Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Three Insights

Back in December, Vincent Baker wrote a post on his blog, claiming that every RPG says three things simultaneously:

First, you're saying something about the subject matter or genre of your game: something you think about adventure fiction, or swords & sorcery, or transhumanist sf, or whatever. Second, you're saying something about roleplaying as a practice, taking a position on how real people should collaborate under these circumstances. Third, you're sying something about real live human nature.

What does The Fifth World say?

Subject matter: Ecotopian fiction seems like so neglected a genre that simply defending its viability as a genre seems like a statement worth making. If I consider my genre science fiction more generally—and I suppose that I could—my assertion here would largely agree with what Kim Stanley Robinson wrote in the introduction of Future Primitive, or the kind of science fiction that Ursula LeGuin has written, or what Michael Green said of Afterculture; namely, that we desperately need a hopeful vision of a viable future.

Roleplaying as a practice: I have said a good bit on this blog about storyjamming. Storyjamming emphasizes that jamming element, a continuous, fluid exchange of story. You need just enough rules to weave everyone's contributions into a seamless whole, but not so much that they start to call attention to themselves. The rules in an RPG need to knock you out of your head and interrupt your story, so that you can participate in the moment and help us track down our story, together. They also need to stay simple and elegant, but fit together to create emergent experiences. What people take away from your game will come from whatever emerges from that—whether you planned it or not.

Real live human nature: A healthy life as a human requires a strong sense of place. That doesn't need to mean we never leave; it just means we eventually come home. We have obligations to the places that give us life, and when we neglect those obligations, the land starts to die, and we start to die with it. But we also make the world a better, more beautiful place—if we can balance our ambitions and our obligations.

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