[Camwhores] Analysis

Started by Ben Lehman, April 13, 2011, 02:15:34 PM

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Ben Lehman

So I have a non-neutral perspective with regard to Camwhores, first because Elizabeth is my friend and showed me the game as it was in progress, but also because it's pretty closely related to a game I wrote, XXXXtreme Street Luge, so I view the game from that perspective and maybe see it as more fiction-involved than a cold read of the text would reveal. So I'm going to look at the text in comparison to XSL.

Right now, I think, there's not a strong connection between Whore scenes and Angel scenes. Amazon wishlist items are really not worth very much, and by and large you're going to succeed in Angel scenes (with or without the wishlist items) unless you get very unlucky and caught in a downward spiral. Because there's a pretty strong disconnect between camming and real life, there's not a lot of tension and desperation in the game.

Furthermore, there isn't a lot of room for decision making in the game. I know that this is weird because XSL has a similar issue, but it has important player decisions in terms of: to help or hurt each other during Luge scenes, and whether or not to drop out of luging during Bullshit scenes. I feel like Camwhores needs some equivalent decisions: some form of player interaction and ability to help/hurt each other (or even hurt / refrain from hurting) and some sort of fundamental decisions about the role of camwhoring in your life.



I agree with much of that assessment. There was, initially at least, going to be more of a thematic stress on the idea of living these two lives, and the tension of possible collision and on how one might affect the other— so you see Camwhores sort of getting into these weird codependent relationships with their Marks where they're spilling all about their lives, or where their ex-boyfriend threatens to reveal their secret. I didn't really have time for that aspect, though, and amusingly enough it felt too similar to everything else I've written— It's Complicated, Blowback, even They Became Flesh, is about being torn between two worlds and dealing with a secret life in a public way.

Ron Edwards

I'll hop on to make this thread into the feedback thread. Elizabeth Sampat's Camwhores gets an extra star sticker for the semen smears on the cover. (You didn't see them? Look again.) I placed it in my "might be better as a board/card game" category and my comments are aimed at ideas for how to make that work, and also to list the stuff I don't quite understand, or had to interpret in order to understand.

1. To get the Ronnies criteria out of the way, the term "lust" may fairly be said to apply, but I think "amazon" doesn't. This ties into some of my thematic points about the current text as well, and I bring it up to say that considering "amazon" more thoroughly might be productive, as opposed to letting it slide away as a transient Ronnies detail. More on that in a bit.

2. I found the explanations for card play difficult, partly because the foundations aren't described. I'm beginning to think we ought to discuss this generally, because I'm finding people often describe card play without explaining, for instance, whether you're drawing off the top of a deck, playing out of a hand, or really anything to give context to what "play a card" means. Here are some of my examples from Camwhores' first draft:

- To determine whether the Mark is present, both people show draws, right? Then the deck is fully reshuffled? And as a larger point about this step, can this issue be be resolved without card manipulation? I think it's using too much gun for too little game content and some quicker procedure based on what happened the previous turn would be better, and allowing a Mark scene for the first round every game.

- RPG game texts are rife with mis-used versions of what players "must" do. In this case, it is not true that the player "must" play a higher-ranked card in suit. The rule is to do this if I can and that I cannot fold under these circumstances; and if I cannot do this, then I must fold.

- It took me a while to figure out the above point, so I'm not sure whether I have the following subroutines correct or not. Let me know. My current reading is that whoever runs out wins, or if you're forced to fold, the other wins. I am not sure whether the GM is constrained by the higher-rank-in-suit rule, which is huge!

- My options are, I can play a higher card in the same suit. If its value is higher than my score, then I have to narrate an escalation. But if it's equal to or less than my score, I can narrate a promise instead.

- I can switch suit, but in the directions of the arrows only, I think. (This is confusingly confounded with escalation within a suit, that's why I can't tell.) Crucially, if I switch suits, does the rank constraint still hold? Or can I switch suits even if my new card is a lower rank?

- And now for cashing out with special cards. First, do I read this correctly that in this case I'm permitted to play a card of lower rank in-suit, uniquely, and then cash out with a special card? Why bother - why not cash out directly? And second, upon cashing out, there's the condition "if he accepts." How do I find out whether he accepts?

- I'm not at all clear on whether the GM cash-out is fun; it seems to undercut the basic system way too much. Given that it's kept, though, what can a GM do with a Joker, and what can I do with a Queen?

3. Details that strike me as worthy of playtest attention:

- There are fully 10 items per character, five on her wishlist and five she can get to improve her effectiveness as a camwhore. Can the latter not be handled simply as narration of escalations and successes?

- In fact, is there any post-resolution narration? Currently play strikes me as all simultaneous-with-card narration. This is not a bad thing but it strikes me as an important part of one big issue for my April round feedback in general - see the Afterword to this post.

- I think "cuts herself" is out of place, being too psychologically consequential relative to the other features in that category, and also front-loading certain thematic issues I'll describe at the end of the feedback. To preview: is the camwhore behavior - i.e. the entire setting of the game - being established, pre-play, ipso facto, as pathological?

Now for stuff that's a lot more important than phrasings about procedure.

4. Respect looks like a death spiral - failure early on means a whole game's worth of failure.

5. At endgame, there are three things going on: the Wishlist, the Goals and Respect, all a bit weirdly juxtaposed to my eyes. If you get 10 Respect, regardless of wishlist and goals, then why stop being a camwhore? At 0 Respect, you gotta stop, and presumably you didn't get either all of your wishlist and/or, more importantly, all the Goals (and that "presumably" seems like a big leap to me). If you get all the Goals, wishlist or not, but maintain a positive Respect, you stop - and again, why?

Overall, as a play tactic, why not simply never mind the wishlist and just go for your Goals? This ties into Ben's point that one's Wishlist items seem like a paltry addition to the attempt to get one's Goals.

And now for talking about themes and deciding whether to show your bush on-line or not. I will start by saying that the instant value added simply by taking on the subject in the first place does exist, but we can nod at it and move on. There are more important things to talk about.

- Maintaining Respect is apparently founded on the ability to lie to others.

- One's Goals regarding the other people in one's life are apparently reached only by bribing and cajoling them.

- The mechanics rely on the assumption that the character is trying to show as little as possible in her activities. Why? That presumes that doing the porn is a desperation move and has no end in itself in the character's mind. I am not advocating the superficial "women do whore stuff because they like it" argument, which is a strawman anyway. I am saying that the game as written comes down very hard in support of the claim that camwhoring is carried out by desperate, low-esteem women who have absolutely nothing on their minds besides buying perceptions of worth from others and the acts they do are automatically further destructive to their esteem.

- What is all this about the family finding out? It's not present in any other aspect of play. Is anonymity supposed to be synonymous with Respect? This bit's important because it feeds right back into #5 in terms of procedure.

The answers lie only with you, Elizabeth - but I think that when you do address them, you'll have the makings of a genuinely edgy and fun game, in which those two adjectives reinforce one another. Depending on your answer, it's even potentially subversive, a feature which I value greatly in RPGs and related activities like this sort of card game, because I can count the historical instances on two hands, and the instances which were not compromised by revisions on one.

Best, Ron

Afterword: readers will note that I have not yet provided a detailed justification for when I think a Ronnies entry is better suited to be developed as a board/card game, removing dedicated role-playing from its concept; vs. when I think it is better suited to be developed as an RPG but needs "bubbling up" so that dedicated role-playing becomes featured more. At present, I'm simply providing feedback based on this distinction and will try to develop my justification as I go along.

Devon Oratz

Of all the new round of ronnies, this one caught my attention most. I think it was the inclusion of the word whores. (Profanity is very eye catching to me. You could call a game 'Fuck You' and it would probably at least get me to read the cover.)

So I read it, and, well, for the most part read Ron's feedback for some of my thoughts.

Don't know if Ron touched on this (I just skimmed his feedback), but what I'd really like to see is anyway for the camwhores to interact with each other in a 3+ player game. I'm not seeing that right now. Right now it seems like x people take turns roleplaying with the GM, as opposed to x people roleplay with each other and the GM.

Also, I'm having a hard time imagining a 'group' that would feel comfortable tackling this subject matter (as opposed to say, shooting people in the face, which no one blinks an eye at, odd, isn't it) but your mileage can and will vary.
~"Quiet desperation, it ain't my goddamn scene!"~
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