being the mental and scholastic wanderings of Collie Collier
Copyright © 1999 B. A. "Collie" Collier
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Erk... I'm falling way behind on IRs! In the interests of catching up, I'm afraid this zine will be all comments. I'll try to keep them interesting, even if they are 'insanely long.' ;-) As usual, if I don't comment on your zine that doesn't mean I didn't like it -- just that while I enjoyed it, I had nothing to add.
Strong agreement on your comments to Cynthia Shettle regarding having a small number of players, so the role playing stays intense. My 'cut-off' point, including the GM, is six people, which fits nicely around a folding table -- one on each end, two on each side. More than that, and as you pointed out, characters get left on the sidelines. An added complication for me (and perhaps for you also?) is that as a strong player I'm usually not one of the ones left behind in the gaming... it's folks that aren't as pushy or self-confident as I.
In those cases I always have one of two unpleasant things happen... I either find out that I'm ruining someone else's game, which I don't enjoy at all, since I think we're all there to have fun, not be bored... or worse, I find out player(s) are whining at the poor GM about how I'm monopolizing the GM's time. I have no respect or patience for folks that do that behind my back, instead of trying to talk to me about the problem.
I'm not a mind reader -- I can't just somehow intuit there's a problem, if they keep smiling to my face. This is doubly frustrating since I'd be happy to do my best to involve them in more gaming or help them get to the fore of the gaming, if I only knew they were having a problem. Rant over... ;-)
Re Babes With Blades, they certainly seem to be having a wonderful time -- almost makes me want to take up fencing in my copious free time! They have interesting new info up on their website also. It includes a new merchandise page and a pleasantly extensive bibliography on women warriors, which seems to have a nice cross-section of highly scholarly and more written-for-the-layman texts in it.
Re your thanks about the disposition of the gun issue, I am terribly sorry that it looked like I was bringing it up yet again in that same APA zine. I assure you that was not my intention, but only infelicitous coincidence. I was trying to fulfill the promise I'd made previously re figuring out a way to discuss it within a game... and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not completely satisfied with that version of how to potentially deal with it. And yes, we can definitely discuss contentious political issues elsewhere. I also very much like the friendly atmosphere of IR, and wish to see it remain so.
Hm... I'd have to agree with you re one-on-one gaming being the most intense -- there's an immediacy and focus to that game style that I've rarely (never?) seen replicated in games with more players. However, I've had one problem with it, and I'd be interested in knowing if you've had this problem also -- and if so, how did you resolve it?
On occasion the GM and I are playing so intensely, so deeply in the game, that we forget to pause and think that there might be more than one way to solve a particular conundrum. We sweep swiftly and passionately along through the game -- and it's not until a few days later, when we've had time to draw breath, be out of character for a while, and think about the game... that we realize there was something that would have been more in character that one or the other of us should have done, or that we made a continuity mistake, or some other small problem like that. Has this ever happened to you?
Invariably these are things that a pause of but a clear-headed moment to reflect probably would have caught. That's why I like having at least one other player as well, even though it's hard to run for only two players face to face. There's an added point of view on the world that's not focused solely on me the player... that's sometimes refreshing, or gives an entirely new, fascinating perspective. The other thing I've noticed is that on line gaming (such as via IRC or on a MU*) seems to give that 'moment to reflect,' for the simple reason that typing is so much slower and more self-reflective than speech... at least for me. Have you tried it at all?
Heh... thanks for the comment re not worrying about zine numbering! It was, in fact, due to your encouragement that I decided to play with my zine names... 'diecisiete' is merely Spanish for 'seventeen,' and this zine's number is in French, at least according to the babelfish site! I'll have to think up something new for the zine after this one... ;-)
Thanks for the compliment on the spandex article -- *blush* that was almost a throw-away! -- and on the cover art that didn't make it. That was a PC... and yes, he was not a very nice fellow. Still... it was a vampire game, so I suppose he was playing the character well.
LOL re your comment to Scott Ruggels regarding "Life is too short to play in a bad game." It reminded me so much of my own personal gaming mantra of "If it's not fun -- why are you doing it?" ;-)
Excellent advice you repeated from the 7th Sea role-playing game: Make sure you are all playing in the same game, and Don't poison the PC pool. I couldn't agree more. In fact, upon reflection I'd have to say that one or both of those two things were responsible for the deaths of every failed game I've been in. It's a pity 7th Sea wasn't better.
Interesting... I also write my (infrequent) bits of fiction as if I were role-playing one of the characters. And yes, I also am someone who must 'see' what's going on in my head, as a participant, before I can game the character well... and I have to have at least some commonalty with the character to make it work in-game. Just out of curiosity, do you tend to dream from someone else's point of view too?
Do you actually have a Babes With Blades tape? If I sent you a blank video, could I see a copy? Or better yet, can you tell me where to order one? Glad you enjoyed the spandex article and all the other bits! Re the 'fallen' angel, I've always enjoyed thoughtful study of the various mythologies that humanity has so imaginatively come up with. I consider our assorted deities to all exemplify various aspects of humanity itself, and thus well worth exploration -- I think it's always valuable to know oneself!
Yep, I've still got the Narnia stories around also, with (much to my exuberant pleasure) the original illustrations as well! I loved those old drawings... they were as much a part of the story as the text for me. I saw the christian icons within the stories (such as Aslan being sacrificed and rising from the dead, etc.), but they just weren't important to me. Far more important to me as a child was the emotional depth and caring implicit in the stories... that feeling that this could be me, that I could aspire to greatness also, even though I was but a child -- that I could help in the creation of something beautiful through my efforts.
A small side note of warning -- while it's an easy read, Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do is a prodigiously thick hardcover... a bit initially daunting perhaps, but well worth the effort.
Re leadership, I hope I'm not repeating something I've said here before, but I've read that there's apparently two distinct styles of leadership amongst humans, which can be seen in the great apes as well. Since the great apes are less likely to potentially offend someone, I'm going to use them as examples.
The first leadership style is leadership by assertion, or by force. This type can be seen with male gorillas, even though they fight only rarely, to establish a pecking order. Once that's done, they're pretty much stuck with that hierarchy for however many years they're healthy, and survive. They're MUCH larger than the females (by about a quarter again). In a healthy gorilla troop that hasn't been decimated by poachers there's usually one big alpha silverback, a handful of related females, and young of both sexes. Thus usually the big silverbacks lead because they're the biggest and strongest -- and because they say so.
The second leadership style is leadership by example, or by suggestion. Chimps (in particular the bonobos) can often be seen doing this. They might be able to force a few individuals of their troop to do what they want by sheer force, of course. However, if they do that too often the related family members of whomever they're pushing around will gang up on them and trounce them soundly. Far more successful is to persuade the others to do what you want, with much excited screeching and bouncing around and enthusiasm.
I think in games the former style of leadership is what gets folks' hackles up -- it tends to create the old "who died and made you king?!" attitude in those it's used against. Furthermore, unless (generalized) you have the strength to back it up, this way of leadership just asks for a trouncing... and if you do have that kind of strength but misuse it so... who's going to be willing to game with you? Gaming isn't about real life physical strength, after all.
However I would think the second style of leadership would be a far more successful tactic to use in games -- especially since anyone could take on the role of leader at different times. I don't like folks that try to use force on me -- it makes me want to fight back angrily, not work with them. Persuasion, on the other hand, can be tried by anyone, and allows both freedom of choice and thoughtful compromise, and I think that's a Very Important Thing. ;-)
Keep in mind, of course, that there are a LOT of other variables I didn't mention here, such as the role of alpha females in gorilla and bonobo troops, or how gentle the gorillas are for a huge majority of their lives, or that there are several very different 'subcultures' of chimpanzees... I'm merely making some points with some fairly simple examples. I'm guessing from your example, Cynthia, that you also prefer the second type of leadership style?
Glad to hear you got a laugh out of the spandex article! Thanks also for the definition of minimalism -- I understand better now. ;-) Interesting to hear there are fewer articles in A&E than there are in IR. Those, and the comments, are my absolute favorite parts of IR -- they're how I get to know and communicate with the people that participate in IR. In fact, considering Dana Erlandsen's emailed commentary on increasing IR, I thought I'd take a moment also, and publicly note here what I read and enjoy the most. Admittedly, this won't necessarily make IR a more extensive group or APA, but maybe it will engender more commentary, and/or help folks figure out what they also would like to see more or less of in IR's pages. Please note these are just my quirky preferences, and there are indubitably others here that enjoy stuff I don't, or that don't enjoy stuff I have a lot of fun with.
The first thing I do when reading IR is ego-boo scanning, for comments made to me. I very much enjoy a good discussion on various topics with other folks here in IR, so I try to always reply to any comments made to me, or about subjects that interest me. Perhaps knowing this will encourage other folks to write more comments? As my mother used to put it, 'if you want a letter you have to send one first.' This is me sending out my letter! ;-)
Secondly, with a post-it notepad next to me, I read the articles and comments everyone's written. Anything that attracts my interest at all, that I think, 'oh, I'd like to talk about that more' gets marked so. However I've been watching my reading patterns carefully these last few IRs, and I've noticed I tend to skip fiction and reviews. I may go back later and skim them, but I find that most of the time fiction and reviews don't interest me.
I don't know why this is so... the reviews I've skimmed are certainly articulate and well-written on the whole. Maybe it's partly the reason why I usually don't like reading the fiction either -- I don't really care for short stories because I don't have enough time to get to 'know' the characters involved. Perhaps for the reviews it's similar to that, in that I can't really get a 'feel' for the world the review is supposed to be a part of.
I have one caveat on the reviews, however. I've noticed there are two times when I will read them. The first is when they're reviewed in a thoughtfully critical style for their game background content (as opposed to say, number of pages, or some sort of rating system), such as how good the background story they present was, or how the writer of the review felt about the potential story, or adapted the reviewed thing to something she/he did, or compared them to another gaming or media product and gave feelings on that too. The second is when they are part of a 'theme' of an article, i.e. examples of some point the writer is making.
As far as things that would get me to write more in IR... unfortunately sometimes real life just gets in the way. However, completely aside from those real-life concerns, there is one thing that helps motivate me quite a bit... and that is a reminder of the precise date when the zines are due. Occasionally I'll get an e-mail saying deadline is coming up... would it be possible to always put in the date on those e-mails?
Don't know if that was at all helpful, but there you go... when making decisions it's been my experience that more data is usually good!
Good god, my sincerest condolences on the loud-mouthed poster on your original Fantasy Realms mailing list -- how horribly unpleasant! I'm so sorry you got stuck with that... it's very painful to have a labor of love ignored or belittled because someone is spreading vicious rumors behind your back. I realize it probably doesn't help too much now, and doesn't apply directly to retail sales... but my own personal theory on situations like that is to stick to your guns and continue to do the best you can, and continue to be determinedly polite to all. It's true that many folks will not hear your side of the story, and so will be stuck with a one-sided, slanted view of you. However, as my mother was fond of saying, if someone isn't thoughtful or intelligent enough to realize that for both sides of the issue they need to go talk to you as well and then make their own decisions... then while it may be painful in the short run -- you're probably better off without them as friends. Better luck in all your future endeavors, Joe.
When you create an underclass you begin a pattern of potential abuse within the group which leads to bad behavior. This is true in any type of gaming, as well as in society in general.
Well put. I don't LARP or play in any gaming-by-consensual-assertion games any more for pretty much that very reason. It utterly destroys any possibility of trust, and if I don't trust my GM and fellow players at least a little bit gaming becomes more of a battle than an enjoyable experience. Under those circumstances I can't and won't game. It's not fun, and if it's not fun why should I do that to myself?
Re the sexual tension in diceless games, I realize it's not the standard... however I have a possible suggestion as to why this might occur. In a game with no dice there's nothing 'between' you and the GM's decisions -- it's a raw power/hierarchy sort of decision-making process. In those circumstances the only real thing you have to risk or to persuade with... are your emotions and your 'self.' Maybe this is also why people on one of the on-line MU*s I was part of seemed so desperate to make emotional connections (however tenuous or short-lived) with each other, to the extent that 'TSing,' or 'TinySex' was a standard part of any character's behavior. I know that I was startled at how avidly pursued my (female) character was -- and even more so when it became widely known that she wasn't 'available' for TS. Just a wandering speculation tossed out for consideration... ;-)
In regards to the gaming group that walked away because you stopped using the Holy Grail of Hero System Rules... *grin* my, that sounds pretentious of me... ahem. Anyways! You could always try 'vetting' their characters within the HSR system, in the Steve Jackson way? As I recall he said to congratulate them on their ingenuity with the rules... then firmly disallow it in your game! Also, as I recall all the HSR books have a little caveat in them somewhere, where they specifically state that the most important way to have fun in the game is to use the parts of the rules or book that you like, and that add to your game -- and don't use the parts you don't like!
Myself, I tended to set OCV/DCV caps that could not be broken for when all your character's stats and weapons bonuses and martial arts moves and everything else were added together, no matter what. That way I had a good idea both of how skilled my villains had to be so my players wouldn't be bored or squashed, and of what might make a good reward for a player who'd made a real effort to role-play, instead of rules-bashing for points.
Unfortunately you're agreeing entirely with my experiences a few years ago as a comics & games store manager, when it comes to the distribution system. I'm sorry to hear it's not gotten any better.
I found your article on crime in the future interesting, especially considering I took an Introduction to Sociology class last quarter from a professor that's quite worried about the widening gap between rich and poor in this country. Some of the information he had was quite startling. I hope IR's readers will indulge me as I once again pick a few bits from a school paper -- in this case my final paper for the Introduction to Sociology class -- with which to respond to Joe, and hopefully to help inspire folks in the creation of interesting and consistent cultures and societies for their games. The books mentioned in the questions are Anthony Giddens' Introduction to Sociology, second edition, and the Readings for Sociology, edited by Garth Massey. I found the book of readings particularly interesting and informative, with a wide range of selections.
According to American lore, the U.S. is an "open" society in which anyone can rise as far up the social ladder as his/her abilities and efforts will take them. Many Americans have managed to be socially mobile, and even most affluent people have worked hard to achieve what they have. However, it is also true that -- irrespective of individual effort or ability -- wealth, power, and privilege are socially structured along class, racial, and gender lines. Using basic concepts and data from the relevant chapters in the Giddens text and illustration from the Massey reader, describe how this social structuring operates to create an unequal, stratified society.
Is American society as open, as upwardly socially mobile, as we like to believe? Social mobility is defined in Giddens as the movement of individuals and groups between different class positions. From further study of Giddens we can deduce that the U.S. is a class-based society, based on the four common elements found in class societies. These are: that class systems are fluid, are in some part achieved, are large-scale and impersonal, and that class itself is economically based. Thus individuals in the U.S. are not born to a particular class and do indeed have some social mobility available between classes to them, unlike a caste system. Furthermore the borders between classes are not clear-cut, and inequalities are not expressed through individual relationships, but through large-scale, impersonal societal institutions. However, in spite of the apparent looseness of class relationships, studies show that our life chances for changing economic status are not as good as the myth of America's 'open' society might have us believe, but are about the same regardless of which society we live in. Indeed, it is the last of the four characteristics of a class society (class systems are large-scale and impersonal) that give us the first clues as to how social stratification is maintained in the U.S.
It is always easier to be impersonal, to treat someone you don't know poorly, as opposed to someone you know. Thus certain social myths arise as a sort of mental shorthand that allow such behavior. For example, there is in America a pervasive, although statistically incorrect, view of the poor as lazy welfare recipients, responsible for their own poverty and living on government handouts. In reality about a third of those living in poverty don't receive welfare because they don't know they could. Additionally, about half of the welfare recipients are actually working. However, as a result of these myths, being on welfare in America has become a source of shame, even a sort of lifetime sentence if its recipients are among the long-term unemployed.
Perhaps the clearest example of this deliberate stratification can be found in the article "Domestic Networks" by Stack, concerning the Flats, in particular the incident where one of the families received a windfall of over a thousand dollars cash. The welfare office discovered this within a week, and immediately refused any further monies to this family until all the cash had been spent. As Stack put it "The first surplus the family ever acquired was effectively taken from them (p. 353)." Had the welfare office not done this it is possible the family in question might have been able to use the money to improve their financial situation significantly. However, since they were allowed no extra benefit from this money, they were effectively kept from either doing so, or changing their status whatsoever.
An unequal and stratified society is maintained by less direct methods as well, of course. It has been noted in recent studies that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This is caused at least in part by structural mobility, or the increase of better paying occupations at the expense of lower paying ones. Reich discusses this extensively in his article "As the World Turns." In it he notes three broad categories of American jobs: 1) symbolic-analytic services, 2) routine production services, and 3) routine personal services. He points out that the number of well-paying, high status symbolic-analytic jobs is growing rapidly in America, at the expense of the routine production or blue-collar jobs. Blue-collar jobs, in fact, are being increasingly moved from America to some other country by the international corporations (themselves run by members of the symbolic-analytic category of jobs); unsurprisingly the rich benefit and the poorer suffer by these actions. Finally he notes that routine personal services, while a growing category, are increasingly feminized and are traditionally low paying, low status jobs filled by persons of color. Here we see race and gender used to determine who takes which jobs.
Status can be, of course, as fluid as class. In our class notes the concept of intergenerational and short-range mobility was discussed. It is true, as was noted, that intergenerational mobility, or the idea that your kids will do better than you did, is a goal in the U.S. However, what might appear to be intergenerational mobility is sometimes in actuality short-range mobility. For example, a blue-collar worker might be proud of his child's white-collar job, since it is higher status than his job is. Checking the actual income of the parent and child would reveal, however, that the blue-collar worker in actuality makes more money than the white-collar worker; thus the child has only short-term mobility.
From a theoretical perspective Marx' assessment of the relationship between the capitalists and labor as an exploitative one seems correct. Owning the means of production and taking the surplus value, as the capitalists do, does seem to increase the gap between the rich and poor. However, whether it was done deliberately or not, the middle class is today materially much better off than it was in Marx' time. It is the lower class that appears to be accumulating "misery, agony of labor, slavery, ignorance, brutality, moral degradation," and frequently they are too busy trying to find jobs to be starting a revolution of the masses. They appear to be more like Weber's 'pariah groups' than Marx' 'middle class.'
Weber's theories, including his recognition of the importance of status (which can be drawn from race or gender as well as class), appears to be closer to actuality than Marx' theories. As noted in Giddens, status is based on subjective evaluations of social differences; since race or gender is as easy or easier to recognize as class, they all (unsurprisingly) strongly affect status, which helps determine who gets which jobs. As Aronowitz notes in his article "Colonialized Leisure, Trivialized Work," 'The condition of success of capitalist culture is its ability to thwart the development of alternatives. This task can only be achieved by exposing the new elites to their negations and assisting them to find ways to make any negation an instrument of domination (p. 381).' Or in other words, despite individual effort or ability, we can see that wealth, power, and privilege are still socially structured along class, racial, and gender lines.
In the last section of the course, you read and heard about some of the tensions between democracy and capitalism. One theme in these sections was that the relation between state and market (government and business) varies across societies, and within societies over time, depending primarily upon political struggles. Using any reading and lecture materials you find relevant, write an essay in which you describe how one significant change was made in the state-market relation so that society is more just and fair. In your conclusion, suggest at least one way in which the U.S. (or another society you choose) is likely to be more just and fair in the future because of social movement activity in the present.
As noted in class, the relations between democracy and capitalism are currently the location of growing tensions in the U.S. This is not new, as these tensions vary across time and cultures. Currently in the U.S. the tensions are strongest between capitalism and democracy, as the nation-states' power is slowly declining and conglomerates increasingly are becoming widespread international bodies. A single, simple example from the class: four international conglomerates own approximately 70% of the informational media for the U.S. Is it consequently any wonder that media reports become more sensationalist in an effort to attract viewers, or that reports on corporate wrongdoing are few and far between?
This growth in power by international corporations can also be seen by the current social situation in the U.S., as is noted by Hechinger in his article "Why France Outstrips the United States in Nurturing Its Children." As he points out, on the one hand we are currently in the midst of our greatest economic growth in decades. On the other hand, our social health and wellbeing is so poor, especially for our position as a so-called First World country of unprecedented wealth and prosperity, that the situation here is referred to by the French Minister of Health and Social Protection as "crazy." However, it was also noted in lecture that democracies tend to fight back. As was noted in class, social change needs a social movement, and once again the moral economies (defined below) are asserting themselves.
Giddens notes that social movements are collective efforts by powerless people to affect the conditions under which they live their lives. Frequently they start as grassroots-level movements that are fighting to get basic rights put into law, such as the right to not have toxic waste dumped into one's neighborhood. Interestingly enough, as was noted in class, social movements themselves (perhaps as a response to the global threat to wellbeing that international corporations have become) are starting to cross boundaries and go international, as people find common cause in their desires for an unpolluted, just world in which to live and safely raise their children. Greenpeace, women's rights, and Amnesty International are all examples of international social movements.
The term 'moral economy' comes from an English sociologist named E. Thompson, who wrote a book that was a study of the English Bread Riots of the 1700's. Previous to this study, no connection had been made between, for example, the economy and the outbreak of rioting. Thus the riots were seen as non-rational, raging, animalistic expressions of crowd insanity or hunger. However, Dr. Thompson's study postulated that there was indeed a rational and logical reason for the outbreak of riots. He noted the existence of something he called the 'moral economy,' which he defined as the popular consensus of what are and are not a consistent, traditional set of norms and obligations. It is not the economy that dictates when a riot will occur -- it is the moral economy. Break those traditional, unwritten sets of norms, and as Prof. Reinarman [the professor for my class] so eloquently observed, there's hell to pay.
In the case of the English Bread Riots the traditional norms that were being violated, in the eyes of the people, concerned two main issues. Firstly, if the cost of the bread rose too steeply the people could not afford it. The important point to note here is not the actual cost of the bread, but rather if its cost rose so rapidly that the people's wages were not sufficient in comparison. This small but significant difference is why the rioting could not be directly tied, in a cause-and-effect relationship, to the economy. Since the people believed they had a right to be able to buy bread and feed their families, this caused great outrage, and would lead to rioting. The second issue concerned the color of the bread. White bread revealed impurities and could be visually checked, therefore brown bread was popularly seen as poor quality, and an attempt to hide impurities in the bread dough. In each of these cases, the capitalists were breaking the moral economy of the time.
The means to stop the rioting was straightforward. A member of the local government would put a lit candle into the window of his house, where the rioters could see it. This symbolized that the gentleman in question had heard the complaints of the rioting workers, and would bring these issues up at the next governmental meeting. In essence, government (represented by the member of the local government) had promised to intervene on the people's behalf to once again assert the moral economy of the time with the capitalists.
For a more modern day representation of a social movement based on the people believing the moral economy has been unjustly broken we need only look at the Seattle-WTO riots. In this case we have the World Trade Organization representing the capitalists. The WTO is a group that has met in secrecy to determine what sanctions they will be allowed to place against non-conforming countries that are members of their organization. The worry of the American people is that the regulations required by the WTO (which were to be determined at this past meeting in Seattle) will be extremely lax, since Third World countries wish to 'do their best to get ahead' in industrialization, and thus become more competitive in the world market. However, choosing just two examples, if the ecological regulations are too lax, what will protect our country from industrial exploitation at as accelerated a level as the Third World countries seem to think desirable? If the rights of the people of any country are not protected, then all the world's workers are equally at risk in a global economy. As noted in class, the general societal trend seems to be that a growth in personal rights and dignity for the individual translates to general prosperity for the society as well. Furthermore the American people consider it an inalienable right that they may elect their governing bodies, and the WTO is certainly not representative of the choices of the American public. As a sign carried during the riots pointed out, "When did we elect the WTO?"
In this case the government has not yet stepped in to reassert the moral economy. However, the social movement represented by the rioters graphically demonstrated the need for the government to seriously consider doing so, both to reduce the current tensions between capitalism and democracy, and to insure in the future a more just and fair society.
Hope that was of some interest to you. In closure, I must say your quote from James P. Carse on the back of the issue was quite nice... may we all find all the infinite games we wish! ;-)
Interesting cover. It took me a moment to realize she was a Japanese fox spirit -- she's got a decidedly non-Asian build to her face, and more surprisingly, her pale bluish skin initially made her look to me as if she were dead! Rather startling initially... still, color is a nice change. ;-)
LOL! Oh yes... strong agreement with your list of annoying players and characters! The main reason none of them were mentioned in my zine of games that didn't work for me was because that sort of player can usually be easily discerned (at least for me) with a bit of conversation. Since I don't want to play with players that are going to deliberately disrupt the group (as above, re your comment on the 7th Sea advice about not poisoning the player group), I tend to immediately avoid those. Good luck avoiding them in the future... they're no fun.
WAH! Why did you delete such an interesting subject as thoughtful use of politically incorrect issues, in your zine? Inquiring minds want to know! ...and think, and learn! ;-)
I'd have to say I prefer 'top down' game design. Since generally humans invent deities that reflect all they consider best in themselves, that's a great way to establish the 'norm' for the society one is intending to play in. While I'm a little tired of supposedly male uber-gods, Forge Out of Chaos sounds like they did at least have an interesting variety of both deities and cultures.
Yeeks! You want to run off copies of my zine on failed games?! Um... my initial thought is embarrassment, but, I guess if it helps someone else not have the same problems... then I couldn't ask for my zines to do more. I hope they're of some help to you and your players. Let me know, please, what they think? ;-)
Umm... while I'm flattered that you liked my zine on campaign failure modes, I'm not quite sure what you mean by your statement re "The gun study effect works on creationist bio students, too." Could I ask you to explain that statement a bit more, please? ;-)
Thanks to you also for your lovely compliment re my zine on failed games and the causes thereof. In retrospect, I'm both startled and pleased that so many folks seem to have liked what I thought initially was just a sort of depressing 'manifesto of failure'... and to have found something of use in it. That makes it somehow seem more worthwhile to me... to know that maybe someone somewhere won't get stuck in a bad situation -- because of something I wrote. Many thanks to all you IR folks... that's a lovely feeling to have. ;-)
Congrats on the incipient little one. You're a braver person than I. ;-)
Fascinating study on children at play! Interesting how often our adult behaviors mimic those of childhood. Intriguing conclusions you had also. I'll have to think about that for a bit before I can comment intelligently on it. I wonder though... might there possibly be other types of activities that also help teach socialization? If this is a particular 'need' for some personality types, mightn't there be other examples as well of this sort of behavioral modification within our society? And if so... I wonder if there's a potential source of gamers there? ;-)
Also, it seems our commentary on gamers as undersocialized geeks or non-physical nerds may potentially be a distinctly American phenomena. I recently received an email letter from an avid Australian (I think?) gamer who mentioned some of the wide range of activities he and all his fellow gamers participated in. I've yet to have enough time to answer him, but if I can get his permission I'll reprint his letter here, with hopefully a thoughtful response from me. I'd like to send him a copy of the IR it appears in, as well -- maybe we can get a new reader out of this too!
Oof! re your Road Not Taken -- you don't want much in a game, do you?! *laugh* Like I should talk... you're describing precisely the same sort of game I'd find interesting too! Hm... in regards to a medieval based game where magic is unbelievable instead of evil... I wonder if that might potentially be a sort of contradiction in terms? I know that magic seems to be abstractly most often regarded as a means to influence uncaring, distant, powerful entities to change the world to benefit the spell caster -- or an explanation of a run of bad luck. Didn't most of the medieval peasantry live lives where they often felt powerless, ignored, and helpless? I would think under such circumstances a belief in magic/religion/whatever would not only flourish, but might well be the only hope of such people.
This also brings up another interesting philosophy question -- is scientific thought antithetical to belief in magic? Hm... now I'm confusing myself... how do you define magic here? Does it mean only psionics, or magic that works only when you believe, or deific miracles, or all of the above... or am I missing the point here? This sounds like it could create some fascinating speculation and potential world- or culture-creation, but I'm not sure precisely what your parameters are here?
Glad you enjoyed my paper! You make an intriguing point, in regards to my unwitting projection of my beliefs onto my definitions within the paper... so that, naturally, I later find what I expect to find. How embarrassing... that's a bad trait for a sociologist or anthropologist to have! *laugh* You've pegged precisely the reason why ultimately I wasn't happy with it. When I wrote it I hadn't yet realized that sociology papers take much more time, effort, and (*gasp*!) possibly even scholarship! to write than most anthropology papers. I'm good at putting out papers quickly that echo readings and are comparison/contrasts of various theories, and that's all most anthropology papers in the university are -- out in the field is another story entirely. However, sociology papers require not only data collection and paper writing time... but most importantly (and most time consumingly) they require data crunching time. Under the time pressure of the class, I basically wrote an anthropology-style sociology paper -- and it showed. When I handed it in I had this vague, uncomfortable feeling that all was not well with the paper... but it was due, so that was (unfortunately) that.
In retrospect I think you've hit the nail on the head. Were I to go back and try a study such as this again, I'd definitely want to broaden my definitions, to give any potential paper more than just my (obviously biased) perspective. Heh... now that's a tempting thought... were I to try something like this again, I think I'd try sending a questionnaire for the members of IR -- for more, broader, and better points of view as to definitions and gaming, within the paper! But please, don't think my rushed, poor attempt at a sociology paper is a good example of 'what a Sociological study really looks like.'
Finally, and most importantly to me -- Kiralee, I am absolutely thrilled that someone took the time to give me such a thoughtful and constructive criticism of my paper -- thank you SO much!! Incidentally, if you just happened to want to read any other papers of mine on my website, and send me your thoughts on them also, I would be tremendously pleased and excited! ;-)
In regards to your comment to Dana Erlandsen about gaming groups at least working together somewhat, I read a fascinating study once that said that the term family is defined by the individual, taking into account cultural influences -- i.e. what I call 'sister' might be someone related to me through descent from one or more common parents -- but what you call 'sister' is someone as emotionally close to you as this society says sisters should be. There was a term used in the study that describes well, I think, the broad span of potential relationships you mentioned: 'fictive kin.'
*blink* Mike Yoder? I knew someone by that (somewhat unusual) name in Gainesville, FL, in the early '80's. Was he in that area around that time, by any chance?
You have a good point re organized religion being necessary to create a strong enough moral code to challenge immoral laws. As I recall, it was the black christian church that was the starting and gathering point for Dr. Martin Luther King's famed peaceful protests of immoral laws. In fact, I vaguely recall a quote by him that I'll have to try to find, which stated something like all persons of ethics have a moral imperative to disobey immoral laws that are against the good of all men.
Why do you never get a chance to play in longer-running games? That's a shame... to me a long-running game is necessary to really get to know a character well, and to have meaningful growth and/or change occur for the character. *sigh* Unfortunately I'm having much the same trouble as you mention, as far as no long-running games to play in.
Interesting suggestions your friend had re character/plot connections. I know that I've been in games where the second one -- that everyone has a plot seed they suggest to the GM -- has been used well, to enrich the game. That game also had the concept of 'contacts' within it. The GM, to save himself some time and effort, had each of us pick which PC (not our own) for whom we'd also be occasionally playing the 'contact.' It was a cool idea... I'm sorry the game didn't last long enough to see how it worked out.
LOL! You know, you're right -- I missed #4 also, didn't I? Hm... maybe I do have this unconscious dislike of the number... thanks for the lovely illustration at the empty end of my zine! ;-)
Glad you liked my zine -- thank you! In regards to your unpleasant experience with on-line gaming, I wish I could say it isn't the norm. Unfortunately... I've not found this to be so. In your situation the best I could suggest is to just walk away. I wouldn't think it's worth wasting your time on, if it's going to be nothing more than a glorified Doom game. :-(
Um... well, as far as seeing more of my thoughts and speculations re the Alaska trip, I'm sure they'll show up in later zines, once I'm caught up again. Hope you liked the bits I had so far. ;-)
I quite agree re gaming being an excellent model for simulating personal relationships, but not big, contentious subjects. *grin* Re Simpson's Theorem, I showed it to my sweetie (the now-infamous Simpson) and he laughed and said that if he'd known he was going to be quoted he'd have tried to say something more erudite or clever-sounding! Eek, and now I'm infamous too! or quotable or something... and yes, I too thought it was a terrible tease of Rich Staats to delete stuff!
Couldn't agree more, in regards to computer games being clumsy at simulating interpersonal relationships. I find them irritating at worst, and ignorable at best. Also, thought you might find it interesting that in studies of non-verbal communication for this culture, women so consistently score higher than men that it's become simply an established, statistically proven given that women are always better at non-verbal communication than men -- at least in all the Western industrialized societies I know of.
Interesting comments re shrinking social circles. That's happened/happening to me also. I'm fortunate in having one friend that's a fiend for keeping track of folks, but there is definitely a slow attrition occurring, as far as the size of my circle of local friends. I can't help but wonder if the old saying about 'wisdom and maturity looks an awful lot like just being too tired!' is actually true... :->
I'm sorry you got caught in the "Satanic Panic"... I imagine that would have been an uncomfortable time for you.
Please note I'm certainly not trying to infer that you will do or have done any of the things I mention below. I'm musing on my personal experiences and thoughts concerning games.
The first thought that leaps to mind is that I would be uncomfortable playing in a game that was espousing the referee's religious views. The first difficulty that comes to mind is quantified by Simpson's Theorem, which I've mentioned here before... specifically, "If the GM believes that Viking longships are the best means of coastal travel, in his game they will be." Many times complex real-life issues are expressed in a simplified form within a game. Real life religion is certainly a complex issue, and how the referee views that religion will certainly be exactly how it functions within the game.
Let's take an overly simplified example. If the referee is a member of the Orthodox Church of Smiting the Heretic (OCSH), and one of the players is a member of the Reformed Church of Smiting the Heretic (RCSH), then all of the things the OCSH hold to be true will be demonstrably true within the game... and all of the things that the RCSH believes will be demonstrably false. This means the real life beliefs of the referee will be The Truth in the game, even if it's strongly at odds with the players' real life beliefs. It doesn't matter how good your 'role-playing' is -- this is a recipe for disaster.
For example, one of your fantasy examples discusses how to deal with the religions created for the Warhammer FRP. While your approach would certainly work in this case, I can see that it might cause problems were you to do it with any real world religions. This was first brought to my attention by some friends that grew up in India. They found it quite droll that some of the figures in their religion were given specific amounts of 'hit points' in TSR's "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes." It was amusing (and enlightening) to hear them speculate on how many hit points Jehovah, Jesus Christ, and John the Baptist should have.
If you include christianity explicitly within a game, it certainly begs the question concerning the presence and effectiveness of other, real-life religions. Frankly, I'd rather not have that discussion within or during what I use as social entertainment.
The flip side of this is when players ask the referee to exclude certain themes and issues from the game. As an example, I'm familiar with a christian player that asked their referee to avoid themes and issues that offended them. However, when this player was taking their turn as referee, they were indignant when a player asked them to avoid specific christian themes and issues, for the same reason -- that it offended the player. That particular referee never did understand that we all saw that as an unreasonable double standard.
Many of the things you suggest should be features of a christian game are things I would consider good role playing and thoughtful background preparation in any campaign. In the Cyberpunk section of your zine your South Am vet NPC is a good example of strong plotting and motivation. I think we should encourage that sort of thoughtfulness in games. However, I don't consider redemption or introspection to be only a christian quality. For the referee to categorize them as such (referring back to Simpson's Theorem) gives them a specific power and effectiveness in the game.
Think of it this way: in a christian vampire game crosses affect vampires because they represent god's power. Other religious symbols do not. These two examples (the South Am vet and the vampire game) are exactly analogous; in the game the referee rewards those PCs (and players) that behave according to the referee's beliefs. The South Am vet, in seeking redemption, is rewarded for validating the referee's view of a good christian's actions and motivations. The characters in the vampire game are rewarded for validating the referee's view of the power of christian symbology. Let me be very clear here: character actions that agree with the referee's view of the campaign world succeed more easily than those who do not.
The problem is when the players make what they feel are reasonable character decisions that do not necessarily agree with the referee's view of the campaign world. In order for the campaign to remain consistent, those character actions must fail. It doesn't matter what the player(s) believe... the campaign world will react in a manner consistent with the referee's beliefs. This punishes anyone whose character doesn't do what the referee thinks is right, and rewards those who chose actions that may be inconsistent with their own beliefs.
This is absolutely true in any game, and we all accept that. However, in a game where the referee's religion is an important part of the campaign, any religious disagreements between referee and player(s) must become a point of conflict within the game -- where the referee, by definition, determines what will succeed and what will fail! Again, this is a recipe for disaster.
I've just recently stopped playing in an on-line game that had a lengthy and shared background, a wide variety of potential character cultures, two steady GMs, and multiple players running in varying story threads. I was very happy initially at finding this place, as it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, as far as an on-line game world that wasn't based on 'consensual' or 'by assertion' gaming.
I knew both the GMs were fundamentalist christians, but I was assured by one of them that they were tolerant of other folks' beliefs. Aside from wanting folks to generally follow christian morality as to good and evil acts (no backstabbing friends, expect consequences to one's actions, common-sense things like that), they guaranteed their religion didn't enter into their gaming at all. When one of the GMs arranged to run me and a friend of mine together in a story thread in the world, I looked forward a great deal to a nice, long, leisurely, interesting character-exploration and world-exploration sort of game.
We were quite popular players initially. The GMs and other players admired our enthusiasm, our dedication to playing in character and to understanding and integrating the game's cultures into our characters' backgrounds.
After our first story arc one of the GMs decided to do a 'Great Leap Forward[TM].' Several years would pass, some changes would be made in the background, and it was a good way to explain one of the referees' favored characters suddenly achieving a specific long-term goal. To be fair, the GM got the agreement of the sysadmin and the other GM, and he asked for input from the players. My friend and I figured out pretty quickly that one of the secret reasons for the GLF was so this GM could introduce, however temporarily, mecha... to a sword & sorcery world. This is a world where mechanics and electronics are terribly unreliable; for example, mechanical clocks occasionally just exploded.
My friend and I began to ask questions about the whys and wherefores of all these changes. Things started going downhill from there. The GMs decided that during the GLF there'd be a huge world war. This had the potential to be a very interesting development. My friend and I, who have studied cultural interactions, happily offered our services to help out in any way we could. That's when we discovered the GMs had ...primitive... ideas on how cultures interact (flippant perhaps, but true).
Not only did the GMs decline all offers for help (we were not the only ones to volunteer) but we rapidly realized they had pre-determined who was going to win without any analysis, role-playing, or roll-playing. The strengths or weaknesses of either side didn't seem to matter. In addition, their portrayal of the various cultural personalities was ...simplistic... The foregone conclusion was the good guy, christian-based, human-led culture was going to triumph... the bad guy, decadent (by definition) snake-people were going to lose, badly. Why? How? Who knows? The GMs said so... that was all there was to it. Good triumphs, evil is defeated, roll credits.
This unfortunate turn of affairs was demonstrated by a wide variety of habitual occurrences that were supposed to set the scene for the Big War. For example, the us/them mentality was obvious in the on-line rumor list. Only those rumors that portrayed the good guys in a favorable light, and portrayed the bad guys as arrogant, greedy, back-stabbing, vicious bastards, were listed. If you read the various game logs, other characters could be seen triumphing over the bad guys in ludicrously simplistic ways -- the bad guys were as stupid, laughable, and clumsy as Keystone Kops. The few unfortunate characters associated with the bad guy race in any way (my own and my friend's were among them, I'm sorry to say) were told in no uncertain terms that if the GMs were aware we thought the good guys were a bunch of jack-booted storm troopers, the GMs would punish our characters for having a bad attitude. Funnily enough... that's precisely what happened later.
It was interesting to me to watch this unfolding... to read about a particular good guy character's induction into the church's newest battle group, where he and his companions gave up their names and identities, accepted their new, church-assigned noms du guerre, swore to always keep their faces covered and to always obey the church's orders without question, got their special, color-coded, unique armor and specialized weaponry...
There's a study I read (that I think I've mentioned here already) that concludes anonymity fosters both a lack of emotional connection, and a decreased sense of responsibility for one's actions. The creation in-game of a combat group that was deliberately implementing anonymity, lack of personal responsibility, and color-coded unanimity vaguely reminded me of something I'd read previously. It wasn't initially clear, and it took me a bit to recall... and then it hit me. This church combat shock troop had recreated, almost exactly, the membership rituals of the Nazi brown-shirts and SS troopers. It was a rather scary thought. Needless to say I didn't bring this up in game.
Perhaps worst of all was the realization that this character I was reading about was the character of one of the GMs, being run by the other GM. I don't know if they realized it, but no other character had as much power or support within the game. I find it no coincidence that everything seemed to "just turn out right" for this character.
The final straw for me was that the game was scripted. The good guys always won; the bad guys always lost -- and most importantly -- the good guy characters could do no wrong. I was increasingly turned off when I read in the logs about the above-mentioned good guy character. Before I stopped reading in disgust, one of the logs detailed how he followed the orders of his church leaders to attack and destroy a lightly defended enemy city that clearly couldn't withstand the battle troop's superior armaments -- just to send a message to the enemy! Later, surrounded by his battle group, on a public thoroughfare, they openly murdered a mage who was starting to cast a spell -- because it might have been an offensive spell targeted on them! Furthermore, he did this knowing full well an interrupted spell would go off with explosive effects that would harm anyone standing near the mage -- did I mention that he was in the middle of a crowd of innocent bystanders? I found it deeply disturbing that the GMs characterized this game as christian; a game where good christian morality was rewarded.
I decided this was not the game for me. Interestingly my friend had come to the same conclusion. Neither my friend nor I play there any longer. Our characters became 'bad guys' by accident, by questioning both the status quo and the shallow cultural depictions... by asking why the bad guys were acting in such a self-defeating, ridiculous fashion... and by wondering why the good guys seemed to have no ethics unless it was useful for them. In essence, we weren't willing to turn our consciences and brains off to play in the game.
This is a perfect example of the referees' beliefs making it difficult for them to make objective decisions about their game. This example serves our purposes here because their game was driven by their religious beliefs. It could just as easily have been some political viewpoint.
The only other incident I've personally experienced concerning injecting 'christian values' into gaming was when Paul Jaquays decided to write up the third of the Central Casting books to advocate his christian religious principles.
The first two Central Casting books were very nice products you could use to generate an interesting and varied background for your character. They both had tables to determine your "light side" and "dark side" traits, based on your character's generated background. The more unsavory experiences you had (raised by thieves, or sold into slavery, etc.), the more dark side traits you might have. The more wholesome experiences you had, the more light side traits. One of the books was for sword & sorcery type characters, the other for supers and science fiction. The third was intended for 'modern day' characters.
Mr. Jacquays represented contentious views in the real world as having an absolute moral value, by saying that things like homosexuality or partnership outside of (quoted from the book) "Christian marriage" were "deviant" dark-side traits. He also put in a number of game mechanics that made those things disadvantageous. How incredibly insulting to anyone married in the Hindu or Islamic or any other faith! In essence Jacquays did precisely what some christian groups accuse gamers of doing -- he used the book to push his religious beliefs, and the game to represent his views of his cult as the normative default.
For him to say this was Central Casting Book III was misleading, at best. The material was very much at odds with the contents of the previous books -- with no warning on the cover. If someone published a book on gaming etiquette which said everyone should wear their bunny tails to all games because anyone who doesn't is evil and wrong, we'd look at them like they were nuts. And yet, Jacquays basically did exactly that sort of absolutist thinking. His self-righteous "Political Correctness Warning" at the beginning of the book merely pointed up the fact that he really didn't give a damn about what the people who bought the book thought. The fact that I find his views narrow-minded and self-centered simply strengthens my distaste for this underhanded proselytizing. I would be equally repulsed regardless of what form of bigotry, religious or otherwise, was being so forced on me.
Here it is in its entirety:
"Political Correctness" Warning
It was decided well in advance that this book would definitely not be "politically correct." In fact, its contents tend toward the socially, politically, morally, ethically, and religiously conservative side. To tell the truth, the authors and editors think our heritage of western culture, heterosexuality, traditional families, Judeo-Christian values, Jesus Christ and God are all pretty neat. While we won't force them on you, we do recommend them to everybody - your life can only better [sic] for it. As such, this book contains expressions of the authors' personal value structures that could be quite unpopular with those who assign equal value to all cultures, religions, lifestyles, sexual, or moral choices.
As to those who may feel that adventure gaming is an incorrect form in which to express editorial views on these matters, just look at the burgeoning presence of opposing views and decomposing values aired in television, movies, books, "art," public schools, the news and indeed, adventure gaming itself. It's difficult to buck the trends, but someone has to balance the scales. Consider this book to be one of the "Op-Ed" pages in gaming.
So if your sensibilities will be offended by exposure to values other than those of the "pop" philosophies of the moment, you had best return this book to the shelf now. We'd sure like you to buy it, but not at the cost of compromising our own beliefs.
May 26, 1991
It is precisely this type of self-righteous moralizing that gives Christianity a black eye. When we at Planet 10 (the game store I managed for several years) found out what he had done in this book, with no advance or visible (on the cover) warning, we felt compelled to offer our customers an opportunity to return this book for full value. Many availed themselves of this offer.
Again, please let me reiterate: I'm certainly not trying to infer you will replicate the above-mentioned game, or that all christian games must be shallow or rude or absolutist. I'm simply relating my experiences and thoughts concerning games where some lesson is supposedly being taught by the referee. Hopefully the above will be of some use to you.
If you think I'm nuts or off-base, please, please feel free to speak up. I love a good (non-heated ;-) debate.
Um... I'm not sure if you're referring to the man or his works in your comments to Timothy Emrick regarding your changes in CoC. However, I don't think Lovecraft the man could really be considered either a nihilist or an atheist. I've noticed from his letters he was extremely skeptical about religions in general, and was very much the materialist. Also he seems to have considered mythologies mostly to be excellent literary source material. However, I'm not sure that makes him an atheist though. As far as nihilism, I was browsing on the web and found the following:
Lovecraft developed the belief, divulged Darrell Schweitzer in The Dream Quest of H. P. Lovecraft, "that only by clinging to tradition could we make life worth living amidst the chaos of modern civilization." ....
Lovecraft "demanded that the fantastic tale be treated as art, not just a frivolous parlor game or an easy way to make a buck," wrote Schweitzer. ....
Lovecraft explained in "The Defense Reopens!": "The imaginative writer devotes himself to art in its most essential sense... He is the painter of moods and mind-pictures -- a capturer and amplifier of elusive dreams and fancies -- a voyager into those unheard-of lands which are glimpsed through the veil of actuality but rarely, and only by the most sensitive... Most persons do not understand what he says, and most of those who do understand object because his statements and pictures are not always pleasant and sometimes quite impossible. But he exists not for praise, nor thinks of his readers. His only [desire is] to paint the scenes that pass before his eyes." .... from H. P. Lovecraft: A Short Bio.
It was about this time that he began to feel the weight of his Puritan religious upbringing: "Religious matters likewise fretted me. I never had the slightest shadow of belief in the supernatural, but pretended to believe, because it was deemed the proper thing in a Baptist household. Sunday school so much depressed me, that I was soon relieved of that care."
"In my ninth year, as I was reading the Grecian myths in their standard poetical translations and thus acquiring unconsciously my taste for Queen-Anne English, the real foundations of my skepticism (for religion) were laid. Impelled by the crude but fascinating picture of scientific instruments in the back of Webster's Unabridged, I began to take an interest in natural philosophy and chemistry; and soon had a promising laboratory in my cellar, and a new stock of simple scientific text-books in my budding library."
"But mythology was by no means neglected. In this period I read much in Egyptian, Hindoo, and Teutonic mythology, and tried experiments in pretending to believe in each one, to see which might contain the greatest amount of truth. I had, it will be noted, immediately adopted the method and manner of science! Naturally, having an open and unemotional mind, I was soon a complete skeptic and materialist. My scientific studies had enlarged to include geographical, biological, and astronomical rudiments, and I had acquired the habit of relentless analysis in all matters." Lovecraft wrote a treatise called 'Mythology for the Young' and a treatise called 'Egyptian Myths.' [URL lost, unfortunately -- apologies from me]
and finally this, which says to me that his beliefs weren't nihilistic at all:
"He nurtured the careers of many young writers (August Derleth, Donald Wandrei, Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber); he became concerned with political and economic issues, as the Great Depression led him to support Roosevelt and become a moderate socialist; and he continued absorbing knowledge on a wide array of subjects, from philosophy to literature to history to architecture." from S. T. Joshi's Howard Phillips Lovecraft: The Life of a Gentleman of Providence
However, I think the assumption that Lovecraft was a nihilist is quite natural, considering the apparent nihilism inherent in the 'Cthulhu Mythos,' which grew up posthumously around his writings. The following might be of interest to anyone who is unaware of some of his other, more lovely works... I particularly recommend "The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath." The un-italicized emphasis in the paragraph below is just me, of course.
"In addition to Lovecraft's contribution to supernatural horror, his influence on science fiction -- by injecting horror elements and emphasis on atmospheric effect -- has been called "pivotal" by no less an authority than Sam Moskowitz. The so-called Cthulhu Mythos -- more a creation of his young correspondent, posthumous collaborator, and publisher August Derleth than of Lovecraft himself -- has taken on a life of its own, spawning scores of imitators and contributors, comic books, board and role-playing games, and World Wide Web sites. Unfortunately, what has made Lovecraft famous tends to exaggerate superficial elements of his work and overshadows his true contribution to the weird tradition and to American letters." from H. P. Lovecraft
Re your query to Joe Teller about getting folks in an e-mail game to post more regularly, might I suggest setting deadlines? I'm currently in a PBeM (temporarily sidelined due to real-life pressures the GM has to deal with) where the GM was having a similar problem. At one point I was commiserating with her concerning folks that couldn't be bothered to reply, and how rude I considered that, akin to wasting the GM's and the other players' time. She agreed... then, since she knew I was a former animal trainer, she asked me how she might politely encourage folks to reply in a prompt fashion.
My suggestion was deadlines, mentioned ahead of time in a pragmatic and friendly fashion. For example, she might send out an update on what everyone was doing, with an out of character comment at the beginning that mentioned that she'd be collating everyone's posts on such and such a date, so to please reply before then. If there was no reply she'd assume the player was busy, and would have the character do nothing.
My other suggestion was to have the deadline be a few days before when she really needed the posts to be in, so she'd have some slack time. I noted that this would potentially teach folks that it was okay to be late, but would also allow those that genuinely couldn't make it a bit more time to reply. She thought it over, then chose not to use that option.
The next and most important step was to stick with that plan! She had, of course, someone that tried pushing the envelope -- that replied just a little bit too late, that whined and bitched about their character doing nothing. Good for her, she firmly refused to be manipulated so... and when the whiner wouldn't quit whining she just as firmly told him that if he didn't stop it she'd start penalizing him! He shut up quite promptly (albeit grumpily) after that... and I'll note that folks started answering punctually thereafter too! I'm very glad I was able to help, however indirectly... it made the game move much more smoothly and interestingly for everyone.
Kiralee McCauley's 'The Sign of the Dancing Priestess'
Interesting speculations on our hindbrains… that would certainly explain why everyone's so fixated on this being the new millennium, when it actually starts next year, in 2001. I wonder if cultures that aren't that interested in christianity care that much that (to us) it's year 2000 since a particular deity was theoretically born. To them surely it's just another year? The Chinese calendar, as a single example, is on what, its 4000th plus year?
Interestingly enough, historical biblical scholars now believe the actual year Jesus was supposed to have been born was really 3 years before the year we refer to as year 1, due to errors in the Julian (I think that's its name?) calendar. So if Jesus was in reality supposed to return at the millennium, it would actually have happened 3 years ago! That was reason enough for me to not be at all concerned, in regards to the new millennium... but then personally, I worry more about the end of this age in the Hindu tradition -- when the Kali Age ends because She awakens and remakes all of existence! Still, even that isn't expected until over a thousand years from now... so I guess I shan't worry regardless. Sorry, silliness attack there... ;-)
Re your commentary to Rich Staats concerning whether the U.S. is better than the rest of the world, I'd have to agree with you -- both about it not really being so, and about wanting to make things better. I'll agree that it's different... but better? No. If anthropology has taught me nothing else, it's that there really aren't any 'better' cultures... just cultures we're less or more familiar (and thus [un]comfortable) with.
Whew! All caught up on comments, finally... well, that's all for now, folks! ;-)
- Go to Collie's Bestiary
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Last Updated: Mon Feb 21 2000