2006-01-17 : Hurt and Abandonment

Despite Meg's extremely even-handed description, this stuff is controversial in the trenches of narrativist RPG design. Some of us think that Nobody Gets Hurt is wimpy, some of us think that I Will Not Abandon You is abusive, some of us don't see how it's the designer's doing, some of us don't think that the two even exist.

For the record, I think that it's the designer's responsibility and that Nobody Gets Hurt is wimpy.

See, I AM a macho nar yanger.

1. On 2006-01-17, Brand Robins said:

You are Lord Mach Nar Yanger.

So sayeth the Brand.


2. On 2006-01-17, Meguey said:

Gaah. I'm going to have to write my scathing blast at the 'macho yang' thing, aren't I? Yeeash. :)


direct link

This makes...
BR go "Just so long as its a yin blast"*
MT go "What's the gist of your blast, Meg?"
MB go "Blast-lite"*
WMW go "Agreed. But the gender stuff was"*
BR go "The gender stuff..."*
JH go "Just keep the timing in mind :)"*

*click in for more

3. On 2006-01-17, Vincent said:

Yep. If you prefer, you can refer to me as "male-ruler male nar male."


direct link

This makes...
SLB go "Male male male male male male narrativism and male"
MB go "Christy Christ Christ-christ to you, too."

4. On 2006-01-17, Vaxalon said:

I like the middle ground mentioned in the comments of that link, called "To The Pain".  You say "uncle" when it hurts, not when it gets hard.


direct link

This makes...
WMW go "I did say I wasn't sure it was functional."

5. On 2006-01-17, Adam C. said:

Could you define what you mean by calling a play style "wimpy"?


6. On 2006-01-17, Vincent said:

Adam: Could you define what you mean by calling a play style "wimpy"?

Uh oh.

I think that when I call a play style wimpy I'm saying "I'm a judgemental prick who judges other people's fun."

The serious answer:

When I wrote a novel, part of my writing process was having conversations with my loved ones that began like this: "Now Vincent, I know I can't make you not write this, but..." As an artist, I'm not, at heart, a respecter of other people's comfort. My experience of art is that the best art is transgressive; to take "avoid transgression" as a design goal is to gut your design as art.

So allow me to clarify my statement:

For the record, I think that it's the designer's responsibility and that Nobody Gets Hurt design is wimpy.

Despite my, ehm, prickishness, I don't so much judge play styles as designs.


direct link

This reminds...
VB of He must have caught me at an honest moment.

This makes...
VB go "I said 'I don't so much judge play styles as designs,' but..."*
NinJ go "I'm with Vincent, whatever apologia he spins"*
LP go "So..."*

*click in for more

7. On 2006-01-17, Chris said:

I guess I see it like I see all art- sometimes people want something light and easy, like a fun mindless movie, book or tv show, and other times people want it to hurt good.

I see Nobody Gets Hurt as worth having, especially if you're going through enough stuff in real life at the moment.  I Won't Abandon You is good for when you want to push yourself further.

I don't attribute NGH design as wimpy- I attribute NGH lifestyle as wimpy- never seeing the ugly parts of life, never facing your issues, never pushing your limitations- that's not really living... that's cowering.  It is the folks like that, not the design, that's wimpy.


direct link

This makes...
MB go "Hear, hear"

8. On 2006-01-17, Roger said:

Both this thread and Meg's are making less and less sense to me.

In my opinion, it is literally insane to get this upset over imaginary fictional people doing imaginary fictional things.  A key component of sanity is the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

I have no other reason to question the sanity of anyone here, and so results my cognitive dissonance.


direct link

This makes...
SDL go "I figure..."*
BR go "So, a hypothetical...."*
RC go "I see."*
SM go "So, every cry at a movie?"

*click in for more

9. On 2006-01-17, Vincent said:

Fiction is affecting, that's all.


direct link

This makes...
BR go "Word"

10. On 2006-01-18, Adam C. said:

I appreciate the value of transgression. I like having my ideas challenged (which is why I began reading the Forge).

But the art I love most doesn't push my face into its point: instead, it seduces me. It creates a space (yin!) and entices me to fill it.

Sometimes the temptation to cross the line is bright and immediate; other times I don't realize I've crossed the line until I'm in. The rush is in having the choice: being able to safely step away at any time, but pressing onward anyhow.

I guess that's why I'm a wimp!


direct link

This makes...
NinJ go "Yin..."*
MB go "(Vomit)"*

*click in for more

11. On 2006-01-18, C. Edwards said:

I very much doubt that I can be hurt by any fictional event in a roleplaying game, book, etc. Now, I can be heavily affected, made sad, happy, upset, reflective, and so forth.

I'd like to hear from somebody that thinks "Nobody Gets Hurt" is wimpy AND has also been hurt. If that's you, Vincent, then cool. It's just that I know that not believing I can be hurt by fiction may make it easier for me to also feel that "Nobody Gets Hurt" is silly.



direct link

This makes...
Chris go "It's not the fiction per se..."*

*click in for more

12. On 2006-01-18, anon. said:

"I'd like to hear from somebody that thinks "Nobody Gets Hurt" is wimpy AND has also been hurt."

Yo.  Right here.

Is basic catharsis-level stuff enough for you, or would you like to hear something deeply personal and ugly?  I can do either.


direct link

This makes...
LBK go "That was me, Levi. Bloody cookies."

13. On 2006-01-18, C. Edwards said:

Hey Levi, thanks. I'd like to hear whatever you're comfortable sharing.



14. On 2006-01-18, Brand Robins said:

I don't know that I could be hurt by the fiction of an RPG, but I know for a fact I've been hurt by the social crap around RPGs. I know others who have too.

Sometimes the place where the two blend into each other makes it impossible to say which is which, I think. Especially if you are putting yourself into the fiction with passion and intensity. (Double so if you're getting all Mirror stage/Imago with your character.)

Thus, even years ago before I was sold on Big Model and other Forge theory, I was the social contract aspect of RPGs and not putting up with crap.

Of course, I'm in an odd place towards "Nobody Gets Hurt." I think its a good rule for Sim games, at least, and always a good rule for social level stuff. For Nar games, dealing with the fiction only, I think it can be used as an excuse to be "wimpy," but then I think any generic social rules set can be used for cowardice and dysfunction. I don't know that it is inherent to this set.

But then, that supports Chris Edward's point, I guess—I see a need for it where I've seen and felt the damage, and don't where I haven't.


15. On 2006-01-18, TonyLB said:

"I'd like to hear from somebody that thinks "Nobody Gets Hurt" is wimpy AND has also been hurt."

Also, yo, right here.  I can point you right to a post about an experience that hurt so damn much that my stomach was knotted and I was sobbing ... and that was over IRC.  I shudder to think what kind of shape I'd have been in if that had happened with other people physically present.

I have this sneaking suspicion, actually, that many (perhaps most) people who believe that "Nobody gets hurt" is wimpy believe it because they've been hurt.  Being hurt, deep, as part of a satisfying game teaches you that you will survive, and that you can walk away from the pain with something worth having.

As we say in my martial arts practice, "Bruises fade, chicks dig scars, but glory lasts forever."


16. On 2006-01-18, Mark W said:

Hurt by the fiction? Yep. Put in a situation where my real-people morals felt dirty, nasty and wrong about the decisions my fellow players were casually making in the fiction, and feeling complicit in it because the social contract was that "it's just a game," so I don't speak up. Going home at night wondering if I can still be friends with someone because of something I learned about them at the gaming table? Yep.

And I still want to play games where that might happen. I just want to close the circle - to make it okay, even expected, to talk about how we feel about what we imagine.


17. On 2006-01-18, Levi Kornelsen said:


The first story here was deliberate.  The second two stories are "accidental", as it happens; the groups weren't pushing on purpose, they just hit when and where they did by random chance.  I'll go from lightest to heaviest.


Story #1: Discomfort

Playing in a happy, silly little LARP, I made the odd mistake of getting involved in a romantic subplot with another character - it was decided at the end of one session that her character and mine had become lovers between that session and the next.

The player parked me at the start of the next game, checked if I was cool with holding hands, kissing, all that.  I was boggled, and quite interested.  She looked me in the eye, laughed, and stated that she wasn't interested in me in real life - but she was here to play it out, and she didn't want to get into some kind of jealousy thing.

So we played it out, including a single, passionate kiss.

Then someone lied to our characters in the game to put a wedge between us.  It worked - we argued, we screamed, we yelled, we broke up.  There was a duel between my character and her character's former lover.

At the end of the game, she thanked me, I thanked her.

I was a little uncomfortable the whole night, but, damn, I learned a lot about women right there.


Story #2: Catharsis.

Once, playing in a game, which was basically a cobbled-together house-rules thing, we hit on an abusive molestation situation.  One that was pretty similar in some ways to something a friend of mine had gone through, for whom I had been the cry-on-the shoulder guy; this was something I had some serious lingering anger over.  The GM noted that I was suddenly looking at them funny, and 'just happened' to call a break.  As usual, we jabbered a bit about the game, and I mentioned this strangeness.

The group was all "Oh, should we just gloss this over?" and I was hot to play it through.  So I told them, look, my character is in this.  He's in it hard.  Let's play it through.

And we did.  I got my rage on, and tore down the abusive father - found what he cared about most and took it apart in front of him, leaving him alone, broken, and publicly shamed.  I did this without breaking even the sligtest bit of character, and it felt great.

That was catharsis.  A little hurt, a lot of acting out.


Story #3: Serious hurt.

My father died of a heart attack.  Three weeks later, I was gaming again.  An ongoing vampire LARP, in this case.  A pretty lame one, overall, but I was part of this whole fully-developed large group and wanted to go somewhere *else* for a bit.

At that game, someone killed my character's "sire" - the vampire that made him.  In front of me.

The two people at the game that knew what was up with my personal life, both standing just across the room, saw my face screw up, and both started to move.

There's no real catharsis in this story.  I just plain broke, and they walked me out.

Now, if I had trusted that group and they had trusted me, if I had been on one page with them, and that page was "I Will Not Abandon You", that would have been different.

We *might* have had one hell of a scene, right there.  We might have had something else.  I'll never know.



"Nobody gets hurt"?

Most of the time (not all, but most), that's for wusses.


direct link

This makes...
LBK go "Now, that's ONE kind of hurt."*
BR go "Thanks for sharing that"*
LBK go "All good."*

*click in for more

18. On 2006-01-18, xenopulse said:

While I like the "fiction for mindless fun/fiction for being touched" analogy, I prefer Tony's reference to Martial Arts (as visible in the salute section of BH). I've been a Martial Artist for ten years now, and I happen to study a "street fighting" style (i.e., aggressive self defense style, as opposed to defensive self defense or tournament or traditional or wellness styles). There are plenty of people there who train to be better at defending themselves. They need to train To The Pain or even further, because that's what helps you when you get into a real fight. Once the shit hits the fan, if you've never been hurt and get socked for the first time when it counts, you're done.

However, there are plenty of people who have other reasons for training. They see it as motivated whole-body exercise (and MA works very well for that), or they train to improve their self-esteem, or to compete in kata tournaments, or whatever. And those people don't want to take it past the point of comfort. In fact, what they get out of pushing past the comfort zone is not worth the risk of getting seriously injured, which going past NGH always involves.

I think this applies to roleplaying games. It's not necessarily a distinction between "just fun" and "meaningful art" or something like that. It's different goals and foci, all equally valid, and some of them don't need and don't benefit from the risk of going past NGH.

Sure you can call them wimpy, in the same way some people in my MA classes call people who don't do street sparring to the pain wimps. But the ones who make such judgments are usually the lower-belt, unhumbled students who don't understand the diverse paths of Martial Arts yet.

- Christian


direct link

This makes...
BR go "I remember when I told my friends about being choked out..."*
XP go "Yeah"*

*click in for more

19. On 2006-01-18, Vincent said:

This is a big deal. Nobody give me any grief without understanding this thing I'm about to say:

I Will Not Abandon You games where it doesn't happen to hurt? NOT WIMPY.

Games systematically incapable of hurting? WIMPY.


direct link

This makes...
LBK go "Word."
XP go "Totally"*
Chris go "Like Nerf Sports?"

*click in for more

20. On 2006-01-18, Troy_Costisick said:


I think you mainly apply this to Nar style games Vincent.  As a Gamist, I can perhaps see its application in games where NGH: everyone wins or has their own separate goals that they reach (DnD) or IWNAY: where there is one winner (Cutthroat).  Am I on to something or just flapping my gums?




21. On 2006-01-18, Vincent said:

Troy: you're right, I'm only thinking about narrativist play.

For purposes of NGH and IWNAY, I think it has to stay that way. If there are analogous things in gamist and simulationist play, they'd better get their own names. Comparing transgression to competition would be a terrible and misleading thing to do.


direct link

This makes...
TC go "I See..."*

*click in for more

22. On 2006-01-18, Brand Robins said:

You know, having read people's examples (thanks for sharing!) I think I have often been thinking of a different thing when I say "hurt" and when I say "pain" that has lead me to be miscommunication in part of this discussion.

It used to be pretty common when Joshua BishopRoby, Mo, Josh's wife, and I used to play Tribe 8 together for at least two of the people in any given session to be reduced to tears. I don't think we every played a full session in which someone wasn't sobbing so hard that they couldn't get words out and we had to pause, not because they needed a break, but just because they couldn't speak. However, I don't think any of us really considered that "hurt" because we were all in it together, and that kind of emotional intensity is what we wanted out of the game.

So when we started this discussion I wasn't thinking of emotional intensity to the point of bawling being "hurt." When I was thinking of hurt, I was thinking of things that were like Levi's example with his father. I was especially thinking of times when things like that were done on purpose. And some subprocess of my brain was also adding in, "not just on purpose, but as something done by the GM or group to "school" the person and teach them a lesson."

Now, however, I remember something that used to happen at my house when my brothers and I would brawl. We'd pound the shit out of each other, and end up bleeding and bruised and in a general mess. My mother would often get a bit freaked and ask us if we were hurt. We would, of course, answer yes. She would then want to take us to the hospital or something, until my dad would calmly say from the background, "Are you injured?" To which we'd answer no, and then go play Nintendo together. The difference between hurt and injury was always an important one in our house, as one is something that passes and is part of life and the other is a big deal.

So I was all getting gunshy about calling NOGH "wimpy" because I'm all thinking "No One Gets Injured." But if we're just talking about hurt, not injury, and only with Nar play, then hell... it is wimpy. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!


23. On 2006-01-18, Vincent said:

So, awesome.


Is it the designer's responsibility?


24. On 2006-01-18, Levi Kornelsen said:

There's more than one way of looking at "hurt" in this context.

...And I think that it's *very* helpful when discussing stuff of this sort to specify which.

Are we talking about intensity due to emotional investment in the fiction itself?  Because, for myself, at least, I can run that one all the way up to the top without blinking.

Are we talking about hurt because of resemblance to real issues?  Well, now.  If that's the stuff we're talking about, we need to talk about who I'm playing with before I can tell you.

And so on.  I think that depending on the kind of hurt we're on about, we're looking at different styles for different folks, a lot of the time.


direct link

This makes...
LBK go "And, to answer Vincent."*

*click in for more

25. On 2006-01-18, xenopulse said:

When you say,

Games systematically incapable of hurting,

then it seems to me that's definitely the designer's responsibility; however, it's only a bad move insofar as the game does not make its purpose explicit. If it sells itself as a game of powerful stories, but it can't hurt, it's false advertising. If it sells itself as a game of solving challenges, and it can't hurt, that's perfectly fine.


direct link

This makes...
LP go "Hm."*
XP go "Lines"*
LP go "Yah."*

*click in for more

26. On 2006-01-18, Brand Robins said:

I think it is the designers responsibility to design games that can "go deep" and get to things that matter, that get at us in strong ways. This, of course, is no easy task—but I think the best way is to go with the whole "what really matters to you will really matter to others" angle. (AKA, Why Hearing About Your Game Should Suck.)

From there, however, I do think that we need to do what we can to build methods for people to deal with the crap that comes up in games. To a degree we do have to let people make it on their own (you can't dickproof the universe). But you can't just leave them out there in the cold lands of emotional turbulence without some kind of tool.

Be those tools ideas for using ritual space (thanks Meg!), specific guidelines for setting up and maintaining social contracts, or whatever it is that you feel will best let others play your game while exposing bad habits and reinforcing good ones, you gotta do what you can to support it.

Else you're selling percocet without the warning lable.


27. On 2006-01-18, Emily said:

Is it the designer's responsibility?

Hell, yes. And no.

Real life example:
Here we are at a ritual (no not that one).  It's late at night, and many people are going deeply into trance and someone comes up to the fire and says "Now I want you to go into your deepest wounds, bring them to the fire and dance them out."  Everybody did, and in short order we had a mess of balling people flopping around.

Where was the person who called it out?  Chatting and having some sweets a ways away.

So there are two parts:

1) In this example, it was irresponsible to invite people to engage in potentially emotionally damaging exploration and to then skip out.  That's what I see in game design that intentionally creates the situation where a person would go to their pain, but provides no warning, no guidance and no introspection regarding the journey they are taking and gives no tools to the folks involved.


2) It was definitely the responsibility of the folks who "went deep" to judge how able they were to be able to deal with their issues and to check out what kind of support they knew they could count on.  So, too, players of an rpg need to play advisedly. If a game says "An Intense Roleplaying game" at least read the damn thing to see if this sounds like mere hyperbole or if it might push your buttons. And then PAY ATTENTION while you are playing. If you need to tap out, tap out.  Ain't nobody else can do that for you.


direct link

This makes...
BR go "Yes"
LBK go "Yep; that was there."*
RE go "Thanks Em"*
TLB go "Uh ... "bawling"?"*
LP go "Yes and no."*
ecb go "typo, yes. responsibility shared."*

*click in for more

28. On 2006-01-18, TonyLB said:

Well, here's the thing.  Designers need (to my mind) to look beyond just the first-order effects of what they write.

So:  You say "This game requires that Nobody Get Hurt."

First Order Effect:  If somebody says "That would hurt me" then people don't do it.

Second Order Effect:  People pay a great deal of attention to what might hurt people, so they can avoid it in advance, because stopping the game for it is a pain.  How considerate!

Third Order Effect:  People notice that any time they express discomfort, they get a disproportionate response.  They realize that expressing discomfort is something that will have an effect on other people's behavior.  They feel secure and safe.  Rockin'!

Fourth Order Effect:  There are many feelings that we have which we know don't deserve to influence other people's behavior.  If I roll a 1 when I was hoping for a 6 then I feel a twinge of sadness.  But I don't want anybody to change what they're doing because of that.  So, given the third-order effect above ... I have to hide that feeling.  Uh ... not so rockin'.

If the designer doesn't do something to break that sequence then NGH leads to "People hide their true feelings."  If you say "This is a game about expressing your feelings" and at the same time design the game such that people won't express their feelings ... that seems like dodgy design work to me.

I'm not sure that you can really break the sequence between the third and fourth step, but I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.


direct link

This makes...
LBK go "Breaking that sequence."*
TLB go "Please ..."*
LBK go "You show them."*
TLB go "I don't think it's that easy"*
LBK go "Okay, so you tell me."*
TLB go "I have no freakin' clue"
LBK go "Oh. Damn."

*click in for more

29. On 2006-01-19, C. Edwards said:

Thanks everyone for sharing.

Also, I think that even a well designed game can only offer minimal support for the hurt and those trying to support them. Handling your hurt and being productively supportive of the hurt are skills that, in my experience, are only improved by doing.

A game can build structures and offer guidelines but, unless the participants are already sufficiently skilled, that first experience of hurt probably stands a good chance of shutting down the hurt person's openness to any further deep play.

It all seems very sink or swim, and part of me thinks that's as it should be. The other part really wants to hear any ideas for making it not so.



direct link

This makes...
TLB go "Say "You will get hurt""*
WMW go "Exactly. Informed consent"*

*click in for more

30. On 2006-01-19, timfire said:

I question whether its the responsibility of the designer. To me, NGH vs IWNLY sounds like a solidly social contract level issue.

That said, I question how much power a designer truly has to influence social contract. And that's not just me being reactionary. I've thought alot about exactly how much influence I, as a designer, truly have while writing tMW.

BTW, could you, Vincent or anybody else, give an example of a game that is "systematically incapable of hurting"? I have a hard time picturing a game that would be "incapable" of either NGH or IWNLY.


direct link

This makes...
TLB go "Capes"*
TLB go "Oh, and Toon"*

*click in for more

31. On 2006-01-19, Vincent said:

You know what? I need to back off on this. What's clear in my head is not clarifying itself on paper.


direct link

This makes...
TC go "I'm with ya..."*

*click in for more

32. On 2006-06-14, jennifer said:

it hurts when the man that you love most is also the person that you hate most what am i suppose to do am i suppose to sit here and cry and be weak about it just dont know how to solve my own problem i am confused


33. On 2006-06-14, jen friend said:

when your hurt over some relationship about your man is there a solution to help out the person who is hurt? is there any of you can give an advise... but im too hurt to answer my own problem.. i have a husband that is in jail.. he was in there for over somthing he didnt do he was charge for that he stole a car... i have 2 children to watch and no job to do. he was the best husband that he work his ass off for me... but what can i do if his parent dont heip out and my parent wont hlep out eigther. please is there anyone to give me a solution to sove this problem..


34. On 2006-06-15, Vincent said:

Hi Jennifer.

I'll help if I can. What brings you to my blog, not somewhere else?


RSS feed: new comments to this thread