My Main Thrust
I know, I am being pretentious, but still… The thing to understand here is that the Ptolomaic system was derived from observations made by competent observers using what they had to use as tools and observing what there was to observe. The Heliocentric System was derived by Copernicus and others using observation taken over a long period of time, and paying attention to what those observations said.
In addition new tools became available which served to make observations more accurate, and to point out where observations contradicted assumptions. The latest set of tools―interplanetary probes―have pretty much proven the Heliocentric Model correct.
Well, let us admit right up front that the idea that RPGs involve story is correct. But not as you think they do. As I understand it, a story is an account of things which have occurred. Stories also include a number of factors such as events being imaginary in many tales, and stories by and large including a narrative, or sequence of events.
But, not all stories involve the imaginary, many are accounts of events that have occurred. Being fictional is no sign that one is dealing with story.
With his narrativism model Ron Edwards presented a vision of RPGs in which they are stories. Or, as others have modified his thinking, events in which the participants tell stories. That is not how I see matters.
From my observations I have come to the conclusion that what RPGs involve is a sort of life. Not real life, nothing in the sense of events in play being actual, but rather in that the events occurring during play are happening―my emphasis. That is, when Bob tells the party his Witch Doctor is shaking a gourd as part of casting, said Witch Doctor Is shaking said gourd as part of performing a casting. An event that can not occur in real life, but which can occur in an imaginary one. It is all make believe, but when it occurs in a realm of the imagination where it is presented is if it were real, it can happen.
What Gygax Wrought
To get right down to it, E. Gary Gygax presented us with situations in which imaginary events can happen is if they were happening in real life. Successors such as Marc Miller, Steve Perrin, and Edward Simbalist among others took what he presented and took off with it. Later came Ron Edwards and his proposal that RPGs had to be story, largely I suspect because they do include elements of story. I submit that just because narwhals have tusks doesn’t make them elephants.
Story is about things that have happened. Life is a series of events that are happening. Insofar as RPGs are about events as they happen they can’t be stories even though elements of story appear within them. In short, a narwhal can’t be an elephant. Play in an RPG is an occasion where events can occur, much as in life, even when the events in question are imaginary.
Now Gygax didn’t actually invent this, for make believe has been a part of children’s play for a rather long time. What he did was formalize it, though I rather doubt he really understood what he had done. In fact, I rather doubt some people this very day understand what it is they are doing.
So observe, instead of taking the word of another. Observe how play in an RPG does include elements of story, and how they include elements of life. And note just how much play resembles how life happens rather than how stories happen.
What this could mean to you I haven’t thought about yet, so it looks like I have another post to think about and compose. Be aware though that it most likely will complicate how you approach the running and play of an RPG, for life is a complicated bitch. Patience please, this could take awhile.
- Seeing in RPGs
- Family in RPGs
- Previous Experience
- The Why
- Further Thoughts
- With a Little Bit of Luck
- I Did It
- At His Request
- In Further Bad News