Pointless wibble about the present state of Game theory from the Forge

One of the main criticisms of the Big model is that it seems to completely miss the reasons for the popularity of, especially, the World of Darkness games.
Now, a charitable re-reading of the essays suggests that Ron believes that their popularity lies in the ability of players to dirft the games to their own sensibilities, while denigrating them for incoherence to an internally contradictory degree.

In terms of Chris Lehrich’s application of Levi-Strauss to gaming, a game should gain in popularity in proportion to the extent to which players may use it as a source of bricolage.

What, then, are properties of designed games (as opposed to games in play) that facilitate bricolage?

1. Mechnically, discrete mechanical “bits” that have a well defnied function, that work with easily understood interfaces to the other available mechanics that do not contradict the non-mechnical elements of the SiS.
2. In terms of background, setting, colour, what have you, elements that are evocative, carry a weight of meaning with them already, are easy to relate to each other, and do not contradict the mechanical definitions of the SiS.

From this PoV, we can see both Ron’s (and my) problem with, say, 1st ed Vampire, and the reasons for the popularity of the game. While the mechanics for Humanity and the established mood and theme were to a great extent contradictory (as the stated version of the rules made humanity both the measure and master of behaviour, while the theme was “can your character remain human?” BTW, very little penalty for only running to a minimum of humanity). But the nature of the ST system makes it relatively easy to build a locally understood version of the humanity scale, or a locally understood variant of the background of the game. And in fact, such was necessary to play the game

And I’m pretty sure that when these various groups interacted, there was biiii-iiiiig clash of the bricoleurs, all claiming the others were playing wrong. There was even a para in the ST guide that any Vamp in the Katana & trenchcoat “would be laughed out of any elysium”, ie, there is a WW one true way, but, err, our Tim Truman art could confuse a stupid person.

To a great extent, this is what Ron’s always said. However, The original GNS essay wasn’t just diagnostic, it was prescriptive for design. It suggests that design focussed on one agenda of play, and hard to drif to another, would be more rewarding for that agenda.

Such is self-defining. However, if we consider that RPG players are, through the necessity of the history of RPG’s*, bricoleurs, we can see that a focussed, engineered design with narrow purpose lends itself less well to bricolage. Succesful, in terms of long term play and, lets face it, sales, have gone to games which facilitate both mechnaical and setting bricolage: D20, Hero / Champions, GURPS, White Wolf, Traveller, Glorantha / Heroquest… all these involve large boxes of mechanical and conceptual toys / tools for palyers to futz around with, all with their own cultural weight both inside and outside RPG’s.

Anyway, more later, ttfn, time to go home…

*By which I mean that 1st AD&D is about the biggest pile of bricolage, in both setting and mechanics, you could ever hope to find. As a corrolary, D20 has been engineered to facilitate functional bricolage: it’s more the producer, not the product, of the bricolage process


3 thoughts on “Pointless wibble about the present state of Game theory from the Forge

  1. Right 🙂 “Look at Wonder Rock(TM), Wonder Rock(TM) can do anything and everything!” “Wonder Rock(TM) didn’t make water for me, what’s wrong with my Wonder Rock(TM)?” “Oh, silly you! You have to add water to Wonder Rock(TM) for it to make water! (splash), Wow! Look at all that water! The problem isn’t Wonder Rock(TM), the problem is you!” The GNS essay is focal on design for good play, not necessarily design around marketing. Though I could accept bricolage based design if it also included better advice for some ways to fit the various parts together for different purposes rather than leaving people in the dust. Even Lego sets have a couple of sets of examples or instructions in or on the box.

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