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Author Topic: Discussion of Social Contract theories at the Forge  (Read 3757 times)
The Magus
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« on: April 03, 2009, 03:09:05 PM »

As a relative newbie to the Forge I am aware that the RPG Theory forum is now closed.  I've read a number of articles on the GNS model and feel that this describes my experience of RPGs recently.  However, having looked at a number of posts I feel that there are some issues that do not get addressed using a theoretical framework, mainly around the social contract and gaming groups. 

I'd find it helpful to know where I might find posts related to this issue as I see it mentioned a great deal but not actually examined.  I'd like to discuss my theories about it somewhere with other interested parties but need some clarification:

  • Is the Forge specifically for analysis and reification of the GNS theory or are other concepts welcome?
  • Would I be better off posting on other websites and if so which ones?
 

Thanks for reading
Piers
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 04:07:51 PM »

Seems to me like you're in the right place with this. There is no official theoretical program here; you can discuss whatever you want, social contract included. In practice you do it nowadays in the Actual Play forum: start a thread therein, describe your thesis and illustrate it with some of your own experiences in actual roleplaying. This might seem a bit weird, but the purpose is to enforce communication: with practical experience as the basis of discussion we can always draw on those facts as the basis of discussion instead of getting lost in speculation. It also helps if others know what sort of games have concretely brought a given theory topic to your mind.
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Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
M. J. Young
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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 05:04:41 PM »

Piers, I have spotted social contract related threads scattered about from time to time.  Eero is correct that there is not "official" theory, and also that Actual Play is the forum (and the foundation) for theory discussions here at present.  If you can relate your ideas to gaming experiences specifically, you're good.

I'm interested in your thoughts.  I posted an article related to social contract development over at Gaming Outpost (perhaps aptly entitled Social Contract Development in Gaming, and you're certainly welcome to discuss theory there--but the audience is not what it once was over there even if the posting rules are not so strict.

--M. J. Young
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Sindyr
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2009, 01:20:57 PM »

As a relative newbie to the Forge I am aware that the RPG Theory forum is now closed.  I've read a number of articles on the GNS model and feel that this describes my experience of RPGs recently.  However, having looked at a number of posts I feel that there are some issues that do not get addressed using a theoretical framework, mainly around the social contract and gaming groups. 

I'd find it helpful to know where I might find posts related to this issue as I see it mentioned a great deal but not actually examined.  I'd like to discuss my theories about it somewhere with other interested parties but need some clarification:

  • Is the Forge specifically for analysis and reification of the GNS theory or are other concepts welcome?
  • Would I be better off posting on other websites and if so which ones?
 

Thanks for reading
Piers

I too am intensely interested in the answer to these questions, specifically where Actual Play is entirely inapplicable (i.e., because there is none and will not be any in the short term)
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-Sindyr
Sindyr
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2009, 06:41:52 AM »

Piers, I have spotted social contract related threads scattered about from time to time.  Eero is correct that there is not "official" theory, and also that Actual Play is the forum (and the foundation) for theory discussions here at present.  If you can relate your ideas to gaming experiences specifically, you're good.

I know this is shouting into the wind, but it is incredible that the oxymoron/contradiction of theory discussions being relegated to an "actual play" forum is not blindingly obvious.

It would also probably be more honest to simply tell the poor man (and any others) that ultimately discussions of rpg theory are no longer welcome here at the Forge - that why they closed down the Theory forum.  The only theory discussion that is permitted is the bits related to past experiences - but none that relate to future ones.

It still boggles my mind.  And the irony is that if the Theory forum hadn't been of use to many people, they wouldn't have *had* to shut it down.

Quite coercive.
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-Sindyr
lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2009, 09:17:28 AM »

Piers: like MJ says, if you want to talk about your theories here at the Forge you'll just need to use examples from your own play experiences. It shouldn't be too difficult to do. After all, your experiences are where your theories came from.

Sindyr: noted, thank you. Don't keep on about it, please.

-Vincent
not the content moderator (that's Ron), just the tech admin and an old-timer
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The Magus
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2009, 02:09:07 PM »

Piers: like MJ says, if you want to talk about your theories here at the Forge you'll just need to use examples from your own play experiences. It shouldn't be too difficult to do. After all, your experiences are where your theories came from.

Thanks Vincent, MJ and Sindyr.  I'm hoping to write up a detailed post after Easter.  I have some concerns that I'll be repeating stuff that might have been discussed here before.  Having looked at the majority of the articles I can find only passing mentions of my interests and concerns.  I will post in Actual Play and attempt to base it on my experiences but also the experiences that others sometime describe.

Regards
Piers
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2009, 04:10:51 PM »

Sindyr,  I am entirely sympathetic.  I am one who thinks theoretically and has trouble connecting it back to the concrete from which it arose (I tend rather to apply it forward to what it implies for play that has not yet happened).  I also think that actual play is much too busy a forum for someone interested primarily in theory.  I know that sometimes some peoples' eyes glazed over when they came to some of my theory posts; but I feel that way with most of the actual play posts.

However, this is not my playground, and I will abide by the rules.

So what are the alternatives?

It seems to me that one alternative is for people who want to discuss theory to take it to a different forum.  The Gaming Outpost site would be ideal for this.  It is easy to post there, role playing discussions of all types are welcome, and it is not overly busy at present.  In addition, anyone interested in posting articles can do so on the articles side of the site fairly easily, simply setting up an author account.  That is where most of the theory discussion that long lived here was birthed, and some of that (what was not lost to computer failures) is still archived.

Yet apparently not enough people are interested enough in discussing theory as such to support such activity elsewhere.

I can also sympathize with the decision here to terminate the theory forum.  At least some of the activity was becoming perhaps esoteric.  Ron in particular develops his thoughts from observation of conduct (a key reason why the word "motive" is never used in his theory:  it cannot be observed).  A great deal of "theoretical" work is based on what the theoretician imagines must be so, converted into dogma without any clear connection to reality.

In short, Ron's view is that if your theory does not arise from practical observation of describable events, it is not worth discussing.  If it does arise from such observation, any such discussion begins with a description of those events.  That's not an unreasonable position--it just tends to exclude those who don't think that way.

--M. J. Young
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The Magus
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2009, 02:37:07 PM »

It seems to me that one alternative is for people who want to discuss theory to take it to a different forum.  The Gaming Outpost site would be ideal for this.  It is easy to post there, role playing discussions of all types are welcome, and it is not overly busy at present.  In addition, anyone interested in posting articles can do so on the articles side of the site fairly easily, simply setting up an author account.  That is where most of the theory discussion that long lived here was birthed, and some of that (what was not lost to computer failures) is still archived.

Thanks MJ -  I think it retrospect I'll post an article at Gaming Outpost.  I don't want to be accused of trolling or undermining the many achievements of this website.  I'll link over here so that those who want to read it can.  I found some of your theory articles there and at ptgptb interesting and want to expand, contradict and offer my own views.

Quote
In short, Ron's view is that if your theory does not arise from practical observation of describable events, it is not worth discussing.  If it does arise from such observation, any such discussion begins with a description of those events.  That's not an unreasonable position--it just tends to exclude those who don't think that way.

--M. J. Young

This is one of the problems with theory development for me for me.  I think if Ron wants to gather data a certain way that's fine.  This method is flawed for a number of reasons.  I'll explain in my post at Gaming Outpost (if they decide to publish it).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2009, 09:09:24 PM »

Mark (M.J.), although I appreciate your support, your paraphrase of my reasoning is not correct. This is not about favoring empiricism as the basis of theory. As I've stated before, the reason for basing theory discussions on actual play is so that one person's use of any term (ordinary speech, jargon, slang, whatever) can be understood as that person means it by readers. Once that essential problem of gamer and internet talk is solved, all else becomes easy and clear, and discussions produce powerful results.

The policy also cuts down on blithering and status games of all kinds, but that is a bonus. Contrary to any number of stupid speculations (often directed to me in angry emails), the policy does not marginalize deductive reasoning. Deduce all you want, but when posting about it here, provide actual play points so people can tell what you mean. They (and I) literally cannot understand you without that.

See the thread Interview with Vincent and me (my first big post) for an earlier presentation of this point.

Sindyr, I explained this to you directly a long time ago, which you apparently did not believe. In fact, you've explicitly called me a liar in this thread. So I don't see any particular reason to explain myself to you now. Your post is effectively spam.

Best, Ron
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2009, 11:38:29 AM »

Ron, I apologize for misrepresenting your position on this.  I think I "get it", although I still feel that the absence of a forum specifically for theory discussions makes it much more difficult for theorists to participate meaningfully.

--Mark
  M. J. Young
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2009, 11:41:40 AM »

Depends. Nothing's wrong with posting entirely theoretically, then appending some actual-play accounts to illustrate what you mean by certain terms. Even - or especially! - terms which seem to you to be entirely obvious.

See, I think you and others are making it too hard on yourselves. "Not theory? Oh no!" It's still theory. It's still everything theory is. I'm merely calling for enhancing communication by descriptions of real play to clarify terms.

Best, Ron
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2009, 11:58:38 AM »

I think what is most problematic for me is the volume of material in the Actual Play forum that is not at all theory-related, or is so loaded with details of actual play as to make it challenging to get to the theory aspects.

You probably will remember that I did not emmigrate to The Forge so quickly as most of those who were involved in the discussions back at Gaming Outpost.  I had concerns about how much more time it would take to cover these forums adequately--and eventually when I did come, I found that it did take a lot of time, several hours every day, to read all the threads even on the subforums to which I limited myself and to respond intelligently to those to which I thought I could contribute.  The Forge was not the only drain on my time, but I was not getting work done on actual game design and writing, so I had to cut back.  In a major reorganization of my entire approach to Internet work, I reduced my visits here to one day per week, and was able to keep up on everything in those select forums in what was considerably less than the total weekly time it took to do it daily--my posts were more focused on specific aspects of threads, as others would give the responses I would have given in many cases, and I would not become involved in a daily back-and-forth with anyone.

The advantage, then, of the theory forum was not so much that it was all theoretical, but that  it separated those threads which were specifically about discussing theory (with or without an actual play basis) from those which were really just descriptions of actual play.  I'm sure that I would enjoy playing in many of these games, but I usually skip descriptions of what happened in other people's games when I'm reading in other forums.  It's a lot of reading, a lot of trivial detail.  I never did master speed reading (it is remarkable that I got through Law School with honors, but in truth most of the good students read much less than most of the professors expected).

So my objection is not that I don't want to read or post actual play materials, but that I wish there were a convenient way to distinguish those actual play threads that were part of a theory discussion from those which are really just recounting how a game went.  I would read the former, if I could rapidly sort them from the latter, but I find that combining them all in a single forum makes that very difficult.

I would be quite happy with a Theory forum that had an actual play connection requirement; I'm not very happy with theory relegated to a forum in which all the threads are Actual  Play without a theory requirement.  It's just too much volume of extraneous material for me.

Again, though, I fully respect your decision to run the site as you see fit.

--Mark
  M. J. Young
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