Grand Theft Game-o

There’s a peculular blindspot around in roleplay, it seems. In normal society, there’s a trend that if goods are advertised as X, then when you buy them, they are X.

X, as opposed to Y or Z.

I had all the fun of the fair about that recently on a forum. It was rather like the monty python dead parrot sketch – I kept point out that the ‘parrot’ was dead at sale, and they’d play out the other side, with the usual snide assertions where they have given up on actually caring about you and it’s all territory to them now. My partner says it’s a guy thing – particularly a guy roleplay thing.

The specific issue here is that roleplay books call themselves ‘games’ but are apparently ‘toolkits’.

They just get this exception, without having to communicate it to any potential buyer. Of course I tried to sell the people in the forum some ‘genuine’ rolexes, but they didn’t seem to have a breach in their mental firewalls that’d let me make make casholas on the fake rolexes – it was just in terms of roleplay books.

The primary thing that seemed to convince them is numbers – if enough people believe game == toolkit, then it does. No information need be conveyed at the point of sale, it’s just osmotically known by potential purchasers. I imagine that’d mean there was this moment where a guy was standing in a hobby store, looking at the roleplay books and then this voice, vader style perhaps, enters his mind ‘All games…are toolkits!’. And the guy would just go ‘Oh!’ and clearly wouldn’t buy them thinking they were fikin’ chess.

They seem to act as if the word ‘game’ never came with any physical properties linked with it – as if it’s just a placeholder, like X, Y or Z is a placeholder for whatever you want to put in it. But then that can’t be right, because what they put in it, you better damn well believe it or it’s plenty of pisant bullying for you!

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard gamers complain about ordering a book and recieving it in the mail with a damaged cover. It’s kind of bizarre that if the cover doesn’t match the product, they’d go off, but if the word ‘game’ on the cover doesn’t match contents of the book, they totally let that slip.

I doubt anyone will find this, but no doubt if they do it’ll involve even defining, then using that definition as a fact since everyone uses it ‘I’ve got 500 people who define that parrot as alive!’. Anyway, cleared my head a bit.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Grand Theft Game-o

  1. I am going to argue with you, not because I necessarily disagree, but rather to clarify the subject.

    Are you defining games as formal sets of rules?

    If yes, most roleplaying games can’t be games, simply because in them, the fiction matters, and the fiction can’t be formalised (at our current level of technology, at least).

    Is game a binary descriptor?

    That is, is there anything between something being a game and not being a game? Like, say, something is almost a game, something is not at all a game, something which kinda resembles a game, …
    In real life (as opposed to mathematics) almost everything is a matter of degree. Precise definitions don’t work.

  2. “Precise definitions don’t work.”
    Is that a precise definition? 🙂

    You can get ambiguous about definitions. However, generally society created the artifact called the law, so as to kill ambiguity stone dead at a certain point.

    Rather than two gentleman having a disagreement about definition of property, the law has processes at the end of which, one of them isn’t disagreeing anymore, and is instead thrown in the clink for mugging the other fella.

    Does that ever end for you – in your philosophy does anyone cease to be discussing definition, and instead ends up in jail? A genuine question – I’m not asking it in a ‘Of course you have to think that way’. I’m asking it, so as to bring up where YOU decide on where the line is between ‘just disagreeing’ and ‘that mofo goes to the big house now’.

    I could go on about where I draw the line, but I think that if you think you yourself have never made any choice about such a line (including the choice to potentially not have a line at all), then it wouldn’t go anywhere.

    Do you draw the line anywhere? Or do you not draw a line? Once I know, we have the basis for mutual respect – as much as you might expect respect about your line drawing (or abscence), I can in turn expect the same from you for where I’ve decided to draw my line.

    I know, pedantic ground preperation. Trust me, it’s more thunderbolts and lightening that it’d first appear.

    In terms of defining game, I think I have a fairly mathematic like definition, drawn from extensive history. But it all pivots on where/IF you draw a line at some point and think rather than endless discussion, at some point someone needs jail/fines now.

  3. My general approach to definitions: They all are specific to a certain discussion (or some other context).

    For example, I can define meta-gaming as using knowledge my character would not have to influence the actions my character takes. This definition is useful for illustrating the good and bad aspects of not simply channeling my character.
    Or, I can define metagaming as furthering the goals of my character by using OOC info. This definition is more useful for describing a certain problematic behaviour.

    A rule of thumb: Adopting a definition and then using it in other contexts will bring nothing but grief and misunderstanding. Definitions are tools. Right tool for the right job.

    (This is a different issue from fuzzy definitions, which are all about the degree to which something is, say, a game. Almost all words, for example, have fuzzy meanings. One can do exact mathematics with fuzzy definitions. See also: Fuzzy logic.)

  4. I’m pretty sure you have a line you’ve drawn, where on one side you’d be happy to talk, and on the other side you’d stop talking and simply act. Certain deeds will fall to one side of that line or the other, with you.

    Your rule of thumb doesn’t work – it’d cancel your line in the sand as much as it cancels mine.

    Let’s put it this way – are either of us godlike and invulnerable?

    Bad stuff can happen to us? We’d agree it can?

    And how do you know bad stuff is happening or about to happen? You work from a definition. You don’t ‘just know’ bad stuff – you work from a definition you’ve made up.

    And if someones convinced you out of definitions because of a rule of thumb? Would you still see bad stuff coming? How? Even your flinch reflexes are based on the definition of ‘Thing comes at my face fast, spasm muscles to try and withdraw out of its way’.

    You want to ditch definitions. Okay – what defences do you have after definitions are gone? You’ll just know if something bad is about to happen? Instinctually? Your instincts aren’t just another definition?

    I know, I seem to be drawing a long bow – wasn’t this about games? But I’m refering to why the definition of a word is as vital as self preservation is.

  5. Wait.

    Are you really having problem with definitions only existing within certain context?

    I am most certainly not ditching definitions. I study mathematics. Definitions is what I live and breathe.

    Or do you have a problem with fuzzy definitions? I can have an extended discussion about that, too, if you are interested.

    Neither of the above has anything to do with dismissing definitions. Which are you talking about?

  6. I’ve said definitions are an integral part of self preservation. So yes, I’d have a problem with definitions existing only in certain contexts. And would you say your self preservation hinges on definitions?

  7. Is self-preservation not a certain context?

    There is a different between definitions used in communication (or mathematics or software programming) and the way people and animals and earthquakes and whatever work.

    We can easily alter the ones used in communication by simply saying that “In this conversation this word will have this meaning.” (and the other party or parties agreeing to it).

    The way people, or animals, or earthquakes, function is not so easy to modify, if at all possible. I would be loath to use the word “definition” to refer to, for example, whatever triggers reflexes. They are clearly a distinct phenomenon from definitions used in communication.

    So, I would not say that my self-preservation hinges on definitions, if by “self-preservation” we mean fundamental actions that humans take, like eating and drinking and reflexes and running or fighting.

    Definitions are arbitrary labels humans use to organise information and communicate it.

  8. Well, then that’s the fundimental where we seperate. So we can get no further with each other. Dang! 😦

    I don’t want to convince you in saying this, but I’d like to leave some questions.
    * When you eat a mushroom, your not using a definition? (either the definition that ‘stores only sell safe mushrooms’ or ‘I know deathcaps by personal knowledge’)
    * When you stop at a red light or go at a green light, your not using a definition?
    * When men wearing blue act aggressive and tell you to stop, your not using a definition when you treat them as police and follow their instructions rather than seeing them as unknown, potentially dangerous strangers?
    * When you turn on the tap with a red mark and the tap with a blue mark, your not using a definition to adjust the water to the right temperature, rather than have it scolding or ice cold?
    * When you cross the road, your not using the definition for “looking both ways” that it makes you crossing considerably safer?
    * When you drink water from the tap, your not working from the definition of it being ‘uncontaminated’?

    Perhaps you’d prefer a different name for it. That’s cool. But to me, whether its the definition of a game, or definition of what mushroom is safe to eat, they are all the same – definitions.

    I know you think its okay for a company to mess with the definition of game – but what if I want to choose differently from you? Do I have to make the same choice as you, because you decided its perfectly fine? As I see it, alot of definitions are very important – I would like to decide for myself if the definition of game is important/can be messed with. Or do I have to do as you do? Because you decided it isn’t important, I have to follow your choice?

    If I should be able to make my own informed choice, how can I if the product is X, but then sold under the name of Y?

  9. When you eat a mushroom, your not using a definition? (either the definition that ’stores only sell safe mushrooms’ or ‘I know deathcaps by personal knowledge’)

    Umm…
    Those are not definitions. They are propositions. They have a truth value. They make a claim about the way things are, instead of naming phenomena.

    That is, unless you are defining store as a place that only sells safe mushrooms, or safe mushrooms as the things that are only sold at stores, and deathcaps as something you know by personal knowledge or personal knowledge as something you know deathcaps by. And those look like awfully bad definitions. All your friends would be deathcaps, since you know them by personal experience, for example, if those are taken as written.

    * When you stop at a red light or go at a green light, your not using a definition?
    * When men wearing blue act aggressive and tell you to stop, your not using a definition when you treat them as police and follow their instructions rather than seeing them as unknown, potentially dangerous strangers?
    * When you turn on the tap with a red mark and the tap with a blue mark, your not using a definition to adjust the water to the right temperature, rather than have it scolding or ice cold?

    I am not a psychologist, so the following with a grain of salt.
    In these cases I am using definitions. I have a definition of police and any person who fills the criteria is treated as a police. (In case of the water, I usually don’t consult the blue and red colour spots, because I remember which way to turn it without such aids.)

    * When you cross the road, your not using the definition for “looking both ways” that it makes you crossing considerably safer?
    * When you drink water from the tap, your not working from the definition of it being ‘uncontaminated’?

    In these cases, no, I am not using the definitions. I am not categorising information or communicating. I will look both ways, but I am not using the definition of it.

    Perhaps you’d prefer a different name for it. That’s cool.

    Exactly. Assigning names is defining. Definitions are mere names, nothing more, nothing less.

    I know you think its okay for a company to mess with the definition of game – but what if I want to choose differently from you?

    When presenting an argument, I usually take care to define the terms I use to some degree, especially if they are contentious ones. You are free to do any of the following: (1) Say they are bad definitions and decline to engage my argument. (2) Make a note that you usually use different definitions, but given the definitions I used, blah blah. (3) Tell the definitions you use and address my argument by those definitions. My response is likely to be “Interesting.” or “Yeah, the argument does not work with your definitions. What about mine?” (4) Agree with my definitions and engage the argument.

    When reading arguments by other people, I will act as per (2) or (4), usually. If I don’t know what the definitions in play are, I will usually ask for clarification. For example, random posts about encouraging people to roleplay tend to be pretty hard. Or posts about story and plot and preparation.

    For me, the argument matters and the definitions are necessary to present the argument. Of course, some definitions are brilliant and capture a particular concept of phenomenon very accurately, and hence have aesthetic value in addition to being useful in other ways.

    Again, I am not saying that definitions are not important. They are vital. But trying to define things out of context is futile. A definition tells what we are talking about.

    If I am analysing something with mathematical game theory, I will have little use for definitions of game that do not specify that there must be a set of players, a set of strategies and for each player and each specific strategy there must be a distinct payoff. You may have a very nice definition. But if I am doing math, I don’t want it, unless it fits the aforementioned criteria.

    If I am, on the other hand, discussing rpg theory, very distinct definitions of games are of interest, mostly to see how well they correspond with roleplaying and what they can tell about it.

    On selling products: There is legalese about what products can be sold under what names, at least in EU and Finland. A game store, or a grocery store, is a context; certain words have specific meanings in that context.

    Suppose there is a game sold that has the following features: Requires at least 2 players, play time varies between nearly instantaneous and arbitrarily long depending on the rules you use. Everything else included in the package.

    Maybe the package contains several different sets of rules for tug-of-war (you win when any opponent takes a step or you win after dragging the opponent x meters or whatever) and the relevant equipment. Maybe there are rules for rock-paper-scissors. Or maybe there is a die; roll 1-3 and you win, 4-6 and the opponent wins.

    That something is a game does not tell much. More specific information is required. Single labels seldom tell much. They define a (fuzzy) set, rarely an individual person or product.

  10. It’s probably a distracting side point, but when you identify the police by definition – you do know in some countries crims dress up as police and ‘arrest’ tourist and extort money from them (‘fines’). And in America, a guy called up a McDonalds, convinced the manager he was a policeman by voice alone, and then got the manager to strip search an innocent employee. The security footage showed her humiliation. I mean, you call the mushrooms safe edibility claim as a proposition – your idea of who is a policeman, is just a proposition as well. What is a deathcap? What is an edible mushroom? What is a policeman? What is a man just tricking me into thinking he’s a policeman?

    But that doesn’t really hit the mark here, so it’s one for another day.

    What does is – okay, that something is a game does not tell you much.

    So, how much of an informed choice do you want me to have, when I purchase a ‘game’? Do you want it that ‘games’ can contain any old thing, and once I’ve payed my money, that’s it?

    Right now, you can say yes, they can contain any old thing – not because I want to hear that, but because I want to hear how much of an informed choice you think I should get, or anyone should get, when they buy a ‘game’.

    Or do you think what you’d decide doesn’t matter, in terms of how it’s legally handled?

  11. About games: Honestly, I am less than interested in what one can expect when buying something labeled as a game. Personally, I only buy games after playing them or sufficiently studying them on-line (reviews, play reports, databases…).

    My tentative opinion, now that you have asked the question, is that capitalism can do its thing. If you are interested in this subject and have smart answers, do say them out loud.

    About definitions: Note that, in all likelihood, every person defines every thing in slightly different ways. People understand words in different ways. So, if I define someone as a police, it is not a proposition. There is not truth value to that definition. Proposition is if my personal definition is equivalent to your definition or the legal definition (in a given country) and so on.

    It is, of course, pretty useful to understand how the rest of one’s society defines words.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s