Saturday, September 06, 2014

Lesson: Common Ground Revisited - Shared Aesthetic

Years ago I discussed common ground in the context of resolution during play. Common ground gives us a foundation for what it is we come to agree upon during play. In that post I mentioned two kinds of things within common ground: fictional or imagined details and the social agreements we have with each other. I also described the dichotomy between thinking about common ground as idealized and thinking about it as a process culminating in a rarely achieved agreement.

Building on this notion, common ground can apply to other aspects of play as well. In another lesson Creative Agenda about Forge theory, I talk about how creative agenda are a shared judgement among the players about what they aesthetically seek within play. One thing missing from that lesson, and indeed from most discussion of creative agenda is the fact that such a shared aesthetic doesn't arise whole cloth and complete, but instead is something assembled as a kind of common ground.

Common aesthetic ground is often harder to describe because while there is a wealth of techniques for communicating and establishing fictional details and negotiating social norms within a group, aesthetics don't have as many methods available beyond broad categorization and repeated demonstration. But the deficiency of our tools of description does not mean that what we wish to describe is any less real.

The process of forming a shared aesthetic, like other forms of common ground is a conversation of trial and error. Tools like the X-card are useful mechanics because they can communicate a definite judgement in context. With aesthetics, the dearth of simple language for describing our values and perspectives leaves a gap for more mechanical tools to create a language specific to the creative and social aspects of a particular RPG. At present this seems difficult to conceive, but this frontier is where the notion of creative agenda can take us past just learning to enjoy play with each other and to a place where we can start to understand each other better.