“You can do(type) anything!”

Just a comment by a poster called Seth, over on an applied game design thread about text parsers, reminded me of something.

Ah, nostalgia. Personally I loved the (false) feeling that you could type anything into a text parser and potentially get a result. The multiple choice option makes it far easier than trying to get into the designer’s head but at the price of removing the veil.

I like that caveat, that quick note of how it was a false feeling, yet acknowledging the feeling could be enjoyed(loved) anyway. And especially noting how the ‘veil’ was lost – directly referencing it as simply a bit of a fun illusion.

Ah, I wish I could talk in these terms, in relation to table top design, all the time. I really do. Bit lonely that way.

15 thoughts on ““You can do(type) anything!”

  1. Bit of a broad responce, isn’t it? Why isn’t the third world immunised? Because there’s the problem of humans not being computers! Why did you eat the last buiscuit and not put the packet in the bin? Because there’s the problem of humans not being computers! :p

  2. Maybe a bit broad, yes.

    Computer is a finite and formal system. It has a precise and certain way it reacts to specific input. This is true of text parsers. They react in specific way to specific input (text) and their current state. Maybe the reaction is “random” (which means that it uses some factor that is unknown to the user; true randomness does not exist in computers), maybe fixed.

    Humans are very different creatures. The most important bit is that they can understand vastly more varied inputs; large enough to in practice be infinite. Further, human can answer appropriately.

    What might follow is a discussion or two we have already had – maybe you’ll point out the different between can and will, or maybe we can drag this back to infinite options. Maybe an entirely new discussion?

  3. I think I’d first check what you mean be ‘can’. For example, I can do 2+2. But there are other things I can only try to do. Medium level Sedoku are one thing I can merely try to do, and understanding people is another thing I can merely try to do.

    If I’m just trying to do something, this means I can fail. And when I fail to understand someone, I understand them as much as the computer does. You’d probably say I can keep trying – but that doesn’t mean I will suceed. I may never be able to understand.

    Most importantly, if you thought you could type anything/try anything, and I fail to understand you, it was just an illusion that you could do anything. In the exact same way as the computer because I can’t understand you any better than the computer does. Because I was only trying to understand you – that doesn’t mean I can understand you and that you can actually do anything.

  4. I’d say that the space of narration that fellow players (including GM) can’t understand is pretty small in actual roleplay. Certainly it is orders of magnitudes smaller than with any computer.

  5. Well, I would argue that, but I don’t need to argue the magnitude if we both are accepting there is some capacity for failure. Basically even if there is a small percentage chance of failure – well, in real life, if I climb a ladder, I climb it. Every time. But if I were to climb one and one in one hundred times (or even less often) I didn’t rise, I would go ‘this is not a ladder! this is just something that seems like a ladder’.

    The illusion of a ladder. If it feels like a ladder, it’s a false feeling. And yet you can enjoy the feeling it is, because it’s almost like a ladder, even if really, secretly, it works in a completely different way and rarely fails to act like a ladder.

    I just want to talk roleplay more often in terms of enjoying what is a false feeling, but enjoying it as if its true, all the same.

  6. I see where you are coming from, but I do think the difference is more than numerical: With human, you can always ask for clarification and open a dialogue to find out what you are not understanding. With computer, you can’t.

    Taking this back to your blog post: I wish roleplaying was discussed more in terms of a friendly and good-natured discussion, rather than (say) a power struggle or an illusion.

  7. Well they say never discuss politics or religion – and roleplay manages to deal in similar powers around the table (particularly if a beloved PC could die or be maimed). It’s almost diving into politics and religion, like a moth to the flame.

  8. Personally I find discussions about politics and religion to be among the most interesting discussions there are, and could not care less about what some mysterious “they” say regarding it.

    I also fail to see the connection you are making.

  9. Well, I think if you are engaged in a power struggle or illusion, it’s more good natured and honest to refer to the power struggle/illusion openly and honestly between all parties.

    Anyway, I was trying to wrap up without saying “Yes, but I already said you can keep asking for clarification and still never get it. Some groups seem to stop for two hours and fail to.”

  10. I say that I am not involved in power struggles or illusions, hence I find it to not be useful to talk about them. There is the possibility that I am wrong, of course, but as is, I am simply not seeing them.

    Anyway, I was trying to wrap up without saying “Yes, but I already said you can keep asking for clarification and still never get it. Some groups seem to stop for two hours and fail to.”

    Techniques for avoiding the multi-hour arguments are very interesting to me. I can’t remember any such arguments even in my youth where our play was spotty and wandering at best. But avoiding even little arguments like that is interesting area for rpg theory, I think.

  11. I dunno. There are always power struggles and seemingly, illusions between people – whether they are small or large. And even the small ones are stronger than what are fictional narrations. Well, I find that a bit like wanting to talk about sailing boats, but not talk about winds or sea currents.

  12. I actively try living so that the role power struggles and illusions have is minimised. I think I’m doing okay, all things considered.

    Talking about sailing without talking about the rats gnawing everything they can, perhaps.

  13. Well, I don’t think it’s a derogitory thing like refering to a rat is. The wind that fills your sails and a wind that tears them away or topples your boat, is still a wind, either way. I don’t want to just talk about dreadful things/rats that are destroying things. I want to talk about the very thing that fills your sails, or tears them apart. And indeed, it’s the same thing either way – the same pressure – it’s just a matter of how much pressure. It doesn’t make sense to me to talk about something as being good and another thing as gnawing rats, when they are both just certain measures of pressure.

  14. I’m thinking the analogy is obfuscating things. (My fault.)

    Maybe I’ll make my stance more realistic and say that illusions I try to avoid as best as possible, but in every relationship there is always some balance of power. Calling it struggle is not very accurate much of the time, I think.

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