Thursday, 30 May 2013

Bullshit Alert

Did you know that immersion doesn't exist?  Because people might use the word to mean different things?  Because it might have a very personal meaning?

(Which differs not at all from, say, "role-playing game" or "D&D", which apparently are also lies, if one follows that "logic".)

What does that have to do with playing with people who are your friends?  Nothing!  But, hey, no one can argue with that, so let's toss that in there to confuse the issue.

Let's say that you accept the argument that "the game was in the description! Of course it is!"  Then, does it actually follow that when you are dealing with that description, it is somehow "shutting everything down"?  Or, would it make sense that, if you accepted that the game was in the description, that "stopping play to force someone to describe the action of the game" cannot be "disruptive to play" because that description of action is, in fact, a major component of the game?

Or, let us imagine that taking the role of your character negotiating with a goblin (portrayed by the GM) is only immersive "if you wanted to be immersed in the player persuading the Dungeon Master, not the character persuading the goblin", 'cause, you know, when you are rolling for it, that's the character, not the player. 

"[D]ishonest and worse, counterproductive and not useful from a design standpoint" pretty much covers it.  Yet another post suggesting that you are only playing the game when you are rolling the dice, or working the widgets, from someone who just doesn't seem to understand that the widgets are there to support the fictive milieu and action, not the other way around.

There may be "many. . . unintentional misunderstandings of things" certain people say, or it may just be that bullshit has an unmistakable odour.  I leave it the reader to decide.

ADDENDUM ('cause I just can't leave well enough alone).  If you would be so kind, take a gander at this post.  
How come it's ok to use 'skill checks' for combat, and not for something like talking to opponents? 
Because at the table, I can't use my personal skill to swing an axe, but I can use my personal skill to convince a crocodile to let me pass.

(Actually, seriously, read the comments too!)

Now, go back and read the first linked post, and follow the links here.  And, if you want, you can find my response to that here.

Riddle me this, Batman:  How is it that -C in 2011 knows why combat is handled differently than talking, but two years later this has become a mystery?

Perhaps -C's answer in 2011 is the best one:  "This, is of course another strawman - a misrepresentation of the actual process of play."

ADDENDUM to the ADDENDUM:  Ah, hell.  You should read this one too.  In it, -C postulates, "Combat/feat build uses aside, there is certainly some room for a 'social conflict' system in D&D, but a simple D20 comparison check is a really really boring way to handle it!" so the seeds were sown by 2011.

Actually, there have been several systems in the D20 System written to handle "social combat", the best of which was probably Dynasties & Demagogues, which, if you ignore or are unsatisfied with "Because at the table, I can't use my personal skill to swing an axe, but I can use my personal skill to convince a crocodile to let me pass.", will allow you to consistently make all kinds of social interactions into a mini-game.  

If that's your bag, man, then this is a book that comes highly recommended.


  1. I save the overthinking and obscure gaming theory for bigger brains than mine, I suppose. I just want to play my way. I'm not sure why some insist that that's not good enough.

    What's my barometer for successful roleplaying? The players that keep returning to my table, week after week, who laugh and scheme with gleaming eyes and smiles on their faces. 'Nuff said.

  2. Hahah, I _think_ I know what you're referencing. And I read the first few lines then hit "j" to skip to the next article... (are there more?) I do wonder, what's with all these gamers trying to tell us how to game. I can think of 3d6 ways to play "D&D", and none of them are absolutely right. After bunch of decades of playing several different RPGs, and several conventions, I've seen the whole gamut of GM/Player styles. It actually was a boost to my confidence as a GM/Player, because I realized that how I GM/Play is generally fine for most folk. I don't think immersion is important for an RPG, I would have to say that it's more important to be engaging, to keep my interest.

  3. It's one thing to say that you do not want X in your game. It is a whole 'nother animal to say that X doesn't exist, or is a "lie". It suggests, among other things, that you have no clue how to include X in your game.

    If X happens to be a trait that many people find desirable....well, either you are admitting incompetence, or you are full of shit about your conclusion that X is a lie/does not exist.

    1. Likewise, if X is a trait that many people find undesirable, and you are trying to prove that X cannot exist, it rather strongly implies that not only does X exist, but that you are swimming in it.

      Hence, in one post, railroading does not exist (implication: so stop calling my game a railroad), and in another immersion doesn't exist either (so stop badgering me about a more immersive experience).

      If you want to devise a system to roll for social interactions, or you want to play TalkingClix, by all means go for it. Just don't trigger the Bullshit Meter when you explain what it is you want to do.

    2. I also don't understand how people continue to ignore the fact that most of human experience is subjective to the Nth degree. Perception is everything, folks. Also, there are as many subtle definitions for the word "immersion" as there are gamers, I think we can agree on that. Yes, humans try to establish order by striving to agree on the meanings of a word, but within each individual mind can exist a nuance pertaining to said word. With our feeble languages as our best tools for communicating each other, we can't reach concensus but at least we can attempt to talk to one another. When we forget this paradox of language, we get into trouble, yes?

    3. Obviously, there are communicational gaps (such as describing pain or colours) but we can agree that there are certain phenomena, states, etc. that can be defined (such as a triangle, a right angle, an allophone, or a rhyme). We define them so that there occurs no misunderstanding.

      The problem -C sees with immersion, according to the linked post, is that there is no consensus on its definition, thus from a game design point of view it is meaningless.

      I am still not convinced about the rest of his post (I have to give it some thought to make sure I don't see things into it), though.

    4. The degree to which any term has an ambiguous definition is, of course, variable based upon the physical properties of existent things. Even then, there is always some ambiguity in terminology, because ambiguity is a property of communication. Few triangles or right angles that we encounter in daily life actually are such, by the strictest definitions, for example. I have corners in my house that are right angles for every purpose except the placement of furniture, for example, where suddenly the difference makes a difference.

      In any event, games are experiential. The things that people want from games all fall into that more-ambiguous area of describing subjective experience. No one wants to play a game they do not enjoyment a lie? People define it in different ways.

      Either, in this series of posts, -C is claiming that he does not understand terms such as immersion and railroading, and that therefore he cannot make use of them in the case of design (in which case his follow-up statements of authority as to what they mean, their properties, and how various game widgets affect or do not affect them is suspect) OR he accepts that he does understand them (a necessary adjunct to support his conclusions), and his statements about their being meaningless is perforce bullshit.

      The problem with -C's posts are not that he claims "X has no inherent meaning, and therefore cannot be meaningfully discussed/used in the design/play of a game" (which, while I would disagree with in the cases of terms like immersion and railroading), but that he does so while drawing conclusions which rely upon both (1) the meanings being meaningless (if they are not, conclusions based on their being so are invalid), and (2) the meanings being meaningful (which they must be in order for conclusions about their meaning and interrelation to the game widgets to be valid).

      "Immersion is a lie. It does not exist. BUT I can tell you how it is affected by various game choices related to social interaction. See, although I do not accept any definition of what immersion is, I can tell you without a doubt that my new version of TalkingClix will not reduce it. Actually, as I already described, role-playing scenes reduce immersion in role-playing games. You are not really talking to a goblin, you know. That is your DM. And you are not really your character. Similarly, the holodeck would be less immersive than rolling dice, because, you know, now you are really just trying to convince the computer. And, if you don't buy that argument, remember where we started.....immersion is a lie, and cannot be meaningfully discussed!"

      Absolute and utter bullshit.

    5. That dropped bit above should have read: (which, while I would disagree with in the cases of terms like immersion and railroading, is at least a reasonable opinion to hold)

  4. Give me dice and let me throw them. If I don't like you I'll throw them at you. I try to keep it simple.

    1. Hey, Tim. Would you care to expand on that? Are you saying you would prefer to roll to see if that goblin opens that door?

  5. This reminds me a bit of banter (online posting) I had recently over at necropraxis about the difference between fluff and crunch. To a few over there, the words have no meaning, whereas to me, I see a difference. English is a difficult language to convey subtle meanings in.

  6. Bullshit indeed. Not only is it a lot of BS, but it's PRETENTIOUS BS as well.

    1. I notice several times on -C's blog he suggests that people just don't understand what he is saying, and that he doesn't have time to answer the objections. He is using the same terminology he used when he accused me of the same, and then removed responses in his comments section to make it seem as though I agreed with him.

      Yet, at the same time, he said my restatement of his position was /extremely/ accurate when he commented here (

      The problem with attempting this happy horseshit of non-logical logic is that it attempts to rewrite the meaning of terms in order to "prove" a point that, to one familiar with decades of previous gaming discussions, or even, in some cases, recent discussions that -C actually links to as support for his position (while they say the opposite of what he claims they say) is diametrically opposed to the conclusion that actually follows from the premise, given reasonable understanding of the argument.

      Thing is, I could diagram out each of these arguments, about fiction-first or the "lie" of immersion, in exactly the same way that I did -C's attempt to prove that, really sir, the railroading he likes is NOT railroading.

      -C claims to be trained in classical debate. Well, there are classical debate techniques that are designed to get to the truth, and there are classical debate techniques designed to obfuscate the truth. Either -C was trained in the latter, or he is a poor student, or he had a poor teacher.

      Play whatever you want to play. Seriously. But these attempts to rub stink on old-school type games have to be opposed.

    2. -C: "Ignoring the use of the word 'immersion' (which remains totally undefined)"

      3. To engage wholly or deeply; absorb: scholars who immerse themselves in their subjects.

  7. This might help -C understand immersion as well: