System matters, but system doesn’t control sympathy

Can you imagine the ‘give’ mechanic in dogs in the vineyard being called ‘#532’ instead? Imagine it was that way the first time you played.

Had this discussion with Tommi over at Cogito, ergo ludo.

Tommi said,

Callan

Giving is indeed a mechanical choice, but whether one gives or not is greatly influenced by narration; as some people in the linked thread mentioned, given a sufficiently emotionally powerful narration, they’ll give, even if the by the mechanics they could stay in the conflict or even win it.

Hence the narration matters a great deal as it affects the factual outcome of conflicts.

Likewise, take Capes. It is advantageous to push the buttons of other people, because that way they will oppose you, which will give you resources. Hence, some narration is simply more effective a move than narration other players care less about.

I responded with this…

Whether you give IS greatly influenced by narration? Or CAN be greatly influenced?

There’s nothing reaching out into the brain of the player and controlling his synapses, of course. I would say it is merely ‘can’.

Indeed, the default is not to be influenced by narration at all – giving or not giving are just two buttons, press one. That’s it. No further influence.

Being influenced by narration, I would say, is an aberration. In a good way, but aberration none the less. It’s an aberration of how things really are – that there is zero narration influence on whether you give, by default.

What I usually run into though is that gamers see zero narration influence as the aberration (abomination, usually), and being strongly influenced by the narration as the default of how things/reality really is.

as some people in the linked thread mentioned, given a sufficiently emotionally powerful narration, they’ll give, even if the by the mechanics they could stay in the conflict or even win it.

If they had two buttons in front of them, one marked ‘Give’ and one marked ‘Don’t give’, prove to me something physically stopped them from pressing ‘Don’t give’ and I’ll see the merit in your claim.

Tommi, there’s nothing there. There’s only the listeners decision to be sympathetic to the narration. Which is a wonderful thing! But that doesn’t mean he’s greatly influenced by narration. It means he chose to be greatly influenced. Very different. It’s a decision by a listener – it is not how roleplay games actually work by default.

 

Oh, just had a quick example pop to mind.

If you had a roleplay system where you replaced the buttons with abstract terms – like replace ‘give’ with ‘#532′

Okay, run the person through it with abstract terms. THAT’S how a roleplay game works by default. No sympathy, no soul at all. THAT is mechanics in play.