[Werewolf] Constructive denial

Started by David Berg, January 28, 2008, 02:17:16 AM

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David Berg

So, in this thread, Ron and I discussed certain aspects of Simulationism relative to my own experiences with the CA. 

Unfortunately, there's a key facet of Sim that I was unable to pin down: when I say "constructive denial", I'm not sure what the hell I'm talking about.  Various folks here have used the term in various way that seem, to me, to be rather different -- some emphasize constraint on player choices, while others emphasize lack of self-awareness of certain choices.  I came out of reading these threads
Ignoring the subjective
Constructive denial?
thinking, "Well, either they all misunderstand each other, or I misunderstand about half of them."

What follows is my attempt to reconcile in my own head.  Folks who are confident in your own understanding of the term, please let me know if I'm talking about the same thing you're talking about or not!

Quote from: David Berg on January 11, 2008, 02:12:10 AM
We successfully piss off the Vampires and implicate the Werewolves.  We hide in our cave, anticipating some sort of attack on the Werewolf haven in Staten Island.
. . .
I look at Matt (the GM), raise an eyebrow hesitantly, and say, "Now might be a good time for Robert (my character) to fulfill his oath and save a few lives for Great Bear?"

Matt gives me a cautioning stare, "Would Robert really risk being away from the cave when shit might go down any second?"

So Robert stays put.

Then the U.S. government (which is in a sort of cold war vs. New York City) nukes Staten Island.

This was an opportunity for constructive denial that was largely sabotaged by the high-maintenance nature of my particular group's CA. 

Here's what went on in my head (Case A):
"Matt, is it okay with you if Robert wanders off?  Ah, it's not okay."

If we hadn't been operating with the flimsy "GM corrals players into Playing Right" set-up Ron described, I might have been able to experience the same conversation differently (Case B):
"Robert is thinking about wandering off.  He decides not to."

In Case B, "what makes sense in the gameworld" is at the forefront of my mind, while "what we gamers decide is appropriate" is denied, i.e., it never enters into my awareness.

So, "constructive denial" is about how I experienced this, and not about whether Robert left or stayed.  Robert staying put for some sort of larger "good of the game", in its most general sense, is just an issue of constraint common to all roleplaying.

Mike Holmes said here:
"we could say that exploration is prioritized as simulationism precisely when play moves on from simple constraint to denial being the primary criteria in determining what happens."

I found several ways to interpret this, so let me see if I can re-word more unequivocally:

We could say that Exploration is prioritized as Simulationism precisely when:
a) the constraints on player contributions to the SIS are dictated by the players' reference to a package of shared input-material, and
b) these constraints are the primary criteria in determining player contributions to the SIS, and
c) the process of dictating constraints is experienced as if the package itself was doing the dictating rather than the players, which is only possible if
d) the players deny that they themselves created, and continue to create, the shared package.

"Let's agree that our package is based on X-Men, and let's agree that X-Men don't kill each other, and let's determine that if X-Men don't kill each other then Character A can't kill Character B," is a crappy mental experience of play.  Simulationism can teeter dangerously close to this (as my Werewolf game often did), but if you ever cross all the way into self-referential territory, the SIS (the Dream) is busted*, and the ability to make meaningful contributions to it (The Right) becomes impossible to exercise. 

Yes?  No?  Do I understand the role of constructive denial in Simulationist play?


*I'm not sure if this is right, but I'd guess that "busted" here means "comes to feel insubstantial"; then, meaningful contributions become impossible because "meaningful" goes poorly with "insubstantial".
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development

Ron Edwards

Yes, you understand it. Your construction of (a-through-d) is what we agreed upon in those two threads, and as far as I can tell, we all understood it at the time and weren't talking past one another. The constraints or "package" are one thing, and the denial is another, but they work together in a specific way. The point or purpose of that "way" is, itself, Simulationist play.

Best, Ron

David Berg

Okay, looks like it was a matter of me misunderstanding about half the posts in the "Constructive denial?" thread, then.

Ron, thanks for letting me know that my (a-through-d) is correct!

Anyone else who'd been confused, I hope this helps!

here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development