thread: 2005-10-20 : The Fruitful Void

On 2005-11-08, Sydney Freedberg wrote:

Victor: I agree with you, oh, 75%. You actually CAN explicitly express the central message; it's just that it won't stick without all the pages/hours of other stuff.

I'm a reporter, so I'm explicitly stating my central message all the time, as succintly as possible ("this program works"; "this idea has this problem"; etc.). Yet I'm researching for weeks and writing 1,500-5,000-word articles in order to convey these 10-20 word highlight sentences. Why on earth?

Because just asserting your point can't possibly convince anyone, if they weren't already convinced. It probably can't even explain your point adequately, if they weren't already well-versed in the subject. It probably won't even get anyone to remember what the hell your point was. "To be or not to be?" is a powerful, bleak question—but you at least have to explain the rest of Hamlet before people can understand it, and you have to get people to see Hamlet performed (and performed well) before they really feel it. Same with a roleplaying game like Dogs, where dozens of momentary choices about which die to advance, each decision swiftly forgotten in itself, cumulatively lodge the game's worldview in your brain the way simply asserting it never could. All the details, all the little moments—all the things your audience probably forgets—are essential to carry across the essential point.

Forces converging on a fruitful void is one way of looking at it; I tend to think of it, in my work, as a rocket: First one stage burns out and falls away, then another, then another, until only a tiny bit of payload is left, soaring free—but without all those massive stages that burned up, the tiny payload would never have lodged itself in orbit at all.


This makes NinJ go "Right on, Sydney."
Sydney, you're much righter than Victor. Being clear is important, and it's something that's been missing from game design for a long time. In Shock:, you say, right up front, at the beginning of the game, what you want to talk about. You don't say what you're going to say about it, but you say what you're going to talk about. The rest of the game is a discussion about what it means.

This makes SF go "Thanks -- and..."
this implies that "I must have mechanics that let people do anything!" is precisely the wrong approach: Every "point of contact" with the rules should steer players towards the questions and choices you want them to make, and anything that lets them wander elsewhere is a waste.

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This reminds SF of I work here...