Texts and Play

February 25, 2009

Arguing with people on the internet does no good, but yet it’s so irresistible. Time to cool off for a few hours and then maybe come back to it later with fresh eyes and thoughts.

I think there may be some fundamental differences of opinion about what texts can and can’t do / should and shouldn’t do in regards to teaching people how to do things / behave. Personally, I tend to be rather pessimistic that an auteur indie designer working alone or with a single amatuer editor can create a text that effectively transmits an intended mode of play. More likely, I think, is a transmission that makes the play culture the author intends and the play culture of those working from the author’s text more similar than they were before, while still being quite different.

Consequently, I think I assume that most play is a compromise between the text and the local play environment. The question is just, how much do you compromise and in what respects? This also leads me, I think, to be much more forgiving of incompleteness, inconsistency, contradictions, and vagueness game texts, because those simply become places where the local play environment steps in, assuming it’s able. In some cases, as in my early play of Poison’d and In A Wicked Age, where the local play environment is unable to step in, I think blaming the texts — though I did that at the time — was not necessarily correct, especially if the author was targeting groups whose play environment would be fully able to step in. Clinton’s decision to not mention a Game Master one way or another in TSOY is a great example. Interestingly, in that case, groups used to playing both with or without a Game Master cruise right along and don’t even notice.

2 Responses to “Texts and Play”

  1. John Jenskot Says:

    For me it is all about clarity of intent rather than clarity of text. If an author is targeting a group who is able and willing to fill in the blanks of their text, I’m all for it. I just want to know that upfront so I can determine if I am a good fit for the game.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent antidote to arguing on the internet? Pie, Walton.


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