Monday, August 28, 2006

Weekly Review Aug. 20th to Aug. 26th

Theory developments this week have largely focused on social interactions and contexts, both from the design and play perspectives.

Gender Relations

Meguey Baker discusses long-term experiences of females across different RPG communities. In some, she describes women focusing on the masculinity of their characters and play, contrasting with her own experiences. She also demonstrates the difficulties in broaching these issues among women from different communities and RPG social experiences.

Character Depth

Victor Gijsbers suggests four different ways in which players can find psychological depth in characters: internal tensions caused by difficult character decisions, traumatic or life changing character experiences, moments of character openness and vulnerability, and lengthy observation. He describes each of these as fulfilling a different way of encountering one's character, and how different games can enhance these approaches.

Being Social

At the beginning of the week, Joshua BishopRoby presented the realization that the central role of RPGs is to enable the social interactions between players. In particular he suggests that this interaction should be directly considered during the design process. This idea returns in Thomas Robertson's refocusing of his ideas on social interfaces. Here he extends the idea past RPGs to the general class of multi-player games, noting that more flexible games such as RPGs require explicit goals for their interface purposes, while games focusing on point accumulation, for example, often keep goals implicit. He suggests that the social mediation of goals can be a valuable aspect of any game.

From a similar root, Brian Hollenbeck discusses the utility of less than coherent designs for enabling the kind of flexibility needed for socially mediated goals. Particularly he suggests that highly coherent games can stifle the very negotiation that enables everyone to arrive at mutually desired play. From a broader perspective, Ben Lehman argues that RPG design must account for the social context of the game and its players. In essence this is a sense of socially coherent design, where the game, both as text and design suits the desired perspectives and social groupings.

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