Posted by Nathan P. on September 21, 2005
aka “Finally, some damn theory”
aka “The newspaper treatment”
What do we need to know? Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. More specifically:
Who role plays?
What do we do when we role play?
What happens when we role play?
When do we role play?
Where do we role play?
Why do we role play?
How do we role play?
When and Where are more ancilliary, I think (except in the context of when in life do we role play, or something, which I don’t think is particularly useful). I would argue that the Forge is doing a bang-up job of examining Who and Why. Various blogs (like anyway and This Is My Blog to name the most prominent) are also very down with Why, and, to an extent, How. At Game Foo, Joshua is taking aim squarely at What we do and How. And here, I’m, in fits and starts, trying to work on What happens.
Working 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.
From Joshua’s comment, lets add in “at various points during play” after the second sentence.
Let’s also start unpacking the last sentence a little more. There is a relationship between creation of input and exploration of input that I don’t think is automatically synonomous with the relationship between creation and appreciation. That is, you can explore what others have created without necessarily appreciating it, and vice versa. [Thought tangent = exploration without appreciation and appreciation without exploration as processes that underlie gaming dysfunction?]
So we have relationships between creation, exploration and appreciation. This is keying into Joshuas model, I think, and his comments on this point would be appreciated! Remember that players are audience-participants. It seems to me that creation is a participatory process, appreciation is an audience(y? I’m sure there’s a better word) process, and exploration swings both ways. There is active exploration (Whats in this room? What is she thinking? Describe this scene to me!) and passive exploration (You walk into the room and see…).
Now, what happens when we actually play is that each player oscillates from creator of material to appreciator of material. I propose that the medium for this oscillation, or perhaps the motive force that controls this oscillation, is that of exploration. The audience member passively explores the material created by others, but as they get interested and start actively creating their own material they shift to active exploration.
So: 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 at various points during play. The medium of change from audience to participant during the course of a game is the level of engagement in exploration. The recursive dynamic between the creation and appreciation of input to the game is key.