thread: 2009-06-08 : Restating: Fictional Causes and Realization

On 2009-06-09, valamir wrote:

Forgive me for a moment for offering some of my own musings on a slightly broader topic.

I'm a big fan of the SIS, the Shared Imagined Space.  But I'm also a big believer that the SIS is just the tip of the ice berg. In my view 80+% of every RPG ever played by anyone actually occurs in the Unshared Imagined Space of each individual player.

When the GM describes a street that your characters are walking down and you pass a couple walking their dog...those scant details are all that enter the SIS.  Each and every person at the table will have a different idea of what that street looks like in the real time movie playing in their head.  Everyone will assemble that street from a hodge podge of street scene imagery picked up from our personal travel and movie watching experience.  If no further details are given for the couple some of us will see an older couple, some a younger, some a same sex couple in our own personal mind theater.

Here's my belief.  No matter how much concrete detail the GM gives; no matter how many minutes are dedicated to the sights and sounds and smells of that street; no matter how much time is spent on what the couple is wearing and the breed of the dog...the majority of all of the interesting details...the details that bring that scene alive are ALWAYS going to be created and exist solely and uniquely in each player's mind.

This leads me to the following two conclusions:

First, which I've expressed before:  Because of this two completely well intended, non belligerent, non dickish players WILL—ALWAYS—have two completely different movies playing in their heads.  It is inevitable that if they play long enough they will reach a point where something each of them cares about quite a bit as to its importance to their personal enjoyment of the experience of play is different in a non compatable way in their respective movies.  When that point occurs, having no other recourse than resolving the differene on the purely social level is dangerous and has the great potential of causing disappointment and disengagement.  This potential is greatly lessened by the existance of rules (that I've taken to calling social conduct rules) designed to smooth over such patches without needing social wrangling to do so.

Second, and more directly relevant to this topic:  In my view no matter how many details you add, no matter how much fiction you ground the mechanics in, no matter how much you require "fictional causes"...most of the movie (by a vast majority) is still going to exist only in the individual unshared imaginary space.

Vincent, your burning down the orphanage example bothers me not one whit.  Because all of those details which you presume are missing...are not missing...AT ALL.  They all exist as fully developed as they need to to make the movie hold together in my own head.  They don't need to be shared to exist.  They don't need to enter the SIS officially for me to enjoy them.  They ONLY need to enter the SIS at such point in time when a specific detail matters later.

So as long as the game design is a) clear about setting forth the details that will matter later, and b) provides a mechanism for nailing down those details as they are needed, there's nothing missing.  There's no enjoyment missing.  My movie might look different than your movie...but so what.  My movie will ALWAYS look different than your movie, no matter how much leading with the fiction you're doing.

So yeah...I hear ya, I get ya...but a big part of me is shrugging.  Why do these fictional causes need to be spoken into the SIS to matter?  They don't for me.  And since there will never be or has been a time when all of the interesting details are ever spoken into the SIS...they don't really for anyone.

This whole train of thought strikes me as a unecessarily big to-do wrangling about how many details have to be spoken aloud vs. purely imagined for enjoyment to happen.  And clearly that's just a continuum of preference...not a fundamental binary difference in design or play culture.  You might prefer to have more of the fictional causes spoken into the SIS first.  I might be perfectly comfortable leaving more of the fictional causes to exist only in my own head until such time as they are needed.  This is a thing...but I can't see how it's a THING.


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