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Author Topic: Narrative Voice  (Read 8116 times)
Mike Holmes
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« on: May 26, 2005, 11:36:21 AM »

This is a topic that interests me a lot for some reason. I think it's been covered before, but mostly in parts of other threads (if you have a link to a thread solely about this topic post it please).

What I'm talking about are the different narrative voices that players use to narrate in play. It's actually a quite complex thing subject to all sorts of shifts in play, and having all sorts of nuances in what the usages imply.

Basically let's go over the different voices. Googling up a reference at random: http://www.capcollege.bc.ca/dept/cmns/voice.html

What at first seems a very simple set of options turns out to actually have a lot of possible angles. Which are applicable to RPGs (as opposed to writing, for which the concept was developed)?

First-person
This is what is often referred to as "role-playing," meaning creating the dialog of the character as you go along. Like "How art thou!" Or in terms of IIEE statements. Like "I go to the bar." Interestingly, only protagonists are expected to get this treatment. A GM playing an NPC will use third person, unless they are simply speaking the dialog of the character.

Here are some sub-types of FP narration as they apply to RPGs:
    [*]the observer-narrator: you don't see this one much, if at all. Characters generally are in game. The one oddball exception that I can think of is the character of Gorm in the RPG "My Love For You is Way Outta Line." Gorm might say, for instance, "Wow, Imelda is really not getting it."
    [*] detached autobiography: this is rare, and is only be used in sort of a "forward flashback" sort of scenes. The example I can think of is that I've seen people use it for Inspectres confessionals. "So, I didn't expect Harry to end up in the pool with the demon squid, but there he was..."
    multiple narrators: considered a subset of first person in writing, this is actually the standard in most RPGs for first person. Simply shifting FP narrations between PCs.
    [*]interior monologue: Again, this might be found in an Inspectres Confessional, though not as much one aimed at an audience. Also, this can be asides made to the other players in first person like, "I feel bad about killing him." Meaning in this case that the character feels bad. Note that one cannot automatically tell if such a statement in in-character or out-of-character. This could be the player feeling bad about what his character did. The player, in this case, speaking about his character as an agent in the story. Clarification can be had by using another POV, "I feel bad that I had Ragnar kill him." It's likely, IMO, that players use the First Person here as shorthand for ease. But that it often causes problems in understanding.
    [*]dramatic monologue: not sure that I've seen this one in RPG play. This would be the character relating the events of the narrative. This would put a level of abstraction into play that I've never seen. Though I wouldn't be surprised to hear that somebody had done it. In some ways this is akin to the "play within a play" phenomenon. I've done that, for instance, and the narrator of the play in the game would be considered, perhaps to be doing dramatic monologue.
    [*]letters or diary: interestingly this is used as the sole method in the game De Profundis. And players often do write logs - but these tend not to be part of play but instead a record of it. Only in De Profundis is this narrative voice the method of play, as far ask I know. [/list:u]

    Second-person
    While rare in writing, second-person is interestingly an important part of much of RPG play. Typically the purview of the GM, he might say, "You stride up to the bar." Interestingly, it's a strong example of the blurring of the lines between player and GM control of a character. Usually player declarations, even if they seem successful are actually only of character intent. The GM usually has control over success of said events, even trivial ones. So the player will say, "I go get a beer," and the GM will say, "You walk up to the bar...[and the barkeep says...]"

    Third-person
    limited/omniscient: Both limited, and omniscient narration seems rare, but is it? That is, the players are not (and there may be some odd PoMo game where this is not true) characters in the game narrating. As such, their narration seems to be mostly objective. But what you find is that players do make subjective statements along the way. Like the above example, about feeling bad about killing somebody. "I feel bad that I made Ragnar kill that guy" is, in some ways, narration. From another POV it can be seen as outside of "play." Commentary on play, if you will. This is important to the process, of course, but might be easier dealt with as non-narration for these purposes.

    In addition, I think the limited/omniscient description seems to be replaced in RPGs by credibility. Nobody "knows" anything, it's merely a question of who has the authority to be credible in a particular situation.

    Objective: So it seems to make sense in most cases to speak about such narration as third-person objective. Which doesn't mean completely objective, of course - the method admits of the actual writers (or speakers in an RPG) biases. There simply is no attempt to inject this person's editorial into the narration as though they were a character in the setting. Certainly, a GM, as the voice of "the world" and relayer of events, is usually supposed to maintain an objective POV. So that the players have a more objectively presented world to respond to.

    This particular topic is rather sticky, and I'd like to hear other ways to look at it. Indeed, looking at the various "personas" of Third-Person Omniscient POVs is interesting, if we consider that to be the standard:
      [*]Episodically limited: Given that sometimes a player might use Third Person, and at other times another, the bias that comes in does shift around in this fashion. Again, multiple is the standard for RPGs, generally (I've heard of rare games where the GM is really the only person allowed to do any narration at all), as opposed to single in writing.
      [*]Occasional interruptor: This corresponds to the GM or a player sometimes stopping and giving some extra info, as mentioned.
      [*]Editorial commentator: Some players feel a need to do running commentary on what the characters are doing. [/list:u]
      Looking at various forms of Third Person Limited, we would see that usually the player would be considered to have a "panoramic" POV - they can see the entire scene, but they can't read the minds of the other character. As opposed to really only knowing what the one character knows (or being omniscient). A LARPer might have a POV like this, but they pretty much use entirely first person (and mostly only dialog at that - outside of limited actions like non-contact combat).

      Verb Tense
      Part of narration style, tense deserves it's own consideration. In RPGs, most narration is in present tense, which is very different from writing, especially to use it in first person. "I go to the door." You see this sort of construction in few places outside of RPGs. But it's not the sole tense for RPGs - the best example that I can think of is that the game Puppetland requires that the story be told entirely in third person and in past tense. So that it sounds like the recounting of a story some people would claim that this makes it a "storytelling" game, but that's a semantic debate.

      So, what thoughts does this provoke? Am I missing examples of sorts of narration? Or have their categorization incorrect?

      Once we get rolling, I'll get into some other observations I have about the ramifications of narrative voice.

      Mike
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      Andrew Morris
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      « Reply #1 on: May 26, 2005, 12:42:53 PM »

      Interesting topic, Mike. For the game I'm working on right now, the rules actually reference these concerns. There are three phases of play. Narration is first person in the first and third phase, with third-person narration in the second phase. In addition, the tense is indicated by the rules, as well: past, present, and past, respectively.

      What I find most interesting is the limited use of second person. I'd like to see a game that used it exclusively (or predominantly), just to look at how that would change the experience of play.
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      Mike Holmes
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      « Reply #2 on: May 27, 2005, 01:18:12 PM »

      Sounds fascinating, Andrew.

      Well, what about the expected questions - how does voice relate to things like agenda and stance?

      I think that traditionally (as pointed out by somebody in the thread that prompted me to start this one), people conflate actor stance with first person narration of character actions and dialog. I think that it's safe to say that first person can be used for other stances certainly. I can decide to have my character do something, come up with the plausible nature of his act, and then narrate in first person no problem. In fact, I think that you can use first person for any stance, even pawn and director. Consider:

      "I grab a mug from the bar" when the mug hadn't formerly been established is director stance as regards the mug at least.

      or

      "I stab myself to get the extra hit points from the reverse damage curse" is pawn stance if it's just something decided upon without consideration of plausibility.

      Where the conflation comes from is from assuming that if you're not speaking in first person, you can't be in actor stance. That is, the observation is that if you're out of first person, you're out of actor stance. But is this a correct observation? Consider:

      "Ragnar goes to the bar"

      Yes, the player is more obviously narrating. But does that mean that the player has neccessarily used a different decision making process than actor stance to come up with the result? Must it be Author stance just because we see the author? No, not at all.

      This conflation is related to the conflation of Actor stance to Simulationism, I think. That is, if sim is the lack of appearance of player will in the decision-making process (or, to put a positive spin on it, an appearance of in-game origin), then Actor stance seems required. But if sim is a question of where the player comes up with theme, his own ideas, or following an internal cause paradigm, then it's less required. In fact, as observed these things have only a traditional association. An assumption that first person portrayal is less "distracting" from the dream. At best this is an application of a sub-mode preference.

      Note how, in fact, often narrative voice can make for mistaken stances. That is, one of the "tells" of stance is what voice is being used. Someone using third person might be using Actor stance, however. And someone using first person might be using Author stance. So I think that a lot of confusion over CA as people associate it with stance, can come from the vagaries of speech with regards to assumptions about narrative voice.


      On another tangent, note the use of Pawn stance given in the example above. What's fascinating here is the concatenation of in-game and metagame terms in one statement. If the player is using "I" to indicate that he is the character, then how can he know about his own "hit points" a plainly metagame concept? I think that this is precisely what bugs people about the use of Pawn stance. Not so much that implausible things are done - most systems are trying to prevent that. But that the players engaged in pawn stance often use first person to conflate the player and character. Meaning that the character has no separate knowledge of it's own, and that there is no "objective" existance to the game world.

      Again, please comment on this or make your own observations about the overall topic. Am I off my rocker here? Is this fine an analysis of the speech used in RPGs useful at all?

      Mike
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      Harlequin
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      « Reply #3 on: May 27, 2005, 02:23:45 PM »

      Tidily done.  I agree with your comments about confusion of stance and voice.

      This perspective sheds some light on the effectiveness of something like Puppetland... there, Tynes rigidly controls narrative voice (for both the players and GM) to excellent effect.  I'd call that a prime example for why this can be important.  I think the real meat in this as a topic is exactly there... the use of voice as a structural tool, for effect.

      For instance, a hard-boiled detective RPG could be strongly focused by requiring strictly first-person narration - no third-person allowed.  One could even go so far as to require rules inquiries and the like to be done in first person, using e.g. the interior monologue.  ("So I asked myself if I really had any chance of scoring with this fox, given all these bruises on my face.")  Using the technique even more strongly, it could also be used to do odd things about character ownership.  For instance, in the preceding example, consider a game where the GM's allowed response would be along the lines of "And I said to myself, Mitch, not a hope."  Both participants using first person for the same character.  Powerful stuff.

      I think there's a lot of meat here... perhaps carry on with the classification and talk a little about what effects constraint into, or away from, each voice might have.

      - Eric
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      Andrew Morris
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      « Reply #4 on: May 27, 2005, 03:58:59 PM »

      I think that it is useful to distinguish between stance and voice. I haven't seen any confusing examples of voice appearing to equate to a different stance than is actually being used, though. Personally, I know that's I've used first and third person in Actor stance. I have less experience with the other stances, so I can't comment on that with any conviction. But, I do see uses of certain voice seem to "naturally" work better for certain stances.
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      Danny_K
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      « Reply #5 on: May 27, 2005, 04:09:18 PM »

      Just to chime in with my PbP experience, most PbP games use third person, present tense.  I see a lot of games using a limited omniscient voice, as it allows the player to describe the both the exterior and the interior of the character.  

      This doesn't directly affect Stance, but I think it makes it very easy to slip into Author Stance, since you're already at a bit of a mental distance from the character.  

      I notice also that games with "stunt" mechanisms give people a strong incentive to take more authorial power -- the Exalted core rules, for example, explicitly encourage the players and GM to assume props that are needed for a stunt.  Sometimes this slips into the screenwriting-like method of describing a scene as if it were a TV show or movie.
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      PlotDevice
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      « Reply #6 on: May 29, 2005, 10:19:08 PM »

      A pedantic case that comes to mind is when a GM describes what Sense Motive or Telepathy (or Animal Empathy et al) detects. I have approached it from the third person ("The pigmy marmoset is thinking about nuts.") second person ("You sense that the pigmy marmoset is thinking about nuts.") and the first person ("Nuts... I want nuts...why is that human looking at me funny?") or a number of combinations of these (The Pigmy Marmoset is hungry. You hear its thoughts! "My young are waiting. I know there are nuts here... Ho! Human! What does it want? I am show my fearsome face! Answer me!"

      I think that voice has neat potential applications, as in the last case beginning with the distance from the event, moving it closer and ending with the intimacy of first person to first person narration. I find the Transition between Tense and Narrative voice to be a useful tool in manipulating the involvement level of the players. It can be used to subtly negotiate SIS into a different perspective.

      Evan
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      Evangelos (Evan) Paliatseas

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      John Kim
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      « Reply #7 on: May 29, 2005, 10:59:30 PM »

      An interesting question is the issue of a narrator.  Within narrative fiction, the narrator is often a character.  i.e. Narration is often done by a character within the narrative -- sometimes a device like the main character is talking about her own past, or a character who is an observer to the events but not himself the major player in them (i.e. Ishmael in Moby Dick).  This characterization makes explicit that there is not a "neutral" telling of the events as facts, but a voice which is trying to convey a point.  

      Even if the narrator is not explicitly a character, there is a voice to the narration.  Similarly, within film theory there is a lot of analysis done of the camera's gaze.  The same scene can be extremely different depending on how it is shot, which gives the camera a "voice" even if it is not representing the point-of-view of a particular character.  

      I sometimes see a parallel within games as "out-of-character in-character" commentary.  i.e. A player will speak as his character hypothetically would, even though the character herself is not present and may not even know about the scene which is happening.  

      An interesting place to go with this would be to have the GM actually be given a narrator character.  Actually, now that I think about this, Paranoia does this to an extent.  A Paranoia GM has a persona parallel to the Computer.  By giving the GM a persona, we make explicit what the narration is.
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      Mike Holmes
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      « Reply #8 on: May 31, 2005, 07:35:38 AM »

      Eric, for the detective thing, or, indeed any attempt to match a literary form, it's important to use past tense, it seems. I think it's interesting that my first reaction (similar to what I've observed in others) is that using the past tense to such effect is "artsy." Interesting that in literature, use of the present tense is considered "artsy."

      I'm reminded of the movie "Mazes and Monsters." I recount this anecdote a lot, but to do so again: when I first saw the movie (and I recommend it for the advocacy angle for all gamers to see), I was astonished by how odd play seemed. At first I couldn't put my finger on what they were doing "wrong." Yeah the costumes and props didn't match the play that we did, and the atmostphere they put on was a little thick, but that wasn't it. When it came down to it, it was the fact that they used only third person. Somehow it seemed quite unnatural for them to say, "Ragnar goes to the bar" instead of "I go to the bar." Why that seems more culty, than the first person use which actually has the connotation of the player losing themselves in the identity of the character, I don't know. I wonder how non-gamers would see the difference.


      I think that you've identified something interesting, too Eric, in looking at how more than one player approach the same character. Note that using the typical paradigm instead of the one you show, the GM would respond to the player, "And you said to yourself ', Mitch, not a hope.'" That is, when the GM takes control of a character normally with close association to a player (probably using first person), he uses second person.

      This is almost like stance, but linguistically it's it's own phenomenon. Basically the participants are forming an association player to character by using these narrative voices. That is, typically, with the style of play where the player uses first person, it's asumed that they can also be refered to in metagame and in-game ways in the second person by others. Anyone have a name for what to call this? Making this association plain by language?

      Whereas if the player uses third person, the GM may, too. In which case you have a dissociation going on. Given that these probably shift a lot during play, would it be safe to say that the players are constantly negotiating a "distance" from the character? Hmm. Actually I use the third person as a tool, for just that purpose. Sometimes I feel a need to look at the players needs or something, in which case it suddenly becomes important to say, "How do you, Eric, feel about Ragnar?"


      Andrew, it's not really anything remarkable that I was reporting on. But, for instance, we always note that if a player says, "I go to the park" that alone this can't say anything about stance. Basically, that some people might think that this is actor stance, but it could just as easily be author stance. Only the context of the decision can make it clear what stance it is. I think that there are tendencies in stance/narrative voice use, and that's what leads to the confusions. People assume that the tendencies are definitive. To whit, I often see people conflating first person and actor stance. In fact, I think that there's a preference for first person, because, if a player is using author stance, it won't be as visible using first person.

      Danny hits on this. I completely agree that the tendencies are real. That is, I think using the constant narrator voice in PBEM or PBP does tend to reinforce author stance. In fact I'd go so far as to say that the association of freeform RPG (not freeform LARP, obviously) with online formats, is telling here. People just don't as often get together to play freeform. It seems much, much more common to write it.


      Evan, I think that narrative voice can be interesting to employ in different ways, too, as in the puppetland and detective examples (and Andrew's new game). But I have a feeling that if we did get a deluge of new games that had proscribed voices, that it would get old fast. Sounds faddy, like player narration rights were a while back. Basically, potentially interesting, but no substitute for good overall design. I think that it's something to consider in design, but "narrate things however it makes sense for you to do so" is just as viable, if not moreso, than anything else.


      John, good example with The Computer, in Paranoia. That hadn't occured to me, but it's so true. A perfect example of the narrator having character. Interestingly, in Paranoia, there's this duality that I've noted, which fits your other note. Basically sometimes the GM does play the Computer as a bona fide NPC. And at other times, he's playing the computer as narrator. At other times, still, the GM will, IME, drop down into, for lack of a better term again, "facilitator mode," where they speak in their own voice, to answer questions like where the real-life bathroom is.

      In fact, this is interesting in general. The way that I, and most other GM's in Paranoia that I've seen, indicate this, is to actually change their speech patterns and inflections from the "Computer" voice to their real one. In fact, in the Paranoia XP edition, I think that they explicitly cover different voices to use with the Computer, IIRC.

      The fact that narrative voice in RPGs is a real voice says to me that perhaps we should be looking to theater or something for more info on voice, rather than literature, where voice has to be carried mostly by style (though one can use slang and such), as one cannot actually hear it.

      I also think that your observation about the "OOC IC" phenomenon is interesting. I agree that the players are acting as narrators in this case, using the above "editorial" style in many cases. I think it's also interesting how stuff like this can be used as a smoke-screen often for players indicating their desires. That is, it may, in some groups, be that one isn't supposed to interject comments about player desires for play. But players do so, often, I think, through the agency of their characters. It's OK to play their characters, even if they're not there (though it's interesting to see how often this elicits the comment, "Hey, quiet, you're not there."), and one can indicated what one thinks this way.

      I think what's communicated IC in terms of player desires is a topic that could drive a whole 'nother thread.

      Mike
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      John Kim
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      « Reply #9 on: May 31, 2005, 09:14:09 PM »

      Quote from: Mike Holmes
      The fact that narrative voice in RPGs is a real voice says to me that perhaps we should be looking to theater or something for more info on voice, rather than literature, where voice has to be carried mostly by style (though one can use slang and such), as one cannot actually hear it.

      In my experience, narrative voice is very rare in plays.  So I'm not sure it makes a good model.  (Of course, it's also true I know less about theater theory than narrative theory -- so there might well be good stuff there that I don't know.)  

      Quote from: Mike Holmes
      I also think that your observation about the "OOC IC" phenomenon is interesting. I agree that the players are acting as narrators in this case, using the above "editorial" style in many cases. I think it's also interesting how stuff like this can be used as a smoke-screen often for players indicating their desires. That is, it may, in some groups, be that one isn't supposed to interject comments about player desires for play. But players do so, often, I think, through the agency of their characters. It's OK to play their characters, even if they're not there (though it's interesting to see how often this elicits the comment, "Hey, quiet, you're not there."), and one can indicated what one thinks this way.

      I think what's communicated IC in terms of player desires is a topic that could drive a whole 'nother thread.

      Perhaps it would be a good other topic.  I don't quite get the "smoke-screen" comment.  I agree that game actions always indicate (perhaps obliquely) player desires.  But how are these editorial comments different than any other game activity?  i.e. Let's compare a standard in-character comment (i.e. the character says something) from this in-character but editorial comment (i.e. the player says something in-character even though the character isn't there).  

      They both express something through the character to the other players.  The difference is that the editorial comment isn't part of the official continuity.  

      In fact, we can make the same distinction in written fiction between an omniscient narrator (i.e. an unnamed narrator speaking as the author) and the author speaking through a narrator character (i.e. an older version of the character is telling her own story, say).  Both of these are smokescreens for the author.  They are just different approaches.
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      « Reply #10 on: May 31, 2005, 10:54:11 PM »

      Quote from: Mike Holmes
      Evan, I think that narrative voice can be interesting to employ in different ways, too, as in the puppetland and detective examples (and Andrew's new game). But I have a feeling that if we did get a deluge of new games that had proscribed voices, that it would get old fast. Sounds faddy, like player narration rights were a while back. Basically, potentially interesting, but no substitute for good overall design. I think that it's something to consider in design, but "narrate things however it makes sense for you to do so" is just as viable, if not moreso, than anything else.


      I hear that.

      I am thinking of it more as a Technique of representation rather than a systemic item (/requirement/limitation). Sort of like a GM trick to get players into and out of a scene for involvement or meta-game purposes.

      Applying attributes to linguistic contructs & the deconstruction of the semantics of prose is something that I have been thinking about a bit recently. I will add your points here into the mix in my head and see what pops out. I might end up doing a 24 hour rpg on the topic (or some tangent of it) to expunge the demons... ;)

      Warm regards,
      Evam
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      Victor Gijsbers
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      « Reply #11 on: June 01, 2005, 12:24:20 AM »

      This topic interests me a lot. Somewhat scarily, this is partly the case because in...

      Quote from: Andrew Morris
      the game I'm working on right now, the rules actually reference these concerns. There are three phases of play. Narration is first person in the first and third phase, with third-person narration in the second phase. In addition, the tense is indicated by the rules, as well: past, present, and past, respectively.

      Well, my tenses are present, past and present, respectively, and it's first - first - third person narration, but the rest is exactly as Andrew's game. The playtest rules of Shades consist for an important part in telling the player that there are three types of scenes, and that narration of each type has its own a) tense, b) voice, c) focalisation, d) reliability. For example, memories - which are very important in the game - are to narrated by an unreliable, internally focalised, first person, past-tensed voice.

      Anyway, to get back on topic, I agree that Stance and Voice are different phenomena. Voice can be extracted from the narrated text, and is independent of the concerns of the speakers. Stance, on the other hand, has to do with the reasons the players have to decide to narrate in a certain way, and is thus external to the narrated text. (Where 'narrated text' means 'that which has been said or written and accepted by the group as meaningful contributions on which to model the SIS'. See my topic on Shared Text vs Shared Imagined Space from a month or two ago.)

      Quote from: Mike
      Basically the participants are forming an association player to character by using these narrative voices. That is, typically, with the style of play where the player uses first person, it's asumed that they can also be refered to in metagame and in-game ways in the second person by others. Anyone have a name for what to call this?

      'Focalisation' might capture part of it. The focaliser of a narrated scene is the character through the senses of whom we experience the world. This need not be the narrator. In many RPGs, especially 'immersionist' ones, each player is supposed to narrate with his character as the focaliser. You can only describe what your character actually experiences. This is most easily done in first person speech. The GM then uses second person speech, because that is the most natural way to continue this focalisation.

      "I carefully look through the window."
      "You see a man approaching."

      See how we naturally see the scene through the eyes of the character?

      I consider focalisation to be a very important narrative technique for roleplaying games, maybe even more important than narrative voices are. I think quite a lot of the 'traditional' style of roleplaying can be understood by paying attention to the fact that the players are supposed to focalise everything through their allotted character; to the point where all narration that takes place which does not have their character as the focaliser becomes 'less real' and 'less important' to them than the narration that does.
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      « Reply #12 on: June 01, 2005, 09:02:18 AM »

      Quote from: John Kim
      In my experience, narrative voice is very rare in plays.  So I'm not sure it makes a good model.  (Of course, it's also true I know less about theater theory than narrative theory -- so there might well be good stuff there that I don't know.)
      Well, you may have a point, there, but then we have a terminological gap. That is, using narrative voice to describe dialog, I've been saying that it's first person to do so. That is, if I say, "Hey Ragnar, how's it going?" making dialog as if I am, in fact, the speaker, then the closest parallel in writing is the quote that I have above. Which would be termed, in writing First Person. Now, that said, often first person dialog in literature actually looks like:

      Then I said, " Hey Ragnar, how's it going?"

      Now, convert that to the present tense as we ususally do, and a person speaking like that in an RPG says:

      "Then I say, 'Hey Ragnar, how's it going?'"

      People do use this, occasionally, but it has the same "odd" feeling that using third person does. That is, you're speaking "text" instead of just "acting" the role.

      So should we not call this first person narration? Should we term it "voice acting" or somesuch instead? And just plain "acting" in the case of LARP where you're actually doing everything the character does? Maybe Pantomime for those cases where the player acts as though some object is present? That might clarify things. Then you'd have shifts between voice acting, first person narration, third person, etc.

      My point is that when you relate some part of the SIS, you use all sorts of methods to communicate. Overall that's what we're getting at. The author of something written only has his narrative voices. We can try to fit into that paradigm, or look at things like theater to see what else is going on.

      Quote
      I don't quite get the "smoke-screen" comment.
      I'm saying that I've noted a phenomenon where a player will feel that it's inappropriate to say somthing as a player, but feels find doing it as character, not only because it's somehow allowable to do so, but because the player can sorta claim that it's not their opinion, but that of the character. That is, the player makes like he wouldn't personally say something like that, but the character would, and he's just channeling the character. So the player is trying to get what he wants, or say what he wants, without letting on that he wants it.

      Mike: I, Ragnar Ragnarsson, think that's stupid!
      GM: So you're saying, Mike, that you think she should do something else?
      Mike: No, that's just what Ragnar would say if he were there.

      As Doc Midnight used to say (and I've taken to repeating), "I'm not saying, I'm just saying."

      Which can be pretty dysfunctional. Because it's usually pretty obvious that it's a player desire being transmitted here. But the player in this case will deny it, so you can't discuss it with them directly. At best you have to engage in one of those stupid "hypothetical friend" discussions, which the player will probably at that point refuse to participate in ("my character's not there, so he shouldn't say anything.")

      Yes, this is sorta related to My Guy syndrome. And, again, limited to only cases where the player is abusing the situation in order to not have to communicate in this case.

      That's not to say that it can't be used positively - I'm sure it mostly is. It just means you've pegged the nature of a wierd phenomenon that I've seen quite a few times.
       
      Victor, where does that term come from?

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      John Kim
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      « Reply #13 on: June 01, 2005, 10:32:17 AM »

      Quote from: Victor Gijsbers
      The focaliser of a narrated scene is the character through the senses of whom we experience the world. This need not be the narrator. In many RPGs, especially 'immersionist' ones, each player is supposed to narrate with his character as the focaliser. You can only describe what your character actually experiences. This is most easily done in first person speech. The GM then uses second person speech, because that is the most natural way to continue this focalisation.

      "I carefully look through the window."
      "You see a man approaching."

      See how we naturally see the scene through the eyes of the character?

      I consider focalisation to be a very important narrative technique for roleplaying games, maybe even more important than narrative voices are.

      Well, in your example here, the character is both the focalizer and the narrator for the player.  i.e. By using the first person, the player is narrating as the character.  Thus here we are alternating between the character as narrator (by the player) and omniscient narration (by the GM).  

      Quote from: Mike Holmes
      Quote from: John Kim
      In my experience, narrative voice is very rare in plays.  So I'm not sure it makes a good model.  (Of course, it's also true I know less about theater theory than narrative theory -- so there might well be good stuff there that I don't know.)
      Well, you may have a point, there, but then we have a terminological gap. That is, using narrative voice to describe dialog, I've been saying that it's first person to do so. That is, if I say, "Hey Ragnar, how's it going?" making dialog as if I am, in fact, the speaker, then the closest parallel in writing is the quote that I have above.

      OK, a little more on definitions.  Let me compare two cases of written text:

      1) Selden said "Hey Ragnar, how's it going?"  
      2) I said "Hey Ragnar, how's it going?"  

      In the first case, the narrative voice is an unidentified speaker.  In the second case, the narrative voice is Selden (i.e. the character speaking).  

      In theater, there generally isn't an identified narrator.  The people in the audience see the characters directly, and interpret what they say.  This is similar to the case of live-action gaming.  In film, there is an implied viewer defined by where the camera is and what it focuses on.  That's perhaps a good model for graphical computer-moderated RPGs.  

      But in tabletop gaming, there is generally a narrator -- usually the character herself speaking in the present tense.  i.e. Victor's example of "I look through the window".  Here the player is speaking as the character to describe what the character does.
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      Mike Holmes
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      « Reply #14 on: June 01, 2005, 12:07:27 PM »

      I'm not saying that theater is going to say much about narration per se. I disagree that narration is uncommon - I'm thinking of Our Town, Shakespeare, and Greek plays at the moment (hey, anybody up for a choral narration!). But I'll cede to you that whatever theory about plays might exist probably doesn't say a lot about different forms of narration (though somebody in theater please correct us if we're wrong). In fact, I'd be willing to bet that when they do mention narration, they use the literature terms as well - given that plays start out as texts before they're performed and all.

      My point is merely that at some point the "first person" narration that players do, when it drops the "I say" part, starts to look so much like acting that we'll probably get more out of that part of things by looking at it from the theater POV than from looking at it as first person narration.

      Basically there are other ways of getting information into the SIS as has been discussed previously. Whether or not it's acting around a table, I think in LARP it most definitely crosses that line for all intents and purposes. And most RPGs actually use visual representation at some point to inject things into the SIS (heck, maps). It doesn't do to try to glom this all in under narration. Not that you're trying to do so, but I think that we can say that at some point it becomes voice acting, and not just first person narration. Think of it this way, if the narrator in a play is speaking to an audience, and he says, "Then I said, 'Hey Ragnar!'" then you'd call that first person narration. But if the character speaks to another, then it's acting.

      I think this might be key here. At the point at which the speech is directed to the audience, I think it's good to call it narration. To the extent that the illusion is trying to be maintained that the speech is solely for the benefit of somebody in the SIS, its' acting. That is, I think this would be a good way to separate the acts terminologically.

      Mike
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