Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Theories

I promised myself I'd write a post today no matter what.  I wanted to write another RPG 201 post, but that's not quite coming together so instead I'm going to pick around the edges of it a bit.  Sometimes, thinking through writing is all I need.

My goal for the next four classes, nine through twelve, is talk through some of the theories related to how role-playing games work.  I feel I've established a grounding for processes, how expertise is acquired and how to approach a deconstruction of the game from an objective viewpoint ... so it stands to reason that we need to move forward into role-playing itself, to define how we see it and what is generally believed to make it work from the point of view of both the DM and the Player.

It seems strange at this late date, but I'm having a little trouble defining the goals of the whole course itself.  I am thinking of it, generally, as Introduction to RPG Mechanics ... the way it is done or operated, the practicalities behind it and the manner in which it causes participants to behave.  In that sense, it is also an Introduction to RPG Design ... except that I'm not talking Game Theory and how to design a "role-playing game."  Design is involved, but only in a meta-sense.

There are four theories I mean to discuss: the game as storytelling; the players as heroes; adventures written as quests; and role-play as the central purpose of the game.  I call these "theories" because none have been factually proven by any clinical research of any kind, but they are held to be true somewhat universally throughout the role-playing community.

I have written posts disparaging all of them ... but that is not my purpose with this course.  Instead, I want to deconstruct each theory from the perspective of explaining why they are held to be true, and why that belief carries a conviction that subverts any attempt at examination.  Most role-players would be hard pressed to admit that their impression of these things ~ stories, heroes, quests and role-play ~ is founded on a complete lack of evidence.  In fact, it would seem, for very good psychological reasons, that these things are all drowning in blatantly obvious evidence, which most readers would be able to point to at a moment's notice if the topic came up.

Except that all the "evidence" is subjective evidence.  In other words, not evidence.  As I explained with my last class.

So this is a tall order.  I have it structured in my head but the words themselves haven't had the time to ruminate their way off my fingers so the process of getting it written hasn't happened.  Sometimes writing is like having a room full of legos but we haven't decided which end of Verne's Nautilus we're going to start building first.

Today, I had an odd request at work, where much of my job has become explaining to callers what costumes our store has in stock, if at all.  I get a lot of requests for adult costumes for kids, many of which we have: like an Indiana Jones costume for a kid or a Tyrannosaurus costume for a kid.  Today, I had someone ask about a kid's costume for an adult - specifically, a carebear costume in an adult size.  It is a world gone mad.

I spend my days also writing about WWE costumes, or LOL Surprise costumes, or disco lady and material girl costumes, or Oogie Boogie costumes.  Three months ago I had a job where I made the same soup every shift without fail ... now I'm writing at length about a sexy nun costume full of double entendres, and five minutes later I'm writing about a puppy costume for a 12 month old child.  It is indeed a world gone mad.

So I'm having a bit of trouble putting together the legos to explain why storytelling for role-playing is a self-fulfilling problem solving mechanic for illusionary problems, yet a crippling blind spot where it comes to moving from the pedantic thinking of someone competent into the progressive thinking of someone proficient.  I'm thankful I've had the time to describe the terms; but there's a long way to go yet.

I'm on it.  A bit distracted, and bound to be more distracted before Halloween ends, but I'm on it.  To whet your appetite I'll leave you with this graph about narrative identity and it's relationship to the process of getting acquainted with a new job.  This has direct bearing on what I just said about story telling in role-play.


1 comment:

James said...

Haha, my friend bought a dark blue carebear costume to run a 5k in for charity (if he rose $10,000, he'd do it, I believe) a year or two ago.

Those are quite the sacred cows to be going for, not that I am surprised. I look forward to the work when you get to it.