thread: 2012-12-28 : Positioning: Disagreements?

On 2013-01-05, Josh W wrote:

I haven't got around to saying my concerns about the concept yet, but here they are:

Although I like it a lot, I feel like it's a little broad. I feel like positioning is a restatement of your older ideas about credibility but with more of a focus on the arrows through time, and with more person-independence in the definition.

To put that another way, I think that when players angle so as to put themselves in a position of having a lot of "credibility", there can be a kind of hollowness to their use of other people's contributions, a functionalness that weakens their ability to truly listen to their fellow players, even if they are using their ideas in interesting ways.

So positioning as an idea improves on that, because it's not that an idea is said by "someone with credibility", it's that the idea is supported by group convention and clearer patterns of support and rejection. This means that clarifying the world state so that people come to an agreement is just as much a contribution to system as setting yourself up as GM apparent for a certain area.

But of course, an element of functionalism is still baked into the model, in that you still think first in terms of people angling for things, rather than trying to build group consensus about the nature of the game world and the structure of the game itself.

In the context of your "...revelations" reward cycle, that makes sense; people are explicitly angling to set up hidden agendas, and so it makes sense that you would describe it in those terms.

The problem there is that if you've ever had to be in frequent conversations with people who are just trying to bring up their favourite topic again and again.. It's annoying, and it means that the depth of the conversation actually reduces.

So here's what I would do to go further; (and really this needs a diagram, but whatever) the most important part of positioning is structuring causality

it's saying that because of A, B now leads to C.

This means that the relationship between the bit I find interesting about "positioning" and currency is actually that of the relationship between acceleration and velocity, or the relationship between a building site and a building, a second order relationship.

Both are activities in the game, but saying things that inspire connections, that build system is a more powerful way to act in the game, and in doing so you structure the field of play. You create direct implications and trade-offs that make us want to make mechanics.

To put it another way, the very thing that encourages people to be game designers powers freeform play; certain situations suggest certain patterns of change. Our capacity to abstract systems from examples allows us to build a form of consensus and naturalness about where a game is going, because it allows us to fill in the blanks given what is already there, it gives us what might be called rules of inference (in another context), and part of the support a designer gives to freeform players is when they give them a quick way to represent a certain causal structure that they knew should be there based on what had happened in their games, and now slots smoothly in.

Conversely, understanding what kind of examples and situations can imply the structures of your game allows you to get people on board with it much faster. This is one of the reasons that it can be so interesting looking for a mix of inspirational content and system.

Now this is very specific again, it's not about the broad features of who gives legitimacy to what, up to and including who's house you are playing in, it's about how we decide how a fiction should develop in a way that can be principled.

Just like talking about "system" intuitively leads people to some very fun things about roleplaying games, talking about positioning in the sense of evoking structure pushes things the same way, into the principled, collaborative, game-respecting, and emergent.


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