Structures in Roleplaying Theory: The Hits

edited May 2008 in Story Games
As part of my efforts to create a roleplaying model that makes sense to me, I've been reading a lot of other models. You know what? There's a lot of good stuff out there! I'd like to take a few minutes here to give some shout outs – not to models per se, but to broad features of those models that I feel are crucial to understanding roleplaying. I'm looking here at the structure of models in a very high-level, abstract sense. Here we go:
  • Processes
    • I think it's important to recognize, first, that roleplaying is an activity that happens over time, and second, the current state of the game is therefore a snapshot of a ongoing process. From there, the next leap is to realize that multiple sub-processes may be occurring simultaneously. Naturally, no one covers this ground better than the Process Model. While these insights may seem stunningly obvious, they're sometimes overlooked, and the Process Model's forceful statements in this regard are pure genius. When the process nature of roleplaying isn't paid adequate attention, we often end up reifying a process into an object and confusing ourselves (e.g. System and Creative Agenda.) As another model that explicitly touches on the passage of time, the AGE Model deserves mention.
  • Feedback loops
    • Since the state of the game changes over time, it's apparently intuitively obvious to nearly everyone that the present state of the game influences what we do next, and what we do influences what the next state will be. A model without some sort of feedback loop would seem to ignore one or the other of these two aspects. See the Social-Play Model, the Interaction Model, or the Process Model for good examples of feedback. (Aside: In a certain sense, processes and feedback imply each other.)
  • Layers
    • The Big Model and its derivative variants may be the only models I've seen with layers. This is a good idea – many other models try to model everything in a “two dimensional” way, and thus end up conflating different sorts of animals. Not to pick on it in particular, but the Process Model contains a clear example of this problem. It correctly picks out that there are “roleplaying processes” and “social processes,” and that these are somehow different without quite pinpointing the relationship. The model conceives of them as occurring side by side, without discerning that roleplaying processes are dependent on the social processes at work. The lumpley definition of System at the very least strongly implies this dependence, since System is conceptualized as the process by which participants agree, whether that agreement is generated by mechanics or not. This is just one example where a layer conception allows us to further specify the relationships for increased clarity.
  • Emergence
    • Wikipedia says “emergence refers to the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.” I don't take this to the “definitive” definition (ha!), but it's good enough to get the point across. To my knowledge, the best use of this idea in a model of roleplaying comes from Mendel's PCon3, though the AGE Model also touches on emergence in its description of how “spaces” come into being. Notice though how well the notion of emergence complements the notion of levels or layers – emergence is a fantastic explanation for how layers come into existence. Both PCon3 and the AGE Model seem to ignore layers in favor of a flat structure, and both seem to suffer for it. Combining emergence and layers seems natural, and I feel that these two structures have a lot to offer each other when taken as a pair.

    Comments

    • edited May 2008
      • Individual and collective
        • Models I've encountered have tended to focus on one or the other. The TBM is the classic expression of focusing on the collective. Examples of focusing on the individuals include Mo's sockets and Levi's taxonomy of types of enjoyment. The interconnections between individual preferences, goals, and actions and group function should be fertile ground. Notice that this is precisely where the issue of “individual imagined spaces” and their intersection or lack thereof with “shared imagined space” comes into play. This can be spotted in the Social-Play Model and the Process Model, though perhaps the best expression of this is again PCon3, which should come as no huge surprise: the relationship of individual to collective is precisely what emergence is about, and PCon3 is all about emergence. (Another aside: while the influence of individuals on the collective is fairly obvious, also consider the influence of the collective on the individual. This is a largely unexplored avenue, as far as I know, and an interesting one since it would complete a feedback loop.)
      • Inside and outside
        • There is sometimes a tendency to think of players as black boxes, with inputs and outputs and no way to see what's going on inside. I find this “exterior surfaces only” treatment of players to be an unfortunate reductionism. Many, if not most, models make some reference to player goals or preferences, which is at least a start to tackling the interior world. A much smaller number of models explicitly connect the feedback loop from the current state of the game (outside) to preferences that influence the selection (inside) of future actions which affect the state of the game (outside). Providing a clear explanation of the causal relationships present in this cycle is a task I feel has yet to be satisfactorily completed. The Social-Play Model depicts the connection in a diagram but doesn't discuss it much. PCon3 points out a particular aspect of this process, namely how focusing on different subsets of the available inputs will affect the decision making process. The Interaction Model implies it by placing Goals as part of the feedback cycle. The AGE Model is perhaps most explicit, though it spends only a paragraph. In defense of these models, the interior is a tougher area to approach than the exterior. We can approach it either by introspection (in the case of ourselves), or through dialogue (in the case of others.) Exploring the relationships between inside and outside is another area that seems potentially fruitful.
      My hope is that this catalog of useful theoretical structures will provoke new attempts at synthesis and exploration of some new avenues. What would you add to this list? What other happy marriages between these concepts might we make?
    • edited May 2008
      I'd add "Core conceptions."

      That is, I suspect that there's a big, big discussion about what the players of a given game conceive of a roleplaying game as being, and what they believe it does. This is also linked up to the idea of Creative Agendas (or, if you like, is another way of pointing at part of the ground that CA often gets called in for). Problem is, typicaly, if you try to have that discussion online, or even flirt around the edges, you either get groupthink or a flamewar, both of which are equally stupid creatures.
    • Posted By: Levi KornelsenI'd add "Core conceptions."

      That is, I suspect that there's a big, big discussion about what the players of a given game conceive of a roleplaying game as being, and what they believe itdoes. This is also linked up to the idea of Creative Agendas (or, if you like, is another way of pointing at part of the ground that CA often gets called in for). Problem is, typicaly, if you try to have that discussion online, or even flirt around the edges, you either get groupthink or a flamewar, both of which are equally stupid creatures.
      I don't disagree. It's a little more...specific...than I'm aiming right now though. I mean to say, I'm mostly talking about forms rather than content at the moment.
    • Max, could you add some reference links to this for some of us who are more model impaired?
    • Max, while there's not an explicit document that covers it, I think there's been a fair amount of work done -- by folks like Neel, Emily, Mo, Brand, Shreyas, Paul Tevis, Nathan Paoletta, myself, and others -- that, when put together, combines to form a communities of practice approach to roleplaying theory that I think is steadily gaining some ground. That is, instead of categorizing player or group behaviors, we're looking more at the processes by which individual groups create a common repertoire of play behaviors, often through a process of negotiated misunderstanding. Neel nailed this early on with talking about a "shared symbolic language" and we've been building on that ever since, bit by bit.
    • edited May 2008
      Posted By: JasonPMax, could you add some reference links to this for some of us who are more model impaired?
      Oh yes, I forgot!

      The Process Model - pdf
      The Social-Play Model - Adam Dray's blog
      The AGE Model - pdf
      The Interaction Model - Ludanta Retero
      Mo's Sockets - Sin Aesthetics
      The PCon3 Model - The Forge, The Forge again, SG, SG again (and I'm missing some)
      The Big Model - good luck.
    • edited May 2008
      Posted By: Jonathan WaltonMax, while there's not an explicit document that covers it, I think there's been a fair amount of work done -- by folks like Neel, Emily, Mo, Brand, Shreyas, Paul Tevis, Nathan Paoletta, myself, and others -- that, when put together, combines to form acommunities of practiceapproach to roleplaying theory that I think is steadily gaining some ground. That is, instead of categorizing player or group behaviors, we're looking more at the processes by which individual groups create a common repertoire of play behaviors, often through a process ofnegotiated misunderstanding. Neel nailed this early on with talking about a "shared symbolic language" and we've been building on that ever since, bit by bit.
      On the face of it, that approach seems to include many of the structures I mentioned. Certainly it hits processes, emergence, collectives, and interiors. Interesting.
    • edited May 2008
      I would say it squarely hits feedback loops too, since that's how behaviors are negotiated.

      Folks are also talking about a variety of processes that happen on different layers, but there's no systematic attempt to combine all the stuff various people are working on (and I don't think there necessarily will or should be), so there's no real sense of what the various layers are. Honestly, I imagine that layers could be sliced in a whole number of different ways, depending on what you were trying to get at.

      One interesting trait of this approach to theory is that, while it's focused on how groups create their own idiosyncratic behavioral norms, I think many people active in this kind of thinking are disinterested in creating an idiosyncratic way of talking about roleplaying, even if that might ease intercommunication between various writers. As such, there's relatively little shared terminology and no general effort to make everything fit together. Everybody is basically doing their own thing, but with a shared set of concerns. That's partially a structural thing that comes from these discussions largely taking place on individual blogs, but it's also part of a larger philosophy about how to approach theory in general, I suspect.
    • There's a certain recognition by post-formal thinkers that formalism fails in certain regards. Meaning is dependent on context, contexts are boundless, and the ability to choose the context forces us to create our own meaning. This naturally leads to criticism of formal structures themselves as well privileged viewpoints and colonialized discourse. I've certainly seen that happen in roleplaying theory -- it seems to be widely recognized that there is no formal system of rules that defines roleplaying. I suspect the move toward the sort of philosophy you describe is tied into this sort of post-formal critique of formal systems (e.g. TBM) and the problems inherent in that approach. And I think that's a positive step.

      I also think there's something on the other side, a post-post-formal school of thought, which one might call dialectical thinking. That drives my approach here -- I'm trying to create at toolbox for looking at forms, processes, relationships, and development in roleplaying as an integrated whole.
    • You just broke my brain, Max.
    • I wonder if "Creation vs. Consumption" is a structure of the sort that belongs on your list - that is, the demands of making a story vs. the demands of enjoying one. Maybe it's better phrased as "writing vs. reading."
    • Do you see signs that "post-post-formal" modes of thinking are developing? Recently, I've been convinced that we're just starting to really get into the "post-formal" stuff, as you call it. All the signs I see still point to folks moving away from broad, formal models towards more relativistic understandings of smaller bits of roleplaying. I think I would gesture in the direction of blogs like 20x20 Room and Sin Aesthetics and increasing contact with the Nordic roleplaying scene for pushing us down this path by emphasizing just how differently many play groups approach roleplaying, ways not easily described and categorized by formal approaches.

      Also, what makes you suspect we're going to be moving more towards dialectical stuff? That wouldn't have been my guess. But maybe I'm just not sure what you mean by dialectical.
    • edited May 2008
      Posted By: Levi KornelsenI'd add "Core conceptions."

      That is, I suspect that there's a big, big discussion about what the players of a given game conceive of a roleplaying game as being, and what they believe itdoes. This is also linked up to the idea of Creative Agendas (or, if you like, is another way of pointing at part of the ground that CA often gets called in for). Problem is, typicaly, if you try to have that discussion online, or even flirt around the edges, you either get groupthink or a flamewar, both of which are equally stupid creatures.
      Posted By: misubaI wonder if "Creation vs. Consumption" is a structure of the sort that belongs on your list - that is, the demands of making a story vs. the demands of enjoying one. Maybe it's better phrased as "writing vs. reading."
      I'd to respond to these two comments in together, since perhaps this will clarify what I mean. Both posts identify certain features that seem like they'd be helpful in a model (and I don't disagree on either point.) Neither points out a structure. The structure is what organizes the features.

      Consider creation and consumption for a second. They're both processes, are both components in a certain sort of feedback loop (since consumption of the current state is a prerequisite for creating the next state), both deal with "the fiction" which we can consider to be an emergent property of the feedback process, both may happen on multiple layers, both depend on the interaction of individuals with the collective and of the inside with the outside. I'm talking about relationships between creation, consumption, and fiction using the tools I listed above.

      Or consider that core conceptions evolve over time, and so the current conception is basically a snapshot of a process spurred by the interaction of individuals with their groups, and that the agreements made by the group related to these concepts are the result of an emergent process. Same deal, talking about a particular feature using certain structures.

      Does that make any more sense?
    • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonDo you see signs that "post-post-formal" modes of thinking are developing?
      Generally speaking, no. I'd like to.
      Recently, I've been convinced that we're just starting to really get into the "post-formal" stuff, as you call it. All the signs I see still point to folks moving away from broad, formal models towards more relativistic understandings of smaller bits of roleplaying. I think I would gesture in the direction of blogs like 20x20 Room and Sin Aesthetics and increasing contact with the Nordic roleplaying scene for pushing us down this path by emphasizing just how differently many play groups approach roleplaying, ways not easily described and categorized by formal approaches.
      I think you're probably right -- the dissatisfaction with a formal approach has been ongoing, but postformal approaches haven't really taken hold until recently. I think you're probably more involved in this than I, so I'll take your word for it.
      Also, what makes you suspect we're going to be moving more towards dialectical stuff? That wouldn't have been my guess. But maybe I'm just not sure what you mean by dialectical.
      Cross systems theory with Hegelian dialectic and you've got a reasonable approximation. A good reference for this is Basseches' "Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development." He identifies 24 characteristics of dialectical thought -- basically moves that dialectical thinkers make. The idea is not that doing one of them necessarily means you're thinking dialectically, but that when taken together as an synthesized mode of thought, that's dialectical thought. (You can find the list here in the appendix, but it doesn't have descriptions.)

      I suspect that the next movement will be toward that mode of thought because people tend to develop it after developing post-formal thinking. Or at least, the possibility is there.
    • Max,

      It seems there's a fair amount of interplay between the different structures. For example, emergence nearly always implies a process - and this is especially the case when we're looking at behavioral emergence (as we often wish in the context of RPGs). To me, that suggests is that some theories use some of these structures explicitly, and other structures implicitly.

      Graphs / networks and languages also seem likely structures which belong in that list.

      Also, I want to clarify with PCon3, it does not have formal layers, instead layers arise naturally from self-similarity across different time scales. But it is as accurate to call a fractal "flat structure" as the dynamics in PCon3.

      - Mendel S.
    • Posted By: wyrmwoodTo me, that suggests is that some theories use some of these structures explicitly, and other structures implicitly.
      In many cases, it's a matter of what gets highlighted and what gets ignored, sure.
      Posted By: wyrmwood
      Graphs / networks and languages also seem likely structures which belong in that list.
      I can certainly see networks as an expression of multiple interacting forms and the relationships between them. I'm curious about how languages fit in -- tell me more?
      Posted By: wyrmwoodAlso, I want to clarify with PCon3, it does not have formal layers, instead layers arise naturally from self-similarity across different time scales. But it is as accurate to call a fractal "flat structure" as the dynamics in PCon3.
      That makes more sense. Cool!
    • Ah, so you mean dialectical in the sense that we finally internalize and accept the contradiction between form and context? That's gonna be rough. The "Context Does Matter Too" movement is just getting going in a largely "System Does (Only) Matter" environment, at least in the US indie scene. I think we may see a push forward in the complexity of theory if some of these projects like the International Journal of Roleplaying finally get off the ground, which will inject some folks with strong theoretical backgrounds into this conversation. But, right now, roleplaying theory is still largely concerned with the practical matter of improving play and mechanical design, less with improving small group communication and organization, much less with understanding how roleplaying works on a theoretical level. Most people doing theory, myself included, don't have the chops for stuff on the level of systems theory or even organizational studies or conversational narrative. Maybe we will someday, but I'm not expecting that to happen soon.
    • Posted By: Max HigleyI'd to respond to these two comments in together, since perhaps this will clarify what I mean. Both posts identify certain features that seem like they'd be helpful in a model (and I don't disagree on either point.) Neither points out astructure. The structure is what organizes the features.

      Consider creation and consumption for a second. They're both processes, are both components in a certain sort of feedback loop (since consumption of the current state is a prerequisite for creating the next state), both deal with "the fiction" which we can consider to be an emergent property of the feedback process, both may happen on multiple layers, both depend on the interaction of individuals with the collective and of the inside with the outside. I'm talking about relationships between creation, consumption, and fiction using the tools I listed above.

      Or consider that core conceptions evolve over time, and so the current conception is basically a snapshot of a process spurred by the interaction of individuals with their groups, and that the agreements made by the group related to these concepts are the result of an emergent process. Same deal, talking about a particular feature using certain structures.

      Does that make any more sense?
      So, if we're looking for structures, trying to add to the list, then how do we know a structure when we see it? It organizes the features? Okay. But no; it doesn't, but we use it to do so. I mean, I could organize the features by whether or not they contain which vowels, if I wanted.

      Do we need your definition of 'structure' to be a little more articulated here? Or am I just getting abstract past the point of utility?
    • I guess what I'm really asking here is, what are you trying to cover?

      You've got an axis for time (processes), for communication (feedback loops), for interdependence (layers), for the way things cause one another (emergence), and a couple of axes for the way people relate to one another. That seems like plenty. Start saying what you'd like to say, and if these aren't enough to say it with, you'll find out.

      Why ask us for more axes? Why not just say something?
    • edited May 2008
      Posted By: misubaI guess what I'm really asking here is, what are you trying to cover?

      You've got an axis for time (processes), for communication (feedback loops), for interdependence (layers), for the way things cause one another (emergence), and a couple of axes for the way people relate to one another. That seems like plenty. Start saying what you'd like to say, and if these aren't enough to say it with, you'll find out.

      Why ask us for more axes? Why not just say something?
      Short version: I had this thought, and it's still partial, but I think that piece might be useful, so I wanted to share. I'm trying to point out structures found in models that might be fruitful to combine with each other, in a sort of thesis-antithesis-synthesis sort of movement. And I'm asking if I missed some, because I don't feel that I've necessarily made a definitive list.

      What am I saying? I'm saying if your model doesn't include these in it somewhere, you may not be taking advantage of all the tools you have at your disposal. And the descriptive accuracy of the model may suffer on account of that. Why am I making a checklist? So that people can look at it and ask themselves "Hey, what would Model XYZ look like if we threw in Structure ABC? Would it help?"

      What sort of "saying something" were you expecting? Perhaps I can oblige.
    • This is interesting! Thanks for posting it, Max!

      I believe the term "interaction" points straight at the fact that a roleplaying game is a process. This is true for other games too. However: roleplaying games differs from other games by being played with a broader range of methodical tools, surpassing the mechanical paradigm of the boardgame. "Method" has been my key phrase to this field for more than a decade now, as I've tried to expand my theoretical understanding of RPGs, and tried to develop my design-skills (searching for methodical tools that enables great gameplay).
    • Posted By: Max Higley
      Short version: I had this thought, and it's still partial, but I think that piece might be useful, so I wanted to share. I'm trying to point out structures found in models that might be fruitful to combine with each other, in a sort of thesis-antithesis-synthesis sort of movement. And I'm asking if I missed some, because I don't feel that I've necessarily made a definitive list.

      What am I saying? I'm saying if your model doesn't include these in it somewhere, you may not be taking advantage of all the tools you have at your disposal. And the descriptive accuracy of the model may suffer on account of that. Why am I making a checklist? So that people can look at it and ask themselves "Hey, what would Model XYZ look like if we threw in Structure ABC? Would it help?"

      What sort of "saying something" were you expecting? Perhaps I can oblige.
      Aw hell, I just assumed you had some master plan. Now I'm embarrassed.

      A thought, though: do we get a new structure out of status? I can't think of a way it maps to the existing ones. (By "status" I mean the way that a published book has a status privilege over, say, your local GM's house rules in many minds.)
    • edited May 2008
      Posted By: misubaAw hell, I just assumed you had some master plan.
      I'm....flattered? Methinks you assume too much. ;)
      A thought, though: do we get a new structure out of status? I can't think of a way it maps to the existing ones. (By "status" I mean the way that a published book has a status privilege over, say, your local GM's house rules in many minds.)
      Different groups certainly legitimize different source materials differently. Think about this though: How do they do it?
    • I think power dynamics are definitely an important point that hasn't been covered very extensively, and status of texts is only a part of that. There's also status issues among different players and the status divisions between GM-players, and all that mess.
    • Posted By: Max HigleyA thought, though: do we get a new structure out of status? I can't think of a way it maps to the existing ones. (By "status" I mean the way that a published book has a status privilege over, say, your local GM's house rules in many minds.)
      Different groups certainly legitimize different source materials differently. Think about this though: How do they do it?

      Do you suggest that this is individual vs. collective, maybe drawn out a couple-few layers deep? Because... yeah, that covers some of it. It leaves a fair bit out, but I don't think the world actually has the neuroscience to talk about the rest intelligently yet. So let's maybe put a big ol' "revisit later" flag on this.
    • I'm suggesting that there's an emergent process whereby a group negotiates what is legitimate and what is not, which involves the interaction of many individuals to reach a consensus decision. That process will necessarily involve individual preferences and a series of actions (i.e. inside and outside interacting.) There'll likely be some sort of tipping point where once a sufficient portion of the group agrees, they'll drag the rest of them along with somehow (i.e. individual and collective preferences mutually constructing each other.) Is it layered? I dunno -- doesn't seem like it, really. Is there a feedback loop? Hmmm....maybe. Can't quite put my finger on it.
    • edited May 2008
      When I said 'layers' I was thinking not of your Layers structure, but of a kind of telescoping-out of the individual vs. collective thing, out to the level of 'individual play group vs. collective roleplaying market'. Or something.

      Yeah, I dunno... your way of explaining the status interactions seems like it could apply to the sort of Layers structure you derive from the Big Model, thereby striking Layers from the list.

      Status is just... lodged deeply enough in our hindbrains that I think it might merit more consideration. Maybe it isn't a structure of the kind we're talking about (but I still don't know exactly what kind we're talking about!), but I don't think you can just say "it's a process, negotiated between people, meh, done." I don't think it's dependent on those structures in the way you seem to mean.



      Another way of stating what we've got on the structures list: "People do stuff over time, between each other and on their own, within themselves and outwardly, taking results into account to inform next actions, and having results they may or may not predict." Okay, I'm finding this helpful as a way of seeing what might be missing: people might do stuff on purpose or not. Also, a thing that might merit being tracked separately: the input of randomization. (Which is not actually what I mean by "on purpose or not," nor by "having results they may or may not predict" - the latter means emergence, and emergent != random.)
    • Randomness...now that's fascinating. I'm going to have to ponder where that fits in, but I can see that it may be a useful modeling construct. Conscious/Unconscious is another good one. Mendel's talked a little bit about it in relation to PCon3, but I couldn't point you to it.

      Perhaps I've been unclear -- I don't mean to say "meh, done" when thinking about any of these things. I've just been pointing out where you can use these structures. If you wanted to go into more detail, there's ample room to do so, and plenty of details to consider.
    • I wasn't seriously trying to ascribe that attitude to you there; sorry. (Right there it shows how deeply status can affect communication! On some level I felt like my input was being brushed off, and it interfered with my trying to understand you and help find the axiomatic stuff on which to go forward.)

      (This makes me think status is best talked about in the context of a Conscious/Unconscious structure.)

      I would love it if (eh, on second thought let's stay in parens for the time being. I would love it if whatever theory we end up building on top of this had built into it a sort of feedback loop of its own; kind of a disclaimer or even just a fundamental level that said, "all this stuff we're about to say about roleplaying? It also applies to the theory-building that we're trying to do right now, so most especially, watch that you don't dismiss people's input solely for status reasons.")
    • The structures as they stand, even if we include randomness and conscious/unconscious, are sufficiently general to model just about anything. So it seems like you could certainly do something like that.
    • And since I don't seem to have said it: damn but this is awesome work. I'm excited!
    • Thank you. The only thing I've really done here is cataloged other people's genius, so I can't take much credit for it.

      I've been thinking about randomness, and there are two modeling uses for it I can identify (though there may be more): First, to model explicit randomness. Many games have some form of randomness in their resolution procedures, and it makes sense to include that in a model somewhere. Second, to model processes that don't yet have a sufficient description and/or that are beyond the scope of the current effort. If I want to look at say, how often player intent is satisfied by the resolution system and how often it isn't, then how the players choose their intent may be something I don't care too much about for the moment. So I might say "Well, let's call it random (even though it isn't), because that shouldn't affect what we're looking at very much."
    • Oh yeah, also, complexity. Mendel talks about that in relation to PCon3 and views, and I can see it being useful outside of that particular context as well.
    • I only brought randomness up because I didn't see it in my one-sentence summary. Without it, we might be painting a picture wherein everything comes from a human being's initiative - very much not an accurate model of all real-world roleplaying situations. (Everything, however, is allowed to stay by human beings. That's different.)
    • Hum. Don't want to put down any of the models - lots of very insightful stuff there. But I'm kind of confused by a couple of tendencies in model builders. (Hit me with the shut-up stick if I've read them all wrong, or if this has been said a million times before :) This drive toward self-contained, closed, all-encompassing models - why? They usually draw on a wide selection of academic concepts. Some state their sources, some don't. But they do not connect the dots, or do much serious comparition, or attempt to map out relationships to theories describing other media, modes of communication, art forms, dramatic traditions, whatever.

      Think of basic linguistics, with tools like discourse analysis and its competing theories of language and meaning. From the bare minimum I know of it, I'm pretty sure that, applying it to the unique mode of communication taking place in a game session, we ought to be able to tease out some really interesting facts about the nuts and bolts of roleplaying games. Same goes for a heap of other disciplines.

      The point of making a model must be to teach us new things about roleplaying games. All of these models do that, but they seem to me to be making their work harder than it needs to be, by skipping the obvious first step - attempting to describe the uniqueness and newness of roleplaying games within a much larger context, using the models for understanding media we already have. (Or do they? Maybe I'm just not looking at them right...?)
    • edited June 2008
      Most of them don't. The Process Model may be influenced by the work of Alfred North Whitehead, but I'm not sure.

      I can see at least two reasons that model makers usually don't make connections to other fields. First, they'd have to have pretty detailed knowledge of those fields, which most people don't. Second, roleplaying is different than most other media in some pretty fundamental ways. Participation in creating the story is one of them.

      ETA: If you've got particular connection in mind, I highly encourage pursuing that avenue. It's a good one, just not something most people either able or care to take.
    • Regarding the fundamental difference - yes. But that shouldn't stop the guys who work with the kind of theoretical framework that tries to describe all kinds of different media. The thing about science is that if you you're willing to change your focus enough, sooner or later you will find something you can use to start building your way back up again toward a description, even if you have to go right down to physics or abstract mathematics.

      I guess what I want is more Feyerabend. Forget the theories and methods, just start describing and then make up the theory to fit afterwards. Its how it's really done anyway.

      There are a lot of parallells to comics - it's relatively new at being taken seriously as a medium, so no one has a common theory and a vocabulary to describe what's going on in there very accurately. So you'll find a lot of references to it as a "hybrid" medium, because people grasp at vocabularies adapted to several different similar media to describe it. The thing is, even though it's really inaccurate and leads to a lot of stupid misunderstandings and bad comics, the hybrid approach worked (at least initially), because it gives you somewhere to stand, something to push against and disagree with. If you don't have that, you're like an astronaut trapped floating in the middle of a room. You're in space, but it's no good to you because you can only spin around your own axis and soon you'll die of thirst. Some of the most famous scientists are famous because everyone's so dead set on proving them wrong, they keep referring to them in paper after paper.

      As for having detailed knowledge of a field, maybe a bit true. But you can't sit around waiting for perfect omniscience before you do anything. Best way to learn is to learn a bit, suggest something based on it, get savaged by an angry pack of besserwissers, take the useful things they throw at you and leave the rest.
    • Posted By: Anders NygaardAs for having detailed knowledge of a field, maybe a bit true. But you can't sit around waiting for perfect omniscience before you do anything. Best way to learn is to learn a bit, suggest something based on it, get savaged by an angry pack of besserwissers, take the useful things they throw at you and leave the rest.
      I'll drink to that.
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