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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 45 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Nicotine Girls] If you want it hard enough, and you try hard enough - and?  (Read 13331 times)
E
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Posts: 21


« Reply #15 on: June 17, 2009, 08:18:21 AM »

After reading back my post I was like "ouch It dint come out as I wanted to express m y thought on the subject". I wish I was able to adjust my vocabulary as I expressed myself like in a direct conversation. I agree that my comment about a moral dont fit with your actual play report. I enjoyed the trivial endings, and I liked your actual play report. I dint see it as sad. I especially liked the Walmart epilogue. I think that since I enjoy stories containing the theme found in Nicotine girls, the comments about dreading to play this game just confused me, and I exaggerating their intention. For my part I enjoy the premise of Nicotine girl, and I find it entertaining to tell and be tell those stories.
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C. Edwards
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savage / sublime


« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2009, 01:12:37 PM »

Hey Evlyn,

My dread of play comes the lurking spectre of memories and past experiences. Not even just painful or heart breaking memories, because sometimes happy memories become bittersweet when surrounded by the context of history. So, basically, play isn't going to be just a story for me. I'm watching out of the corner of my eye to make sure nothing sneaks up on me. As Ron rightly points out, that probably means there is something there that I need to take a look at. Daunting, but there you have it.

Nicotine Girls is like that first domino. It's waiting there, ten feet tall. Once you tip it over you set into motion a series of internal events that have to run their course.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2009, 04:26:42 PM »

Yes, but why push that particular domino? Speaking of mythology, I think the idea that if it's depressing it must be meaningful somehow, is mythology (I'd suspect it's a psychological defence, actually, developed over thousands of millenia). And one that's not specific to the middle class.

If there's already a reason formed for engaging the game or it's responding to something like a nars equivalent to gamisms gutsy daring ('Dare you to face off with the cold, grasping hand!'), fair enough, I get that. But drifting into an emotionally charged activity without a prior reason, atleast to me seems to be giving up guidance of oneself.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2009, 06:05:38 PM »

Callan, three things, all of them involving intellectual courtesy and rigor.

1. I know you're asking Chris, but I hope you can see that I answered that question regarding myself in my earlier reply to you. In a discussion of this sort, please acknowledge when someone has given you their time.

2. You're putting words into people's mouths: "if it's depressing it must be meaningful." No one said that. You can criticize it all you want and it won't mean a thing.

3. Since you've brought it up, evolutionary psychology (or to call it by its perfectly good name and better scholarly grounding, sociobiology) can serve us well here - but not in the speculative way you're using it. One of the core issues, and best studied in non-humans, is reciprocity. In an ultrasocial ape such as ourselves, reciprocity (and its modifiers, exploitation and deception) is affected by, and even serves as an environment for, every decision we make.

Which is to say, human decision-making (what people call our "selves") is nigh composed of decisions about whether to help honestly or to screw over, and whether to do so covertly or overtly. More basic decisions about mating and bodily survival (or in the case of Nicotine Girls, status improvement of whatever sort) are embedded so thoroughly in this social web that they cannot be considered in isolation. Economics is a primary and direct means of expression of this web. Like it or not, you and me and the nearest nicotine girl are connected.

The game, or the hand I mentioned, asks, What are you going to do about that? A perfectly valid answer is "nothing." I'm not saying the game is a guilt trip. One might not even find it depressing; I didn't (Chris' reaction is his own). The point you keep wondering about is to get that question onto the table in a dramatic context.

As for middle-class issues, I don't regard the term as foundational (i.e. at the level of primary causes), but it's our best term for how certain sociobiological decisions are constructed under specific economic circumstances. Its core feature is to combine extreme faith in social mobility with extreme blindness past a certain range of economic parity, and hence is, yes, distinctive from upper-class (gentry) and certainly from working-class constructions regarding those same decisions.

The key references for any deeper discussion about that are Timothy Goldsmith, The Biological Roots of Human Nature, and Richard Alexander, The Biology of Moral Systems. A number of people who have no business publishing anything like to speculate foolishly about selective explanations about human actions, to the annoyance of those of us who actually research the topic, and I think our discussion here should stay grounded in the substantive material.

Best, Ron
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jrs
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Posts: 377


« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2009, 07:22:11 AM »

Why play Nicotine Girls? Ronís given his reason; mine is somewhat different. It is the type of game that lends itself to a visceral experience. I enjoy that and will actively seek it out in my gaming. Itís why I play games like Grey Ranks. There is no fantastical elements or special powers to get in the way of the emotional experience of the characters. In the one scene where I played Britneyís mother, her pain and anger over losing her son was as real to me as any of my own personal losses.

I would like to add that I did not find our game depressing. There was some sadness and longing for the unrealized dream, but it was not an overwhelmingly dark story. And yes, there is also my own tenuous connection to the Nicotine Girl world where if I had been born in a different branch in my family, this would be me; which in turn lends itself to the illicit joy in recognizing these are not my stories.

Besides, itís one of those games that require zero preparation. Thatís always a plus for me!

Julie
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C. Edwards
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savage / sublime


« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2009, 08:55:54 AM »

Callan,

If I squint it looks like maybe you're asking the value of emo gaming porn? Not trying to be an ass and purposefully obfuscate your question, I'm just not sure what you're asking. If that is close to the mark though, I'll say that Nicotine Girls, as a game, isn't in that category in my mind. Whether you could play it that way, maybe, probably, I dunno as I haven't played it.

The subject matter of Nicotine Girls doesn't revel in itself. It's grounded quite solidly in hard reality. There's no room for the sort of posing (this isn't Vampire) to better be seen in an oh so tragic light that you'd find in something that could be labeled as an emo game. I'm sure someone could approach the game that way, but I'd be wondering just wtf is wrong with them.

My personal issues with the game aren't around "if it's depressing it must be meaningful". They're "this spot here is really raw and sore when I poke at it". Body, mind, or soul, that means that you might want to examine that area further and see if any healing salve needs to be applied. You have to know the extent of the wound before you can determine a healthy approach to healing it.

In many ways, psychologically and emotionally, I'm still connected to that teenage boy that I was and those teenage girls that were my friends. And the slow motion tragedies that were the lives of many of them. But that's my deal. As commentary and spotlight on class, gender and our society Nicotine Girls has a lot to recommend it.
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d.anderson
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« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2009, 01:45:16 PM »

What proportion of the roleplayers are predisposed to the asserted middle-class perspective?  What number of them will benefit, in broadening and deepening of perception (and perhaps significant change in behavior), through play of Nicotine Girls?  I have had a few transformative experiences in the course of gameplay over twenty-ish years, and have witnessed a couple, but they seem to be rare and not significantly informed by the design (deliberate or otherwise) of the game.  I'll include my own background and AP for this, later, if it pertains and contributes to discussion.

I would really like play to facilitate not just evocative but transformative experiences, yet I feel strongly that it is play culture and not the games themselves that engender an increase in receptivity.  Playing with the right people and the right frame of mind, I'd get more out of Nicotine Girls than Gummo (or Kids, or Nickled and Dimed for that matter), because play can easily be a more fundamentally active, creative process than a passive, consumptive one.  But without significant personal chemistry, and/or plenty of previous experience with that sort of play, it would almost definitely be a trainwreck , because it is essentially antagonistic to a common cultural pretense among the people most likely to play it.  How does design premise and execution contribute to play culture?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2009, 06:32:18 PM »

Hi,

It's a big piece of Forge-discussion based theory that play, and all the subjects and techniques within it, is a subset of the socializing among the group in question. I, at least, think that no specific topic or technique within play itself has the inherent ability to transform the people, going "upward and outward" if you will - unless the people themselves include that possibility, tacitly or openly, as part of the reason to play.

I've devoted a lot of the last decade finding ways to inspire people to do that. Again, it's not because my games have Rule X or Topic A, it's because I try to present the material in such a way that it prompts questions and with any luck the desire to prep and play with those questions afire. If that happens, then Rule X and Topic A, due to their unique properties, become fuel. But by themselves, tossed upon any old role-players with any old mess of various reasons to play among them, they're curiosities at best.

All this is to say, to your excellent question, that yes - it does "depend on the people." That doesn't mean those people have to know, or to state among themselves, that that's what they want. Nor does it mean that those people will do it anyway without the rules XYZ and the topics ABC. It only means that a group who plays with that degree of personal honesty and willingness to be enriched through play itself will find special value among the games that have them.

As I understand what he's said and written in the past, Paul only designs games for exactly those people.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2009, 03:46:24 AM »

Ron, I thought we had some sort of quiet understanding that I've spent time reading and thinking about your posts - you wouldn't have posted about the time I've given to you in reading you carefully. But to be less monosybillic (zerosybillic? is that a word?), thanks for the responce and I'm sure you appreciate the thought I've put in too.

With #2, I said what I think about 'depressing is meaningful' and didn't attribute it to anybody - your putting a few in my mouth there, unless I'm mistaken. If no one sees a connection to it, it may be there isn't one.

Quote
The game, or the hand I mentioned, asks, What are you going to do about that?
I don't see it asking anything? It's just there, rather like Everest is there and people are drawn to climb that. Nicotine girls reads to me more like a mountain than a game. Just something that's there - not an activity made by someone, it's...I dunno, a mountain. I don't mean that in a negative way (and to me it seems a compliment in a way). It's just that mountains aren't to be treated like it's a game. I think you've got to get your head straight about why your climbing a mountain before you start, even if it's "Fuck this, I'm doing it!". Is my approach making me miss something?

Also I have no professional background in what you call sociobiology, but what keeps drumming in my head is that for the greater part of our development we were in relatively small communities of perhaps a few hundred individuals or less. Someones empathy could have beneficial ripple effects in such a small pool. But that time strikes me as gone and that empathy as simply not enough in the large numbers involved now. Or more exactly, I don't have any faith in it as having any ongoing effect in itself. Perhaps if there are some scientific test results on the matter to look at, it might show otherwise. Without it, relying on empathy seems to be relying on something that worked in smaller communities. That's why I ask the reason for doing it to begin with, rather than just the passion.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for the reply. I think I'm trying to sound what you see it as? So it sort of has the appearance of a wound? I'm not going anywhere specific in asking that, mostly just thinking about what you've said.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2009, 04:05:48 AM »

Hi,

Callan, that makes a lot of sense to me. It seems right along the lines of d.anderson's post, too. You start with mountain climbers. Although again, I stress that doesn't mean a bunch of people who say they are mountain climbers or even really know it. Role-playing groups tend to shake people out who are or are not mountain climbers, to leave a core group who are or are not. I think Chris' point is basically what happens when you are a mountain climber who either didn't know it, or who had been sticking to easy mountains.

You're absolutely right about human community size and the role of empathy. That's a big deal in Alexander's book, especially concerning deception and exploitation. My own example about that concerns advertising that promotes the image of a small village and even goes so far as to assure customers that the staff of a chain grocery store, for instance, is "family." I'll resist bringing this back around to what social class means in this context, simply because it'd be geeking out, but the core notion is that economic levels (roughly) may generate false communities and disrupt potential real ones, with "real" meaning, having the potential of actual mutual benefit.

Best, Ron
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C. Edwards
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savage / sublime


« Reply #25 on: June 21, 2009, 06:39:41 AM »

That's sort of funny, I've climbed some heap big actual mountains. When it comes to metaphorical mountains, feeling the compulsion to climb them often puts me in stubborn mode. An "I'll climb it when I damn well decided for myself that I'm going to climb it" attitude. Jumping off metaphorical cliffs is, as going down always is, much easier. It seems to usually result at being at the bottom of another mountain though. Go figure.

The idea of empathy becoming less effective, diluted, is disturbing. I assume it is partly because reciprocity breaks down to a large degree when dealing with total strangers? With the grocery store example, it's possible to form relationships with at least some of the staff of the store but it's impossible to have a relationship with the corporate entity that runs the store. As an individual, you might as well try and make friends with a bulldozer for all the good it will do you in affecting its course. Basically, the currency of interaction is no longer even close to having equal weight.

I know this is getting away from being directly about Nicotine Girls, but the instigation of these sorts of discussions seems to be a part of the purpose of it and similar games. At least from where I'm standing. If I'm helping things wander into off-topic territory though, just let me know.
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greyorm
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« Reply #26 on: June 21, 2009, 07:09:13 PM »

I'm not certain Ron and Callan are discussing the same thing when they're talking about "empathy". I say that because I'm reading Callan's dismissal of the idea of empathy's usefulness, and his stated inability to grasp the point of play of NG that apparently ties into that, is "Empathy has no use any longer, so what's the use of playing a game to gain empathy for others?" I may be mistaken in that, so he's free to correct me.

My response to that sort of logic would be the point of developing empathy for a large external group is NOT in producing mutual benefit -- though I completely agree with what Alexander says about its use for deception in the marketplace (of either ideas, such as politics, or business) -- but of allowing personal communities to form when one encounters a member of that group within one's own potential community, so that rather than defaulting to usually mistaken cultural perceptions that include judgment, dismissal, disgust, or even a sort of insulting "paternal concern/caretaker", and so forth denying the ability to form an actual bond in beneficial circumstances, that bond can be created free-and-clear.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: June 27, 2009, 07:48:04 PM »

Thanks for the replies, everyone! I would make a comparison though, with the riddle of steels spiritual attributes. The TROS world is a nasty, brutish place and is hardly drawn entirely from fantasy. But at the same time getting more SA dice gives you an incredible advantage and a buffer against the nastyness. It might be compared to climbing a mountain with safety ropes and pitons, while nicotine girls is like climbing bare fingered. I'm not saying it and games like it have to have safety ropes and pitons, I'm just saying that when suggesting playing a game of it to anyone, it probably warrants mentioning the higher level of difficulty of bare finger climbing (if difficulty is anywhere near the right word for it). Probably, anyway.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #28 on: July 07, 2009, 07:08:11 AM »

Hey Julie,

A question. Did you ever use an NPC girl to give Smoke advice?

Jeff Zahari says he does when he runs Nicotine Girls. I haven't myself, and I'm not sure what I think about it.

What do you think?

And Joel, you just ran Nicotine Girls at GPNW. Did you use an NPC to give Smoke advice?

Paul
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #29 on: July 07, 2009, 08:06:06 PM »

Hah, way to call me out, Paul!

I'm actually planning on posting a full AP thread of my own, but I can answer here too.

I had a little bit of that in the game, but not much. there was one scene where two Nicotine Girls were having a Smoke scene at their fast food job. I played an NPC coworker, and it became a group advice session, with me contributing "you could do this, or that" comments. In the end it was the other PC that gave the final advice, though. But i did have some official NPC advice in the climactic Smoke scene: the bitter old lady at the Vocational training center spurring the bright but cynical NG to do everything to get the fuck out of town before she ends up just like her.

Overall, the player characters were more than sufficient to take the initiative with advice. It wasn't that NPC advice was Not How to Do Things (I always got the impression, textually, that it was a real and prominent possibility), more that I just didn't have a lot of strong NPCs that were fit to have Smoke scenes with, and the players were really proactive about it.

Peace,
-Joel
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