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Author Topic: [The Secret Lives of Serial Killers] Ronnies feedback  (Read 10882 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #30 on: February 16, 2011, 10:51:25 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.
I think I'd ask the other way around, when do you cease to call something a prank?

I'm just wondering what sort of act it'd take for you to say "Shit, it's not a game or a prank to do THAT!"?

I'm not asking in a way that insists you say the same as me. I'm just wondering if someone puts something in an RPG, you'll just accept that as being something that is a game. Because it's in a game.


I had this convoluted example I was going to use before but didn't for convolutedness. In it I was going to have an RPG perhaps around a theme of some inhumanly gentlemanly guy romancing a lady, ala mills and boon or twilight. But here's the fun twist, aye, you invite a female player and latter in the game you actually touch her on her real life boobs, just out of the blue. It's a rule that you have to! Ha, she totally thought it was romance but here you are, hand on boob! Ka-pow, gut punch!

It's funny how defensive people (perhaps Willow as well) would probably get about five pounds of fat (with a nipple on it) being touched. Shit, man, that'd be socially apocalyptic! "Nothing to do with games, your assaulting her!" I'm second guessing the emotional responce.

Five pounds of fat with a nipple on it get this much reaction. When you think emotions and trust, which are a bit fucking closer to home...well, because you can't touch them, you don't value what you can't touch, aye?

Is there going to be another round of Ronnies? Maybe I'll try and sneak in project tit squeeze...


Oh, and I found a link to the paintball story (near bottom of page): http://forum.rpg.net/printthread.php?t=194252&pp=10&page=20
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Willow
Member

Posts: 224


« Reply #31 on: February 17, 2011, 06:41:39 AM »

Callan, I appreciate that you disapprove of Secret Lives.  It is not supposed to be a game that is nice.  And yes, it's rather abusive of the 'victim' player.

However, you compared it to physical assault (shooting someone with a paintball gun), sexual assault (groping someone's boob), and even the frickin' Holocaust* (systematically shoving people into ovens).  Don't you think these comparisons maybe go a little too far?

Other people have mentioned that they would enjoy- well probably not enjoy, but appreciate, in retrospect- this experience, were they the victim player.



*Which, by the way, gives me an idea for a Holocaust LARP.
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Devon Oratz
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #32 on: February 17, 2011, 02:25:19 PM »

Godwin's much?

 
Quote
I had this convoluted example I was going to use before but didn't for convolutedness. In it I was going to have an RPG perhaps around a theme of some inhumanly gentlemanly guy romancing a lady, ala mills and boon or twilight. But here's the fun twist, aye, you invite a female player and latter in the game you actually touch her on her real life boobs, just out of the blue. It's a rule that you have to! Ha, she totally thought it was romance but here you are, hand on boob! Ka-pow, gut punch!

"Real life boobs", lol. Anyway I'm not particularly shocked or offended by this either, but...if you're asking, hypothetically speaking, where to draw the line, that's pretty obvious. Unwanted physical contact. Yes, emotions and feelings are important, but how much can someone really get to YOUR emotions and feelings through a character? As probably the most hardcore, full-immersion roleplayer I know, even I think that the damage that can be done this way is very limited.

"If you roll all 1s, you get actually physically raped, in life" is a horse of a different color, but then again I'd be more afraid of the people who would play by that rule than the person who wrote it.

(Immediately I am given an idea for a tabletop RPG mechanic that involves punching people in the arm, really hard. Of course, this would have to be an up-front mechanic because, well, see above.)
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Paolo D.
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« Reply #33 on: February 17, 2011, 04:12:54 PM »

Other people have mentioned that they would enjoy- well probably not enjoy, but appreciate, in retrospect- this experience, were they the victim player.

Actually, I could have some names in mind.

Yes, people that search "abusive" games, deliberately, to enjoy them.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #34 on: February 17, 2011, 07:03:52 PM »

Callan, I appreciate that you disapprove of Secret Lives.  It is not supposed to be a game that is nice.  And yes, it's rather abusive of the 'victim' player.

However, you compared it to physical assault (shooting someone with a paintball gun), sexual assault (groping someone's boob), and even the frickin' Holocaust* (systematically shoving people into ovens).  Don't you think these comparisons maybe go a little too far?

Not really, Willow. As you typed you were thinking "All these things are outside of what games are, while my game is obviously within the idea of what games are!". So I haven't prompted you at all to consider whether something presented as a game could be not a game at all - all I've given you, from your perspective, are things that aren't to do with games and therefore not to do with your text. The very thing I try to challenge in you deflects me effortlessly "Why is he talking about non game stuff (when I wrote a game)?". Perhaps if I could seperate the SLSK text from the notion of game for just an instant...

So I don't think I went far enough - but really I don't know how to go any further anyway.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #35 on: February 17, 2011, 07:24:52 PM »

Devon,
Quote
"Real life boobs", lol. Anyway I'm not particularly shocked or offended by this either
Well, that's possibly the issue - in the other thread you talk about your group and what your group handles, etc. Here your literally taking your own sense of shock or offense like it's some sort of relevant benchmark. Like, if you can eat peanuts, that guy over there will have no problem eating peanuts either. So you'll sprinkle some into his food because hey, your not bothered by them.

Quote
Unwanted physical contact. Yes, emotions and feelings are important, but how much can someone really get to YOUR emotions and feelings through a character?

This isn't 100% through character only. I gave a paintball example before to show an outside of character element parralel to an in character element.

Do you want to say the interaction is 100% in character, particularly in chapter five? Right now your treating it as true it's all character and then moving on to a second question. I'd like to question the idea all interaction is solely via character.

Quote
As probably the most hardcore, full-immersion roleplayer I know, even I think that the damage that can be done this way is very limited.
It depends. You can't lose a limb twice, I'll grant.
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #36 on: February 17, 2011, 07:53:44 PM »

It occurs to me that the so-called "pervasive" larping that has been something of a trend in the Nordic countries in recent years faces many of the same issues Willow's game here does. Pervasive larps are games that forgo an explicit ritual space for the game, preferring to mix the game with reality by playing in urban settings, having players interact with outsiders as their characters and so on; an oft-used example is that a player's character might give confession in a real church to a real priest as part of play. I remember how we had some pretty strident discussions here in Finland about this topic when Prosopopeia (an infamous Swedish pervasive larp from whence the above example originates) was current; the issue with pervasive larping, as some of us perceived it then, was that it objectifies both players and innocent outsiders by instructing players to mislead others and falsely represent themselves in public. Looking at the topic now, I find a somewhat current English treatise on the problem in Markus Montola's pervasive larp design blog here - pretty interesting read, that.

What I personally took home from these discussions on pervasive gaming was that it's very important to me as a game designer that I respect the personal autonomy of players, who participate in the game consensually, and I respect the social contract in general by delineating game spaces and acting responsibly as a member of the community.  This stance is no magic wand when it comes to drawing the line between appropriate and inappropriate games within the game group, though; that task remains with the social mores of the game group and their shared expectations of where the limits lie. I can totally believe that there are groups out there for whom Sunset Boulevard moves in an entirely conventional space; many gamers think that everything is kosher as long as the form of the content is respected so that the game remains in the realms of verbal interaction. The mere fact that the game presents itself under false premises to one of the players is not by itself a breach of trust when the group has established that this level of power asymmetry is expected and accepted. In this regard the ugly surprise in playing Sunset Boulevard doesn't differ much from the ugly surprise of playing D&D with a kill-happy GM; in both cases the experience is something that well might disturb you in a non-good way if you came to it cold, without the prerequisite social context.

The reason that Sunset Boulevard reminds me of those larp discussions from years ago is that the tone of argument is sort of similar. Callan's penultimate post is pretty insightful in this regard, I think - the issue largely is about what a "game" is supposed to be socially, and how much weight something being a "game" has when it comes to justifying socially disturbing behavior. I personally was (and am) stridently against the sort of social irresponsibility displayed by creators of pervasive larps who argue that the nature of their activity as a harmless game or valuable art justifies shenanigans; in this case I'm not feeling myself nearly as moralistic, as although I personally dislike the idea of abusing trust among my friends in this manner, that's just because playing this game would be an abuse of trust for us: were this different for some other group, then it'd be no skin off my nose the way those annoyingly public larps are. In this way I'm willing to chalk this one up as a matter of taste insofar as abstract philosophical arguments go.
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2011, 11:01:10 AM »

Quote
Here your literally taking your own sense of shock or offense like it's some sort of relevant benchmark. Like, if you can eat peanuts, that guy over there will have no problem eating peanuts either. So you'll sprinkle some into his food because hey, your not bothered by them.

My bad for thinking my perspective was relevant, I guess. Although, I am starting to get some really serious mixed signals from the Forge.

Quote
It depends. You can't lose a limb twice, I'll grant.

Could you explain what this even means in this context? Are you implying that I have "lost a limb" in some metaphorical sense?

Quote
Do you want to say the interaction is 100% in character, particularly in chapter five? Right now your treating it as true it's all character and then moving on to a second question. I'd like to question the idea all interaction is solely via character.

I know that with my group no one broke character. Every word out of the PCs' mouths was roleplaying. Every word out of the facilitator's mouth was narration.

Quote
It occurs to me that the so-called "pervasive" larping that has been something of a trend in the Nordic countries in recent years faces many of the same issues Willow's game here does. Pervasive larps are games that forgo an explicit ritual space for the game, preferring to mix the game with reality by playing in urban settings, having players interact with outsiders as their characters and so on; an oft-used example is that a player's character might give confession in a real church to a real priest as part of play. I remember how we had some pretty strident discussions here in Finland about this topic when Prosopopeia (an infamous Swedish pervasive larp from whence the above example originates) was current; the issue with pervasive larping, as some of us perceived it then, was that it objectifies both players and innocent outsiders by instructing players to mislead others and falsely represent themselves in public. Looking at the topic now, I find a somewhat current English treatise on the problem in Markus Montola's pervasive larp design blog here - pretty interesting read, that.

I have actually tried to write and run this kind of game here, in America with absolutely no knowledge that it existed overseas. I ran it twice at college (when I was a junior and a senior, respectively) as a ~one week game (but entirely pervasive for that period of time). I've actually rewritten it for being used outside of a college setting, and in a longer format, but haven't been able to playtest it yet.

Quote
The reason that Sunset Boulevard reminds me of those larp discussions from years ago is that the tone of argument is sort of similar. Callan's penultimate post is pretty insightful in this regard, I think - the issue largely is about what a "game" is supposed to be socially, and how much weight something being a "game" has when it comes to justifying socially disturbing behavior. I personally was (and am) stridently against the sort of social irresponsibility displayed by creators of pervasive larps who argue that the nature of their activity as a harmless game or valuable art justifies shenanigans; in this case I'm not feeling myself nearly as moralistic, as although I personally dislike the idea of abusing trust among my friends in this manner, that's just because playing this game would be an abuse of trust for us: were this different for some other group, then it'd be no skin off my nose the way those annoyingly public larps are. In this way I'm willing to chalk this one up as a matter of taste insofar as abstract philosophical arguments go.

The church example specifically does seem a bit distasteful. I am not at all religious, but blaspheming makes me uncomfortable and giving an "in-character confession" strikes me as a blasphemous thing to do. So hey, we've found something that "offends" me! Except that I wouldn't be outraged that someone else was doing this, I just wouldn't do it myself.

Anyway, I'm not sure how hardcore you could be about playing a pervasive LARP without risking, like, arrest. Ultimately, I don't see the analogy to Secret Lives. Everyone was aware that they were playing SOME GAME after all.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #38 on: February 19, 2011, 11:40:35 AM »

I'm stepping in as moderator.

Callan, you're being a pain in the ass. You've made your point, but now you're merely aggravating Devon. Poke, poke, poke, the classic Callan dialogue which consists of someone trying to answer you, but merely giving you more openings for poke, poke, poke. Having made your point, and now that it's there for anyone to read and judge, give it a rest for a while. And this is the big thing: there is no reason on this earth to keep giving Devon the message that he did a bad thing by playtesting the game. Your analogies with peanuts and tits and all the rest of it are simple and straightforward personal insults toward hm in this context, and I'm stomping it down now. Should have done that last week - my apologies for that, Devon.

And Devon - do me the favor of dropping these low-level hints about the Forge in general, and any of this sarcasm like "Please excuse me for thinking my input is relevant." Enough, please.

For what it's worth, I'm working up big posts for all the feedback threads at the moment and we can get back to the real work of this forum.

Best, Ron
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Thunder_God
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« Reply #39 on: March 01, 2011, 01:38:20 AM »

I found this interesting.

I also found the link to Vampire interesting.

Also, the whole discussion on what constitutes a game is fascinating. Personally, I think there is and isn't a game here. The analogy to the pervasive LARP with the confession I felt was very apt. The LARPer is playing a game, the priest, and passersby who buy in, are not playing a game. Those truly are their feelings, in a way I think can't be said of people playing a game, regardless of how immersive the games are (there are plenty of emotions generated by games, but I think there's a fine distinction).

The facilitator and killer are playing a game, perhaps playing a prank. The "Victim Player" is a pawn. He's a marionnette. He's not really playing a game, you could omit the word "player" and merely describe him as a victim. A victim for a prank, perhaps, but I don't think when you play a prank on someone, or a practical joke, they truly are participants. In my experience, that's how those who play the pranks on them present it, especially to authority figures after the fact (school, armed services, to teachers and officers after the fact, "We were only playing a game, you didn't suffer, right, right?")

I think it has merit both as something to read and mull over, and as a discussion opener, as seen here. I probably wouldn't want to participate in a play of this, in any role.
I do think the suggestion of "pulling apart the veil", before the final scene, on the victim, so they'll see how things are and decide if and how they want to continue has merit (I wonder if this is just for the worth of seeing light dawn, but before they are truly hurt/angry). But like others said, the game may explode before, if you truly do not take heed of what the victim suggests for narration. I'd consider (insidiously?) to incorporate what they say, or in normal current SG practice, have the Killer incorporate and build up on what the victim suggests, and slowly incorporate less and less.

I do know if I played this with my girlfriend, as the victim, she would be really mad at me. Like, really.
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Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010
tzirtzi
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #40 on: March 01, 2011, 10:28:35 AM »

Likewise, I've found this a very interesting read - both the game itself and the discussion.

On the central debate, I'd come down on the "it's a matter of taste" side. It seems to me that the issue is, indeed, whether this is a game. What distinguishes a game from reality is merely the fact that the players know that they are playing a game. In this case, all of the players do indeed know that they are playing a game - so, if their expectations/understanding of what playing a game means includes the possibility of being not fully in the know, then fine, everyone is playing a game and there is no problem. If their understanding of what playing a game means doesn't include the possibility of being in the dark about some elements, then for them this isn't a game and so risks being offensive/upsetting/a meaningful breach of trust.

The problem is then that for this game to fully work, the "victim" mustn't be completely expecting the twist - not expecting to be in the dark about anything. The best subject is someone (in a given social context) who doesn't really include lack of knowledge (at least in the form it takes in this game) in their definition of "game", but who would nevertheless not be offended or upset by it. For the unsuspecting victim, the point of the game is that it challenges their own definition of what a game is. Responsible other players will have to judge whether a given victim will respond positively or negatively to this challenge.

But that was probably all just rewording points that have already been made :P.

To focus a little more closely on the game itself, I'd like to raise a point made by Devon much earlier in this thread. It seems to me that Sunshine Boulevard is a little too naive/happy/simplistic. I realise that this is great because it makes such a huge contrast with The Secret Lives of Serial Killers when the twist is revealed, but I think there might be a problem with a) believability (i.e. players may suspect the twist before it actually happens), and b) actually getting players to play. Whilst obviously Devon did manage to get a player who wanted to play SB as written, I think I would have troublem finding anyone - I have few opportunities to play RPGs, so when I get together with people to play, we're really looking for games that are immediately very appealing! And SB on its own seems a little bland. The two things that occur to me that might improve it on this point are more character development mechanics  and a risk of not succeeding. What do you (Willow, that is :) ) think about this point?
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Willow
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Posts: 224


« Reply #41 on: March 01, 2011, 03:04:37 PM »

It's a little amazing that I've gone so far through the looking glass: after exposure to Shooting the Moon, Under my Skin, It Was a Mutual Decision, and Blazing Rose, I figured *of course* people would recognize Sunshine Boulevard as a real game.  Or at least a weird, jeepy-thing worth playing.  But then I remember that most people only play D&D, and even the narrativistically-inclined players are playing sword wielding ronin, demon wielding sorcerers, and gun wielding teenage mormon paladins.  (and gun lugging gun luggers)

Again, this is a matter of taste, and play experience.

When I say in the rules that the game should not be played; that is not a rule, it is a statement of moral assessment of my own work.  On the other hand, I believe that games are meant to be played, which creates a contradiction, which is part of why I find this concept so fascinating.

I've said I intend to playtest SB straight far more than I intend to playtest SL- I actually plan on only playing the full game once, but the metagame many times.

I'm not sure that more mechanics are necessarily needed for the 'straight' game- it's modeled on the Jeepform paradigm, where rules inform the structure of play.  (Note that Jeepform/structured freeform lacks what I would traditionally call a 'resolution mechanic'- the closest thing SB has is the anti-fiat of the Sunshine, where the other players are encouraged to step on their suggestions to deprotagonize them- everything that happens is organically "resolved" through play.)
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tzirtzi
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #42 on: March 01, 2011, 03:48:24 PM »

Just to quickly reply to only a part of your post - it wasn't the lack of violence/magic/etc that made SB feel lacking to me, but simply that it was missing... oh, drive, bite, tension, something like that. One of Ron's criteria for Ronnies is there being a clear reason why you'd want to play the game - I personally don't find that in SB. Blazing Rose, Under My Skin and Shooting the Moon all involve significant narrative tensions (which then create drive for character development), and even if It was a Mutual Decision has less in the way of obvious narrative tension per se, it still (to me) creates more of a compelling and complicated situation to drive character development. It's exactly to these sort of games that I'm comparing it and thinking: well, wouldn't I (putting myself in my "victim"'s shoes) rather play one of those, if I'm going for a relationship rpg?

Of course, perhaps if SB was more immediately three-dimensional and compelling, it would render SLSK that much less playable? :P

Anyway, I may be quite wrong here - these are just my impressions.
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tzirtzi
Member

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« Reply #43 on: March 01, 2011, 03:51:50 PM »

(Damn not being able to edit! I'm not used it :P)

I just wanted to add that I really very much like the overall game - the comparison of and relationship between the two component games is very interesting, and very well done. The whole thing was a very enjoyable read - so much so that I felt immediately compelled to email it to friends (an urge I should have resisted, so as to keep more potential players, but hey ho :P).
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