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Author Topic: [The Secret Lives of Serial Killers] Ronnies feedback  (Read 12998 times)
Paolo D.
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Posts: 78


« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2011, 06:23:38 AM »

It's true that, probably, a lot of people wouldn't enjoy this game (staying at the table after the "turning point" or not), maybe me neither.

But: we should also remind that, mostly in northern Europe, a lot of people play and design games based on the principle of "hiding some rules". See for example jeepforms like Fat man down and Previous occupants*. I know a couple of guys who would probably like this game.

* (but also, they hide some rules, they don't hide "what the game is about", so maybe we are still on a virgin land in roleplaying games...)
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Nathan P.
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emotional game design


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« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2011, 09:48:19 AM »

Good job, Willow. I'm a big fan of secret knowledge in games, and this pushes it to an extreme. I think there's an interesting question here about whether it's still a worthwhile game to play if everyone does know about the turn? And, if so, if there's some way to choose (whether on the part of the Victim/Sunshine or perhaps Killer/Recluse) which way it will go in the final scene. Which could take it out of gimmick territory. This isn't to say I think the game is all a gimmick (it's not), but the "sudden reveal into something horrible" is so easy to critique as one, it may be worth considering how to get out of that zone in a way that preserves that core considerations of the game.

Also, for Sunshine Boulevard, it could be presented as something to be used with any of a number of "rules-light" or heavily narrative-based games/resolution systems that are considered easily "hackable" - Archipelago II and Lady Blackbird come to mind. Or (Ron, this one's for you) do it with Wushu.
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Nathan P.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2011, 10:19:25 AM »

Hi everyone,

1. At last, something worthwhile to do with Wushu.

2. Anyway, I want to clarify a bit about my first post. Specifically, the line in the game text and my personal agreement with it that the game should not be played. The fact that it is currently playable and with, I think, some changes along what we've discussed here, could be even more so, does not change that basic observation and judgment.

To clarify my clarification, I am not telling anyone what to do. Nor am I saying that the input about how one might actually play it is wasted time. But to say, "Oh noes, we have to make this less abusive," is missing the point as I see it. Perhaps it's my own issues cropping up, but as I see it, the nastiness of what the two people do to the third, in playing this game, is no worse than the nastiness represented by standard, illusionist practice as promulgated, praised, and exemplified in all those "Secrets of the Gamemaster" books and literally thousands of adventure modules. It's no worse because it's the same thing.

3. Back in 1994 or so, Greg Costikyan wrote a game that was published by Hogshead Publishing that was intended to be a deconstructionist slam on the disparity between real-life values and those displayed in the most widespread trend in role-playing. Which is to say, the difference between being a person at all and a repulsive psychopath. He presented it by taking the role-playing values to the extreme and effectively, calling out gamer culture on two things: (i) how grotesque and vile their behavior was via their characters, and (ii) what pussies they were for not owning up to it and taking it all the way in-game. Violence as a game was built to amplify (ii) to the max and thus bring (i) into the foreground, out of denial. My take on it was that it wasn't intended to be played so much as to prompt the reader to recoil from how vicious and nasty it was, and then make them reflect upon why the very same acts were somehow OK when dressed up with orcs and vampires.

Oh look! It's available at Greg's site for free: Violence: The Role-Playing Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed. The published version also included a short piece called Power/Kill by John Tynes, now available partnered with Puppetland, which approached the same idea a little differently, so check that out too when you get a chance.

I respect the points made in these games. However - and this is pure personal take - I think Violence lacked draw to play when taken at face value, the kind that would suck people into confronting the point as strongly as they might, even upon reading. In other words, instead of saying, "Yuck, I would never play this game, holy shit, I do play this game in our Shadowrun campaign!", it's easy to say, "Look, ultra-violence, lots of swearing, good thing I don't play like that" and miss the point. Costikyan clearly wrote it out of disgust and rage at what the White Wolf and the dungeoneering scene were (and are) about, but although the emotions are there on the page, the piece as I see it stands more as an artifact of his emotions rather than a highly likely gut-punch to the reader.

4. Ian, I totally agree with you that our hobby subculture is full of guys who deeply identify with the male protagonists of Shine, Benny & Joon, Don Juan DeMarco, and similar films. That's another reason why I really like this game. I hope some of them read it and maybe grab a clue. Not that they are actually serial killers in disguise, but that their self-image as reinforced by these films needs some fresh air.

Best, Ron
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stefoid
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« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2011, 12:12:11 PM »

So is it a RPG,   LARP  (two people roleplaying at roleplaying and the third a kind of prop), or something else?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2011, 03:21:10 PM »

I think the question to ask as an author is at what point have I ceased to satirise a certain practice and am instead just literally practicing it and promoting it's practice?

Why is there going to be any gut punch? I mean clearly you can get humans to march other humans into ovens, if you normalise the practice enough. There's only going to be a gut punch here if you already subscribe to the philosophy that it sucks. I've heard accounts of guys who, without prior notice of the practice, shoot a new player under the table with a paint gun, so they know what it's like when their character was hit by a bullet. There will be no gut punch for these people. The only gut punch will be for those who already subscribe to the idea this sucks. This either perpetuates the practice supposedly satirised, or simply speaks to an echo chamber.

I just see this as another document that normalises this particular practice (and that document being promoted here).
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2011, 03:52:12 PM »

Ian, I don't have much to add, except that your post desperately makes me want to see a reverse Secret Lives Of Serial Killers, a la the game Braid, where the surprise isn't finding out the loveable guy is actually going to kill you, it's finding out you aren't a lovable loner, you're a creepy dangerous dude.
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2011, 04:00:12 PM »

If we're going to get into referencing what has come before, I think Vampires: a postmodern roleplaying game should be mentioned. That game also had a fake game text for the real "gotcha" game, and was similarly better suited as a thought experiment for discussion, as actually playing it would probably involve a serious abuse of trust between participants.

I think Willow's effort is rather punchier, though.

I do hope no one actually tries to play this. Nonetheless, it is way too much fun to dream up things to do around making "Sunshine Boulevard" book.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2011, 04:37:08 PM »

Callan, I'll leave the discussion of the game's integrity to Willow.

As far as promoting the paintball practice* via the award is concerned, I disagree with you about the award and this game, but I do think you're raising a valid issue and I do not want to give the impression I'm ignoring it, or disagreeing with you on a more general level.

Best, Ron

* Holy shit!
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2011, 12:07:25 PM »

I think the question to ask as an author is at what point have I ceased to satirise a certain practice and am instead just literally practicing it and promoting it's practice?

Why is there going to be any gut punch? I mean clearly you can get humans to march other humans into ovens, if you normalise the practice enough. There's only going to be a gut punch here if you already subscribe to the philosophy that it sucks. I've heard accounts of guys who, without prior notice of the practice, shoot a new player under the table with a paint gun, so they know what it's like when their character was hit by a bullet. There will be no gut punch for these people. The only gut punch will be for those who already subscribe to the idea this sucks. This either perpetuates the practice supposedly satirised, or simply speaks to an echo chamber.

I just see this as another document that normalises this particular practice (and that document being promoted here).

What precisely do you think is the practice being satirized or normalized here? I think you may be engaging with this material on a much different level than I am.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2011, 12:51:32 PM »

What precisely do you think is the practice being satirized or normalized here? I think you may be engaging with this material on a much different level than I am.

That certainly seems to be the case. Callan's discussing the same thing Ron is, abusive GM authority. As Callan says, this game will only be interpreted as a gut punch if you already are bothered by the idea of objectifying your co-players in the manner proposed by the game.

For what it's worth, I'd share Callan's concerns about promotion vs. satire if authorial intent weren't ultimately meaningless - people read texts according to their expectations, and I can totally see how certain segments of the rpg community will see nothing strange in this game. There are plenty of designers (larpers, especially) I've met who wouldn't blink an eye at the idea of introducing a game under false tenets, with the expectation that immersive discipline (what makes you a good roleplayer in certain circles) will ensure that the players will follow the internal logic of the fiction wherever it leads, no matter whether they'd personally choose to take the game to those directions or not. How this particular game is written right now, or might be written for a serious release, has much less to do with the way a person might interpret it than their own understanding of roleplaying has; there are vast communities of play that would condemn this type of game, just as there are those that would consider this level of GM control over the game's nature a necessity for really getting an appropriate level of immersion to emerge.
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2011, 01:32:51 PM »

Wow. I just had a read through that Vampires game. Interesting stuff. I appreciated how subversive and dark it was but at the end I was pretty offended by its transparent,  heavy handed preachiness and the incredible sexism of its underlying message. Anyway it is interesting seeing these concepts explored--the idea of abusive game design, for instance, or the idea that a roleplaying game in and of itself could be immoral or unethical--as I had not really thought about them before.

Quote
For what it's worth, I'd share Callan's concerns about promotion vs. satire if authorial intent weren't ultimately meaningless - people read texts according to their expectations, and I can totally see how certain segments of the rpg community will see nothing strange in this game. There are plenty of designers (larpers, especially) I've met who wouldn't blink an eye at the idea of introducing a game under false tenets, with the expectation that immersive discipline (what makes you a good roleplayer in certain circles) will ensure that the players will follow the internal logic of the fiction wherever it leads, no matter whether they'd personally choose to take the game to those directions or not. How this particular game is written right now, or might be written for a serious release, has much less to do with the way a person might interpret it than their own understanding of roleplaying has; there are vast communities of play that would condemn this type of game, just as there are those that would consider this level of GM control over the game's nature a necessity for really getting an appropriate level of immersion to emerge.

I'd be very curious to hear what, if anything, Willow believes the game to be satirizing.

In any case, I think that my group probably falls into the latter camp. Which doesn't mean that I don't think that Secret Lives is "abusive game design"--it definitely is. I'm just not sure I agree that it promotes or satirizes anything. I read the game as a fairly mean-spirited but definitely amusing prank, which was also how the game played out for us.
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Moreno R.
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Posts: 547


« Reply #26 on: February 13, 2011, 05:39:05 PM »

You took the Big Model and made it your bitch, for the ultimate inside-out Narrativist gut-punch.

I humbly disagree. It's even more interesting than that.

First: not all the players in the game can really influence the fiction in any significant way, or address the premise. Second: there is no common agenda (creative or not) between the players (not all the players, at least). If this could be narrativism, or even any Creative Agenda, then even a Illusionist railroading GM could say that he play narrativist because he (and only he) can address a premise.

Third: playing with a common agenda would castrate this game.

In some of the previous posts people said that a game like this would not be "acceptable" to players. It's not true, it depends on the culture of the gaming environment: as an example, until some years ago the playing of games with final "surprises" was so widespread in the Italian "Artsy LARP conventions scene" that for some years, you did KNOW that the organizer was lying to you, because EVERY SINGLE GAME had the "final surprise". Even if that surprise ruined the game and did not make any sense (just to make an example: I played a LARP set in the "Lion in Winter" movie, with the characters from the movie and some new characters. At the and of the LARP it was "discovered" that the new characters were Cpt Kirk and Dr Spock and other "Star Trek" characters, going back in time to get a Romulanl fugitive... things like this were absolutely normal. Boresome, terrible, but normal. Luckily they went out of fashion after a while...
Thinking about that gaming culture...  A game like this, in one of these con, would be completely acceptable. Losing the impact, and the reason to play it in the first place.

This game need a clash of different agendas. It's a game working BECAUSE is build around a CA Clash. It's game that need to be dysfunctional, to work.

Why not? After all, it's not made to have a satisfying game...
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Kensan_Oni
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Posts: 26


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« Reply #27 on: February 13, 2011, 06:50:29 PM »

My only objection to the game is that it is a bad piratical joke. It makes no attempt at apology. It is specifically meant to distress a specific person in a emotinal way. It reminds me a lot of school ground bullying, from a mental point of view.

While the game itself accomplishes it's goals, as art, it is not something I feel people should subject others to. It should be admired from a safe distance. To actively subject people to this game would create trust issues even amongst the most forgiving people.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: February 13, 2011, 07:11:55 PM »

Heya,

My take is that the game text acknowledges that very point up front in the first sentences. I don't think it advocates playing and thus perpetrating the things you're talking about. "Admiring from a safe distance" is about as close as I can get to it too.

Moreno, let's save the Narrativism-or-not point for when we re-unite just a matter of weeks from now. Don't let me forget.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: February 16, 2011, 06:13:43 PM »

Hey, I had an idea while riding the train home today. Could the game simply be called Sunshine Boulevard, for real - its actual title? I like that notion. The "Secret Lives" part could be the heading of the special section, if anything.

Best, Ron
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