Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

What It Is We Do, 2

Posted by Nathan P. on August 11, 2005

This is following this post.

Okay, so last time we established this:

When we Roleplay, we engage in a process of collaborative creation without the intent to perform to an audience that has no hand in the creative process.

Now. Let’s emphasize that the performance has only the performers as the audience – the group that roleplays is a group of audience-participants (lets say APs, for short). Thus, roleplay is meant to entertain both the players as creators AND as audience members.

Back up. We’re going to be working on the baseline of roleplaying for the purpose of entertainment, for the time being. Okay, moving on.

So. Is being entertained as a creator of entertainment different from being entertained as an audience member? I think so. I’m a technical theatre person and a (very) amateur musician, and in both cases I am most entertained and fulfilled by my creations when they demonstrate technical proficiency, carry a deeper meaning than the obvious, or both. As an audience member, I can be entertained by something that doesn’t show much of either, as well as something that does. (Geh, what a mess of language, but I think it makes sense).

So, roleplay, and now I think we’re getting to something thats a little less obvious and little more important, needs to entertain and fulfill the APs both as A’s and as P’s. For me (and here I’m going from general to specific comments, for the time being) roleplay needs to engage me on the technical or thematic level, as well as the general “doing cool/meaningful/fantastic stuff” level. It needs to engage me as a creator, not just a viewer – but it also has to engage me as a viewer, or I might as well go write a story.

Now, I think its absolutely true that a whole damn lot of roleplay sees the players being either A’s or P’s, engaging either as creators or as audience, often with the GM being the creator and the other players being the audience (though not always). And I think this a trend that a whole damn lot of indie games are trying to buck – trying to explicity or implicity encourage or require engagement as both creator and audience member. And, my personal opinion is that roleplay that doesn’t engage the group on both levels isn’t very good, or true, roleplay.

Finally, this dual engagement is recursive. When you really get a kick of out of a contribution you make to the game, and then someone else totally riffs off it, and you are so stoked at what they just did – well, thats awesome roleplay, right there. Creation and view of input both feed off of each other, in a (hopefully) positive feedback loop.

Our expanded definition: When we Roleplay, we engage in a process of collaborative creation as audience-participants. This process engages audience-participants both as creators of entertainment as as viewers of it. The recursive dynamic between the creation and appreciation of input to the game is key.

Next time: we finally look at the relationship between exploration and creation of material (just a short jump on that one), and deal with some holes in the current definition.

3 Responses to “What It Is We Do, 2”

  1. La Ludisto said

    Spot-on, man.

    The only addition that I’d pin onto it is that “good” RP does need to engage audience-participants both as audience and as participants, but it does not need to always do both all the time. It can still be awesome roleplay when you’re purely audience enraptured by your fellow players for a half hour, or purely creator entertaining your fellow players for a half hour. As long as you get to do both (and do both a couple times, I’m thinking), it’s a good thing.

    The point at which that is important is when we reach game design. We don’t need to design something that casts all players as creators and participants at every moment throughout play — what we do need is to design opportunities for all players to be creators and participants throughout the game. It’s subtle, but I’m thinking it’s an important distinction.

  2. Nathan P. said

    Precisely.

  3. […] is referring to how I define roleplaying, way back in this post from the early […]

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