*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 29, 2014, 08:50:43 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 65 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Under The Bed with Finns  (Read 2288 times)
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« on: October 16, 2005, 02:22:38 AM »

Under the Bed with Finns --

So, on the tour that Eero and I did, we played a whole lot of Under the Bed.   UTB pretty much our go-to demo game that was not written / translated by us, for several reasons, mostly that the demo was easy to do, reasonably low-effort on the part of the person running it, and it was easy to keep in our timeframe.

I did actually change the rules a bit, for the demoes, and I would recommend the change for anyone playing a short game.  The changes were like so:

1) The game ends at 3 or 4 favorite -- 3 favorite games are really short, 4 favorite games are about an hour, and more suitable for the "relax with the hosts after the bulk of demos / sales have already happened" play.  This is actually from the book.

2) The "double die" traits start at 3 favorite.  Essentially, at three favorite, you assign two traits to the opposition, and one of them gets double dice.  At four favorite, you assign two traits, both with double dice.

3) I tried Joshua's variant of starting with two favorite and playing to four, but found it highly unsatisfactory -- people actually *like* being lost in demo play, and dropping to one favorite when everyone else has three or four is really more painful than loss.  (At the beginning of the game, loss doesn't actually hurt you, although you lose your chance for leveling up.  The mathematics of this are really important, I think.)

4) I pretty much rigged it so that you can't lose the story - stakes.  When someone with max favorite lost a challenge, I just had them lose favorite and keep playing the game as normal, rather than all of us losing the story - stakes.  Joshua, is this how it is supposed to play?  The rulebook is a little confused on the subject of endgame.

5) Rather than cheat so I would lose, I would generally take a trait instead of favorite on the first action.  Essentially, this put me out of competition in such a short game.  Something to consider would be changing the trait-triggered endgame rules for shorter games -- deal a number of traits equal to half the players +1?  In the end, it was never an issue, and the favorite triggered endgame is easier for demoes, anyway.

In terms of scenario, I would generally say something like "Well, if no one has a good idea for a scenario and stakes, I usually use 'the child is lost in the enchanted forest' and the stakes being 'does the child get home?' how does that sound for stakes?"  So, most of the time, that was what we played.  Generally, the game was better when people came up with their own stakes, but for various reasons (see below), I am glad I had these ready-made stakes to present.

Since I probably played at least 10 or so games of Under the Bed over the span of a month, maybe more, I'm not going to try to recount the events of each one.  Rather, I'm going to compile some general observations of how people played.  If you look back at <a href="">the tour thread[/url] you can see my general thoughts on the not-so-big cultural divide between Finnish gamers and American gamers as gamers, so I think that these observations will probably hold true for most American play of the game.  I'd love it if Joshua could give an account of his GenCon play, simply to confirm or deny this hunch. 

Anyway, thoughts, roughly organized.

1) Under the Bed is an enormously engaging game.  It is nearly impossible to not get involved in the kid and also to care deeply about your toy.  People immediately begin to discuss their own childhood toys, or the toys that they wanted when they were children and didn't get, which really seems to be a completely shared sort of experience across gender lines, social class, culture, etc.  The general initial look at the game is one of "oh, huh, that's strange" but literally within minutes of sitting down, usually by mid-way through character generation / discussion, people are already totally hooked into the idea of toydom.

1a) Sometimes, as a demo-runner, you need to step in and make sure that people are playing a toy that will be useful during play.  Generally speaking, things that are humanoid are the easiest to play, things that can talk are better than things that can't talk, etc.  That isn't to say that yoyos and kites don't make compelling toys, they are just more of a challenge.  I was really surprised at the number of yoyos.

2) Because the game is so engaging, it is also shockingly intimate.  Play of the game is essentially talking about your own childhood fears and your own fears for children (two different, but related things) with a group of -- in the case of these traveling demoes -- total strangers.  This intimacy is generally a really positive thing, and people come out of the game smiling at each other.  I think that the fact that the game makes reasonably sure that you'll come out ahead, in the end, helps a lot with this -- you bring up your fears and can exorcize them, rather than being mechanically told that they are actually more terrifying than all that, which is what a loss implies.  Excellent group therapy.

3) But, frankly, this level of intimacy with strangers is terrifying, and quite frequently (one out of every two games, maybe), one of the players would recoil from it, too afraid to reveal themselves or too afraid to let others reveal themselves.  Universally, this recoiling would be in the form of introducing a threat of rape into the game.

Yeah, I shit you not, universally.

Now, how does a threat of rape dampen intimacy?  Essentially, we don't generally ever sympathize with victims of serious violence.  We might pity them, we might even empathize with them, but we don't really sympathize with them.  Usually this is because we can't -- we simply have no similar experience -- but even if we do have similar experience to draw on, it is really not appropriate to start sympathizing in a casual, recreational environment like a friendly UtB game.

Now, how do you, as a player of the game, overcome this sort of flinch?  Interestingly enough, the thing not to do is shut them down -- it essentially gives them a big ego boost ("I'm so much more hard core than these people, they just can't take it") and also poisons the open-ness of the game which so much of the intimacy stems from.  Rather, I found that it is for the best to follow the rules of the game exactly -- make them state exactly the stakes of the challenge, and bring in the traits as they normally would.

Generally, this results in an immediate downward revision of the stakes -- almost no one can bring themselves to talk about rape openly, even in a fictional context, and so we get stakes that skirt the issue -- "Does the creepy man grab the child or not?" rather than what they were originally implying, which was "Does the creepy man violently rape the child or not?" simply because they can't bring themselves to actually say it.  This is good.  I'm reminded of Capes' gloating mechanic.  The fact that you have to say outloud the stakes of the challenge rather strongly enforces the Sorenson principle (you should only roll if you are happy with both outcomes of the roll), which is excellent, because then you get succeed / fail stakes.

(I'm not saying that Under the Bed isn't suited for dealing with issues of child molestation, but I think it does it better through the veil of fantasy -- "Does the witch lock you in the cage or not?" than through direct stakes.)

Furthermore, this attempt to escape from the intimacy of the game generally only draws in the person into the intimacy further.  Once they start talking about serious issues, you can see a lot about their own fears and insecurities about children, childhood, and society begin to bubble through all at once.  I remember this one guy, who had a wino trying to molest the child in the woods, and then he kept bringing up the sex issue, with his toy threatening to rape people, etc, etc.  And at the end of the game we're all looking at each other, and going "holy fuck" and that guy, I swear to God he sounds like he's about to cry.

I don't know if that's a positive or negative experience of the game, for him, but it certainly was for me.

4) There is a serious building of tension during the game.  Even if the stakes don't escalate, which they tend to, there is this moment after the end of the game where we all let out a big sigh and go "well, all right, it was okay in the end."  Except, of course, when we don't, when we go "oh, man, that kid isn't going to have an easy time of it," because we all know from looking at what's in the woods that they're having whatever trouble that they're having at home, or that they're insane, or something else entirely.

5) Like a lot of games of the same type, it is impossible to play Under the Bed without feeling closer to the other folks afterwards.

Hmm...

I think that's all my observations.  Anyone else?  Eero, Joshua, can you talk about your experiences demoing the game?
Logged

mutex
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2005, 10:56:21 AM »

Perhaps the gentleman had been molested as a child?  Often, victims of abuse of whatever kind will attempt to use the abusive behavior on others as a kind of defensive mechanic.  Perhaps that game just brought up some old, buried emotions.
Logged
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2005, 01:18:25 PM »

Perhaps the gentleman had been molested as a child? Often, victims of abuse of whatever kind will attempt to use the abusive behavior on others as a kind of defensive mechanic. Perhaps that game just brought up some old, buried emotions.

That's certainly a possibiity. If he cared about it so much, it seems likely that he had some sort of deep baggage about it. I honestly don't know how well UtB serves that kind of individual. At least one survivor of child abuse has told me he really likes the game, though. UtB has been mentioned to me in the context of psychology several times, and while I find comments like that interesting, they're really not what I designed the game for. I designed it to tell stories about childhood. I guess that's what Freud was doing, but UtB really doesn't do much more than the "Mmm hmm... tell me more" part of that; there's no analysis. It is, after all, a game that is used to generate fiction, not a therapeutic tool.

My experience playing the game has been largely similar, Ben, but actual rape has never been brought up in any game I've been in. The veil of fantasy is deliberate and I wield it like a surgeon wields an axe. It keeps things meaningful without making them overly painful for the players, which is, you know, important, because it's a game. It's supposed to help you learn and grow, not stripe you and pour salt in the wound.

So there's been all sorts of "Will the Witch jam you in the oven?" kind of things, Grimm things, Oz things, Narnia things, Wonderland things. When stuff gets really gnarly, people talk about getting stuck in the basement and other childhood fears, but the presence of flying monkeys or whatever makes it so they can really confront it and walk away smiling, better friends with the people they played with.

I'm glad it worked out, and I'm superhappy that the rules prevent that kind of torpedoing. What they don't prevent is people making stakes that don't matter. It's the only thing the game's no good at: meaninglessness. Sometimes, there will be a little bit of meaninglessness that will leak in (usually in the form of weak stakes) and it takes palpable effort to revive the game thereafter.

I'll write up a nifty game I played a few weeks ago sometime soon. It was with a bunch of adults - no one under 50, I think. The results were interesting.
Logged

the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


WWW
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2005, 02:05:07 PM »

I think the whole "rape psychology" angle is a red herring. I witnessed at least one of these and played in one, and in both cases it seemed to me that it was just a cultural disconnect - instead of doing fairy tale, the folks in question were doing fairy tale deconstruction. Like, deliberate removal of veils. Just throwing child molestation in as something to do, with no special emotional attachment, with the sole purpose of making the players more aware of the game as communication and less as cliche. This might or might not be more common in the circles we gamed in, compared to the usual experience. My impression is that Finns as a culture are more into liberal cultural relativism and postmodernism as content than Americans, so I wouldn't be surprised if such sidestepping of the genre was just how the players in question are used to handling fairy tales. The same people probably emphasize social issues in Exalted as a method of deconstructing the hero myth.

Other than that, UtB was indeed a saving grace for the tour. Ben ran most of those games because I had my trusty Dust Devils and My Life with Master to fall on, as well as the occasional other game. Personally I was pretty tired with the short three stone game at the end of the tour, but I guess the demo participants enjoyed themselves with the game. My next priority is to get to play a full game with a much, much more leisurely pace, developed NPCs and all that stuff. Only after that can I say anything authoritative about UtB. (Although Joshua should check out my recent Ronnies game Whitecollar Punks; the influence of playing UtB for two weeks is obvious.)
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2005, 07:18:24 PM »

Eero -- following the reactions of other people at the table, I don't think it was exactly a cultural divide -- other people clearly felt uncomfortable and a little put out by it.

Mutex (do you have a real name)? -- I think that was probably true in one case in particular, but in other cases it really seemed to me to just be "oh, let's escalate to serious stuff."

Joshua -- How, precisely, do you enforce the veil of fantasy?  Like, if someone frames a conflict where it's "does this man molest the child or not" how can you say "no" to that, within the rules?

yrs--
--Ben
Logged

mutex
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2005, 08:07:59 PM »

Quote
Mutex (do you have a real name)?

Erm, sort of.  The company for which I work does have inventions clauses that could endanger any material I tried to release here.  I understand real names are important here, and I will definitely change to my real name after a while, but I'm not really comfortable doing that right now.

So, rape as a dodge, huh?  I guess I can understand that, in the sense that the original stories were probably wrappers around more horrible things, but rape has never been a subject that I could bandy about without emotional content.
Logged
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


WWW
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2005, 09:17:03 PM »

Eero -- following the reactions of other people at the table, I don't think it was exactly a cultural divide -- other people clearly felt uncomfortable and a little put out by it.

Not talking Finns vs. Americans here, actually. Talking deconstructionists vs. humans. This is different in Finland only insofar as we might have more deconstructionists here than you have in America. And of course, when you put a deconstructionist into a game with humans, he causes consternation - that's his creative agenda in art, as we see again and again when these guys do other art forms.

But anyway, that's a minor thing as concerns UtB, I think. You'd get the same results with any other game, if the player wanted to be all artistic and heavy, and thought that artistic and heavy means having molestation instead of getting eaten alive.
Logged

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2005, 10:07:52 AM »

You know, I've been thinking about this.

First off, the idea behind the creation of the game is Deconstructionist. It's assuming that there's literal meaning behind the symbols used in fairy tales and children's stories, and that it's your job, as a player, to see what they are.

But that assumes something: that there are symbols to deconstruct. A rapist isn't a symbol unless we're talking about something bigger and gnarlier. A witch wanting to shove a boy in her oven, that's a symbol. It also means a lot more things because it's less literal.

So what's happening when someone takes UtB and does this kind of thing with it, is it takes away the structure of the story. It's not a fantasy story, which we know how to tell: it's a wretched story about child abuse, which, because we don't know how to tell the story, kills it. The mechanics of the game make it salvageable, fortunately, but you've got to have some sort of medium to go somewhere.

Stories about rape are not a very good medium to talk about childhood, it turns out.

I find it really, really interesting that this is the kind of thing that comes up so often in this game. I'm really proud that it's a system where that kind of thing can come up. I just wish I'd written a game where there was support for talking about that kind of thing literally.

I'd very much like to read some more AP posts. Ben, I'd like to hear some non-rape related stories, since I guess the other half of the games weren't like that.

I'd also really like to thank every single player of UtB for opening up with your friends like you do whenever you play.
Logged

the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2005, 08:05:37 PM »

Being a long time public transport user, I've often been in a "Your telling me way to much about your life, total stranger!" situation from people who sat across from me and just talked and talked. I'd be thinking, I don't want to know about how your friends got cancer and is a single mum and poor and suffering...because it's so terrifically hard that I have to choose to grow closer to you or reject you. And look at your smiling face...although your forcing this choice on me, you haven't even thought about (let alone are ready to accept) rejection. Wow, talk about a forced hand.

Also I've played CoC with someone I found quite weird, at a personality level. I find CoC requires some intimacy with fellow players to enjoy - and I just did not want to achieve it with him (and he was the only other player). But it was a club game and there was this push to play - poor GM, I really spoiled his game by my nervous sillyness. But this other player...ech! I just was not interested in getting any closer to him (and I didn't have the guts to say "Well, even though I've traveled for an hour on public transport to get to this game, I don't feel like playing", cause clearly, I'd only do that if I had a problem with the people there (ie, wasting an hour getting here and an hour getting back would be better than playing with someone here)).

Your being pushed to bond with someone. But your choice is removed about whether you'll bond, because (ironically) you'll face negative social feedback if you leave. It's bullying, basically. I resorted to sillyness and I can imagine other people turning to throwing around the idea of rape.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Joshua A.C. Newman
Member

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress


WWW
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2005, 09:25:17 AM »

Yeah, it's a tough thing about the game: it assumes that you're playing with your friends. When I playtested it, I played with my friends. When others playtested it, they played with their friends. It's a game that friends play together. I think that's good.

There's an interesting feature of the game, too: you can ditch out anytime it's not your turn. If things are uncomfortable, you can just take your chips out of the game. You can even stay and watch - people do that all the time. It has not effect on the game at all, other than that it removes someone from an uncomfortable position.

But look! The game's not about putting people in uncomfortable positions! It's about being honest with your friends! It's about what's important to you about children and about your memories of childhood. As a person with a fairly idylic childhood, I wrote a game to honor that part of my life. Are peoples' childhoods so disasterous that they can't do anything else with the game? After all, it's only a deck of cards, a pile of dice, and encouragement to give each other challenges that your Child will almost always confront successfully. The only thing it does is assume that your Child's challenges are worth confronting, that, imaginary or not, they're real to the Child, and that they've got to do things in their lives to learn and grow. That's what childhood's about!

What's not surprising to me is that only the most shocking and disturbing of play is being discussed. That's OK. I understand that's what we do as people. But I'd really like to hear about the other stories, because not only did this rape thing come up in only half of the games Ben played, but in each of those games, only one player brought it up. Those guys and Ben tells me they were all guys, so that's something to discuss, too are taking up this entire discussion.
Logged

the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!