Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ambiguity and Reinforcement

So I'm catching up on past discussions.

All the players can control the unknown-but-past, like in Univeralis, or just a few or one can, like in Dogs - it depends on what you want out of this game. But only the group's informed agreement can possibly control the unknown-but-future. -- Vincent Baker, on Established and Unknown posted in anyway a long time ago

This is usually true. Well, no, this is partially true. Or rather, it's not true at all. Only the group's informed agreement can control the future course of events -- yes. True. Spot-on. Here's the thing, though: that applies to the past, too. Only the group's informed agreement can control the past, too. As Vincent says earlier in the article, the GM doesn't have secrets about what has 'really' happened -- the GM has plans for what 'really' happened, and those plans can be overturned by the group consensus quite easily.

For instance, in a game of Tribe 8, one of the players in our group decided to create a heretical metaphysical understanding of the world. She kept insisting on it until eventually, it 'came true' and our Tribe 8 game spawned a new Fatima (Goddess). As far as I know, the GM did not set out from the start to 'prove' that PC's beliefs as true -- it developed in play. And the development of that in play had all sorts of repercussions for the setting, and what had happened in the setting beforehand.

This brings me to the Forge discussion on Gijsbers Space in April, where Victor points out that the game does not actually have any direct access to the Shared Imagined Space, and he posits a Shared Text, which someone later dubs the Gijsbers Space, in which the players compile 'statements' that sort of accrue and from which individual players generate their Individual Imagined Space. His conception of three big chunks of mental constructs all interacting looks familiar, doesn't it? He talks about the ambiguity issues involved in one player's Individual Imagined Space not matching another player's Individual Imagined Space, and how there is therefore no Shared Imagined Space.

But here's the thing: just because the input is not coherent does not mean that the content does not construct something. It's just not a exhaustively coherent something. Just like Through the Looking Glass, where they serve the cake and then cut it, just like Slaughterhouse Five where Billy is unstuck in time and/or he's insane, there is a fictional, imagined world. We just don't know with certainty a few of the details within it. This applies to roleplaying quite easily by referencing any game where the specifics of the setting are left as ambiguous, open questions. Look at Tribe 8 again -- was our heretical player character right or wrong when she first started spouting off her strange ideas? Were the Fatimas here to rule or to reincarnate? It's not that the answer is one or the other; it's that the question is irrelevant.

Here I reference my model of two posts ago. There is no Shared Imagined Space. It doesn't exist except as a sort of union or synthesis of what the individual players imagine. What does exist independantly is the individual players' Imagined content, and the product of a functional roleplaying game is to both reconcile and develop those individual Imagined understandings. That means that on the one hand, the 'point' is to make sure everyone is Imagining the same thing, or very close, but on the other hand, the 'point' is to continually change what they are Imagining. The goal is not a solid state agreement between all parties; the goal is a dynamic product that continually intrigues and delights the players, and that can only be accomplished if what they thought was true keeps changing.

The 'Shared Text' that Victor talks about is, in the Interaction Model, composed of all the interactions that connect the three primary aspects. These things do not pile up in a sort of transcript; the function of these interactions is to continually self-correct and move forward the important parts of the experience -- the Imagined, the System, and the Story. This is a process, not a big long list. These are actions, not merely statements.

But now I have to go to lunch.

9 Comments:

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Elliot Wilen said...

In my comparison of Victor's ideas to yours, I get a quite different mapping. His Shared Text (or Fact Space as Silmenume calls it) is your Imagined. His Individual/Shared Interpretation (note: this may be from a different thread), or Silmenume's Affect Space, is your Story. System is the same in both models.

In both models, though, some elaboration is needed regarding the individual/shared aspect of Story/Theme/Affect.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

(What follows may, I'm quite patently aware, not be explicit in the rough draft of the Interaction Model -- in fact it may be contradictory. I'm still working on it. :)

In my model, the Imagined is not shared. The Story is not shared. The System is not shared. These are all separate, individual, and not directly connected to the 'other' Imagined, System, or Story in the other players' heads.

The only 'shared' -- or more precisely common -- elements are the interactions (and even the Contextualization and Imbuing are relatively private). The interactions are things that the players do with eachother. It is one half of the goal of those interactions to reconcile the different Imagined/Story/System so that everybody is thinking something similar.

So in regards to your request for elaboration on the individual and shared character of the Story, I submit to you that it isn't shared, ever, not really. At best the individual Stories are very similar, and are only made so by the process of roleplaying itself. The Story isn't something that exists and all the players talk about; the Story (Stories) is something that the players develop by playing the game.

 
At 10:00 PM, Blogger Elliot Wilen said...

Okay, thanks for the clarification.

Also it might help clarify things to reformulate some of the language. Right now you have things like "The System validates the Story." While that may be true metaphorically, what you really mean is that "The players use the System to collectively or consensually validate the Story."

--Elliot

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger Lee Short said...

I'm too busy to provide more substantive comments, but I really like doing away with the SIS in favor of IIS's (plus the Shared Text).

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

I do too, Lee. The SIS is a useful abstraction, but it doesn't really exist any more than, say, Middle Earth exists. What certainly does exist are the individual understandings of the imagined content, and I think it's useful to examine the ways that we reconile those individual imagined spaces.

 
At 7:39 AM, Blogger Vincent Baker said...

It might interest you to know that you've just invented the Big Model.

No lie!

Here's some independent confirmation. Skip down to what he says about me and Ron.

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

No, with all due regard, I have not reinvented the Big Model. I have used a lot of insight from the Big Model, I have borrowed large chunks from the Big Model, I owe a great deal to Ron's writings (and yours), but really, this is different. I swear.

It's not totally different OMG incredibly unique like a snowflake! but there are differences. Differences in focus, in scope, in perspective. The Big Model will always be better at describing why players do what they do; I'm interested here in examining what players do. Sure, they're linked. Sure, they'll share lots of ground. But to say they're the same thing is like saying US Democracy is the same old thing as the Westminster model used in the UK.

The whole point in these inquiries that we're all doing is to look at gaming in new ways, to see new things, and to make new conclusions. We will inescapably work on eachother's successes. But claiming that new contributions never escape the first model does not help anything.

I'm glad you see things that you're familiar with. That means I'm not flying off into the deep end. But please keep looking -- there's other stuff in here, too.

(I really need to write the next draft...)

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Vincent Baker said...

The Big Model isn't really about why we do what we do at all; it only looks that way.

What I'd recommend is this: assume that Ron and I already agree with you. Reread our stuff, looking out for how we phrase the things you're saying. You'll find them.

Like, this:

"Only the group's informed agreement can control the future course of events -- yes. True. Spot-on. Here's the thing, though: that applies to the past, too. Only the group's informed agreement can control the past, too. As Vincent says earlier in the article, the GM doesn't have secrets about what has 'really' happened -- the GM has plans for what 'really' happened, and those plans can be overturned by the group consensus quite easily."

Or this:

"There is no Shared Imagined Space. It doesn't exist except as a sort of union or synthesis of what the individual players imagine. What does exist independantly is the individual players' Imagined content, and the product of a functional roleplaying game is to both reconcile and develop those individual Imagined understandings. That means that on the one hand, the 'point' is to make sure everyone is Imagining the same thing, or very close, but on the other hand, the 'point' is to continually change what they are Imagining."

Or this:

"I submit to you that it [Story] isn't shared, ever, not really. At best the individual Stories are very similar, and are only made so by the process of roleplaying itself. The Story isn't something that exists and all the players talk about; the Story (Stories) is something that the players develop by playing the game."

Nobody who understands the Big Model would dispute these points.

Please do write your next draft; I will read it carefully.

 
At 2:08 PM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

I have to fix the diagram (which I can't do from work) and then I'll post the revision tonight.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home