Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weekly Review, June 11th to June 17th

Adam Dray presents an interesting examination of his thought processes as he designs his Towerlands project. The resulting post is an excellent example of applied theory, and is worth checking out both for the ideas it contains and what it reveals about how people try to accomplish design goals in game development.

Overstuffed Dicebag continued the essays on game design by discussing just what "decisions that matters" actually means, at least on a personal level.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Weekly Review June 4th to June 10th

The continued absence of several primary-focus theory blogs put a damper on new developments during this period.

Rich Warren explained why he thinks GMs have a vital role in Another Piece of the GM Puzzle. He noted that most narrative games attempt to discard the position of GM, and spoke about the functions that Storytellers/Game Masters have in modulating, directing, and introducing conflict.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Monthly Review May 2007

May produced several items of interest.

At I would knife fight a man, a group of theorists explored the central premise of the 'Big Model': that the sole determinant of game reality is what all of the players reach a consensus on. If the Big Model is a tower, this concept is its foundation. A further discussion of what distinguishes roleplaying from other forms of collaborative creative endeavor ensues.

Elliot Wilen examined the ever-increasing use of jargon and field-specific technical terminology in RPG theory, and pointed out that one of the purposes of jargon is to disguise a lack of actual content. Does the theory community need a lexicon of neologisms and redefined words to describe concepts? To what extent is our use of language an attempt to limit discussion to an insular group, excluding outside input?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Weekly Review May 28th to June 3rd

In a period when many blogs were offline, work on theory carried on nevertheless.

John Kim discussed a number of theory concepts, including Additive and Negotational Play, the relationship of tabletop resolution systems to these ideas, and strategies for making these techniques balance player input.

Troy Costisick's Socratic Design went on hiatus, but not before a new anthology of theory articles went online, covering a slew of concepts and Costisick's approach to them.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lesson: Powergaming

The Forge's glossary defines powergaming as "A potentially dysfunctional technique of Hard Core Gamist play, characterized by maximizing character impact on the game-world or player impact on the dialogue of play by whatever means available", but this definition is far more specific and limited than that used by many gamers.

In the broadest sense, powergaming is approaching a system of roleplaying mechanics not as an attempt to provide structure storytelling or social interaction, but as an end in itself, and acting to maximize one's influence over the outcome of mechanical conflicts. There are many games in which certain choices and strategies are more mechanically effective, but only when players disregard other considerations in order to increase their mechanical effectiveness do we say they powergame. Merely seeking and exercising mechanical power isn't enough - the pursuit of power has to be made at the expense of story, characterization, drama, versimilitude, or similar factor.

Interestingly, players will sometimes deliberately limit the effectiveness of their mechanical design or strategy in order to create a more "interesting" character.