Friday, February 17, 2006

Lesson: Creative

Unlike many traditional games, RPGs actively involve player creativity. Players often make novel, unprepared contributions to the game. It may be a player stating some action or dialogue for a character, or describing a location or event which has just become relevant. In any case, these creative contributions may or may not be accepted. Indeed it is the job of system to determine what is accepted.

The creative aspect is very important here. While RPG theory shares many connections to traditional and especially more social versions of game theory, such theories cannot generally handle the unbounded options of a player's creativity. This is also the manner in which artistic and aesthetic theories can be applied to RPGs, since playing an RPG can be considered a creative process. But this application is limited, because RPGs do not solely consist of creation.

In RPG theory we distinguish between creative contributions and the general contributions a player makes to the game. This segregation labels the creative side of play, sometimes called imagined, leaving the remainder as social, mechanical, or simply unlabeled. The distinction between creative and everything else is also present during the game. And players seem to be very capable at making this distinction for themselves.

Which suggests several questions about the creative part of the game. How do players recognize a creative contribution? Why is the distinction of creative so prevalent among players? What happens when players apply this category differently or change how the distinction is made (for example, deciding after dice were rolled, that they were rolled by a character, rather than the player)?

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