Friday, March 28, 2008

Weekly Review March 16th to March 22nd

This has been a slow week in RPG theory, but not without developments.

Fruitful Content

Gabor Koszper talks about the content of play and how players generate it. He suggests that there are two basic options: synthetic content produced from other content or random content which is produced solely internally. He argues that one important part of learning to play is to become aware of all of the content available to inspire one's own contributions. Indeed, he considers the interplay of fruitful content to be a fundamental form of communication during play.

Weekly Review March 9th to March 15th

RPG theory developments this week have centered on exploring basic ideas and elements of RPGs.

Exploring the Self

Fang Langford brings up the idea that RPGs allow us to explore ourselves, describing that "the pleasure of gaming is becoming more aware and familiar with yourself." He suggests this perspective may be of use for theory and especially design, based on how play can be treated as a safe zone within which to delve.

Game vs. RPG

Rob Donoghue talks about the relationship between what we do as we play and the underlying mechanics. He argues that in a pure game, the rules define what we can do as players, while in a RPG the rules act as a language which can describe what we wish to do. He further suggests that even if this flexibility isn't always taken it remains an important part of RPGs.

Character Change

Troy Costisick examines the question of character advancement in RPG design and play. He argues that it is reasonable to consider character advancement to be synonymous with any significant character change - rather than limiting it to wholly positive or wholly mechanical changes. From this perspective he suggests character advancement should have a role in any RPG.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Weekly Review March 2nd to March 8th

This week has seen several developments in theory, including some in depth reexaminations.

Role in the System

Over at Story Games, Karl Bergman presents a way to look at how player's interact with the system. Specifically, players can adopt a specific role not as a character, but within the operation of the game itself, something he terms an actor. One example he presents is situational competitiveness: where neither characters nor players compete overall, but at certain times players are encouraged to adopt a competitive role.

Fictional Positioning

Chris Chinn goes into some detail examining the concept of fictional positioning. By this he means the use of fictional logic in influencing what happens during the game. For example, having a weapon before you could attack with it or having a reason to be in a corridor to overhear a critical conversation. He suggests this is one of the pillars upon which RPGs operate, but is often ignored next to mechanics. In particular he argues attention is only drawn to it when either it or the mechanics go wrong.

Objects and Their Functions

Gabor Koszper returns to his work on functions, expanding on how different objects in play can produce different function in how they affect the people playing the game. He suggests that a functional break-down of fictional and mechanical elements can be very useful, especially because it leads naturally to examining both the intentions and effects of how we influence each other during play.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Weekly Review February 24th to March 1st

This week has seen some interesting activity around the concept of system, and how it interacts with the fiction created during play.

Questions on System

Elliot Wilen talks about various questions he wishes to return to on the subject of system. He considers the distinction of systems that are fun to use, systems that produce outcomes that are fun to interact with, and systems which arbitrate between players. He also considers quantifying how much system affects play and how avowed design differs from house-ruling (in the sense that engineering differs from bricolage).

Elsewhere, Vincent Baker talks about the importance of the flow of fiction and how it can sometimes be essential to play. He discusses how the precise sense of continuity can be as important to the system as the mechanics, but in ways which are often difficult to grasp from game texts.

Revealing Setting

Jonathon Walton as an introduction to a concept he calls style sheets talks about different ways that game texts can provide settings. In some cases, it is implicit or something that arises as part of play. But other times that play requires a jump start: such as a handful of imaginative phrases or an inspirational reference sheet.

Story and Tactics

Rich Warren talks about differing flavors of tactical play. He describes how some tactical play is tactical about story of the game, while other flavors are tactical in spite of it. He argues that this causes problems, since tactical interest of some sort is part of engaging with play.