Guruzilla's /var/log/knowledge-junkie
["the chatter of a missionary sysadmin"]

gamist approaches, stories, and kids' stuff

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One of the interesting posts on The Forge featured Lumpley inventing a game on-the-fly for his nephew (?), approx. age 7. He did a pretty kickin' job, although, I suspect he's just lucky he doesn't have to deal with the kid's nightmares... Anyroad, one of the things which just struck me this afternoon is that 'Gamist' approaches are how we often come to gaming while younger -- because the crucial question in Gamism is, 'Can I do it?'

And for kids, this is always the question -- "Can Buck do it?!?" A kid's adventure is all about the suspense -- can the hero escape the landslide, can he beat the dragon, how will he ever make it over the mountain in time to save the good King? For I~, my kickin' godson, it is a matter of great suspense whether Luke Skywalker will make it -- even when he's been told, or read, that he will. For a kid, there's always a question, can I do that, or can I do that yet?

More experienced, perhaps more jaded persons can say, "Yes, nobody ever tells a story where the annswer is 'No.'" This is a weakness, I think, but we'll come back to that. So our gaming, which reproduces the tales and adventures we know and love, has an implicit 'social contract', as the jargon runs: This is an adventure story with a 'Yes' answer built into it, and your task is to do whatever is needful to arrive at that 'Yes'.

Sadly, this formula informs a whole lotta sci-fi, but especially fantasy, novels. One could say a lot of critical things about Cerebus, but at least the author followed through on the most important promise: "Alone, unmourned, and unloved."

"I need to capture, beauty
I need another age
I need a tragic movie
A taste of tears and rage"

Anyroad, this approach, which means that to 'win' is to accomplish the tasks, fulfill the prophecies, to train to be the karate kid, to be restored to the throne, rests uneasily with a Simulation -- because it's no more sure that the task you've taken upon you is within your powers than it is, if one were tonight to go into a dark alley to mess up some hooligan (for great justice!), that one would not be messed up by the hooligans in short order and left to bleed out.

So where 'Gamist' interest is directed is exactly to one of the critical points of any story: Can 'it' happen? The 'Narrativist' interest in a theme can and often does overlap; the premise of interest might diverge from the classic 'Gamist' one, though, and subtly. I suspect that this explains a lot of intra-group confusion over where a game is going, or why it's fun or not.

Don't know what all this means, but I'm sure it'll be helpful now that I've written it down...

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