Necessary Hypocrisy

Hello Internet!

Let's talk about necessary hypocrisy in game play and hopefully theme too. If it helps you, I visualize it like completing an irregular circle.

I'll start it off with an example, okay?
So in Call of Cthulhu you need to find clues, and stay somewhat sane, but finding those clues drive you crazy.
Paranoia is full of these catch 22's. Chock full. It practically runs on hypocrisy.
What are some other examples?

In related news; I've fixed Dungeons & Dragons. After all these years, it's been done.

Okay, gold makes you into a gold-hoarding monster.

- Nathan

Comments

  • edited August 2015
    I get the Paranoia example, and playing the ironical transformation of your character in the things he's up against the whole game is great as a theme, but besides the Paranoia case I'm not sure we should call it Hypocrisy. After all, in other games, you character isn't necessarily fooling anyone, even themselves.

    The transformation can be slow/subtle and the line between being one thing and being the other can be blurry, but you can be totally honest about being one thing, the other or being confused. Basically, I prefer to call it Roleplaying.
  • That's an interesting observation.

    It occurs to me that there is something fundamentally different about playing Call of Cthulhu in a mode where you are trying to portray a protagonist's descent into madness (and therefore making the choice to interact with clues and Mythos stuff based on what feels right for the character or the story) and playing in a mode where you are trying to survive and prevent cosmic evil, in which case you constantly need to balance the danger of insanity with the need to learn enough to have a chance to prevent a disaster or to stop a monster.

    I suspect that for a lot of Call of Cthulhu players, this lines up pretty neatly with "single session scenario play" (like a convention game) and "campaign play".
  • Games that track Humanity. To survive and succeed in your endeavors, often you'll be tempted to do stuff that drives down your Humanity, but if your Humanity gets too low, your story ends or you become a monster or whatever. Depends on how you play them, of course, but Sorcerer, Cyberpunk, and Vampire all have versions of this.
  • Sorcerer, Cyberpunk, and Vampire
    As a player I always felt these settings were offering you player empowerment with one hand (superpowers of various themes), taking it back with the other (a setting with deeply-entrenched power players and organizations, all of which would slap you down for getting out of line), and if you managed to walk a tightrope between the two, would inevitably grow a third hand to push you off (inescapable Humanity decay leading effectively to your character's removal).

    Not that you couldn't tell stories within this structure, but the stories all seemed to end the same way: "in the end, you were still just a pawn".
  • Rather than "hypocrisy" I prefer to think of this as "ironic stance". In other words, there is a deliberate and striking difference (or total inversion) between the way the Player views the arc of the character, and the way the character views their arc themselves. This difference is felt by the audience as a non-diegetic source of emotional tension - in RPGs everyone at the table is also an audience member - and this produces a sensation of ironic distance between Players and their characters.

    FIASCO does a great job of accomplishing this.

  • I like the term "ironic stance". I like it very much. So is there a difference between this and simple "play to lose"? That is, the player playing a character who acts in his self interest, but using her metagame information in ways that are not in the character's self interest?

    As a side note, there are also games that force the player to act in ways that are not in the player's own self interest, like in The Sahb al-Hiri Roach and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, where there is a win condition, but a player trying to win will ruin the game.
  • I strongly dislike the word ironic. I'll take contradictory or paradoxical over it.
    Look, hypocrisy might not be the right word, but it carries more fire then irony does. Irony leans back and pretends to look cool. Hypocrisy does shit.
    The word was used to create contrast.
    Instead of preforming an autopsy on one word I used, can we discuss the need for story to complete a circle. Stories as circles within circles.

    Aslf, I'd like to read more about Fiasco and how the system or theme creates contrast, because to be honest, I'm not sure it does. In my mind and in playing it, it certainly doesn't have to. A loser in Act One can finish the game/story a loser.
    That's why Fiasco works well as a game, the theme works because the source material is somewhat atypical. It's a more random form of storytelling. It's okay with some things not having meaning, symbolism.
  • edited August 2015
    Nathan, perhaps you're hearing the word in that modern hipster way it gets used sometimes, and interpreting it to mean "sarcastic", but that's not at all what I mean.

    Dramatic Irony is a literary term used since the days of Aristotle. It describes any situation in which the audience knows something important that a character doesn't know. It's a classical definition, already existing, that I applied to RPGs because it works the same way. So in Fiasco, for instance, if we the Players know this is going to end badly, while the characters think it might end up well for them, that fits the classical definition of Dramatic Irony.

  • So, I'm talking about games and how they help or hinder players tell a story. I'm not hugely concerned with what's going on in the players heads. Who can figure that out anyway? Someone I suppose, but not this someone. For the sake of this, let's talk about game and story, and their structures, okay?

    I'm not certain that all stories told via Fiasco end badly for all the characters.
    Some characters make out like bandits. Some start out as bandits and end as bandits. There's no mechanical incentive for contrast. There are incentives, just not hard-coded ones. There's the preconceived notion of story and how drama/comedy works, but that's not really a mechanical thing.
    I mean, players CAN exert power over another player's dice, if that player lets them. If a player always chooses to Resolve, he or she's gonna pretty much control their own fate, well at least concerning the Aftermath. The dice part of their story.

    What I'm saying is I don't play Fiasco knowing that shit's gonna end badly for me(my character). I mean, I'm okay when it does(usually), but I don't go into it with that notion. I've got other notions to contend with.
  • Ok, point taken. I shall amend my statement to "Fiasco often does this." :-)

  • So, like in Dread, if you never ever pull a single block that's the only one sure way to survive a scenario? And survival is the basic motivator the game hangs upon, but still, if you really go all the way to survive you effectively stop playing.
  • 3:16 – Carnage Amongst the Stars practically runs on this idea, especially in long-term play, but even in short-term play the players are actively engaged in competing with each other indirectly for the favor of higher command through the medium of acquiring the most kills, underhandedly, over-handedly, or otherwise. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. The gameplay effectively depends on a disjoint between some of the players' beliefs about the world that they inhabit and what the characters believe to be true about the world that they inhabit.

    In long-term play, these things go from implicit to explicit, which is just darn cool.
  • Nathan, it seems you're saying that "In CoC you need to find clues and stay sane, but finding clues drives you insane", which is game structure, is different from "The players know the character is driving herself insane, but the character doesn't know it", which is in the heads of the players. Doesn't the game structure thing necessitate that the players know and the characters don't? Or I guess the players don't necessarily know, but usually, it seems pretty obvious (so dramatic irony), and they keep driving the character to do what's bad for her (so play to lose). Is the thing you're talking about really different from these things in a meaningful way?
  • I like when a story goes in a circle, it's a nice trick to keep thing coherent and help the spectator notice that there was a theme underneath. Enforcing this mechanically is... well, doable and enjoyable but I like it when the decision to make the story of my character go in full circle is left up to me.

    I mean, I might enjoy helping another PC's story go full circle, or I may want to be my story about something else. Even when playing VtM I couldn't care less about the "I strive to keep my humanity even when I've gotta suck blood" because I was playing a Malkavian and having a heck of fun being "the Trickster" in the story of the rest of the players.

    I see that nobody is making me go where I don't want to... except that (and sorry for going again with the word autopsy deal) "necessary" is still bugging me out. But please, take this as a cultural thing. In my culture (I'm peruvian), the whole "necessary hypocrisy" expression translates into something full of bad roleplaying meanings. I know this probably doesn't make any sense to you, I had to confront the same thing when I found out that, say, "oriental" is a bad word and you're better not using it to mean "people from X place", nor "culture from same X place" as way too many people find it disrespectful. While in my culture is actually the opposite. That's what I mean with a "cultural thing", I hope this explaining suffices.

    Anyway, my point is just that:
    - circles are cool
    - mechanics that help you get there are cool
    - I don't see a need to enforce (anymore that it's been already established) rules/mechanics that make you go into a specific circle, even if it's the central theme proposed by the game.
  • What I'm saying is I don't play Fiasco knowing that shit's gonna end badly for me(my character). I mean, I'm okay when it does(usually), but I don't go into it with that notion. I've got other notions to contend with.
    The rules of Fiasco, although biased towards disaster, leave a significant probability of some character failing less badly, or even being highly successful (at the expense of all others, since dice assignation is zero-sum).
    If, as a player, you hope that your character is the one with a happy ending it is a competitive attitude (playing to "win") that other players don't necessarily share; some might prefer setting up the greatest tragedy they can manage.
    Playing to win doesn't reduce the detachment between a Fiasco character with powerful motives and a Fiasco player who knows how far the character is from success and sees the storm brewing; maybe the detachment will be less ironic (with genuine attachment to the character) but not less hypocritical.
  • edited August 2015
    This is a general hypocrisy about games, or roleplaying games in particular.

    It's a collaborative experience, for most games, but the chance of failure within the game mechanics makes the game competitive.

    Here below is a copy-paste from a Google Plus post I once made.

    ---

    The Inner Contradiction of Roleplaying Games
    Over at ihobo, Chris Bateman is merging Foucault and Caillois together, meaning that all four of Caillois' patterns (see below) can be found in every game. What strikes me is the contradiction between the element of competition in them.
    "Caillois’ first pattern covers competitive games (what he calls agon /.../ Caillois’ second pattern (named alea after the Latin for dice) concerns games of chance and fate, /.../ everyone has the same chance of winning not because of attempts to balance talent but because skill has no bearing on victory."
    If we assume that this is right (I don't fully agree), both are about competition - winning. Then we got the other two.
    "In Caillois’ third pattern (ilinx), the game paradigm is completely different as there is no role for victory at all, /.../ This is the play of vertigo, which is exemplified in the fairground ride that uses dizzying speeds and centripetal accelerations to tap into excitement and fear. /.../ So too his fourth and final pattern, mimicry, /.../ theatrical play that Caillois /.../ recognizes as a game paradigm radically distinct from the play of winning."
    These two doesn't have any victory conditions. It's instead about sensing something, either what happens around you or inside of you (in character).

    Aren't these two differences what the distinction between rule-play and role-play is really about? That the first is talking about the competitive element while the latter totally lacks it? That's why I personally would like to see roleplaying games purely addressing one of either side, and therefor finding tools (structures) to specifically bring forth that particular playstyle. By focusing on one side, we can challenge ourselves as game designers to find new ways of designing!

    I think it's important to realize that roleplaying games are a hodge-podge, born from people making interpretation of how someone can play roleplaying games and what they think is fun. That Gary Gygax's original rule-play has have an addition from others, namely mimicy - role-play.
  • Dramatic poles from DramaSystem make this explicit
  • In the classic D&D module B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands readers and actual players alike often realized that there are more loot in the Keep than in the lairs of various monsters so the campaigns sometimes got an evil twist...
  • The Mountain Witch, which some of you might remember?
    Dramatic poles from DramaSystem make this explicit
    Dramasystem kinda handwaves this. I mean sure, it acknowledges each character's singular inner struggle, but it's really only there to get you bonus whatever by the story's end. Like who had the most pull between poles, you get super-duper points! And yeah, you can use those points for things. It's like getting Fan Mail, but you have to wait until you're done playing to get it.
    RPG's are a work-in-progress, just like any art or craft.

    The mechanics don't really touch on theme, like plot theme. There's no bonus points for thematic contrast, outside of a characters particular personal struggles. I think character driven rpgs can get lazy by ignoring theme, plot and message. Like what's this story really about?

  • edited August 2015
    What I'm saying is I don't play Fiasco knowing that shit's gonna end badly for me(my character). I mean, I'm okay when it does(usually), but I don't go into it with that notion. I've got other notions to contend with.
    The rules of Fiasco, although biased towards disaster, leave a significant probability of some character failing less badly, or even being highly successful (at the expense of all others, since dice assignation is zero-sum).
    If, as a player, you hope that your character is the one with a happy ending it is a competitive attitude (playing to "win") that other players don't necessarily share; some might prefer setting up the greatest tragedy they can manage.
    Playing to win doesn't reduce the detachment between a Fiasco character with powerful motives and a Fiasco player who knows how far the character is from success and sees the storm brewing; maybe the detachment will be less ironic (with genuine attachment to the character) but not less hypocritical.
    You can play Fiasco and Resolve every single one of your scenes.
    Everyone(every single player)can play Fiasco, and choose to Resolve ALL of their scenes.

  • Right, but in the first half you give away your dice. So you can't ensure getting lots of one color (which is the way to ultimate success).

    As for the dramatic pole... the benny in the end is just weirdly reality tv voting, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
    But it comes into play during the game because it guides your play.
  • I think character driven rpgs can get lazy by ignoring theme, plot and message. Like what's this story really about?
    Let's find out together
  • In Eternal Contenders, each duelling warrior has a Connection - something they care about, and which they have an Ultimate Hope and Dark Fear about. They are fighting to see their Hope realised, and to secure victory.

    However, the surest way to victory is to embrace the Pain and hardship of your existence and use it as a blunt instrument. The problem is, at the end of the game, if your Pain points are higher than your Hope points your Darkest Fear comes true.

    It is possible to end up with your Hope higher than your Pain and still win, but it's a fine line and one I haven't yet managed to walk. Giving up on victory entirely isn't a solution either, because being defeated usually causes your Pain to rise.
  • I think character driven rpgs can get lazy by ignoring theme, plot and message. Like what's this story really about?
    Let's find out together
    Well, I guess that's one way to look at it, but it usually doesn't happen.

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