2006-01-04 : A Dangerous Idea for 2006

Over at Attacks of Opportunity, Tony asks

What do you suspect or beleive about gaming that's right out there on the edge? What do you see emerging that maybe you haven't even talked about yet?

I was going to post my own dangerous idea - and maybe I will, next - but man, Paul Czege's kicks mine and everybody's right in the nuts. Go read the thread there for it. Victor's already got some followup going at the Gaming Philosopher, so there's the next stop.

Right in the very nuts.

1. On 2006-01-04, Troy_Costisick said:


I wanted to respond to that, but I couldn't.  I mean, how could you?  It's so spot on and so scary at the same time.  But it is a trend that I think I might be seeing in some games.  The idea of pusing the emotional, moral, and ethical envelope can clearly be seen in games like Sorcerer, Dogs, MLWM, and (I beliee) in Clinton's yet-to-be-published Face of Angels.  Oh, and your Dragon Killer.  This where Indie games are pushing the envelope, at least some of them.

I think in the future this will continue as long as we have the guts to folow through.  Imagine a game that makes (or tends to make) two people fall in love with each other as they play it.  Yeesh!  It's awesome and frightening at the same time.




2. On 2006-01-04, Vincent said:

"Imagine a game that makes (or tends to make) two people fall in love with each other as they play it. Yeesh! It's awesome and frightening at the same time."

You don't have to imagine that game. I'm pretty sure it exists right now, for sale, available. The "tends to make" of it might be small, but it's non-zero, I'm pretty sure.


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This reminds...
SLB of I'm guessing he means this one.

This makes...
CS go "2nd ed AD&D is still available in stores?"*

*click in for more

3. On 2006-01-04, Joshua BishopRoby said:

Yeah, Paul totally harshed my buzz by posting what I would have said, except, you know, better.


4. On 2006-01-04, Ben Lehman said:

Definitely non-zero.



5. On 2006-01-04, Andy Motherf***in' K said:


"What do you suspect or beleive about gaming that's right out there on the edge? What do you see emerging that maybe you haven't even talked about yet?"

Hmmm.  Interesting topic, however on each one of those blogs we haven't narrowed down (because they talk about both):

Edge:  What's edgy about gaming in general this year?  What things emerging in gaming that will shake the foundations of human interaction to their core? (this seems to be Paul's direction), or

Games: What's the New Hotness in RPGs/games this year.  Emerging = new publishing techniques, rules mechanics, writing styles, structure, etc.  Like "OK, it's like HIT POINTS, but they're LETTERS instead of NUMBERS!"

I'm fine with discussing either.  In fact, I bend towards the latter, as I've got some stuff up my sleeve that I'm dying to share.



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JAK go "Oh, so my question was..."*

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6. On 2006-01-05, ethan_greer said:

I don't know. I'm not seeing the big deal with what Paul said. Yeah, it's cool, and a new way of thinking about RPGs, but couldn't you say the same thing about literature or film? RPGs aren't unique in the fact that they can bring about social change.

Or is it just the fact that it's a new way of thinking about RPGs that makes it a nuts-kicker?


7. On 2006-01-05, Vincent said:

Paul explains it somewhere - maybe at Victor's place. With literature or film, we watch someone deal (for instance) with an abusive relationship. With roleplaying, we practice dealing with an abusive relationship.

We practice falling in love with someone. Questioning our religious beliefs. Sacrificing our friends.


8. On 2006-01-05, Sydney Freedberg said:

The thing about roleplaying games as a way of changing those who enjoy them, compared to most other forms of art/entertainment, is that all the participants are actively creating, instead of a tiny fraction doing all the creation and the vast majority passively enjoying. This is most obvious when one person, e.g. J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkein, writes a novel that millions of people read: Let's guesstimate that the ratio of actively creative participants to total participants is 1:10,000,000. Even for a huge movie like the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings series, the "cast of thousands" and their huge tech crew together doing the creative stuff is dwarfed by the global audience of millions: Let's say 1:1,000,000. In even the most disfunctional roleplaying group, where the GM is God, the plot is railroaded, and players just roll dice when they're told, the ratio of active creators to total participants is at worst 1:10. In a good group, with everyone fully engaged (and good mechanics make this easier), the ratio of active creators to participants is 1:1.

100 percent of participants creatively active in an RPG instead of 0.00001 percent for a movie. Think about that.

Now, when you multiply the tiny number of roleplayers by this high creative participation percentage, you probably still get a smaller number than the huge number of movie-goers multiplied by their tiny creative participation percentage. The RPG experience is rare but intense; the movie experience is common but much less intense; both change people who participate, and therefore potentially change society.

Yet after playing all these math games, I'm still much less worried about participants being conditioned to new behaviors against their will in RPGs than in any mass medium of entertainment. Why? Because—the key point again—roleplayers are active participants. Even the most disfunctional obsessive-immersive, GM-worshipping, railroad-travelling roleplaying is still thinking about what he (rarely she) is doing and making choices in a way the average moviegoer is not. And when you're actively and consciously learning-by-doing, instead of passively learning-by-absorption, your free will to pick and choose how you change is much more engaged.

And anyway, the overt content of a game isn't necessarily what it's teaching the players at all. What the panicky mothers of America never figured out is that D&D is terribly ineffective at inculcating the idea "go out and kill stuff for money," but reasonably effective at inculcating the idea "learn this system of interacting numbers (weapon lists, spell lists, levelling-up charts, monster stats) and you'll have more fun and get more done." Likewise, I don't think Dogs in the Vineyard is particularly effective at getting people to ride into town in funny coats and conduct vigilante justice, but it's very effective at getting people to think of making moral judgments as inherently complex, problematic, and ambiguous—but also necessary.

When my daughter's old enough, I'm going to encourage her to play these games. I'm not afraid of what they'll make her against her will. I'm optimistic about what they'll teach her she can do.


9. On 2006-01-06, ethan_greer said:

So, you're saying RPGs are BETTER equipped than literature or film to influence changes in the observer/participant.

Color me skeptical. Temper this opinion with the fact that I'm a big fan of literature as tool for change, and that I've become deeply cynical about gaming over the past few years.

I don't think we need to argue about it, though. I concede that RPGs are AS equipped to influence change as lit or film. That, to me, is an exciting revelation. Every bit as exciting as if they were moreso, actually.


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This makes...
SF go "Less "better" than "more intense""*

*click in for more

10. On 2006-01-06, Iskander said:

Ethan, I think RPGs go for quality rather than quantity in the influence stakes. - Alexander


11. On 2006-01-06, ethan_greer said:

Huh? I'm not trying to be difficult, but I didn't understand your comment, Alexander. Quality of what? Quantity of what? Can you clarify?


12. On 2006-01-06, Alexander said:

- Playing a great RPG can effect greater change in fewer people.
- Reading great literature can effect lesser change in more people.

(Not trying to be terse and abstruse, just careful and quick at work, sorry).


13. On 2006-01-07, ethan_greer said:

Ah. I gotcha. Thanks for the explanation.

That an RPG will change fewer people is a function of the RPG's availability and the prevelence of role-playing as a hobby. More people read than role-play, is all. It's not that RPGs can't change more people. It's just that a popular game will not be as widely experienced as, say, a popular book.

That a great game can effect greater change than great literature? There I disagree. I think it's probably a tie. But I see no need to argue that particular point. I won't be convinced until a game effects me as strongly as some books have. Frankly, I'm not holding my breath.


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This makes...
AJN go "Fair enough!"*
SF go "Not accidental - inherent"*

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14. On 2006-01-09, Drew_rrr said:

Regarding the idea of Roleplaying games "changing" people...

15 years ago I used to game with a guy who was a Doctor in Psychology.  For one of his research projects he had done a thing on "roleplayers".

His research suggested that roleplayers may deal with unusual crisis situation better than non-roleplayers.  Why? According to him, because they had played through stressful situations in their imagination first.  As a result they don't freeze up as much as non-roleplayers when confronted with an unusual and stressful situation.

Roleplaying is a powerful tool for helping people deal with all sorts of things.

The police and many other emergency services use roleplaying to train new officers in handling situations precisely because a person who has played through a senario before encountering it will be better able to deal with the situation without freezing up.  Social services uses roleplaying to prepare social workers for dealing with abused children, etc.  Roleplaying is often used as a tool in pyschoanalysis for precisely the same reasons.

Ok, we're not talking about RPGs here, but the idea is the same in many ways.(N.B these statements are regarding the UK, but I imagine it's the same in the US)

I'm definitely seeing a parallel with what Paul says.  MLWM: Roleplaying through the breakdown of an abusive relationship a few times helps you deal with the actual breakdown of an abusive relationship, should you ever encounter it.



15. On 2006-01-09, ethan_greer said:

Interesting point. Thanks for making it. It seems to me that perhaps the changes wrought by RPGs will be different sorts of changes to those wrought by literature. As Vincent said, RPGs serve as "practice." Where lit serves more as instruction. Both can be mind shattering in radically different ways.

It takes me a while, but I get there in the end.


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