thinking, talking, gaming

by kwill / d@vid (Location: Durban, South Africa)

Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 7:22 am

in some recent discussions in the forums I felt that talk about simulationism, immersionism (simulationism focussing on Exploration of Character in a method-acting kind of way) and IC dialog were confounded by how people were conceptualising what really goes on at the gaming table - when discussing roleplaying f2f with friends I've encountered similar confusions, or discussion has simply ignored these basic facts

I've also been meaning to do a non-fiction-comix gaming-theory-thing for a while, consider this a rough first attempt (I will start another thread, "theory with comix", to discuss the merits of that idea as a whole)

[ There is no 'shared imagining'. ]

critically, there is no real "shared imagining" (telepathy exists in psionics supplements, not the real world)

if you disagree on some philosophical/literary/semiotic level or are a fan of jung I'd be interested to hear about it - note that the third diagram is my critical "model of communication" for comparison

[ A fault of expression and misunderstanding of speech. ]

communication between players has a sequence of events as pictured above, thought > speech > (recipient's) thought

(where speech can be spoken word or any other expression in actual play)

here two communication faults are shown, a faulty expression of an idea (triangle expressed as diamond) and a misunderstanding of speech (diamond understood as square)

thus inasmuch as there is a "shared imagining" it must be understood to be a dynamic system...

[ Individual imaginings are communicated and refined continuously in a dynamic system. ]

individual imaginings are communicated and refined continuously - this is the basic roleplaying activity

given that minor errors of expression and understanding are always occurring, we aim to have individual imaginings correspond - in the roleplaying context there is no concern if we don't Explore a trivial element (if no characters have hay fever it doesn't matter what species of grass we're standing on or how recently it was mown) but there is concern that Explored elements do correspond (insane tables and extra rules ala Rolemaster represent what I'd call a Simulationist defense, it's "already thought of" - alternatively, in Universalis this definition is the point of play (Coins govern the steps of communication & refinement) - offhand I can't think of how a game where Explored elements that differ for each player would work)

the second issue I think is clear to all of us, but relates to the misconception of a real shared imagining...

[ Characters do not speak. ]

characters do not speak

[ The player communicates that the character is speaking. ]

instead, in various ways (immersionist agenda, IC speech...) the player
communicates that the character is speaking

for OOC speech, replace the triangle in the central speech bubble with another picture of the character talking ("sebastien says the pyramid is up ahead" rather than "avast mateys, the pyramid lies to the pointy end of the ship! shiver me timbers!")

[ The player's imaginings strongly suggest an outcome, which he expresses. ]

at most (eg, when an immersionist is "channeling the character" or when "I must do it because my character would do it") we can say that the player's imaginings strongly suggest an outcome, which he expresses

this is simply greater than usual influence of thought on speech (shown in
diagram 3 as an arrow from the thought bubble to the speech bubble) - where there is a princess and a dragon we assume we will rescue the princess from the dragon (when something else happens we are surprised or amused)

is this where we're at? are my sketches clear? do they help?

obviously in the same way that we talk of narrativist players or simulationist games, there are shorthand methods of indicating all of the above (eg, saying "I rescued the princess" when in fact you played a game in which you succeeded in narrating your character rescuing a princess), but I think that the real deal, as it were, needs to be clarified so we can use the shorthand effectively (or amend it to be clearer)

(note these graphics may not remain accessible at their current location forever - hopefully by then I'll have begun a library of gaming-theory comix essays anyhoo)