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Independent Game Forums => Adept Press => Topic started by: Paul Czege on June 08, 2011, 02:25:19 PM

Title: anxieties about death at the core of Ophite
Post by: Paul Czege on June 08, 2011, 02:25:19 PM

Now seeing the text of Ophite again I remember what I wanted to say about it. As a former, more anxious than inspired Catholic who's now an atheist of the not outspoken about it variety, I'm dubious of the strong connection at the core of the game (driven by the revelation of the angel cards) between the threat of death and characters whose "world-view or current habits" warrant a "harsh reality check". It's the death thing in particular. It strikes me as Hollywood thinking, or perhaps just the thinking of someone who's never had a crisis of faith, to install the anxieties of death as the game's central provocation. I can say that my own transition from anxious faith to disappointed atheism wasn't in the least associated with fears of death. It was more a collapsing forward of memories and emotions of past experiences with hopes and optimism about relationships and connected metaphysical/supernatural events. Effectively, in the immediate retrospect of powerful, faith-affirming metaphysical experiences (and the conviction that I was utterly shepherded and cared for) I saw behind the curtain. My faith was affirmed, and installed more powerfully than it ever had been, and then I destroyed it myself by seeing the structure that had created the experiences was wholly other than supernatural. If I had to install a central provocation to turmoil of faith, it would be more about want and desire (not lust, just honest personal, though maybe desperate, hopes and wants) than about the anxiety of death.


Title: Re: anxieties about death at the core of Ophite
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 09, 2011, 07:57:54 AM
Hi Paul,

I think that you may be mistaking "world view or current habits" for "religous outlook." They aren't the same things in my text. My thinking is that the element of death confronts the characters as maturing humans, each of which has his or her religious background as part of the way (explicit or not, but present anyway) to cope with it. In other words, I'm not treating the religious content as the only or single thing about the characters, but merely as an explicit piece of what each one may or may not bring to bear upon the situation. And since the person is right at that "gee I guess I have to be grown-up now" phase of life, how they cope hovers on the cusp of developmental and developed.

A good example is the protagonist of Beg the Question, Rob, who copes with his girlfriend's abortion in quite competent, apparently with-it ways in the moment, but in the long-term, finds that it affects him deeply. I'm not even sure he ever realizes that he's in mourning about it, although he does come to admit that it plays directly into Sylvia's need to get married and have kids, and his fear of doing so. So it seems like he's grown-up in a socially-functional way from the start, but facing the issue as an adult, emotionally, is not the same as

Or think about the rather harsh deaths in Box Office Poison, a comic that both of us like a lot. The landlady is mourned by no one, not even her own daughter, and I think that has a lot to do with Sherman and his father (which suddenly reminds me of Sherman's brother's last words to the father). The hip-dropout punky girl is murdered quite horribly, and although none of the other characters know about it, the event does play into their lives. The murderer is in fact revealed at one point, and the girl turns out be more connected to the main characters than is evident through most of the story. If it weren't for her, most of what happened in the last couple of issues wouldn't have.

The Ophian character is different insofar as death is framed so differently for him or her, but again, that's only a piece of the character, and I'm careful to say that the Ophian is observant simply through family habit, not as a devotee or trained thinker in that doctrine.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: anxieties about death at the core of Ophite
Post by: Paul Czege on June 09, 2011, 10:17:53 AM
Hey Ron,

I had not made the assumption that "world-view or current habits" warranting a "harsh reality check" were necessarily connected to religious outlook.

Maybe I used too much language to voice a simple concern: if you find in play that faith turmoil in the stories is primarily sourced from anxieties about death, I would say that's not particularly reflective of personal faith turmoil in the real world, and that the stories won't ring true for anyone who's experienced real crises of faith.


Title: Re: anxieties about death at the core of Ophite
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 09, 2011, 11:58:21 AM
H'mmm ... OK, I see your point better now, but I still think it's missing my goals as a designer. I don't see faith turmoil as the issue. I'm aiming at adolescent-to-adult turmoil. Religion is involved insofar as childhood training does provide a starting language, and it may be more relevant than the character thinks or wants to admit, but I'm still talking about habits and values, not about faith. (Example from Beg the Question: Rob and his father are avowed atheists, and Rob especially hates religion-based identity politics, but when his estranged mother dies, the father makes him put on a yarmulkah at the service. "I know, I know. Just do it.")

OK, maybe an example about the game would help. We're playing this game, and one of the characters has dealt with an obnoxious, aged aunt (maybe due to a Family card, maybe not), who has some medical condition which makes itself inconvenient for the character, perhaps. We keep playing and someone flips over a card when the rules say so, and whoa, it's Gabriel. And the stated content comes to include the aunt, who's died alone and probably in pain in her bed - i.e., the character in question is "in the cross-hairs." Further talk at the table produces the notion that it falls to the character, through some sort of family dynamic, to decide how to dispose (what a word) of the body.

Here's my point: the character's childhood religious upbringing had rules for this. Maybe the character cares about that, maybe he or she doesn't. Maybe he or she decides to accord with those rules, and maybe not. The point is that this is a decision which a mature person may well have to face in life, and for this character, it has arrived now, probably a little unexpectedly. The religious content is only present because it is present, for all of us. Let's say it's my character. Well, I was raised more-or-less in the Christian-American mainstream culture regarding this issue at least, which tags cemetery burial as the default. If I were playing a character in the game I'd have to use that as my template for that character, by the rules, regardless of what I now personally believe or would say. So my character's decision whether to bury or cremate the aunt's body is made in that context (just as mine would be). Maybe that context is very relevant for the character and maybe it isn't, but the point is that he or she had a default concept to work with.

I'm not intending the angel cards to produce crises of faith for the characters. I'm intending for them to provide crises of life. How they cope will necessarily be relative to whatever they initially learned/saw as children, which arrived directly or indirectly in religious terms.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: anxieties about death at the core of Ophite
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 09, 2011, 12:09:38 PM
Shoot, I meant Barachiel, not Gabriel. Suffering & pain.

Title: Re: anxieties about death at the core of Ophite
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 13, 2011, 06:07:59 AM
Computers suck a lot. A few hours after posting, I said to myself, "I should post again to clarify a thing or two," and then not one but both the household laptops went "queep queep" and stopped working. Leaving the above post to stand naked for days without my second thoughts. So Paul, I apologize for that.

What I wanted to clarify is that I don't want to dismiss your personal account of faith in turmoil, and how real-world experiences relate to that. Such accounts are rare, especially since in my experience people tend to re-write them into personal hero-journeys from mumbling superstition into some kind of teenage-Nietzsche rationalist-romantic transformation. Especially white, male, geeky people.

I'd like to see a game about genuine faith-turmoil come about some day, and some few already do, at least in implication. Dogs in the Vineyard provides all the components, but sometimes I despair, after reading account after account of Call of Chthulhu retread play, that they ever see much use. That's probably unfair to the people out there who are really hitting the game hard and vice versa. All these points apply equally to the heroquest and spiritual-political concerns in Hero Wars and HeroQuest - what I see on-line may well not be what any number of groups are really doing. I wish those latter would post about it.

What I'm seeing for my purposes is advice for eventually writing the game. Which is to say, if it ever becomes a game text, how to write it. Clearly it's going to be interesting to distinguish, for the reader, the personal religious-upbring content vs. one's personal faith issues.

One of the priorities of this game is a light touch, throughout. The rules for talking lightly touch the fiction. The cards' content lightly touch the talking. There is very, very little compulsion anywhere in there, including the standards for ending play. The extent to which any content or rule hits hard is utterly situational, in hopes of enhancing its honesty. My intent is for one's personal religious upbringing to be a similar light-touch component, which may or may not factor hard into how a given character is played, and which as a fictional component may or may not rebound hard for the player.

As I say, a tricky thing to contemplate in terms of instruction.

Best, Ron