Sunday, September 25, 2005

Introduction to an Introduction

Introduction -- What the theory is, what the theory is not

I've been having some trouble writing the first section of this essay, I think because I feel that while I have introduced the essay in the last post, I haven't really introduced the theory, and most people seem to have their own sometimes inaccurate ideas about what Forge theory is intended to do, and what the contents of it are saying. So here's a brief overview.

0) This is a condensation and explanation of the work of a lot of people over a long period of time

I'm going to try to give credit where it is due, but it is almost certain that I'll miss some folks. This is where you come in.
If someone is the author of a particular concept, and happens to be reading, and I don't mention that you contributed to it, please tell me in the comments! Likewise, other folks should let me know and give reference threads if they feel like it. This is a rough draft and we are all writing it together.
Two names which will get mentioned, but should be spoken right off the bat, are Ron Edwards and Vincent Baker. The two major ideas in these essays are due to them, and a lot of the rest of it besides.

1) The theory that I am describing in this essay is description, not prescription.

Or, simply, it is talking about the structures and nature of every single table top role-playing game ever played. Not simply games played with "indie systems." Not simply games that we consider artistically valid. Not any subset of games. All games played, ever, contain the structures that I am talking about in most of this essay.
In general, I am not interesting in telling you how to play your game (at least, in terms of this essay.) I am interested in telling you what is going on in your game.

There is a point, later in the essay, where I consciously switch from description into prescription -- I start giving advice on what to do as a player and as a designer. This shift will be clearly marked.

2) The theory that I am describing is a work in progress.

I am not saying that this is the climax stage of the Big Model, or even that it is any sort of finishing point. I am writing up an explanation of what I see as the main theories from the Forge culture as I understand them right now. I don't expect that this document will remain up-to-date for any length of time, probably because the critical feedback from readers will result in revisions and re-examinations of the theory.

Likewise, it is quite possible that you can go back in the Forge archives and find people saying things that contradict what I'm presenting here. It is quite possible that you will find me saying things that contradict what I'm presenting here. If you are the sort of person who finds this sort of contradiction immoral or upsetting, this essay is not for you.

Lastly, it is quite possible that there are other useful models of role-playing, and that the Big Model is merely one, and that it may be completely or partially replaced in the years to come.

3) The theory that I am describing is restricted to table-top role-playing games

No bets on using it to analyze LARPs, MMORPGs, board games, card games, novels, plays, sculpture, ballet, or any other artform.

4) This essay is intended for people who have played table-top role-playing games

This is a critical and analytical theory. I do not think it is useful or fruitful for people who have not experienced the sort of art I'm talking about to learn how to critique it. It would be rather like trying to explain film theory to someone who has not watched a movie -- possible, perhaps, but it would be simpler for them to just go watch some movies and then come back and learn it.
If you are someone who has not played table-top RPGs, but wants to follow the essay, let me know and I'll recommend some games to play.

5) This essay is explanatory, not evangelical

I do not care whether or not you believe Forge theory. In addition, whether or not you believe it effects its validity not at all. The point of this essay is to explain what Forge theory is, and how it applies to play. It is not to convince you of its truth.

In specific: If you disagree with Forge theory before reading this, it will likely not convince you otherwise. It will, however, allow you to argue from a position of knowledge, rather than a position of ignorance.


Blogger jhkim said...

I'm always a little torn when I see references to "Forge Theory". The members of the Forge, even the core most prolific posters, have many disagreements -- often on fundamental issues.

Obviously, for an introductory article, you have to downplay this and pick some members' views over others to present. I'm just saying you should be clear about this and clarify how you're picking what to call "Forge Theory".

4:24 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

For the purposes of this essay, Forge Theory =

lumpley Principle
Big Model

I may get around the GNS and Stance and IIEE, but I doubt it.


4:50 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Also, your last paragraph reads a like "if you disagree with the theory, it is because you don't understand it." If that's not intentional, you may want to fix it.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Lee -- can you give me a quote? I'm failing to see how "This will not convince you, but it will inform you of our opinions" = "w3 r t3h r1tex0r!"

10:17 PM  
Blogger jhkim said...

I can see what Lee is referring to. The final two sentences are addressed to those who disagree with "Forge theory", and the final sentence implies that they are in a position of ignorance without your essay. If I might suggest another phrasing:

If you disagree with Forge theory before reading this, it will likely not convince you otherwise. It may, however, improve your understanding of the opposed view.

Also, regarding Forge theory = Big Model + Lumpley Principle... As I said, that's fine. I just think you should clarify in the introduction that you're selecting these two out of the broad range of Forge ideas.

2:02 AM  
Blogger newsalor said...

Sounds like good old basic principles of writing academic essays. You know, defining what you are writing about and what your essay is not going to be about etc.

It's important to make it clear wether the theory is descriptive or normative, but I think that you will find that when written among 3 theories offering different views on the matter, the issue is not going to be as dominant. The thing is that with the glorious age of the internet upon us, there are always going to be some wackoes who'll give you flame regardless of what you write.

If you define the point of perspective, the underlining definitions of concepts like roleplaying well enough and keep it descriptive, the only thing that can be critiziced without emperical (and unlikely tests) is the internal consistency of the theory.

However, if you don't define what roleplaying is and leave out where you are coming from and exactly what you are writing about, someone will certainly read your stuff and claim it's bogus, because you two are using different vocabularies.

2:46 AM  
Blogger ScottM said...

So far so good.

2:51 AM  

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