So, 10 or so months ago I started Sin Aesthetics.
None of them were supposed to be very groundbreaking, they were just setup posts to get everybody onto the page of a few things I wanted to talk about. The next one was supposed to combine some of these elements to having a discussion about how one could use pull techniques to help immersion-heavy players cope functionally and productively in push-heavy nar games. This seems like it’s kind of anti-climactic now after all the discussion that’s gone on about p/p. At least the post can be much shorter now, because we won’t have to sort through examples.
Basically, the point is that if the goal of nar games is to create drama by addressing premise, and if differential techniques (p/p) can equally be used to do this in a valid way then those techniques can be (and are) used intentionally to create a personal fit to a shared game, even if the game fosters a playstyle that is less friendly to the player using the technique. I’m an immersive player and find that many nar games with explicit push systems (read: mechanically supported) often interrupt my ability to immerse because the system requires me to toggle between IC-head and OOC-head too long or too frequently, or because they break (personal) character continuity over issues of ownership (e.g. winning narration rights).
The design intent over many of these explicit structures exist to create what matters. What matters might be drama through conflict, or to highlight the address of premise, or to reward giving over to the story. It might be simply to pre-negotiate the social system of the game so that there is less work or negotiation required to produce functional and enjoyable play. In any case, they are designed to produce.
In some cases, where the explicit structures prevent or deter a player from fully socketing to their locus of enjoyment in a game (so for me, to character, emotionally) the player can premptively produce what the explicit structure has been built to require in order to eliminate or minimize the negative impact of interacting with that structure, while still remaining functional and socially responsible to the game and the play group.
For example, say one explicit structure in the game is: once you have played to a point where crisis is coming, the players roll dice and the winner is given sole authority to narrate the outcome of the crisis. The point of this structure is to provide a means of resolving conflict and a clear direction of social authority. A player that sockets emotionally via character might find this structure impedes or prevents personal enjoyment in the game because when they lose conflicts the winning player is free to narrate what the loser’s character can do, and this creates static in the player’s personal sense of continuity with the character, knocking the plug out of the socket.
(Some of you might want to tell me that if this is the case, the player shouldn’t play this game. Sure, optimally we’d all be playing games with groups and in systems that fit us perfectly 100% of the time, but the reality is that we don’t. Sometimes we play games that fit other people’s preferences more than our own, because playing with the person is more important to us than the system we play in. Sometimes, everything else in the system makes it worth running into the occasional hump.)
So in this case, what can the player do to premptively produce what the system is looking for so as to lessen the impact of or eliminate the hump? Well, since it’s fresh, Brand’s moment of crisis post offers us one way. Since the structure is very FatE, a skilled player could pull to resolve the conflict and determine authority using social DitM. In order to succeed in the pull, the player must win the buy in of the other player, and in giving buy in (especially in a context in which going to the FatE is his mechanical right in the game) the other player is exhibiting an acceptance to what the pulling player has done (any of this could be an OOC explicit negotiation or an IC negotiation). Both players are happy, the premise has been addressed to the satisfaction of both players, and the drama rolls on. The transaction is functional and productive, and the pulling player has not had to experience the static produced by the FatE structure.
This kind of thing isn’t always going to be possible, of course, and could take considerable skill and finesse to make work, but it’s something worth thinking about.
It’s also an interesting consideration to take when designing. As the designer, if you want people to be able to use their personal skills to compensate for areas of your system they might have problems with, does your explicit system make room for them to do so? If you do not want this, how do you constrain this ability in your design? Is there other things we can do to expand the support for multiple playtypes, or multiple sockets or whatever? Do we even want to?
Anyway, it’s something I’m still musing on, so I thought I’d put it out there.