2011-02-07 : Grammatical Voices
I'm just going to copy the first few comments from this thread over to this one. Let's leave that thread for talking about game design, use this one to talk about grammar.
You can find the source texts in that other thread. I quoted passages from The Shadow of Yesterday, Maschine Zeit, Spione, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game, and The Burning wheel.
(Oh, and I promise not to mention this again, but I can't just keep quiet about it: the passive voice! It's intense! Whenever this much concentrated passive voice is read, a nosebleed is gotten.)
Hey Vincent, but forgive me, what do you mean by a passive voice?
Well, okay, I guess. I forgive you. It's one of my favorite subjects to rant about and I don't want to get too off-track, so I'll try to restrain myself.
Active voice: "I kicked the ball." The subject of the sentence acts upon the object of the sentence.
Passive voice: "the ball was kicked by me." The subject is acted upon by the object; it receives action, it doesn't take action.
Abbreviated passive voice: "the ball was kicked." The subject is acted upon by an unspecified object. To sentences in abbreviated passive voice, I like to append (in portentious tones) "BY UNSEEN FORCES." The ball was kicked BY UNSEEN FORCES. This much concentrated passive voice was read BY UNSEEN FORCES, so a nosebleed was gotten BY UNSEEN FORCES.
While we're here, imperative voice: "kick the ball." You are the subject, implicit or explicit ("Jesse, kick the ball").
From Spione: "When the Tresspass is considered Disclosed by the person running the spy [passive voice], the Dossier is unfolded and laid upon the table with both sides up [abbreviated passive voice]."
Of the above, Burning Wheel's the best - it lapses into passive voice only when things get complicted, when "extra successes must be allocated" - and Buffy's by far the worst. It's terribly constructed. "After creating the character, some (use common sense [imperative voice]) Qualities and Drawbacks may be acquired or lost in the course of a game [abbreviated passive voice]. For example, a scarring wound could reduce a character's Attractiveness [active voice], or a change in fortune could increase or decrease the character's Resources or Social Level [active voice]. When such a change is brought about during play [abbreviated passive voice], no experience points (see p. 131) are needed to purchase them [abbreviated passive voice]." No experience points are needed BY UNSEEN FORCES to purchase them, give me strength.
Rebuilt into mostly imperative voice, with some active, which is what you oughta use when you write instructions: "After you've created your character, gameplay might lead you to add or remove some Qualities and Drawbacks. Use common sense. For example, you could reduce your character's Attractiveness to reflect a scarring wound, or you could increase or decrease your character's Resources or Social Level to reflect a change in fortunes. In these cases, you wouldn't have to pay experience points to purchase the changes."
If anybody wants more grammar talk, I'm happy - happy! - to oblige. I love grammar, it's the measuring, mixing and kneading of my craft. Say so and I'll make a front page post.
Of course, the fact the text is written in the passive voice means that someone might read:
"After the players have created their characters, gameplay might lead the Gamemaster to add or remove some Qualities and Drawbacks. The GM should use common sense. For example, the GM could reduce a character's Attractiveness to reflect a scarring wound, or the GM could increase or decrease a character's Resources or Social Level to reflect a change in fortunes. In these cases, the GM wouldn't have make the player pay experience points to purchase the changes."
...which is of course part of the problem.
To which I now respond:
Yeah, your reading's more likely the right one than mine, Piers.
Unclarity is one prob with passive voice. Another is, passive voice exists to communicate to the reader that no one's responsible (as in the famous "mistakes were made"), to create a remove between the actor and the action. When you're writing game instructions, dissolving responsibility and creating a remove between the player and the gameplay is exactly what you DON'T want to do.
1. On 2011-02-07, edheil said:
2. On 2011-02-07, edheil said:
3. On 2011-02-07, Matt Wilson said:
4. On 2011-02-07, Vincent said:
5. On 2011-02-07, Steven G said:
6. On 2011-02-07, edheil said:
7. On 2011-02-07, Piers said:
8. On 2011-02-07, Kit said:
9. On 2011-02-07, Vincent said:
10. On 2011-02-07, Vincent said:
11. On 2011-02-07, Jeff Russell said:
12. On 2011-02-08, Brand Robins said:
13. On 2011-02-08, Seth Ben-Ezra said:
14. On 2011-02-08, Vincent said:
15. On 2011-02-08, way said:
16. On 2011-02-08, PeterBB said:
17. On 2011-02-08, Peter Darby said:
18. On 2011-02-08, Brand Robins said:
19. On 2011-02-09, Josh W said:
20. On 2011-02-09, Josh W said:
21. On 2011-02-09, Porter said:
22. On 2011-02-10, edheil said:
23. On 2011-02-11, Valamir said: