralyzed. If I say describe a "routine" (a progress, that constantly goes in one direction, after expected templates), there will be no problem.
    /.../
    Most people tries to create more interesting routines, which doesn't solve the problem [with "composing a story", my remark]. It can be interesting to have a veterinarian give an elephant a rectal exam, or show a brain surgery performing a delicate operation, but these activities remains routines. If two caretakers breaks the routine by performing a brain surgery, or a winder cleaner starts to exam the elephant, then it's likely that this would generate a narrating progression.
    I talked about this before, that breaking routines creates a change and changes are always interesting (give or take). This is why, for example, we got experience rules in roleplaying games, even if they focus more on change in one direction (being better). Breaking routines can also create an uncertainty, to create a curiosity of what to come, which is one of the HOWs that makes us engaged in an activity.

    Note that asking questions from different angles is a form of breaking routines. »A student can anticipate that I should follow up with something like "What's inside?" Instead I say "Who has put you there?".«

    p. 156For a lot of the students, the imagination ends at the moment when they realize that the routine they are describing is about to be fulfilled. They realize that the routine needs to be interrupted, otherwise they wont feel so unimaginative. Their problem is that they are not aware of what's gone wrong. They they finally understood the purpose of "breaking routines", they wont get stuck due to lack of imagination.
    I tried the idea of breaking routines during this last year, and it's strange how your mind can take twists and turns in a way you can't even imagine, which sparks new ideas from your own improvised ideas. I do think that you can't think things through, when using this technique, but have instead to be spontaneous. »It's /.../ very funny to throw yourself out with "Yes, but..." and have to end the sentence on the spot."« Please note the mental state instead of the technique. "Throw yourself out" is more important than how you actually being spontaneous.

    ---

    This was the final chapter of the four I talked about in the first post in this "series". There is one more about masks, but I don't really see the relevance. Perhaps I will come back to that later, if I take up on Jung's personalities (masks) or reading about trance. Johnstone talks about trance and hypnosis, and some of what he write is highly connected to flow (theory).
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