Blindness without Blinders.

Well, this is the third in a series of posts, that originally was planned to host only two entries. These posts present practical theory(?), they give you concrete considerations when you play, design and especially playtest a game, specifically a CSI Game.

In the first post I pointed out why the system deserves its own playtesting, where you test the system rather than the game. We keep talking about "The system should push the feel/message of the game", but it could be a self-fullfilling prophecy if we do not check it on its own.

In the second post I pointed out that who you play with has much impact on your play experience and playtesting. This is obvious, which is why I pointed out that "Who you play with" in this instance is either "people you know" or "people you don't know". And to answer Dave, these posts are about self-imposed Blinders, so the Either/Or are ok.

In this post I won't talk about Blinders, which are self imposed, but Blindness, an area that is beyond our control; our personalities. The last point was actually an example of this one, in a way. If you didn't understand what that post was about, well, it was that personality counts, especially when one makes a CSI Game.

I feel a bit lazy, so instead of just writing it, I'll repost a discussion I had with Mike Holmes and Thomas Robertson(TheSmerf) on #indierpgs, on 15/06/2006, this also shows you the other side's opinion:

[08:36] LordSmerf: So, Guy…
[08:36] Thunder_God: ::listens to Smerfy::
[08:36] LordSmerf: I find your most recent post to be mostly content-free.
[08:37] LordSmerf: I mean, you talk about the fact that you think Tony should play up the Conflict thing.
[08:37] LordSmerf: And you talk about the Sweet spot in the middle.
[08:37] LordSmerf: And you talk about Lose benefits.
[08:37] Thunder_God: You mean I have no coherent point?
[08:37] LordSmerf: But you just mention them.  I don't see any sort of discussion of why you'd use them or not, or anything like that.
[08:37] LordSmerf: So it seems to me, Guy.
[08:38] Thunder_God: The point of this entry is simple, and a very "D'oh" one.
[08:38] LordSmerf: Well, I missed it :)
[08:38] Thunder_God: It's that the personality of the designer has much effect on his game and design.
[08:39] LordSmerf: Ah…
[08:39] Mike_Holmes: Tony in this case being Tony LB?
[08:39] Thunder_God: Yes.
[08:39] Mike_Holmes: I agree in general, but extra so with Tony LB. :-)
[08:40] Thunder_God: Yes, that's one of the two reasons I picked him ;)
[08:40] Thunder_God: The other is, because Capes and Tony fit my model, IMO.
[08:40] Mike_Holmes: Makes sense
[08:41] Thunder_God: It especially fits Competitive games. I think most Competitive games are an outgrowth of personality, more than non-competitive designs, though that's my claim.
[08:42] Mike_Holmes: Interesting. I could make a case that non-competitive designs are reflective of very specific personalities that regard conflict as potentially damaging to creativity.
[08:43] Thunder_God: Mike, that's a possibility, but let us look at the following: If you follow the "standard philosophy" of your culture, it could be because you agree with it, or merely because you don't wish to confront it, or never thought of confronting it! Whereas the "heretics" have _chosen_ to follow another path, with less A or B, and only B.
[08:44] Mike_Holmes: So…competition is heretical in RPGs?
[08:44] Thunder_God: Smerfy, you'll note how often I mention personalities, I mention "Sweet in the middle" only in order to later mention "Losing Vs winning", which is an outgrowth of personality.
[08:44] Thunder_God: No Mike, it's just less common, not the default.
[08:44] Thunder_God: Thus me using quotation marks.
[08:45] Thunder_God: Those who ascribe to the default could actively agree or could passively not care, those who do not ascribe to default actively disagree.
[08:45] LordSmerf: Guy, you don't make it explicit that they're outgrowths of personality in your post.
[08:45] LordSmerf: I don't disagree with you, but you didn't say it.
[08:45] Mike_Holmes: Interesting…I think you may be right in terms of sheer number of games designed, but in terms of play, most RPG play is competitive, IMO.
[08:45] LordSmerf: Or if you did I missed it.
[08:46] Mike_Holmes: The vast majority of D&D play, for instance.
[08:46] Thunder_God: "However, look at Winning and Losing, which seem to show our personal philosophies, and how Tony may not be as Muy Macho as he claims(desires?) to be."
[08:46] Mike_Holmes: Heh
[08:46] Thunder_God: Mike, when I say Competitive DnD old-skool is only halfway there.
[08:46] Mike_Holmes: I think that Tony's designs are incoherent, yeah.
[08:46] Thunder_God: There's antagonism and competition between GM and players.
[08:46] Thunder_God: But the players work as a group.
[08:47] Thunder_God: I mean competitive like a board/card game, where it's free for all.
[08:47] Mike_Holmes: Players working as a group doesn't mean that they're not competing.
[08:47] Mike_Holmes: I think they very much do. And, yes, this leads to problems.
[08:47] Thunder_God: It also depends on house rules such as "killing blow" and so on.
[08:48] Mike_Holmes: I mentioned that recently, where "I kill him as he sleeps" becomes a very effective winning move.
[08:48] Thunder_God: Hm, well, I'm still talking about design, and set goals. Players play competitively because that's what people do in games, as you said, it leads to problems because the game does not facilitate "human nature".
[08:48] Thunder_God: Heh.
[08:48] Thunder_God: Stevil Van-Hostle kind of win ;) you won't see the Untouchtable Trio+1 pull it though.
[08:54] Thunder_God: I believe Cranium Rats's design, not in details, but overall is a reflection of my personality.
[08:54] Thunder_God: I think of my personality as a battering ram, so I created CR, and used a "gale" to get my goals down, sweeping through whatever I didn't like, ho ho.
[08:55] Mike_Holmes: Guy, I can see that. It's definitely philosophical in it's apparent output.
[08:56] Thunder_God: Mike, that's exactly what I didn't mean :: smiles:: Of course I meant its reflective of my personality, but I'm talking about the design process, where I batterred away anything that I didn't like, forcefully.
[08:57] Thunder_God: And yes, that does sound funny.
[08:58] Mike_Holmes: I see what you're saying, Guy, but it seems to me that it's affected both. Also, your comments about Tony's designs seem to focus on the output, no?

 Just a note, Mike's point about play is certainly a good one, but this point is mostly about design and playtesting. And heck, why do we have CSI Games if not to remedy this lack in design?
So, do I need to explain this further?


8 comments on “Blindness without Blinders.

  1. Mendel Schmiedekamp says:

    I suspect the core problem in getting your ideas across is a need for a solid definition of competition.

  2. Guy Shalev says:

    Or my definition of it, for I’m not sure we have such a definition. Though I have in my mind some ideas for a post on what is competition, and why the question is more nonsensical the more you think of it.

    Also, I need some more context for your comment.

  3. Mendel Schmiedekamp says:

    As far as difficulties getting your ideas across, that seemed to be a major theme of the chat excerpt above. But I believe it would be generally beneficial to ground competition for your purposes.

  4. Guy Shalev says:

    Hmm, I think Thomas and I are in disagreement over any number of things, as well as him finding most of my entries without substance(which they very well might be).

    Mike and I aren’t in disagreement, merely each of us seem to take up a different banner, or point the magnifying glass elsewhere.

    The point of the chat is about how Iconoclasm and CSI Games relate :)

  5. Mendel Schmiedekamp says:

    Alright, look at it this way. If you’re being iconclast, what are you tearing down and what are you building up?

    Competition is an idea that has many subtle variations.

    For example, just with the relationship between competition and cooperation it is reasonable to suggest:

    Cooperation and competition are opposites.

    Cooperation and competition are two names for the same thing.

    Cooperation is a form of competition.

    Competition is a form of cooperation.

    Cooperation and comptetition are duals, each producing the other.

    Another angle is whether competition implies a choice to participate. Is an unexpected struggle for survival a competition?

    It is not a matter of a correct answer, it’s the matter of knowing which one to use to interpret your ideas.

  6. Guy Shalev says:

    I’ll address the issue of Competition/Cooperation first. You ask a very good question, the short and generally unhelpful answer is a big resounding “Yes!”.

    The first part of the helpful answer is this: When I’ve thought of several games to discuss and use as points, especially after the definition and review guidelines posts I’ve realized that I thought of some games as not fitting, because their Competition was “Bad”. But then I thought about it some more, and realized there is no “bad” or “wrong” Competition, just not my kind.

    So the second part of the answer is what I define as Competition? The competition must exist mechanically, it must be enforced mechanically. If all players can play the whole game without competition being present, then it’s not really there. I also don’t want predetermined groups of “We” and “Them”, competition should be a rather free-for-all thing, even if different people have differing roles in it.

    As for Iconoclasm, the idea of “No one wins” in an RPG. I’ve had my father and grandfather take me home from M:tG and RPG conventions, and when asked after an RPG convention how well I did and if I won, the usual answer was, “There is no victory, we’re all playing together”. That is what I’m breaking, this view of RPGs. I also break the no-story view of Board Games.

    What I build? CSI Games, the fusion of ideas, I build games that spring from one’s personality rather than from the norm and what is expected.

    And last, how come you read me but don’t link to me? :P

  7. Mendel Schmiedekamp says:

    I still suspect that firmer definition would be useful, if only to make the statement, “If all players can play the whole game without competition being present, then it’s not really there.”

    As far as not linking so far. Some of that has been because I had the wrong url for a while there. Since then it’s been due to my RPG theory litmus. I need to be reasonably sure that a given post is about RPG theory, and not simply design. The litmus usually is if it applies to something more general than a single game. Your posts are especially difficult under that litmus, admittedly had my urls been correct you probably would have been linked on some of your earlier posts. I expect you’ll find some of your posts linked in the future, just keep up the good fight.

  8. Guy Shalev says:

    I fully agree it’ll help discussion. The question is how to deal with a non-question? Something that the more you delve into the less sense it makes, unless I hide some of the questions, so it’ll make sense artificially…

    As for linking, I meant on the sidebar of your blog, though on specific posts would also be nice ;)

    Edit: Here’s an idea, why don’t you, in your RPG Theory Review journal, review whole blogs? Or you could always dedicate a post to my “missing entries” ;)

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