A Modernist sensibility

27 11 2007

So Modernism, as we (I) think of Modernism, is not really something that meshes well with the idea of a documentary-style game. It covers a pretty broad swath of movements, most of which revolve around the ideas of bucking tradition and structure. Trying to embrace Jackson Pollock in the rules of this game would be.. well, it’d end up looking like the board after a long game of It’s Complicated. So I’d better pick and choose.

So the bit of Modernism I’m grabbing for this game– tentatively titled Retrospective— is from the very beginning of the movement, before it went into the hyper-real or lost its subtlety. Impressionism and Henri Bergson’s theory on Duration are the big influences here.

The theory with Impressionism is that people don’t see objects; they see light. Bergson believed that no two people could ever experience the same moment, and even in remembering something, you could never experience the same moment twice; it’s more complex than that, but you get the idea.

What this means for the game

Our most important experiences– the things which really shape us as human beings– are not marked with eidetic memory; no matter how keen our thought processes, when something changes who we are or the world around us, it is impossible for us to divorce our emotions from the events. Not that we should! Ignoring how the events make us feel is also changing the experience– basically, the point is this: four people, in the same small space, sharing the same pivotal experience, will in fact, experience it in four completely different ways. And that’s what this game is about.

In the beginning of the game, players decide what they will be reflecting on. This could be anything– they could be war buddies reminiscing about Viet Nam, or high school football players talking at their 10 year reunion, or a rock band on Behind the Music, whatever. The important thing is that what they’ll be discussing is an event, or series of events, which shaped who they are today. There is an outsider present; a Narrator– this is essentially half a GM, more of a facilitator than a storyteller. The Narrator is filming a documentary, or getting a story for the local paper, or is the child or grandchild or spouse of one of the players. The stories are being told to the Narrator, for his benefit.

There are two different kinds of scenes: interviews and flashbacks. In interviews, the Narrator asks questions of a player to set up the flashback; we’ll have rules for these questions once the game itself has rules. Interviews are clever ways to give cues to the other players, about who will be in the flashback scene, what the flashback means to the interviewee, etc.

Once in that player’s flashback scene, the other players must play their characters as explained by the interviewee; motivations and personalities and actions mirror what the interviewee remembers, and not what the players have decided their characters truly are. At the end of a flashback, another character interrupts; “Wait, you got that wrong.” or “You missed something.” Or “Here’s what really happened.”

The Narrator interviews that character, and a new flashback starts.

Chat with Jonathan: psychological issues and destructive Dependencies

28 10 2007

Jonathan: so i like character creation
but it’s hard to see how it works yet
are you going to be putting stones back into the glass?
basic things like that would be helpful to know
i don’t quite get the symbolism yet
though i guess i could read your newest post…

me: Yes, but I’m not sure how that’s going to work yet– I think adding the stones back are going to be part of recovery
hahahaha, well, I didn’t address that in it; the new post is basically the products of brainstorming last night and me jotting down the mechanical issues I need to figure out
I should add that to the post, actually, about adding stones back

Jonathan: also, i think you make it too easy to return to recover after giving into your obsession
giving into self-destructive behaviors often makes it easier to continue to give into them
it’s not always just a one-time deal in the midst of positive movement

me: right

Jonathan: so i don’t know what kind of timeline you want attached to things like this

me: Well, that’s why you have to spend all of your Dependency Points resisting recovery before you can try to improve

Jonathan: it could be semi-random but in a highly “exploding way” right?
roll a die, if you get 4-6, reroll
with each die extending things by a day or whatever
wait, i thought dependencies did help recovery; so how does recovery actually happen, then?

me: right
Here’s what happens
When you’re fighting your Obsession, Dependencies help you do that.
Dependency Points are spent when your Dependencies fail you.
When you run out of Dependency Points, you give in to your Obsession. All of your Dependency Points, including your Obsession Point, go into the glass
Mechanically speaking, all of those points are now dedicated to your Obsession
You spend them resisting treatment and ruining the things which were important to you, because nothing matters to you but your Obsession

Jonathan: right

me: Once your points are spent– once you’ve fucked up everything– then you have a moment of realization and can get back to recovery

Jonathan: how do you decide when you want your Obsession and need to use Dependencies?

me: I haven’t gotten that far– or rather, I sort of have, but I’m not sure how to mechanize it

Jonathan: also, can you put your Dependency points in, say, coping strategies?
whether healthy or unhealthy ones?
because that could get really ugly and you wouldn’t even need to make them a secondary Obsession
if you had strategies like burning yourself

me: Right
I think part of the game is going to involve replacing destructive dependencies with healthy alternatives, but uh, I haven’t mechanized that either

Jonathan: there could be a trade off or something
i think you need a health stat
or more than one, maybe
and you can trade some destructive beahaviors for others, but that still slowly kills you
maybe more slowly than before, though
but if you can start getting dependencies that don’t cause you damage, but are still affective
that’s clearly a step in the right direction
but less self-destructive dependencies aren’t as effective
they don’t FEEL as good

me: Right, yes

Jonathan: so you need more of them or need to have lessened your Obsession in order to really make use of them

me: Right
I’m starting to think that there needs to be more than one Obsession Point in the beginning

Jonathan: well, you need a way of tracking progress

me: So that you can lessen the hold the Obsession has

Jonathan: i was thinking, originally, that the cup represented how much you could be Obsessed without totally dying or flipping out or whatever
and you’d fill it with stones until it overflowed, at which point you were lost
but i guess that’s not what you intended

me: Ah, no, not really
It’s about the void that needs to be filled

Jonathan: ah, okay

me: And if you’re not allowing yourself to need your Obsession, you need SOMEthing
If it’s empty, the emptiness eats you alive

Jonathan: seems like you need to figure out the other end, not how people are saved, but how people are lost
you could model it, i guess, by having people put all their dependencies in really unhelthy things
and say, like, if you have Burning Myself 10, you end up in the hospital or something

me: Right

Jonathan: seems like the game is about hope, though
so maybe you don’t want to have absolute rules for destruction

me: right

Jonathan: but players can choose to stop playing if they grow tired of it, and narrate some kinda endgame for their character

me: But part of what I want is to show the realization that.. I mean, on the surface, it looks like the Dependency failure mechanism makes a character’s recidivism everyone/thing else’s fault, and not the character’s
Because the things the character trusted failed them
But there needs to be something to show the evolution that it’s not about the rest of the world failing the addict, it’s about the addict’s unrealistic expectations of the world

Jonathan: hmm, that sounds like a bone that’s especially important for you to pick

me: Part of the reason addicts blame the world initially is because it’s easier than blaming themselves; but once you realize the blame is on your shoulders, that can be overwhelming too
So then it becomes a struggle between giving in to destructive behavior or altering your expectations

Jonathan: right
that’ll be interesting to model