Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekly Review Oct. 15th to Oct. 21st

This week there have been several developments in theory, many of which constitute a different perspective on previous ideas and discussions.

Who is Protagonist?

In response to earlier discussion, Eliot Wilen presents a view of the term, deprotaginization. Specifically, he suggests that you cease playing a protagonist when genre assumptions are not met. In the broad sense, it is discovering that you are playing a different story than you thought.

Unexpected Emphasis

Troy Costisick discusses the importance of emphasis in relating aspects of a game design. Particularly, he distinguishes two aspects of games, the overt parts, and the more hidden surprise parts of the game. The former should be emphasized to build interest, while the later are meant to be fully discovered during play, so can remain largely silent in the text.

Mechanical Rewards

As a response to Vincent Baker's earlier description of reward cycles, John Kim brings up how rewards work in a solidly mechanical sense. He describes how similar reward mechanic can encourage very different forms of behavior. Some of which, such as rewards based on player set goals, encouraging aiming low, require more care than they are typically given.

Creative Agendas

Over at Story Games is a discussion on the idea of creative agenda, a trio of presumably independent goals during play: gamism, simulationism, and narrativism. While it begins with a question as to whether hybrids exist between these, it later on delves into distinguishing between the specific thing a group of players enjoy, as the concept of a generic creative agenda, and the specific categories associated with the term.


Elliot Wilen said...

I'm pretty sure my (tentative) definition of deprotagonization is really a gloss on what other people said in the thread I referenced. Also, I sort of rejected the idea later in the comments of my LJ, with some prodding by Marco.

For what it's worth, the thing I found most interesting about the discussion was the (attempted) link between "protagonization" and "genre". This implies that "protagonization" is a function of a metagame consciousness, which has a couple interesting consequences. The first is an apparent contradiction between reinforcing genre tropes--creating a story based on preconceived notions--and the ostensible goal of "narrativist" play, which is to create stories which aren't shackled by convention. The second is that the "genre" definition of "protagonization" becomes meaningless when the player has no interest in genre to begin with--unless we think of it in terms of a genre (a preconceived notion or set of tropes) being imposed on the player.

From there we can work in a number of directions. The conflict between convention and innovation isn't as great as some might suppose; freedom in a fiction relies on constraint. The trappings of "narrativist mechanics" may not, in fact, facilitate "narrativism" as canonically defined through connection to a "moral premise", and may simply be used to reproduce genre. (A possibility that was pointed out by Max Cairnduff/Balbinus a while back in PTGPTB, reprinted from

This might then be relevant to the arguments over "player empowerment" that keep cropping up on and elsewhere. I'm sure it's easy to see the sides lining up as "Narrativist" vs. "Simulationist" or "Forge" vs. "Traditional", but the debates are more about mechanics than so-called Creative Agenda. (Though I'll add the caveat that the borders of CA have never been adequately defined--as hinted by the Story Games thread you've linked above.)

Bradley "Brand" Robins said...


It's worth noting that my use of the word "genre" is probably a bit off from what the general usage of the word is.

Also, it's worth noting that on I was trying to provide a way to see deprotagonization from the external shell view, rather than the inner structural view. Marco's post does a lot more of the latter, and in that sense I agree with a great deal of what he says.