edited February 2006 in Story Games
Here's a take on narrativism you may not have seen before. From our local group's forum:

the way i see it, there's more than enough of that kind of stuff on TV, americans have infected the world with their obsession with psychobabble and lowbrow pop-psychology: any problem can be solved by "talking it through", and relationships are only meaningful if you indulge in deep and angsty conversations all the time. any moron thinks they have "insight" into other people just because they saw and half-understood some ridiculous tripe on TV. for me, it's hard to think of anything more yawn-inducing.

I'm inclined to see it as bullshit, myself, but I wondered if anybody had any comments.


  • Well, not only is it BS, it also compltely misses the mark of what Nar is. So, it's about as hard-hitting as someone saying how much they hate cheese when the rest of the conversation is about bicycles.

  • Yes, and I don't mind admitting it throws me. I just don't know how to answer. Maybe I shouldn't bother.
  • edited February 2006

    Here's what I'd say

    If narrativist play were all about "Oh, let's buzzword the buzzword buzzword! That'll guarantee a good story!" then I'd be right with you. That would be bollocks. Since narrativist play is, in fact, about "Wow! That was a cool story, and we know how we made it cool ... next time let's do those things that made it cool for us more, and everything else less," I think it's pretty spectacular stuff.

  • Since narrativist play is, in fact,

    Actually, I'd go a little further and say that it's not just a trait of "Narrativist play", but of any type of self-reflection about your hobby or the experience that you just had.
  • Thinking a little more, it's like watching movies with friends.

    Group One goes to the movie (let's say King Kong), and leaves the movie. After the movie, they have this conversation:
    A: "Hey guys, what did you think?"
    B: "It was good."
    C: "Yeah... fun."
    A: "Cool, see y'all later!" and everyone goes home.

    Group Two goes to the movie, leaves the movie. After the movie, they go somewhere and have this conversation:
    A: "Hey guys, what did you think?"
    B: "It was good. I hated the main guy though. Looked like a tweed weeny, and his heroics weren't realistic at all, I don't think."
    C: "I didn't mind that so much as the fact that the chick is running around New York in the winter in a sheet of silk. Plus... I don't know, is it just me, or did the 'Awesome CG Stuff' just go on forever? But I did love the bug scene, that was totally kick-ass."
    blah blah blah
    This is critical discussion of what was good and bad about the experience. Maybe next time this group will have a better idea of what movies would be fun to watch together, or maybe they could recommend some DVDs to each other, etc.

    Group Three goes to the movie, leaves the movie. After the movie, they go somewhere and have this conversation:
    A: "Hey guys, what did you think?"
    B: "I thought that it was post-modernist borgois garbage. The inherent breakdown in the jungle scenes ignored any critical insight from a French Sociological interpretation, namely Baudrillard or his school."
    C: jumps in with some Doctor Phil babble about how King Kong should have been more assertive and/or needed a hug because of adolescent issues.

    Group Three needs to be punched in the cock. Group Two is doing it right.

    Critical discussion, as long as it stays on the page to what actually happened at the table, is clearly in Group Two.

    One thing I do see as a problem is when people discuss RPGs instead of actually playing them. In martial arts, an intelligent new student will ask a lot of questions, like "Why do we kick in this manner? Where does the power come from in this punch? How exactly should I be moving here? What should I do to improve my rolling punches?" And the older students (who were like that) are just like, "Dude, you punched once. Now shut up, and punch 1,000 more times. In time, you'll get it." Now, doing 1,000 punches, finishing class, THEN asking why so-and-so is done, and discussing different methods with the sifu/instructor/sambannim, that's some critical reflection on stuff that you just did, and not talking for the sake of talking.

  • The really funny thing about this is that in a lot of my more heavily Nar games we don't need to talk about the game or the characters as much after game, or before game, or around game -- because we know why the characters do what they do from the game itself.

    Now, we do talk a lot about game. But that's because we're like Andy's group 2 (though sometimes we sound like group 3, as we're all twee little intellectuals) and we like to critically analyze things that go on around us. But the truth is that after a game is over we don't usually need to explain what has gone on, nor talk it through, nor have deep angsty conversations about it. We also don't usually do those things in game, unless we're doing a genre in which they're particularly fitting.

    We don't do those things because the meaning of the story and the characters actions is established in play and through play by the choices the characters (and players) make. We don't have endless angst about whether or not we should go to Mount Doom, we fucking go. And who stays on the treck and who gets corrupted and who goes off to hunt orcs tells us everything we need to know about the characters.

    Really, in my eyes Nar play is the solution to the problem your friends are talking about. Because once you realize that you can make real decisions and really say something and really change the story, there isn't any point in endlessly angsting or talking it out. You learn to just fucking do it.

    It's "Story Now," not "Story, after we gaze at our navels, deconstruct the four-act structure, and have a group hug."
  • You know, having spent half my gaming career playing with "non-gamers", we've never had to analyze play, before, during or after, and we got Nar just fine (and yes, even before I had even heard of the Forge or any of its wacky theories).

    All the analysis is a bridge for anyone who has trouble digesting the idea that a) players get meaningful input or b) that the fictional events created should be similar to 99% of any other entertainment story out there in terms of dealing with issues & emotions. With all the people I have played with, only traditional roleplayers seem to have trouble grasping either idea.
  • Droog, were the original comments directed at narrativism, or narrativist techniques/games, or Forge theory? Three different beasts.
  • Good question. It's not Forge theory, for a change, and it doesn't seem to be specifically about nar techniques. It seems to be a reaction towards any depth at all in entertainment. For instance, he said that he gets bored at the soapy stuff in Buffy and only watches it for the butt-kicking.

    It floors me, and I can hardly believe it. The guy isn't an ignoramus, nor yet some lonely freak. He's a forty-something IT professional with a family.
  • It could also be that he wasn't fully talking about RPGs at all, just about his disconent with the current state of storytelling. There is a "lots of words" issue with much of modern writing. How many of us get pissed with Robert Jordan, for example, for never fucking ending his books?
  • droog: Yeah, I'd just bring up another topic if he goes on a diatribe about discussing gaming or whatever. It sounds like he includes "in the realm of psychobabbly" "Anything I am not interested in discussing".

    Ex: I am totally uninterested in sports (well, save weird eclectic ones). I've never held a conversation longer than two to three sentences about any sport other than sumo wrestling. However, every now and again I listen to the local college sports show when I'm flipping around while driving: It is very apparent to me that the people talking (and they're not even the ones PLAYING the sports) are very emotionally and logically tied to the conversations, the conversations are meaningful, and they actually progress their hobby further.

    I just would probably ignore the dude's comments. If you wanted to be a bastard, you could wait until he starts talking about something he likes and do the same thing. But probably just as good to not invite him into discussions of the games. :-)

    BTW, is this some sort of linkable area you're talking about? Or do you have to be a member to view the thread?

  • Oh dear... you'll see my pathetic attempts to get people to play indie games....

    The issue started on this thread:

    and continued here:
  • Just read both threads. Two suggestions that may help:

    1) No need to bring in Vincent as Authority: I would have summarized the Die Hard thing instead of using it as an example, but that's just me.

    2) After reading the exchange between Craig and Russel... er... run? Is running away an option here? :-)
  • Poor old Craig... it's like he's under pressure from the right and the left. That's what you get for being MOR.

    I've only known these guys for a few months. I got invited to play Pendragon by Russell through; unfortunately, a few months later the group decided to go back to Hackmaster--I declined to play. But there's a small sub-group of us who've just started playing Donjon on a different weeknight, so my virus is propagating. I'm quite ready to cut and run if need be.

    And who can resist using 'A monster I am lest a monster I wankety wank wank'?
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