Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fluency Play

Joel Shempert has given Willem Larsen's "Pedagogy of Play" (Parts 2, 3 & 4) a new name: "Fluency Play." I rather like it. He's posted about it both in a thread on Story Games, and in a blog post. He provides a nice summary of what it means, too: "...basically instead of trying to assimilate an entire body of RPG procedures and put them into action from the get-go, you start at the most basic level and work your way up. The aim is to have a game experience with maximum creative flow, where the shared dreamspace is as unbroken as possible. So you only play at the level you're fluent at."

I've posted a good bit about "fluency play" here before, under the old, alliterative name. I like this term, and it does my heart good to see people responding to it, at last. In the thread, In the thread, Hans Otterson noted that it seemed like a way of hacking existing games. I can certainly understand that view. After all, games up until now have generally expected you to learn all the rules at once, sit down, and start playing. If fluency play can happen, it must then happen by hacking existing games to suit it—as Willem & I experimented with Polaris, or as I & Sean Nittner experimented with Mouse Guard. That said, I took Willem's description as a call to designers to design this into their games from the start. The version of The Fifth World that I'll soon start playtesting will have this. Reading the rules will form part of the game itself, and that will add rules, bit by bit. I look forward to playing other games that take this approach, too.


Alan Post said...

When I've read material that teaches in this way, the one frustration I've found is that the book, afterwards, makes a poor reference.

I've been frustrated, after assimilating the material, trying to find one piece of information that is often as not buried in a story--and the book is organized in learning order rather than subject order.

Your thoughts on this?

Jason Godesky said...

I know what you mean, but these games usually expect you to play in two different ways: one way while learning, and another one when you have mastery. One of the key insights here tells us that even when you have masterful fluency, you don't get rid of the levels you built on. To use WAYK's "Travels with Charlie" example, Charlie Rose doesn't replace Barney's level of fluency, he expands upon it.

So, for instance, in the Fifth World, you read a poem. The poem prompts you, at certain points, to play out freeplay scenes, and later to introduce other rules. Even if you've played a hundred times, you still play by reading the poem.

You need a reference work if you have to jump in to a particular level of complexity. If you scale up to it, you don't.