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"The Gamers" film as example of actual play

Started by talysman, September 04, 2003, 07:35:15 AM

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talysman

reading about the D&D3.5 assassination attempt reminded me of a DVD I watched recently made by an improv/film group called the Dead Gentlemen. the video was called "The Gamers" and is an amusing presentation of an rpg group finishing up a long-term campaign. the DVD features extra features like a commentary by Monte Cook on the game play aspects of the film.

the scriptwriters obviously knew what they were doing, since the film includes a huge amount of detail easily recognizable as gaming behavior everyone's seen at least once. the D&D3.5 thread had reminded me of one scene involving a player's new character joining the party with minimal questioning, despite the GM's reminders to properly roleplay the scene.

I was especially struck by an undercurrent of social contract issues. how the players relate to each other is never made explicit, but plenty is suggested about aspects of play that have nothing to do with either the rules or the gameworld. for example, one of the players, playing a thief, is able to repeatedly talk the GM into bending rules in his favor, while another player (the elf) gets repeatedly shot down on more reasonable suggections. Monte Cook, in his commentary, suggests this represents an unspoken player/GM conflict outside the game. another example: the players as a group punish another absent player for putting dating above roleplaying.

the game system presented in the film seems to be a DnD/Runequest hybrid or house system, but that's not very important. I think the film offers good examples of GM railroading, problems with task resolution, and the need to work out social issues outside of play. it's also a good example of Gamist players at odds with a GM playing Sim or possibly Nar, and why this can be a problem.

anyone else seen the film?
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg

Mike Holmes

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Jack Spencer Jr

The trailer is viewable here. (requires Quicktime) The full film used to be on the Virtual GenCon site, but it appears to be removed. Pity I didn't get to watch it.

I have to wonder how valuable this film is for game analysis. It's sort of like writing a thesis on Robin after watching Men in Tights. It's a comedy. "Called shot to the nuts!" Not actual play. But maybe it's a fairly clear mirror of play.

rafial

The humor of things like "The Gamers" is the result of presenting "amped up" versions of disfunctional situations we've all encountered in play, so I don't think it totally unreasonable to consider it a source for analysis.  The one that sticks with me is the fighter's player crowing about having huge numbers of HP left after being injured in some horrible way.  Humor is often used to talk about situations that would be difficult to address otherwise.

Another source in a similar vein is the "Knights of the Dinner Table" comic.  Especially since it has become rather soap opera like over the years, delving into the backgrounds of the characters, and showing how that spills over on to the table.  You could do lots with comparing and contrasting the social contracts of the Knights, the Blackhands, and Patty's Perps.

There is also tons of material in the KODT magazine in terms of the debates that go on in the letter column, the "debate of the month" column, and the "Back Room" section.  In one of the latest issues, the debate was on what was being called Storytelling GM style, vs Referee GM style.  It was interesting to examine the arguments using the Forge theoretical apparatus, and realize that there were people on opposite sides of the point that were arguing for the same thing without realizing it.

I'm still waiting for the Forge, or a Forge inspired game to get namechecked in KODT.  "My Life with Hackster"?  "Sorcerer and Hack"?  "HackSpectres"?

MonkeyWrench

Quote from: Mike HolmesWhere can one see it?


I bought my copy at a LGS for about $16. To me it was worth it and I've shown it to all my gaming friends. If anything it makes me appreciate that the people that I RP with don't act like that.
-Jim

Ron Edwards

Hello,

Both Sorcerer and Little Fears got a brief mention in KODT; see Sorcerer sighting ... sort of ...

I think that most of the humor we're talking about in this thread has a lot of extreme social pain, heartbreak, and frustration at its core. Sometimes KODT is hilarious to me, especially its first year's material, but mostly it's like laughing at the victims in the Burn Ward because they look funny, all crispy like that. By which I mean, you won't find me laughing, but wincing and wishing there were a Help Line I could recommend to people.

Dork Tower, to me, is even more wince-inducing. I get a chuckle out of maybe one panel per issue, and I often can't finish an issue in one sitting.

Rafial, if you ever wanted to take the time to dissect out that Referee vs. Story debate in Forge terms, demonstrating how some points of view may be contradictory within one pseudo-side and not actually in opposition across the pseudo-sides, that would be a mighty fine Forge article.

Best,
Ron

Andy Kitkowski

REDEMPTION: Can I be Redeemed by throwing in my $.02?  

I loved this movie.  Reminded me why I left old methods of gaming (and old games) behind and moved on.  Scenes from that movie totally reminded me about experiences that I've had with gaming (mostly D&D). Namely, I'm a big Simulationist, as I see it (and I'm assuredly "getting it wrong", make no mistake there :) ), and I could not help but to be reminded of times in my old game when someone would look over the edge of a 500+ foot cliff, do a little "head math", and then just simply jump over the side, knowing that the "damage dice" wouldn't add up to kill him in the end.

It's little vignettes like that that come flooding back into your memory, like Proust sucking on biscuits, when you watch The Gamers.

===

I normally hate-Hate-HATE to do something like this, but I figured here's my chance:

1) I bought The Gamers (DVD, Region Free) to watch with my gaming group, and also show at a local gaming convention.
2) Both were done.  Watched it... wow... must have been 7-9 times since the time I bought it just two months ago until now.

Incredible stuff. It's really a trip down memory lane, else a trip down the lane that you were on before you were on the lane that brought you to The Forge. :)

Anyway... I've seen it more times that I really need to, so I'm going to let it fly.  PM/email me if you're interested in picking it up.  No more details of this sale on this thread.

-Andy
The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.

rafial

I'm interested by the fact that most of the posters so far seemed to find that the Gamers, while humorous, evoked uncomfortable memories.  For me, while I certainly regonized the stereotypes that were being exploited, the memories of my own play that it evoked were quite positive.

It's been awhile since I've seen it (I actually attented the world premiere in lovely Tacoma, WA), but I seem to recall that despite the silliness, the gamers in question were all having fun.  And as we know, GNS and associated tools are not needed when you are having fun.

I certainly have my share of dysfunctional RPG experiences, but for me, the Gamers did not touch on them...

Jeph

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr"Called shot to the nuts!" Not actual play

I beg to differ. Not sure what the means, though...
Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other

hyphz

Quote from: Ron EdwardsDork Tower, to me, is even more wince-inducing. I get a chuckle out of maybe one panel per issue, and I often can't finish an issue in one sitting.

Hi folks - what is at that you find so upsetting/perturbing about Dork Tower?  It always seemed a lot "lighter" in that aspect than KODT to me..

Ron Edwards

Hi hyphz,

I'm not sure it really matters, as I'm talking about one consumer/reader's reaction, my own. It carries no particular weight for purposes of discussion. Perhaps the more explicit pain and frustration in KODT acknowledges brings up more relevant issues to me as a reader, so I connect better to it. As I say, though, I can't see why dissecting my aesthetic reaction should be of interest to anyone else.

To get this thread back on focus a little, I want to ask more about The Gamers. Rafial wrote,

QuoteIt's been awhile since I've seen it (I actually attented the world premiere in lovely Tacoma, WA), but I seem to recall that despite the silliness, the gamers in question were all having fun.

There are two significant qualifiers in this quote, one based on the separation of time and one based on the word "seem." People who've seen the film recently - does Rafial's impression stand up? Particularly in terms of "fun" outside the concept that perverts must somehow enjoy their perversions.

In other words, do the people in The Gamers have fun in a way that non-gamers would be inspired and interested in having fun that way too?

Best,
Ron

quozl

Quote from: Ron EdwardsIn other words, do the people in The Gamers have fun in a way that non-gamers would be inspired and interested in having fun that way too?

Best,
Ron

In the movie, they have lots of fun.  They dance and and shout so much the girl down the hall comes to yell at them a few times.  

Now, do they have fun in a way non-gamers can relate to?  Maybe.  My brother is a non-roleplayer and he watched the movie with me at Game Storm 2003.  (He was there for the boardgaming.)  He enjoyed the movie quite a bit but wasn't inspired to start roleplaying afterwards.
--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters

MachMoth

Anyone here who has never had a player attempt a called shot to the groin area, I envy you.  The rest of us have or will have a player who when asked where he wants to hit the guy, will invariably say nuts.  And it is often difficult to put an arguement against it.
<Shameless Plug>
http://machmoth.tripod.com/rpg">Cracked RPG Experiment
</Shameless Plug>

Ron Edwards

Machmoth and Jeph,

I think you are misunderstanding Jack's point. He's merely observing that the movie is not actually a documentary viewing of a game, but rather a scripted depiction of a game. His "called shot to the nuts" reference is, I think, making the point that the depiction is by and large an accurate one.

So clarifying that people do indeed play in this fashion is unnecessary. We all get it.

Best,
Ron

talysman

Quote from: Ron EdwardsTo get this thread back on focus a little, I want to ask more about The Gamers. Rafial wrote,

QuoteIt's been awhile since I've seen it (I actually attented the world premiere in lovely Tacoma, WA), but I seem to recall that despite the silliness, the gamers in question were all having fun.

There are two significant qualifiers in this quote, one based on the separation of time and one based on the word "seem." People who've seen the film recently - does Rafial's impression stand up? Particularly in terms of "fun" outside the concept that perverts must somehow enjoy their perversions.

In other words, do the people in The Gamers have fun in a way that non-gamers would be inspired and interested in having fun that way too?

it's a complex question, with many shades of answers.

first, since these are actors portraying a gaming session, they do attempt to convey their characters' emotions through tone of voice, posture, gesture, and so on. they certainly *seemed* to be acting like people having fun: they shout "cool", slap hi-fives, shout, sing, dance. when actually"playing the game," the periodically break into excited in-character dialogue. since these are people pretending to be people pretending to be fantasy characters, I could always be misinterpretting the performance...

there are some exceptions to this. as I mentioned, one of the players has several arguments with the GM. during the confrontations, I don't think "he" was having fun. likewise, the player whose character is killed midgame seemed a bit grumbly.

the most extreme case, notably, seems to be the GM. the actor played the GM role in a very tired, I've-been-putting-up-with-these-players manner. this is what made me think of the movie as a portrayal of a Narrativist or Simulationist GM in conflict with Gamist players. the players quite definitely make choices that seem to be concerned with the best strategy, while the GM in several places gets notably miffed when he can't finish NPC dialogue important to the plot.

I note that, in the KOTD strips I have read, the GM likewise seems a little frustrated, whereas the the players seem to occasionally have fun (or, at least, it's implied that they were having fun up until the conflict of the current strip...)

as for the issue of whether it would seem fun to a non-gamer, I dunno. one of the people I showed the video to was a nongamer and seemed to enjoy the movie, but I didn't ask him if it made him want to try gaming. most of the events in the movie don't seem to be suggesting "boy these roleplayers are weird," but there are a couple individual moments where the movie quite literally *does* say exactly this. but I note also that one of the players, who is missing at the beginning of the session because of other social activities, shows up quite excited about playing the game, plays a little bit, seems to enjoy it... then announces he has to go meet up with his girlfriend for coffee. the impression he conveyed was: roleplaying's fun, but my priority is on my girlfriend right now.

that seems to me to suggest an example of a "non-weird" gamer that non-gamers can relate to. it's sort of spoiled by the "geeks don't like girls" bit that immediately follows it, however.
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg