[MUD-Dev] (fwd) Re: Avatarism and Role-Playing Game Design

claw at kanga.nu claw at kanga.nu
Sat Jan 22 10:52:54 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000


-- forwarded message --
From: "Ian Millington" <ian at agon.com>
Newsgroups: rec.games.design
Subject: Re: Avatarism and Role-Playing Game Design
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 00:41:42 -0000

Simon,

> I realy don't follow your logic here. It is entirely possible for all
> the players in an RPG to enjoy avatarism within the same game. This
> is a 'win' for everyone.

I think you are confusing avatarism and role-playing. My mistake,
undoubtedly.

Role-playing is the taking on and playing out of a role. A player who is
only interested in role-playing (an extreme for illustration) will not care
if their character succeeds or fails, they are interested in role-playing.
This doesn't mean social, verbal, or any other specific set of actions, a
role-player likes playing the role: deciding what the character would do and
trying to do it. The action fails, the enjoyment stays the same because the
enjoyment came of generating the intent.

Avatarism is the assumption of a role as the extension of the player. A
player who is only interested in this (another extreme) will not care about
the character's intents and desires - they are an extension of the player. A
character suceeds then the player suceeds; fails and the player fails. The
actions of the character are the actions that the player would like to carry
out in the world. The thrill comes from being more or differently able than
the player and hence able to do more or different things in that world.

No real player inhabits either extreme, of course.

> Are you saying that people enjoy
> roleplaying games regardless of whether their characters are successful
> in their goals within the game world?
Yes, very much so. I am one of those players, a long way from
avatarism-motivated (although not entirely removed from it and still able to
gain ejoyment from it). If one of my characters fails, this is not a bad
thing - in fact often it gives more opportunity for interesting
role-playing; considering their reactions. It is no wonder that most novels
with literary and human merit (and that excludes 99% of genre writing) are
about the problems of people that aren't solved by their own skills. People
succeeding are less psychologically interesting that people failing.

> This is muddled thinking.
:-)

> Players
> do get enjoyment from their characters succeeding in the game world
> and all the players in the game can achieve this - surely a win for
> everyone again.
No, only if the game is the worst sort of trivial boredom. Some characters
have to fail, if they didn't they wouldn't have the chance of failing, thus
no tension in the game and in fact no game. When a character fails the true
avatarist fails and looses. Most people have at least a grain of
role-playing passion, so they might still enjoy the failure. Folks who are
stongly avataristic will enjoy a failure very much less than a success,
folks who are weakly avataristic will enjoy it only a little less than a
success. My essay implies that folks belonging to the first category are
deluded and would be better off leaving the hobby. This, of course, is pure
hyperbole.

> This is true, but not important. [snip] In computer
> games players (or rather avatars I suppose) fail often, but the
> player can reload the game. In deathmatch games failiure=death of
> the avatar, yet players do enjoy such games even if they lose
> more often than they win.
There were two distinct arguments in my essay, one following from the other.
I think you are confusing the two here. You first sentence indicates that
you think the second argument is irrelevant. Compared to the first I agree,
but that doesn't make it invalid.

Let me clarify with summaries:

Argument one: role-playing contains avatarism, computer games even more so.
The vast majority of role-players were primarily interested in avatarism, so
they left role-playing for computer games. Those who remain are less
avataristic. Therefore role-playing should facilitate lower avatarism too.
It hasn't moved in this way.

Argument two: when ever you have avatarism then players can loose. This is
definitely true of computer games but has been denied in role-playing games.
As long as role-playing games are designed to promote avatarism (as almost a
ll current games are by virtue of their paradigm) they allow players to
loose. I make no comment on whether this is a good or bad thing, only that
it is true and that RPGs have gone out of their way to deny it.

> Thus enjoying avaratism does not
> mean that the avatar absolutely must succeed.
No, you are exactly right. In fact, as you point out the opposite is true.
To really enjoy avatarism you need to have at least the possibility of
failure. Playing any computer game in God-mode from the start is less
fulfilling that playing a RPG knowing that your character will always
succeed. Why? Because avatarism is stronger in computer games.

Hope this clarifies things a little.

Ian.

-- end of forwarded message --


--
J C Lawrence                                 Home: claw at kanga.nu
----------(*)                              Other: coder at kanga.nu
--=| A man is as sane as he is dangerous to his environment |=--


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