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Author Topic: Social Mandate: Did you remember to bring your guitar?  (Read 4592 times)
Callan S.
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« on: January 05, 2008, 03:58:28 PM »

Split from The Social Mandate

Heya Ron,
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Callan,

I think you're correct in that some kind of culturally-understood statement will have to be involved. However, plain old win-lose isn't going to cut it. I agree that "no one wins or loses" has often been a little dicey or dishonest in RPG texts. Still, win-lose simply cannot apply to Narrativist and Simulationist play. The key for them, or at least the beginnings of thinking about that key, lies in terms of successful vs. unsuccessful play, much in the sense that a musical performance might be.

For instance, regarding My Life with Master, the answer to your query is functionally "no." The rules about that are subtle and superficially appear to support the possibility of the Master's survival, but successful play does mean his or her death. It was even a key point/principle during the game's design: "The Master must die" (I know, because I briefly debated about that point and lost).
I want to say with the same certainty, that 'win-lose cannot apply to nar/sim' has only been asserted here - no supporting argument has been given. In the same light, the 'key' of thinking about successful Vs unsuccessful play hasn't been given an argument as to why it's the key. So the following can't fully engage it, but I think its  useful.

Taking the musical performance example, what happens if your guitar strings are broken? Or your microphone is set up wrong, conking out half way through a show - or you can't even get your speakers to the gig? There's no ambiguity of 'successful show vs unsuccessful show' - no matter how succesful it could have been, the intended show can't actually happen without those material components set up as intended. Maybe you can do an amazing acoustic session, but if you intended to do one with blaring speakers, you've failed at your goal if you do accoustic. "Great session guys - but lets try harder next time and get those speakers there, hey?". A system of self improvement has been set up. (or even alternatively "Hey, I love acoustic - lets give up on the whole speakers requirement!" - ie, a real concrete choice instead of kinda sliding into something without really thinking).

Win-lose does apply to narrativist and simulationist play. It sets up a self improving pattern of trying to get all the gear required for the activity, into the activity. I remember when I tried GM'ing TROS a couple of times - completely forgot to involve spiritual attributes (didn't make up material around them, didn't encourage players to try and find ways to apply them). Did I fail at running it? Then why not continue the way I did?

I'm not just talking a checklist here - though in the end, it could mechanically just be a checklist. However, adding a win/lose condition to completing the checklist ties into general culture, and that makes it more than a checklist and instead important to forfil. Important and accountable. No ones going to ask 'Did you complete the checklist with that game', but they will ask 'Did you win?'. Unless you feel like lying about the end result to anyone who asks, there's a massive reality check built into the game. You have to face the truth - you didn't play it very well, you didn't complete the checklist "Hmmm, what would it have been like if I'd actually used spiritual attributes?". I remember a RPG.net review on TROS, where the guy had ditched spiritual attributes basically because 'they were unrealistic' or such, and gone on to write his negative review. It would have been interesting if he had had to say 'But I guess I never won at it, so I can't be sure of what it's like to win'.

With 'My Life with Master', I really need to get to the store in town again and see if this time they can order in these things. However, the model you describe isn't really much different - instead of win/lose it's "Have you won yet?", and the person can say "YES!" or "No, but were still trying" or "No, we gave up, it was too big for us". Sure, it's not a win/lose, it's a 'Keep trying, dammit!' model. It still requires an honest responce of whether your still trying or have given up the attempt. That honesty means honest use of the system. Personally I don't see much difference at all - you can still lose by giving up, so to me it looks like a win/lose system as well. But that's kind of my own outlook, rather than a technical observation.

Finally, when you actually win a session - when you've not just brought your guitar, but completed the very last song of the set you decided to play. Is the performance good? I think that's a different question. But I think only when you've actually won are you in a position to judge that performance. Until then you'd be judging losing sessions. Also, I rather suspect that once you win at the technical side, it's not a matter of good or bad, it's just what the person is. Someone can train their voice wonderfully, but have a heart empty of passion. But that's getting ahead of myself and rambling. What do you think?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2008, 06:20:18 PM »

Hi Callan,

By that construction, "I win" applies to any human activity that works out all right. I make dinner? "I win!" I get laid? "I win!"

But you know what, no one can tell you how to talk. I used a narrower definition of "win/lose" in the other thread (from which Step On Up was defined in the first place, so it's no wonder they correspond), and you didn't like being restricted to that. Fine. For you, "win" means any task, any outcome, any action, when it turns out all right.

Your take on what the general culture means by the term and my take on the same thing are simply different. I think people will think X when they hear "win," and you think they'll hear Y.

The really stupid thing is that we agree 100% on this business about successful vs. unsuccessful activities. You call that successful musical performance a "win," and I don't. That's the difference - simple and stupid terminology, no difference at all in our assessment of the reality.

There is no point in shouting "does too" and "does not" back and forth at one another, which is how I'm reading your post here. You can assert that Narrativist play wins and loses, because it's a task or activity, and it can work or not work. I can assert that it doesn't, because Address Premise doesn't carry the specific sort of failure that Step On Up does. You can say that I'm not backing up my definitions, and I can say your definition is one of those broad useless things that lets everyone be right. I can imagine exactly where it'd go from there, and one of us would end up being insulted and mad.

I don't have the time or inclination for any of that. I concede to what I think is your aim in posting: I can't control what winning and losing means for you, and if you want to employ it to help people understand role-playing in general, go right ahead, not as if you needed my permission anyway. I do not agree with your choice of words, but since this is really about what we each think everyone else thinks of those terms, there's no point in arguing.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: January 05, 2008, 06:22:17 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2008, 04:46:45 PM »

Whoa, I'm not making any definition - I'm deliberately altering the activity into a win/lose situation. If I bet you you can't make dinner, and you will get $5 and congrats from me if you do make it and teased for awhile if you don't, I've just modified the activity. 'I win' doesn't apply to making dinner by default. But if I jam 'I win' stuff in there, it applies as much as I jam it in. That's what I mean here
Quote
I'm not just talking a checklist here - though in the end, it could mechanically just be a checklist. However, adding a win/lose condition to completing the checklist ties into general culture, and that makes it more than a checklist and instead important to forfil.

Man, if I was defining a task like 'make dinner' as containing 'I win' just by itself, then all those RPG's would somehow magically have 'I win' in them already just naturally and I wouldn't have posted. But they lack it, so I suggested adding something to the activity.

I'll note that saying "Making dinner doesn't have 'I win' in it" is a self forfilling prophesy. If I bet you five bucks you can't make dinner and you say 'Making dinner doesn't have 'I win' in it', then you've declined my bet - and without a bet, yeah, making dinner has absolutely no 'I win' in it. But it's just declining my bet - the activity doesn't itself exclude making a bet over it. Nor do the rules use activities of sim or nar roleplay exclude that. The addressing premise type bits do exclude it, cause your focused on that. But shuffling numbers and using rules, that doesn't exclude making a bet over getting it done right. Saying "For you, "win" means any task, any outcome, any action, when it turns out all right" is just a complicated way of saying 'Making diner doesn't have 'I win' in it, cause if it did then every task would and that's too broad and silly'. Dude, if I challenge you to making dinner, even putting up some cash to show I mean it, you will do me the honour of recognising my challenge and not intellectualise it all away!

Hope that wasn't over the top to say it - partly a desire to emphasize what I mean, and partly an old nerve from years of blank, ignoring stares when trying to throw down a bit of a challenge (and not articulating it well). If it's okay, it'd be useful to reread my posts in light of this.
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Bastoche
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2008, 06:06:05 AM »

Betting 5$ on making dinner sounds like "stepping on up" to me :P
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Sebastien
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2008, 06:09:43 AM »

Hi Callan,

You lost me, but that is OK, 'cause I'm not the only reader. If what you're writing makes sense and helps others, then great.

You mentioned some actual play, so if you can pop some in to clarify or exemplify your points, that would be very good. This is not a call for "proof" but rather to conform with the forum goals.

Best, Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2008, 07:39:59 AM »

I agree that by adding a win/loss condition to an activity, you signify and signboard the importance of that activity.  This may be useful if it is not entirely clear to the practitioners which activities they should be concentrating on.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2008, 05:42:00 PM »

Can't remember specific examples, but I've played cards or board games, and have reminded my opponent of a really obvious option they have upon using a card or such, but they forgot. That's because the game itself wasn't about remembering that really obvious option (it's so obvious, it can't be some memory test). This of course gets in the way of my winning - but if I didn't say anything, it would change the game, into one very similar but with this 'memorise the option' part. The important thing - I didn't set out to win that derivitive game. It's better to lose the game you set out to win, than to win a different game entirely. That stops the game mutating. And in terms of playing well, people play better when it's possible to lose. Not because their obliged to, but out of a natural desire.

Anyway, I'm begining to feel like I'm explaining there is more to an imaginary character than just how they appear. And that his actions shouldn't just be changed in the interests of a better story/a 'real' story. Here I'm saying there is more to the task of making dinner (if I put winning and losing in it) and that shouldn't be ignored in the interests of a better challenge/a 'real' challenge. I'm having to assert this just so I can then move on to the useful outcomes I refered to earlier. Perhaps its a dead end suggestion or perhaps this is gamer culture - any non gamer would go "So I can get five bucks, hey? Nice!", I'm fairly certain.


Bastoche: Yeah, it kind of would be, but it'd also be subordinated to nar or sim, whatever the games really about. It's like driving a car so you can get some place you really like. There are driving tests for cars - you have to get your learners, then do some time with a teacher driver, then to a P plate test (well, I'm describing the Australian system), then do more practice time until you can move on to a full capacity driver. Anyway, you can fail at any of these tests. That makes them important to pass. But you only got the car to get to the cool place you like, so the tests aren't as important as that place is.

Can't resist a bit of dark humour - yeah, it's like earning your psychologists degree. You have to earn that. Practice psychology without that qualification and you might cause some brain damage. Hur hur, end of dark humour.

Gareth: Yep, that's the useful features I see as well. :)
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Bastoche
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2008, 06:45:27 PM »

Well I can at least think of a counter example.

Let's pick up a team sports game like hockey. In gaming terms, a hockey game certainly is a "gamist" game. There's rules to "win" and rules to "lose". Whichever team scores the most goals win. There are some other rules added to make the players abide to a certain gaming ideal and/or behavior especially where physical contacts are involved (and to restrain injury; that's no fun) and so on.

Let's assume now a bunch of players wants to play hockey not for "scoring goal's sake" but rather for "hitting the puck's sake". You could have 3 people, a goalie and 2 attackers and all they do is hit the puck and try to score the goalie. Nothing more, nothing less. It's fun and nothing is at stakes and as long as that game fits the three players' idea of "fun", they acheive the "playing a fun game" part without any winning/losing involved.

Or think of any such sports where the two teams just don't count the points. Of course, you could imagine some players who plays half assed because there's no stakes; no point in playing "well". But the idea is that playing the game is the reward itself so they play well because of that irregardless to the possibilities to "win" or "lose" (except some weight haha).
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Sebastien
Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2008, 01:54:58 AM »

How many times have they decided to hit the puck?

If I sit down to say, play the card game 'lunch money', and I happen to play three games of it, the three games aren't one activity just because they happened one after the other. Nor is each hit of the puck part of some activity. Each hit is its own individual game. A games size is defined by your intent/goals, and how far those reach. In your example their goals don't go any further than hitting it once - they haven't planned to hit it a certain number of times, or until a certain number of goals are achieved.

'Course, a lot of gamers are used to roleplay where they roll some dice here, or roll some dice there - but never with any real goal in mind except rolling the dice at that time. But they see the hours spent at it as a single session, even when its nothing of the sort. It's a series of small unassociated games, with some games forced to start from results of others, but not with any overall goal for all the activity. It's like the goalie throwing the puck back from the last goal and the next game of hitting a goal starts from where it lands - it's just hapstance result from the last game played, it's not an indicator of some larger activity.

Playing the game of 'hit the puck' multiple times doesn't add up to anything bigger - you'll only learn whatever is to be learned from hitting a puck.
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FredGarber
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2008, 10:15:44 AM »

In my experience, when playing a heavily Sim/Nar session of a game, I can answer the non-gamer question "Did you Win?"  with the answer to the question "Was it successful?"

However, I have an Actual Play counterexample to my own position:
  We're playing a home-brewed game of Mage:The Ascension.  Our group's creative agenda is reinforcing Sim/Nar play: The GM presents problems, and the way that our players decide to resolve (or screw up) the situation is the goal of play, with smiles, reinforcement, and XP given by both players and GM.  The overall Premise of the game, the one which all the problems revolve around, is "With vast amounts of powers, how do your characters choose to use them?"

   A former ally (played by a PC) has fallen in with some dodgy philosophy (he has a paradigm of Mages as Jedi, but the character is falling into becoming a Sith Lord) and is attacking us.  Some PCs are trying to bring him back to the Good Side of the Force, some are just trying to win the fight.  My particular PC is a nature warlock, and trying to put the Sith Lord down for the count.  In my character's opinion(*), the debate over whether to save him or kill him is moot: He chose the Dark Side of the Force, he should know that Dark Jedis always die. 
   Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of offensive capability.  So I execute a complicated magick, which ends up with me channelling another player's electrical magicks into the Sith, and cooking him like a microwave burrito.  As his character fell over, I was close enough to try and give him one last chance at redemption: which he didn't take, proclaiming the Sith virtues of strength and force with his last breath.
   I had fun.  JD (the Sith) had fun.  But H (the one whose power did the cooking) was strongly on the "let's talk him down" side, and my character had, effectively, tricked her character into killing.  It caused a rift between the characters that lasted until the end of the game.  And (to the point), H did not have fun.  She felt like I had stolen her ability to interact with the SIS as well as my character stole her lightning powers.  I would put this example in the category of a "successful play" situation that is ALSO a "I lost the game" for H.

WWGS LARPing is another play type that strongly states the "no winners, no losers" meme: Whenever that comes up, my friend Aaron is fond of saying "I can win the LARP by making it all about me."

I believe you can have a win/lose situation in any game: Was your character successful?  You win.  Otherwise, you lost.  But did you have fun?  That's where there the successful/unsuccessful play comes in.

-Fred

(*)My character's Opinions are probably also MY opinions: There were a lot of outstanding problems for our group, and it's possible that I did not find this particular debate worth of debate, and chose to render the question "Can a Sith Lord be redeemed" moot.  It was a pretty immersion-heavy game.
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Bastoche
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2008, 01:03:29 PM »

How many times have they decided to hit the puck?

If I sit down to say, play the card game 'lunch money', and I happen to play three games of it, the three games aren't one activity just because they happened one after the other. Nor is each hit of the puck part of some activity. Each hit is its own individual game. A games size is defined by your intent/goals, and how far those reach. In your example their goals don't go any further than hitting it once - they haven't planned to hit it a certain number of times, or until a certain number of goals are achieved.

'Course, a lot of gamers are used to roleplay where they roll some dice here, or roll some dice there - but never with any real goal in mind except rolling the dice at that time. But they see the hours spent at it as a single session, even when its nothing of the sort. It's a series of small unassociated games, with some games forced to start from results of others, but not with any overall goal for all the activity. It's like the goalie throwing the puck back from the last goal and the next game of hitting a goal starts from where it lands - it's just hapstance result from the last game played, it's not an indicator of some larger activity.

Playing the game of 'hit the puck' multiple times doesn't add up to anything bigger - you'll only learn whatever is to be learned from hitting a puck.

You either lost me or misunderstood me. The game is not "hitting the puck" (once) it's ABOUT hitting the puck. In other words, they play hockey because they like to hit the puck. But you are pushing my example WAY beyond where I intended it to go lol.

My point is, I, sometimes play "hockey" for "playing hockey's sake" rather then "to make my team win the hockey game" and it was fun nonetheless and we played as hard as possible despite the lack of "winning" opportunities and/or incentives. That was my point. If I understood you correctly, your point about "winning" is as a waranty that players involved in the game "want", hence the incentive (winning part) right?
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Sebastien
Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2008, 04:19:04 PM »

Hi Fred,

Quote
I believe you can have a win/lose situation in any game: Was your character successful?  You win.  Otherwise, you lost.  But did you have fun?  That's where there the successful/unsuccessful play comes in.
Lets say I bake a cake, a sweet one. I follow the recipe perfectly. And I give it to someone who has no tastebuds that taste sweetness. Was it unsuccessful? Or lets say I bake a cake with almonds in it, following the recipe just right, and someone who has a nut alergy eats it. Was I unsuccessful?

Procedure is quite seperate from a targets capacity to enjoy said procedure. Gamer culture has been 'OMFG, he's not happy, fudge the rules, fudge the rules, change the procedure till he's happy!'. But it's BS. There's no point to thinking about succesful/unsuccesful play. You can't reinforce some 'play the rules' mandate by saying 'Because when you do the game will be successful' to a guy who has no tastebuds for it, if you get my mix of analogy. You'd be lying, for a start. Only if you can guarantee succesful play can you support such a mandate, and given human diversity of taste, it can't be guaranteed. However, what we do have recurring in our culture is a sense of wining and losing, in relation to board games and associated games. That can reinforce procedure, even if the procedure isn't to the users taste in the end.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2008, 04:35:55 PM »

Hi Bastoche,

Quote
My point is, I, sometimes play "hockey" for "playing hockey's sake" rather then "to make my team win the hockey game" and it was fun nonetheless and we played as hard as possible despite the lack of "winning" opportunities and/or incentives.
How do you know you played as hard as possible, when you didn't measure it? When you didn't count goals and such, which would have measured that?

If your mind is sharp enough to have been measuring all things, your still using a measurement system as explicit as goals. That it's in your head makes no difference than if you wrote it on a scrap of paper. On the other hand, plenty of people will say they had a bad night of rolling, where if each roll was actually recorded, it would show the rolls came out to a standard average. The idea they knew what actually happened is a delusion born of selective memory. I can't argue you into self doubt, where you become uncertain of just how hard you played. But you can see I don't take your statement (of how hard you played) as a supporting arguement. I wont argue you into doubt if you don't try to argue me into how certain you are. :) Having listened to each other, well have to leave it there.
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Bastoche
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2008, 04:52:15 PM »

How do you know you played as hard as possible, when you didn't measure it? When you didn't count goals and such, which would have measured that?

Because it was fun.
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Sebastien
Callan S.
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2008, 10:01:00 PM »

It's raising another topic to ask, but under that measurement: if it didn't turn out fun, would that mean you hadn't played hard enough. That it would be fun if you had just played harder?
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