Friday, May 19, 2006

Lesson: Resolution - Conflict

While resolution is a continuous process, one of the most evident types involve resolving conflicts. A conflict occurs when one or more players become aware of a difference of common ground, and decide to resolve this difference overtly. The key point is that the common ground is accepted as broken, and the process of resolution is to overtly repair it.

If this is conflict is of a social type, then resolution is much like how personal conflicts are resolved in much of life. At best, mediation and other techniques are used to disarm the situation. At worst, authority is exercised, and the conflict is not so much resolved as postponed. Examples of these types of conflicts include player to player arguments, often caused by rule interpretations, feelings of unfairness, and all too commonly the stresses of life outside of the game.

If the conflict is based on the imagined material, then the resolution often involves competing visions for the outcome of a situation. In most game texts that discuss conflict resolution, this is precisely the kind being discussed. One player may decide that he wants to rescue the ambassador, while the other wants to rush to the dying ambassador's side, hearing his last words. This discontinuity requires conflict resolution. In this way conflict resolution is distinguished from task resolution, where imagined elements are added iteratively without overt discontinuities.

Now in practice many types of conflict resolution mix these two types. After all, a disagreement on the player level will often be reflected in disagreements on the imagined level. Likewise, conflicts over imagined situations can build to real conflicts. How important is the resolution of social conflicts in RPGs? What does it mean when social and imagined conflicts mix? Can social conflicts be resolved by something similar to task resolution?

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