I was musing today (then rereading some of the forges narrativism essay) – I think to make a game worth making (worth it to me), it has to start with a story (well, the initial start conditions that a story could be derived from).
I’m in the same position I was with narrativism – I tried to appeal to players and applied force to my own story making. Being your own source of typhoid maryism* is just dandy!
The thing is, I’d considered it from another direction – why am I putting all this player interaction shit in, when I could just write a book? Why am I insisting on putting that in?
Part of it is a stubborn desire to ‘win’ at game design. But that’s not the big thing.
The big thing, I realised, is that if I chose to make a book…*creeeeak CRASH* the doors of the roleplaying community, whether that be friends or forum members, all close their doors in terms of encouragement. All the human encouragement, support, smiles and warmth is IMMEDIATELY cut off, should I decide the right format for my story is a book/comic/home made movie/whatever.
Everything is fixated toward interactive gaming – should you decide that’s not the right format, all encouragement is removed. You might get a ‘oh, that’s nice’ or whatever, but all the people who are clearly electrically excited by roleplay wont give even a volt to a prospective author choosing to write a book.
And you know, I’ve come to think that you don’t decide format until you decide what you want to make a story about.
This means, (perhaps?) unintentionally the roleplay community essentially applies force to the author. Whatever the story, it MUST involve player interaction – that comes first, then your little story has to fit in with that somehow, or otherwise no encouragement or excitement from us. It’s a system – where you get a reward for authoring in the format they prefer, rather than the format that the author thinks is right for the story base. That system isn’t story orientated, it’s format orientated. For story to come first, story decides the format! Not the other way around!
It’s probably unintentional, but I think of the simulationist focus in RP culture and the forges nar essay commenting on how simulationists train people out of their usual reflex toward nar or gamism. It might not be unintentional at all and more of a proliferated habit that supports an overall sim agenda. Or not. Who knows, but my grinding teeth like to at least form a hypothesis or they keep grinding.
Anyway, it’s a two step thing – you might have written stories as a little kid, but as a teen, in game you found the throbbing, beating heart of narrativism and it got you excited. Except you could never have it unless you gamed, because people are excited about other people roleplaying, not other people roleplaying then splitting off to write a book or a comic. It’s all fixated on roleplay.
Not that I’m that fussed about such a system in place. Big deal – once you can see it, you can work around it.
But that’s why I’m writing it – so I can see it!!! Because I’ve been in that system for so long! I turned away from nar since it wasn’t supported. Then with gamism…well, I’ve run many games…I’ve run enough games. I’ve had enough because they still required a story base at the heart of the gamism, to make it worth it to me to do all the prep to run a game (been hating prep more and more every year for years). Because again, format is deciding story.
Avoiding a typhoid mary system is easy once your intellect can see it. But it’s wrenching your heart away, that’s the hard part. That’s always been the hard part. I found my heart there, dammit – how can it be destructive to me when I found it there?
Whats worse is I felt guilty after all my time at the forge – felt I HAD to write a game, or look a big waste of time. Mostly self inflicted guilt, mildly reinforced by a few choice words from there.
Even now I keep going to wrap up this post with “No more – next time, whether I’m writing a computer game or roleplaygame, story will decide format” and I’m fucking up again! Look at the sentence structure – if I’m writing a game (game being a particular format) , story decides the particular format? WTF? The goddamn stuff must be burnt into my neural pathways!
Lets try it afresh – I will craft stories. And those stories will decide their ideal format to be produced in.
Will anyone cheer if I write a book or comic like they’d cheer if I wrote the next dogs in the vineyard? Hell no. But now I can see, I’ll cheer. That’s enough.