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Gordon Landis
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+Ron Edwards Arrived Sunday, but no ETA on when I can READ it ...
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Well, it's more than I thought ...

Once again, a thought I didn't want muddling-up +Vincent Baker s G+. It's this: Design towards "what do you play to find out"; account for CA issues in that design (knowing that you will NEVER "fully" account for them). Note that 'Design towards "what do you play to find out"' can, perhaps, be summarized as "Color First." (though I risk having  +Ron Edwards chew me a new orifice by saying so).

So, for the last few years (publicly, anyway) +Vincent Baker  has been developing his ideas about the "object of a game". They've always seemed kinda-right to me, but somehow not quite capturing some important things. No reason that really matters, of course - they're capturing something important to him, and what's important to me is my own business.

But for reasons mysterious, I stumbled into a way of thinking about the object(s) of a game that builds on his, but takes a turn. So I'm writing it up here.

Vincent [I'm pretty confident of this as a paraphrase]
   A game has an object.
Me [more wordy, but not (I think) meaningfully different - Vincent may have essentially said this too at some point, but I'm not so confident of it as a paraphrase]
   Games provide their players with one or more objects.
Vincent
   Design is about making it possible but not easy to achieve that object/those objects.
Me
   Design is about providing opportunities for interesting things to happen in the presence of the object(s).

Which means you can't let people simply ignore the object(s).* However, while it's important to have the object(s) present - that is, I agree with Vincent that looking at and for the object(s) is a good thing - I think achieving/not achieving is a far too limiting context for why and how objects are important. Reducing to the simplicity (ha!) of Chess - I do NOT think the most important factor in the design of Chess lies in how it makes checkmating the opponents' king possible but not easy (that does turn out to be significant for this game, but not, I think, primarily so). What's important lies in all the interesting things (learning about patterns, insight into your own/your opponents behavior, understanding planning and possibilities, etc.) possible when playing with those rules, in the presence of that object.

(Another angle, remembering some earlier language in discussions of Vincent's Object-idea: I don't think the object supplants other ways of interacting, it merely insists on being noticed. Often, insists on being included, maybe even on being taken VERY seriously. VERY. But as a minimum, noticed, so that when/if you ignore it you know you're doing so.)

I think that for the kind of RPGs I'm most interested in, Vincent's Three Insights (into the medium of play, into the fictional environment, and into human issues/behavior generally) are a great way to develop the "interesting things" in an RPG design. I also think the "interesting things" possible/likely in a particular game end up getting influenced by many factors, not just the object(s) directly. But I do buy the claim I think I've seen Vincent making, that focusing more on the object(s) is good for RPG designers.

(Now I get to see if there's a game design I need to develop to demonstrate this thinking. Wee! It's not often I face the potential need to fully design and develop a game. Probably, nothing will show up - or maybe it will. I'm not sure which to wish for ...)

Note the emphasis - ignoring the object is, of course, possible, maybe even in some cases inevitable. But in good design any ignoring is consequential. One possible consequence *is fairly simple - the game plainly doesn't work when you ignore the object(s) (whereupon maybe good design reminds you of the object(s) and their importance). In that case, by saying "good design doesn't let you SIMPLY ignore the object(s)", I'm only pointing out that the focus isn't on the ignoring, it's on the consequence of the ignoring. But far more common, I think, is a, um, complicated-sorta-ignoring (or at least ignoring "achievement"), but where you can still play and have the full range of maybe-wonderful maybe-disappointing experiences. And occasionally, a designer can go "I expect you're gonna ignore-in-some-way this object", and use that to serve the interesting things available in playing the game.

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I was amused by Giant Squid (Tentacles? I guess at least they're "massive"). So let's put something internet-y on my G+.

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So +Vincent Baker is thinking about game-stuff again, and as usual, it's very interesting. Also (at least lately) as usual, I'm not quite on the same page with him, and I keep trying to figure out exactly where/how. But I've already chewed up enough space in his well-viewed corner of the intawebz. So here's a bit in my obscure corner (which I guess I'm trying to understand/use a bit more - I actually "circled" someone earlier today - I think).

Anyway, I have another way of saying one (the main?) thing that bothers me about calling the Demon-person in his Vengeful Demon of the Ring game (at the link) a "player." It's that if that person were to say "I don't think I was a player" (as pure guess, I'd say more than half would say that), I think we oughta take their word for it rather than say as designers/theorists/whatever "no, you totally were!"

On the other hand, speaking strictly as a game designer (as Vincent usually is in his posts) ... maybe it's fine to consider the Demon as a player for the purposes of your design. I've concerns about that, covered in my post at the link. But ... Vincent said a while back it'd be good to ask "Is it a good idea, for this game, for one or some of the players to not know that they're playing?" I think I'm happy with asking "Is it a good idea, in this game, to call the person who doesn't know they're playing a 'player'?" How you make that call becomes less about definitions than a design choice. A choice with consequences, of course, and I think it's good to talk about those - but that's the case with all design choices. Across multiple perspectives, and even within many of them, "player" is not an absolute.

So - whether or not to call the Demon-chosen person in VDotR a "player" is a design choice. I think for that game it's a mistake to call that role a player, but maybe opinions may vary without difficulty across players/designers/theorists.

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I got involved in a discussion over on +Vincent Baker s  G+ with Vincent and Zak Smith. Maybe I shouldn't have - I don't think I'm either a target nor deeply involved right now in activities where the issues come up. But it rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason (covered a bit in the discussion), so I looked into what I could figure out about the context a bit - jeez, what a mess the internetz can make of things.

By various paths, I found myself re-reading something Vincent posted over at his anyway blog a while back:

"Whatever our community's values, our community's status system is a force for creative entropy. Even if our community values innovation and novelty, its status system wants creators to limit themselves to creating things that flatter and soothe the community. It's a familiar thing to me, the group that loves its own fashionable innovations but cries down any and all innovations from outside itself, no matter how brilliant."

When I evaluate something like "I wish folks would publish fewer Powered by the Apocalypse games" in that context, I can see it in at least two ways - both as (potentially) an attempt to keep people from staying within their own fashionable innovations or as an example of creative entropy keeping something from becoming real. So long as the possibility of the former is acknowledged (which, clearly, Vincent in general does), I've got no problem with calling attention to the latter.

(and look, I can post on G+! What's up with no way to do URLs? And I've no clue how I got the link below.)
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