Some Notes on Being Human

Now of course, the place you find yourself on either the Cognitive / Impassioned scale and the I / Other scale is not a static thing. If you gamed 10 years ago and you’re gaming now, chances are that there are a handful of things about game back then that you’d just as happily not import into the present. Likewise, in next 10 years there are things you’re doing now that you probably won’t be doing then and vice versa. Like my Wargamer cum LARPer friend of a couple of posts ago, the things we do, both in life and in game change us (at least if we’re doing it right) and changing as a person often means a shift in goals and priorities. What makes us happy now may not make us happy tomorrow or next year; what made us happy last year may never make us happy again.

Also, just because you put a dot on the scale that is meant to represent you doesn’t mean that you are not capable of shifting to accommodate the situation at hand, or that you never act outside of the placement of that dot. When playing with strangers, I tend to play down the emotional scale to ensure that I don’t make anyone at the table uncomfortable. I also tend to play closer to the “I” than usual to ensure that I am making directive decisions that will foster the fledgling social situation at the table.

Why does my dot wander? Well, because in that situation, my payoff and my goal are different than they usually are. My payoff might be “advance the social milieu of the group at hand, and have a fun, un-awkward night in the process”. In that case, my goal isn’t a cathartic one, it’s entirely socially based goal that has little to do with the game. In that case I may not even be character socketed; I might adopt a social or story socket for the night, because the payoff is powerful enough to make it worth it.

Likewise, under constraints imposed by other players or by system, my dot might have to wander in specific situations. About six months ago, Brand and I introduced a group of our friends to My Life with Master. The point of the night wasn’t even really to game, it was just to hang out. The point of playing MLWM was not to get impassioned or cathartic, it was to introduce some of our traditional RPG friends to some of what the Indie scene had to offer. It was a one shot, with a lot of players, so there wouldn’t be a lot of time to create catharsis anyway. So my goal, my socket and my payoff weren’t what they normally are, so my dot was in an entirely different place.

This is all to say that there is a difference between what you have occasionally done, what you did all the time a long time ago, what you are capable of doing, and what you do on a regular basis. When you’re examining your goals, sockets and payoffs, it’s important to identify if the situation you are analyzing is atypical, and therefore not representative of what you normally do to get your RPG rocks off.

When you are looking to place yourself on the scale what you’re looking to do is to identify: when you are playing for the payoff you most often play for or the payoff you want most (note that these might not be the same thing), how do you want to experience the game and through what method will you interact with it? It may be very useful to you in the moment you are playing an atypical game to understand how your payoff is different than normal and how you respond to that shift, but to start with, it’s most useful to trend yourself over the course of the payoff that you are trying to achieve most of the time.

7 thoughts on “Some Notes on Being Human”

  1. Yes! But also: I don’t know that I’ve ever played in a game where I wasn’t, to a significant extent, compensating my own goals for the sake of the group. That’s just, to one extent or another, How I Approach Play. I think this was why I was all panicky about not knowing where to place myself. I don’t know that I’ve played in enought near-ideal situations to know where my true priorities lie.

  2. Jonathan, just a thought…

    Maybe your socket isn’t character or story or setting… maybe it’s social and you actually Other your play: funneling your engagement through the agency of the group, and surrendering your power to the collective body? I mean, I only know you from a hole in the internet, but it sounds like that could be a viable explanation to the above and your frequent comments about Plug and Play.

  3. Mo,

    I’ve been thinking about that very idea in relation to myself (and we had that LJ discussion where I think it got brought up…). I have come up with another possibility, but I’m not sure whether it’s right, only that it’s possible.

    I know that, personally, my playgroups are highly dynamic in players. That is, I don’t play primarily with a single group. Thus, for each group I play with I have to find a balance of what each person wants and what I want. This generally means that each group is better at producing a different experience for me. As long as I want what the group can provide I can play well with them.

    I’m not sure, but my read of your own actual play stuff is that the vast majority of your play is done with the same, or at least highly similar, group(s). Is that right, or am I misreading you?


  4. Thomas,

    Mo and I have had a pretty stable extended playgroup for about 3 to 4 years. We sometimes take people in or put people out, but its rare and those that come in tend to be selected based on the fact that they niche up well.

    So yea, we’ve had a lot of chance for long term stable group play where we’ve built a group that lets us all do what we like most. Most of the time. When one of us doesn’t fuck it up.

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