2011-05-17 : Game Design vs Mere Instructions

Oh, it's easy. Duh. It's just permission and expectations.

When you're playing a game with people, you have their permission to do things that they would not permit under normal social circumstances, and they expect you to do things that they would not expect under normal social circumstances. Designing a game means changing the group's normal social system. Now, in the game, the group permits this, and expects this, where outside of the game it doesn't.

Telling someone that they have permission to do a thing isn't the same as changing the group's social system so that they really do have permission to do it. That's all.

1. On 2011-05-17, Kit said:

You just described the magic circle!


2. On 2011-05-17, Vincent said:

What's the magic circle?


3. On 2011-05-17, Kit said:

So, without digging up my copy of Huizinga to make sure it's in there and I'm not misremembering, it's something people theorizing about the social purpose of play talk about.

Basically, play is sometimes defined as a situation where normal social rules are suspended and replaced with others, that, ideally, let people explore their relationship to the real-world social rules.

That's a really rough quick description of it, that I may have gotten wrong. I'll find the Huizinga soon and get back to you.


4. On 2011-05-17, Todd said:

5. On 2011-05-17, David Berg said:

"Telling someone that they have permission to do a thing isn't the same as changing the group's social system so that they really do have permission to do it."

Amen!  I really dig that way of putting it.

I think this intersects quite conveniently with the breakdown of content vs principles vs cues etc.  You want the permissions and expectations granted by each of those to be complimentary, rather than redundant or conflicting.

Examples: Vampire's content and mediating cues create expectations that can conflict.  Dead of Night's mediating cues sound to me like they just let you do what the game's content already let you do.

Sorry if that's off-topic.  Stuff's just clicking into place now is all...


6. On 2011-05-18, Seth Ben-Ezra said:


In case someone hasn't already recommended these books to you, please, let me commend Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman and The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell. Since you're thinking a lot about design right now, I think you might find that these books give words to the things that you're saying. For example, I heard about the "magic circle" in Rules of Play.


7. On 2011-05-18, David Berg said:

I dig Rules of Play too.  I wish I didn't have to read through so much over-explanation, history and etymology to get to the authors' conclusions, but the conclusions themselves strike me as pretty useful.  The back-of-chapter bullet point summaries are great.


8. On 2011-05-19, Simon R said:

Is there difference between a rule and permission simply how it's phrased? A rule is phrased as an imperative, permission as advice?

For example, is one of these a rule and the other, permission?

If anyone at the table objects to the inclusion of a trait in a conflict, you cannot use it.

One way to determine whether you can include a trait in a conflict is to see if anyone objects.


9. On 2011-05-28, Zac in Virgnia said:

I don't think the rule vs. permission distinction is useful, here, especially since "rule" has such strong connotations already in role playing games. At least, it's not taxonomically useful.

Vincent describes it above as permission vs. expectation, which I think is more explicit.
I think your example works, but I'm gonna go and try to think up examples from specific games.
Also - I'm thinking that this is less about a one-to-one ratio of behaviors to game rules, and more about how the overall course of play affects you, enables you/compels you to act in ways you normally wouldn't.
This also fits snugly with the "unwelcome outcome" stuff Vincent's been talking about - if behavioral mods are the player-side of things, unwelcome outcomes are the mechanical side of things.


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