Let’s talk logical fallacies for a minute.
Argumentum ad nauseam does not mean “responding to every comment in the thread”, but rather repeating the same argument until one wears down opposition. I.e., argument to the point of nausea. Now, of course, recurrent claims that make no attempt to clarify or respond to other posts may indeed be argumentum ad nauseam, as may simply asserting repeatedly that one must abide with a given position, regardless of the reasons stated that one does not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_nauseam
Onus probandi is not simply “Making claims without proof, and then claiming that it is my burden to disprove your claims.” It is making a claim, and then attempting to shift the burden of proof away from your claim, and onto the sceptics of your claim. When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim. "If this responsibility or burden of proof is shifted to a critic, the fallacy of appealing to ignorance is committed" In other words, if I make a claim, such as that the definition of railroading is X, and I then attempt to shift the burden of proof to critics of that claim (say, possibly people commenting on my blog), then I am guilty of a fallacy of onus probandi – the burden of proof lies with the original claimant, not the critic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophic_burden_of_proof
Equivocation is not “misusing 'railroading' by applying your own definition rather than the one in the article”, but rather “the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time)”. If I am clear about the term that I am using, I am not engaged in equivocation. If, on the other hand, you make a claim that X is equivalent to Y, and that therefore quality Z must belong to both, when X is not equivalent to Y, then you are engaged in equivocation. For example, the claim that if railroading applies meaningfully to one subset of games, it must apply to all games, and any definition or railroading which does not therefore apply equally to Dungeon Crawl Classics and chess is a wrong definition is a case of fallacious equivocation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivocation_fallacy
“Argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem), or more specifically, Ad hominem circumstantial, which “points out that someone is in circumstances such that they are disposed to take a particular position….The circumstantial fallacy applies only where the source taking a position is only making a logical argument from premises that are generally accepted. Where the source seeks to convince an audience of the truth of a premise by a claim of authority or by personal observation, observation of their circumstances may reduce the evidentiary weight of the claims, sometimes to zero.”
In other words, ad hominem circumstantial only applies as a fallacy when applied to an argument from premises that are generally accepted; it does not apply in this case.
On the other hand, the attempt to claim that “your behaviour…is becoming inappropriate….You have repeated instances of not taking the time to read what people have written, not only in the original post, but in the comment threads….You continually construct strawmen; both by making broad, easily disprovable claims….and by misrepresenting the very clear points you are arguing against.…..You should not engage in debate which contains logical fallacies”constitutes abusive ad hominem, which is, indeed, fallacious.
You are correct in noting that a straw man misrepresents “the argumentation of those people you are commenting against” (although not “making broad, easily disprovable claims”, which is sort of ironic, considering…), however it is an easily disprovable claim that I misrepresented anyone’s argument in the comments to the article. http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html
The interesting thing about logical fallacies is that you have to do more than simply throw the terms around; you have to use them correctly, in situations where they apply.
So, let’s take a look at the opening claims.
(1) Games are very specific, very quantifiable things.
This may be true of some games; it is not true of all games. Unless one means that each individual instance of a game is very specific and very quantifiable, my Dungeon Crawl Classics game is likely to look different from Harley’s Dungeon Crawl Classics game. After all, it is printed very clearly, at the beginning of the Judges Rules, and in a way to bring attention to it: The judge is always right. Let the rules bend to you, not the other way around.
Let us look at the introduction of the Holmes Basic set for Dungeons & Dragons, on page 2, where it discusses the need for a Dungeon Master:
“This is absolutely necessary because the game is completely open-ended, is subject to modification, expansion, and interpretation according to the desires of the group participating, and is in general not bounded by the conventional limitations of other types of games.”
How about Tom Moldvay, in his Basic Dungeons & Dragons (1981) intro?
“In a sense, the D&D game has no rules, only rule suggestions. No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination. The important thing is to enjoy the adventure.”
People meant so many different things by “Dungeons & Dragons” that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons made, in part, an attempt to make the game into something more specific and quantifiable. But Gary Gygax did not expect every AD&D game to look the same; he expected there to be similarities between games, even though what the similarities were between any two games may be different.
This is explicitly spelled out in the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. I would rather not have to type out Gary Gygax's paragraphs of material on the subject, but will do so if anyone doubts this and does not have a DMG of their own to read it from. "Dungeons & Beavers", anyone?
In Role-Playing Mastery, Gygax wrote:
The spirit of a game cannot be expressly defined in a sentence or a paragraph, and any game designer who attempts to do so is defeating his own purpose. The spirit of an RPG pervades all the statistics, mechanics, and descriptions that make up the actual rules; it is everywhere and nowhere in particular at the same time.
A game master or player who simply absorbs all the rules and uses them to play out a game adventure may be able to achieve expertise in the play of the game, but in the final analysis, he is doing no more than going through the motions-unless he also perceives, understands, and appreciates the spirit that underlies all those rules.
This is not true of games such as checkers or chess, although the structure of all games includes unspoken assumptions or rules, so that a poker player need not be told that he shouldn't reveal his cards if he understands the game.
Again, Gary Gygax in Role-Playing Mastery:
Because the game seeks to reflect actual life, the campaign world has a scope equal to that of the universe, that is, most probably infinite. Fortunately, the GM needs only to create and develop details according to the rate the player group progresses and demands such details.
So we note that role-playing games are different in form, purpose, and function from other games. Just as it is nonsensical to discuss card marking outside of the subset of games that use cards, or weighted dice in the context of chess, role-playing games have developed a lexicon of terms that relate to the specific form, purpose, and function of these games (or games that do, or purport to, have the same or similar form, purpose, or function, such as “computer role-playing games”.
One of these terms is “railroading”.
It is nonsensical to talk of railroading in terms of chess, checkers, Parcheesi, or Monopoly. No player acts as a judge, or Game Master (and, in a computer-based “role-playing” game, the programmer does so). If the banker in Monopoly doesn't give you the $200 for passing Go, he isn't “railroading”; he is cheating.
Therefore, any conclusion that relies upon a relationship between railroading and a non-role-playing (or pseudo role-playing) game is built upon a false assumption.
(2) Whatever the game, there are very specific rules.
(3) Even for those situations where the rules don't clearly cover a corner case, the house rule, resolution, or consensus-based solution is also a quantifiable action.
Taken together, these seem to mean that whatever happens within a game happens according to its rules (including, one would assume, “Rule 0” type rules that define the codified rules as mere guidelines.) This would seem to gibe with
(8) The actions you can take are proscribed by the rules of the game.
so I will take that as my working understanding of what is being said here.
In a reply to Mandramas, on February 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm, though, the author states that “They [the players] cannot be railroaded by the structure of the game because that defines what agency they have.” We shall call this claim (21) Players cannot be railroaded by the structure of the game because that defines what agency they have.
If the statements given in (2), (3), and (8) are correct, it would seem to imply that anything which happens within a game, be it codified rule or uncodified ruling, is part of the structure of the game. If players cannot be railroaded by the structure of the game, and everything that happens within the game is a product of that structure, we now see that railroading cannot exist.
Personally, I think that the claim structure in statements (2), (3), and (8) are largely correct, but that the claim made by (21) is false. Either there is no railroading, or railroading must be able to exist within the game structure. Or perhaps we can claim that (3) is false, and that there exists agency within a game that is not provided by the game structure.
In any event, it should be crystal clear that statements (2), (3), (8), and (21) cannot all be true.
Next time, we will look at sources; other objections to the definition –C supplies for railroad, railroading, and player agency; and what these terms actually mean in general usage. If the goal really is to allow “designers to communicate clearly about the structure of a game,” it follows that terminology to be clearly and correctly defined. And that correct definition must be usable in a meaningful way.
Assuming, of course, that one is not simply trying to equivocate (in the fallacious sense) the term you are using with the term as it is generally used.