“Turtle” is a Verb

06Feb06

Over in The Kat Box, my wife makes a good point: Identifying and labeling patterns of behavior is useful in understanding how they work, why they happen, and how to change them. Labelling people is the first step on the road to dehumanizing them, turning them into “The Other,” a thing, a non-person. We’ve got to be careful about this.

Maybe I’m just a little touchy about this area, being guilty of treating a player at my table like an outsider lately, in a Dreamation WGP… game. Players may turtle for many reasons. It doesn’t make them “a turtle,” just a player with a problem.

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34 Responses to ““Turtle” is a Verb”

  1. The cynic (which I’m frequently accused of manifesting regularly) might suggest that until you can effectively observe, label, and, yes, dehumanize other people, you have no chance of creating some more-than-individual means of directing or guiding their behaviour.
    So, yes, if your highest aspiration is to be a social worker and deal with people one at a time and never attempt to go further, you can totally avoid labelling people. If you want to affect more than one person, if you want to engage with a broader class of related types, then you must abandon the obsession with the individual-only and dehumanize the targets and deal with them as concepts, not people. That is true as much of the social advocate and activist as it is game designers and engineers. You cannot simultaneously hold the individual to the highest and attempt to solve problems for more than them.
    (Yes, its Zamiel from the Forge fora … and yes, I do tend to be as oddly surrealistic here as there. :))

    • Good to see you here, Zamiel!
      It’s a fine hair to split, but an important one. I think labelling patterns of behavior accomplishes all the ends that you point out in your post more effectively than labelling the person themselves.
      Let’s say that I’m writing a part of a game text that deals with problems at the table. I could write it as “What to do if there’s a Turtle at your table,” (labeling person) or I could write it as “What to do if a player Turtles” (labeling pattern).
      In the former case, I’m leading my readers to categorize their friends, to put them in little mental boxes. Which is dangerous because it implies a lack of ability to change: “Gretchen’s a Turtle, so I won’t waste this great story idea on her. She won’t even do anything with it.”
      In the latter case, I’m leading my readers to recognize the symptoms of a particular set of behaviors that saps gameplay. This is useful because anyone might display these behaviors at any time. Which also implies that anyone might stop displaying these behaviors at any time: “Gretchen turtles a lot. But she really likes Battlestar Galactica, so maybe if I borrow some ideas from there, she’ll engage in the game.”
      Since behaviors are transitory phenomena, their presence or absence can also help diagnose deep-seated problems in the game: “Everybody’s turtling! What’s wrong?”
      The cool thing about recognizing and labelling behaviors is that once you get in the habit of doing it, you can even catch yourself in the act. And that leads to self-reflection, one of the paths to Wisdom, IMO. “Why am I turtling?”
      For an example of addressing player behaviors as behaviors, see my Manifesto on Mastery.

      • I’m not sure you can really avoid labelling the person as you identify the pattern of behaviour. In fact, the very process of identification is, ultimately, finding an appropriate set of labels that adequately describe an entity’s behaviour sufficiently you feel comfortable predicting their future actions and reactions. You just can’t do that without ascribing them identifiers, not just their behaviours.
        Without the ability to ascribe these traits with a comfortable memetic shorthand, you’re not communicating.
        In that sense, saying “If you have a Turtler at your table” is more accurate and honest that saying, “if someone at your table is Turtling.” After all, the whole point of the ensuing discussion is to change the evidenced behaviour, to change them from a Turtler to a Whatever. In a sense, the ability to change, not the inability, is created by the denotation. Unless you’re implying that by looking outside my window and saying, “Huh, its night” damns us to eternal darkness.
        I’ve never had any problem Nouning verbs, though, because first and foremost, I try to communicate the idea without worrying overmuch about implications. Implications shake out in the discussion around a term. Poorly chosen terms can impede communication, but all you need is “sufficient” nomenclature to get the idea over. Then you have to sell it.
        Which really is running fifteen times around the tree to say, “Naming behaviours’ll be naming people, anyway. So use it both ways, because your readers sure will.”
        (Incidently, reading the originating thread, I think the real reason you had a player get angry and try to stomp away was two-fold:
        Firstly, he was told by other players at the table “you’ve got to lose so we can win!” which begs the question of why they thought their conception of his character was somehow less important than his own, and,Secondly, because he sat down at the table to play what billed itself as a superhero comic where he got to play the hero, you let him play a two-fisted pres right out of ID4, and then told him he’d have to be heroic just in the way you decided up front to let everyone else have a good time.
        Me, I’d have been a little miffed, too. But I’d have said so before I tried to stomp away. Though probably with some biting cynicism; I have a reputation to maintain, after all.
        But you worked most of that into the thread long before the end, thank Hades. I wasn’t sure how much more Forge-speak I could stand. πŸ™‚

        • naming
          DARN! This is just the kind of discussion I was hoping to have over here in my blog, but I can follow.
          Zamiel said:
          Which really is running fifteen times around the tree to say, “Naming behaviours’ll be naming people, anyway. So use it both ways, because your readers sure will.”
          This statement makes many assumptions.
          1) That Naming behaviors and naming people are the same thing.
          2) That its ok to use both interechangabl.
          3) That readers won’t understand the difference
          4) That you should write down to your readers because they won’t understand you.
          Wow.
          I’m not so worried about my readers. People miss things, some are lazy thinkers (yes, this is me labeling people πŸ˜‰ )
          On the level of Gamers who want to design better games and Gamers who want to play better games- these are my target readers so I want to make no assumptions about their ability to understand nor do I want to write or talk down to them by assuming that they won’t be able to tell the difference between labeling a behavior and labeling a person.
          I have already walked away from the land of “role-player” vs. “Roll player” because out in the wilderness the mad hermit on the mountain built a forge and he hammered into me that there is no “roll player/ role player” dichotomy. There is only this. people gathering together to play a game to have fun.
          and then he broke the “fun” down into several different expectations. Different people get their fun from different activities that happen when we game. So there is no “us” and “them” just different expectations of what “fun” is.
          The people labeling back then kept me blind to the fact that there were different types of fun to be had in a game and that what I was expecting and what Mike might be expecting were different things. I like Immersive Play, Mike likes Narrative Play. Knowing this we can choose games that focus on Narrative play while offering Immersion. And both “get our cookie” so to speak, from the same play experience.
          Not only that but now I can sit down to play a good game of DND and “get my game on” without feeling superiour or out of place. I know what to expect from the game, I know what is expected of me and I can have fun without wondering if I’m going to get my preferred brand of fun tonight. Im getting a different kind of fun tonight. Its all good.
          If I was like the many who haven’t yet read or understood Ron Edwards Essay on System Matters then I’d still be a tortured elitist because I can’t seem to get a reliable source of fun out of my game nights, sometimes its good and sometimes its not. (frickin “roll” players)
          To these designers and gamers who quest for better fun I think its important while we are naming new ground NOT to name people again.
          Turtling has become a great label, but when I stop seeing it as a behavior and start seeing it as a type of person, I lose the ability to do anything about it.
          There has been a lot of anti-turtle sentiment around the forge and its dispora lately. calling someone a turtle is a way of removing them from the collective “us” so that they are outsiders, and so that we are better.
          It might be human nature to do that. Doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t help us understand games better or design better games to play.
          Looking at turtling as a behavior instead of a way of labeling people gives us an opportunity to analyse the behavior-
          When I turtle, what’s going on both in the gameworld and at the game table? Is there a trigger for the behavior? Is there a specific set of things going on in the game? Is it a design issue or a social issue? If its a social issue then what can be done to reduce the urge to turtle in people? Granting that there will always be someone whose preferred method of play is to turtle and nothing is going change his behavior, because his turtling comes from issues outside the game table, what can we do to reduce the turtling of the rest of the group? Wat can we do to further understand turtling so that the one guy who will always turtle gets his fun and I get my fun too?
          We can’t do this if everyone who turtles is a turtle.
          -kat

          • Re: naming
            I don’t think it’s realistic, though, to say that no one who turtles is a turtle. There’s deliberate, intentional strategies of play, there’s habit, and there’s pathology – the player who turtles not because it’s fun, not because it’s successful, but because they do not know any other way to play. Many of these same players will vehemently deny that there is or can be any other way to play.
            I think it’s reasonable to say that someone whose whole conception of “how it is done” is built around a single tactic – be it turtling, immersion, director-stance, or what-have-you – can legitimately be nouned. Is it a good idea to do so? Maybe not – I think that in general identity politics are destructive to dialogue. But they can be positive in some respects. If that person genuinely has no interest or ability to play any other way, and the way they are playing is fun and functional for them, let them have their Turtle Pride (or their Immersive Pride, or their Macho Nar Yanger Pride…) and be on their way.
            Where the de-nouning is important is for people who want to do what Kat talks about – move between different play environments where being an X-ist may or may not be fun and functional. I think that’s where a lot of the perceived anti-whatever bias that the Forge gets tarred with (not to say there isn’t some genuine bias – just that there’s not as much as is claimed) comes from. Forgies are interested in a particular kind of play (intentional, play-on-purpose, mindful), and it’s one that doesn’t coexist happily with some technical preferences – reactive play, turtle-y play, some varieties of immersive play.

            • Re: naming
              Hi Mark!
              Tigerbunny said:
              I don’t think it’s realistic, though, to say that no one who turtles is a turtle. There’s deliberate, intentional strategies of play, there’s habit, and there’s pathology – the player who turtles not because it’s fun, not because it’s successful, but because they do not know any other way to play. Many of these same players will vehemently deny that there is or can be any other way to play.
              Over on my Blog I tried to get across that there is a difference between a player who turtles because he has issues. This doesn’t make the player a turtle. You assume many things about a hypothetical person. There is generalizing going on here. There is assumptions about the quality of the hypothetical “turtle’s” fun.
              The “not because it’s fun, not because it’s successful, but because they do not know any other way to play” part if just loaded with assumptions.
              Here is the important difference between labeling a behavior and labeling a person. When you call a person a turtle its a dismissive act. there is nothing that can be done here. I am helpless against this guy, he’s a turtle. There is nothing I can do. If I want better play I can either play without Mr. turtle or force him to play my way. I have been reading posts on the forge supporting this as an answer to turtling.
              But, what happens when we can examine the behavior a little more. Exactly whats going on when Mr. Turtle – turtles? Jared was accused of turtling in this Conspiracy of Shadows game. He objected to the accusation. He was having his kind of fun in the game. If you look at the thread both he and Lisa had fun in that game, both he and Lisa thought their mode of play as successful. Keith was unhappy. He thought there was turtling going on.
              I have had the pleasure of running for Jared last year at Dreamation. I have run for Lisa on a number of occasions. So we’re talking real people here. Niether of whom would I label, even if there were some persistant behaviors that cropped up in play. Why? because the moment I call them a turtle or a cockroach I am no longer obligated to understand the behavior.
              As it is Looking at MSM’s thread about the two fisted president and Keiths thread about the Conspiracy of shadows game I see a breakdown in the social order than has nothing to do with the design of thier games. BOTH GM’s caved to social pressures instead of running their games as written. Its kinda of funny side note that both these guys WROTE the games. Instead of trusting their designs X happened. X was not a fun experience for them. They felt let down.
              This is what I’d like to explore. What are these social pressures? Are there cues, triggers that are going on that we are bending to and assuming it is all the “turtle” player?
              There is stuff happening on an invisable social level- what is it? Is it in my power to take control of?
              How about exporing why a person turtles? Are their trust issues? Is there something that the GM is doing that is yet unidentified? Is it because the player feels that his contributions will be meaningless? Or a fear of failure? Is it merely a matter of taste?
              Knowing more about why a person turtles could we then as gamers prepare a better table:
              John’s going to play with us. He tends to turtle a lot. I want dynamic play but that will make him uncomfortable, so maybe I could make a good supportive subploty stuff for him so he can be part of the dynamic play without being in the center of it.
              Is there a way of working around turtle behavior without forcing the player who turtles into positions where one of us is going to be unhappy.
              I think the labeling has led to too many assumptions and lazy thinking, which is fine among gamers who aren’t trying to improve anything but deadly for designers and Gamers who quest for better gaming experience.
              -kat

              • Re: naming
                Kat, I’m not disagreeing with your thesis. I don’t think it’s wise for anybody other than the person who’s doing the behavior to call it an identity. Cockroach, in particular, strikes me as a term very few people would appropriate to describe their own play.
                What I’m getting at is that the “nobody who turtles is a turtle” position isn’t tenable either. Some people don’t want to stop turtling. They want turtling to be fun. (Sometimes, they don’t really even want it to be fun. They want to participate in the game for some reason that hasn’t got anything to do with the fiction, and turtling is a strategy to make sure the fiction doesn’t interfere with whatever their primary agenda is.
                And yes, this is from actual play experience. The most stubborn turtler I’ve ever played with cheerfully admitted that the strategy was about making sure her character didn’t get caught up in anything too dangerous or demanding, because the fun of play for her was in the social byplay and witty conversation around the table. She’d come out of her shell just far enough to prevent the game from grinding to a halt, but no further.
                If the behavior – and the accomodations it requires from other players – don’t interfere with everyone getting their needs met: Yay. If the behavior increases the possiblity of everybody-gets-what-they-want: Double Yay. If the behavior is an acknowledged, conscious preference, that can be worked with and compromised around: Oof. More work, but Yay. If the behavior is an immovable object that can’t be discussed, routed around, accommodated, whatever – if it’s just “the way it is” for that particular person…
                Well, yay for them. But definitely not yay for the group as a whole. I’m not a big believer in the efficacy of trying to accomodate unexamined, reflexive preferences. In my experience, that only leads to continued friction.
                The breakdowns in the games you reference? They happened. Feelings were hurt, fun was reduced. Could that problem have been avoided? Maybe. Maybe not. What struck me most about it was that everybody who’s talked about it post facto has been able to say “Oops. My bad. I can see that now that you talk about it.” That’s the key thing.

                • Re: naming
                  Hi Mark.
                  I get what your saying. There will always be players who are happy gaming in turtle mode. It is thier play style of choice. Your saying we should cal such players “turtles” or alteast there is no harm in labeling players who will always turtle as a turtle.
                  I understand and disagree.
                  There is harm in labeling such people as turtles.
                  I don’t think the people themselves are harmed, but rather, we the labelers are harmed.
                  Lets talk about your “turtle.”
                  There is a female player in your group. She does not share your idea of fun. She turtles because that’s turtling enables her kind of fun. She has identified where her fun lies, and it sounds like she’s good at getting it.
                  Calling her a “turtle” doesn’t really affect her it does effect you and how you see and deal with the turtling behavior.
                  In your above post you said that such turtles do it “not because its fun and not because its successfull-” and this I disagree with.
                  Your turtler is having fun and she’s successful at it. Its just not your brand of fun. It may block other kinds of fun-but thats not really her problem. She just want to ensure she gets her fun.
                  There is a defined pathology about “turtles” but your turtle, Keith’s turtle, Mike’s Turtle, and even my own “turtles” do not follow the above defined pathology. They are having fun. They are successful at it.
                  See the harm yet? The harm is being done to you, causing you to judge people as turtles and then judge their fun as unsuccessful and unfun. That is harm.
                  Some AP of my own: I used to game with this guy who always turtles in a game. He creates anti-social powerful PCs that ensure his ability to disrupt story forcing all the other players to convince his character to do obvious things because his fun is in manipulating people (not characters, or stories US the people at the table-we are foder for his fun) The last time I played with him was the day I heard him bragging about how he loves to GM because he gets to mess with the heads of the Players. Things suddenly clicked for me.
                  This guy will always turtle in a game, and I do have a label for him, only its a different animal name (hee-haw!). He is NOT a turtle, despite the fact that in a game he will always turtle. Also he IS getting his fun and he IS successful at it.
                  It would be easy to label this guy a turtle but then I am in danger of associating other players who turtle with this guy. That would be bad. That’s where the harm lies.
                  I am not trying to say that there aren’t people who will always choose to turtle. I just don’t think its unrealistic to label a behavior rather than a person even if that person is consistant in displaying said behavior.

                • Re: naming
                  I think we’re still crossing up about something – I was unclear in my original comment. The people who are doing X “not because it’s fun, and not because it’s successful” are not the same people you or I are talking about as “successful turtlers”. There’s several possible interactions any particular behavior can have, on at least 2 axes.
                  Axis 1: Does the behavior produce fun (for whatever value of fun the player holds to)? Let’s call behaviors which produce fun/rewards Positive, behaviors which do not effect fun Neutral, and behaviors which reduce fun Negative.
                  Axis 2: Is the behavior chosen, habitual, or compulsory?
                  A compulsory behavior is one that the person can’t (emotionally, psychologically, whatever) choose to stop doing without completely breaking their ability to participate in the game. This behavior is an absolute requirement.
                  A habitual behavior is one which is a default, often an unexamined one, but is possible to moderate or suspend with effort and attention.
                  A chosen behavior is one which is deliberately employed as a tool or preference, chosen out of a range of possible behaviors.
                  When you cross these two axes, you get several possible kinds of play.
                  Split for longwinditude

                • Re: naming
                  Continued from above due to longwinditude
                  Chosen Positive: Play On Purpose, the group has a robust social contract and everybody is choosing behaviors to maximize their fun. Because the behaviors are chosen, they can easily be adjusted and renegotiated to manage conflict.
                  Habitual Positive: Typical functional play. The group has good behavioral tools for getting good results. When these behaviors conflict, they can be examined, adjusted, and re-routed if necessary. Since the behaviors are habitual, it may require more social and System work to identify and repair clashes than in Play On Purpose.
                  Compulsory Positive: Fragile functional play. The group has tools that work, but no way to adjust in the event of conflict. Conflicts typically result in winner/loser situations, where the less dominant player must sacrifice their fun to the group’s needs. At best, there is a sort of serial reward cycle – the “20 minutes in four hours” formula, where player’s needs are only met intermittently.
                  Neutral: Neutral behaviors are pretty much equivalent, regardless of whether they’re Chosen, Habitual, or Compulsory. They don’t interfere with OR increase fun, so there’s relatively little effect. There may be some “mindspace” limitations or some interaction problems, where a neutral behavior becomes non-neutral because of how it clashes or synergizes with another behavior. I’d say that Margaret – my “social-agenda defense turtling” player – fell into the Chosen Neutral category – we were quite able to work around her turtle preferences once we understood them, so they didn’t disrupt fun for the group, but they didn’t add to it either. They only added to HER fun.
                  Negative Chosen: This is the classic “jerk player” territory. I know what I’m doing is destructive, and either I just don’t care or I like it that way. Your “manipulative turtling” player probably falls into this corner.
                  Negative Habitual: This is the “fixable problem group” who can route around or adjust the problem behavior. The guy who chats right through other people’s scenes – but will quit when he’s reminded of it. The quiet, disengaged player who will come out of his shell given sufficient safety and encouragement.
                  Negative Compulsory: This is the “not having fun and doesn’t want to” person I mentioned in my original post. Their behavior cannot become functional within the group unless all the burden of accomodation falls on others. If they are required to change the behavior, they cannot have fun anyhow. This player is best advised to not play with groups that can’t accomodate their compulsory behavior.
                  It’s not even that the behavior itself can’t be fun, in a group that supports it – it’s that it can’t be altered, and thus the rest of the group must bend to support it. It’s not that this person is somehow deranged. It’s that they absolutely require something that the group and system at hand is not going to provide. They want to be playing a game that is not actually on offer.
                  The classic Actual Play example of this guy is me. I totally burned out trying to sneak my Macho Nar Yanger fun into a “the game is a diversion while we socialize” group, and the game was no fun for me without it. I’m pathological. I have the brain damage.

          • Re: naming
            Gwah! Its the early 1990’s, and I’ve fallen into rec.games.frp.advocacy, again! [frantic clawing at the eyes]Well, OK, maybe not that bad, but the moments seem to follow me around.Suggesting that reading Essay on System Matters turned you from the course of tortured elitism is really kind of funny, because the tormented elitism of being wrapped up in putting everything and everyone into the GNS architecture, and in doing so pretty much broke loose from the idea that “fun” was really why folks play and focused on deconstructing their reasons and motivations.The implication that folks weren’t having fun before Ron Edwards descended on a white cloud to give wisdom to the masses was what gave a number of us at the time a certain degree of indigestion, and still does.That kind of implicit elitism, the implicit privilege of one set of names over the next has been endemic to the community and diaspora therefrom, which is why about all I can stand to read on the Forge is the Capes and With Great Power fora, and the former more pleasantly than the latter because it seems to avoid getting obsessed on terms like “SIS” and such.There were Terms of Art in place before Edwards started his pre-Forge scribbling, and they were useful and still are. Most of them weren’t capitalized and were focused on identifying and defining play-methods that were inhibitory, like munchkinism, or iconifying character expression channels that have various resonances, like “the brick.” People were getting reliable fun out of their games even in the old, dark, days of 1992. I remember, I was there, I seen it with my own eyeses! It happened! What Edwards documented was just another set of descriptive terms which facilitated talking about things in gaming from another angle, and just as frequently and often did and do get bogged down in forgetting utterly what the “fun” is.But I digress …In this case, I don’t think Nouning / Verbing your terms, be it Turtling or Engaging, is going to make one bit of difference to the audience of gamers. Its not talking down to your audience to actually use constructs as they do, and will. Its like getting hung up on British-u’s in a text about Canadian military history — it just doesn’t matter to the broader text.I’m vaguely disturbed by the phrase “quest for better fun.” Who defines the quality of my fun? Who has the power and the right to define my fun as “lesser” and his fun as “greater?” If we’re talking about dangerous elitism, that’s the strain that ran so deep, and so virulently from the Forge from Day One that I simply couldn’t hang around in that vein, and certainly not in the ongoing discussion.I never had a problem analyzing people as well as behaviours. I don’t see it as particularly dehumanizing in a negative way, so it likewise doesn’t get in the way of my analysis. From what I can tell, the Forge focus on Turtling is pretty much proceeding like I’ve seen previous discussions, focusing on defining a sneerable Other so that they have someone to spend a few months saying “This game isn’t for Turtlers!” or “No one can Turtle in this game!” It presupposes the Turtler’s fun is not being had, or is less worthy.Calling a Turtler a Turtle doesn’t keep anyone from asking what things are evidenced by seeing one, and not calling a Turtler a Turtle doesn’t keep the labeling from being pernicious if the intent is.

        • Not enough of a masochist to bite my tongue
          Hi, Zamiel.
          As a player in that WGP… game, I disagree vehemently with your characterisation. That Forge thread was entirely misrepresentative of what actually happened at the table, due in large part to my over-eagerness to own up to bullying Jon. To wit:

          Firstly, he was told by other players at the table “you’ve got to lose so we can win!” which begs the question of why they thought their conception of his character was somehow less important than his own, and,

          That would make sense if that was what happened. It did not. He got up first. I’m enough of a masochist to have decided that I was partly complicit in ‘forcing’ him to that, but the reality is that Michael had it right first time: Jon got up, saying that the conflict was ‘pointless’, threw down his cards and made to walk away. Luke and I bullied him into yielding before he ran from the resolution, which he promptly did.

          Secondly, because he sat down at the table to play what billed itself as a superhero comic where he got to play the hero, you let him play a two-fisted pres right out of ID4, and then told him he’d have to be heroic just in the way you decided up front to let everyone else have a good time.

          Nope. Given the array of characters (including a bona fide super), Jon picked first, and he picked the President.
          Sadly, I find I am frequently not a very nice person, and the end of this game was a case in point, but not in the way you are suggesting. There was something interesting to look at and discuss before we got to the bullying, but we did not get much of an opportunity to do so, alas, at the Forge.

          • Re: Not enough of a masochist to bite my tongue
            I know I’m responcible for some of the reactivity of that thread. I was unclear when I said “never bully a player” I really was just talking to Mike.
            No matter how “enthusiastic” you and Luke can be I know it wasn’t “yeild now or we’ll beat you up!!”
            I can’t justify walking awy from an end of a game, but I have walked away from a begining- “Stargate” at Dex Con 05. The Gm took a full hour to go over back story and characters and kept digressing to the tv show but was impatient about questions of the game itself. (which I never played. And she had cooler than us NPCs. I was like –
            “I got a head ache. You can play with five right?” And I was out of there.
            Leaving at the end of a game seems wrong somehow.
            -kat

          • Re: Not enough of a masochist to bite my tongue

            That would make sense if that was what happened. It did not. He got up first. I’m enough of a masochist to have decided that I was partly complicit in ‘forcing’ him to that, but the reality is that Michael had it right first time: Jon got up, saying that the conflict was ‘pointless’, threw down his cards and made to walk away. Luke and I bullied him into yielding before he ran from the resolution, which he promptly did.

            I’m willing to bet that John came to the realization of what’d have to happen so other folks could “win” before you got to him at the table. One of WGP‘s strengths is that the formula it generates is fairly transparent on the inbound side well before you get there. If you’ve got a hand full of gold, and there’s still a spot open on the Story Arc, and no one else is getting stuff resolved or otherwise involved, you know coming down the pike you’ll have to throw it. And that’s a truly suck feeling, very much a case of “But … I’ve got it right here!” I can totally see that feeling “pointless.”

            Nope. Given the array of characters (including a bona fide super), Jon picked first, and he picked the President.

            Maybe you don’t think being the President is superheroic, but not everyone’s on that page, bucko. πŸ˜› At least in the context of the story you were weaving, the President’s ability to choose the various fates and resources along the way put him into the same class as the rest of the folks involved. But then what contrasting power he had was neutered at the end, as he watched his two-fisted ID4 President have to nuke the US instead of doing what’d be right for the character, nuke the alien ship and pull it out of the fire at the end. That’s the archetype I’m betting he had in mind, the Snake Pliskin/hero of the moment kind of guy who sticks it to the bad guys knowing it could get bad, then makes it work anyway. I’d be willing to bet decent money that’s what he was looking forward to doing.WGP is really not very forgiving if your conception pushes against the edge of the melodramatic formula, especially in the endgame, which becomes fairly rigidly choreographed based on turn-order in those last few pages.Me, I know I’m not a nice person, but I’m generally pretty good about warning folks about that up front and then watching their looks of dawning horror as realization sets in. We all need our jollies somewhere.

  2. Re: naming
    I think the Forge bias is more against reactive, turtley, and unexamined play than against immersive play. The times where it turns against immersive play are mostly when immersion is (falsely) conflated with those types of play. Then, rather than tearing down that assumption, it gets accepted and turned against immersion general.
    Which, of course, gets back to the whole problem of labels. Who labels who as an immersionist? If you consider yourself an immersionist, and the Turku school says you aren’t, who is right? If you say that you are an immersionist, do people have a right to assume you are into the Turku school? If you say your a Forgite, to people have the right to think you worship Ron Edwards?
    The thing I’d add to the specific discussion of typal words is that there are some words which we often object to applying as a label to an individual, and others that we don’t. The stance around the split is insteresting, and often based on our willingness to judge at a personal level — with a pretty strong split between positive and negative judgement.
    As Kat pointed out (RIGHTLY!) no one wants to be a cockroach. The moment you make a term so painfully pajoritive and judgemental you are ensuring that little good will ever come out of labeling a person in that way. Even labeling their behavior becomes problematic, but that can be done if you’re dealing with folks who can stand some nasty in their criticism. Similarly, we’re now having issues about calling people a “turtle” because it says something negative about them. Much as we’re now saying “positive turtling” that’s almost against the definition of the word, which was born out of identifying types of dysfunction. Being a turtle is being dysfunctional.
    OTOH, we don’t have a lot of problems applying positive labels to other gamers. Among a lot of RPers being called an immersionist is a compliment, and in those contexts people compete to earn that label. Do we get squicked when we call Ron a narativist? Despite the fact that narrativism is an agenda applied to a game, rather than a state of being? Do you ever hesitate to apply the labels “good gamer” or “proactive” to a person?
    Why is it that we have no problem labeling people by behaviors when the behaviors are seen as positive, but do have a problem doing the same when the behaviors are seen as negative?
    Part of the answer to that is that there is a split between discussing theory and types, and discussing practical application as applied to real people that you actually know. When you’re on the Forge talking about “damn turtles” you can apply a label because it becomes an easy way to talk about a pathology. But when you’re talking about an individual friend, labeling can become reductive because it reduces the person to a set of genre assumptions rather than dealing with the individual set of circumstances that make up the fullness of their behavior.
    That’s a pretty good reason. But it isn’t the only one, is it?
    Also, a note on a pet peeve: Identity Politics talks about all the ways that we construct identity. Group identification is one way, but is not itself indentity politics. Not grouping is just as much an indentity politic as grouping, being flexible about your identity is just as much identity politic as being inflexible, and so statements like “identity politics are destructive to dialogue” pretty much sound meaningless to me.
    But that’s just a minor peve thing, considering I actually studied identity politics in school and got all indoctrinated. (For a real fun time, ask me about my pet peves about the word “rhetoric.”)

    • Re: naming
      I think there is a big difference between self identification and labeling. Its ok for me to identify myself as a turtle. Maybe I’ve tried other modes of play and just didn’t like it, maybe I’m all about the socializing at the table because I think you guys are cool and could care less about the activity. Maybe I just like turtles. It doesn’t matter, if I’ve self-identified as a turtle then its self expression. A good thing.
      If Someone else calls me a turtle because he doesn’t like the way I play-well thats just plain old name calling. Wah! you ruined my fun! You Turtle you!!
      Mike and I got into an argument a few years ago after he found the forge when he declared that I was a narrativist. He meant it in a positive good way but I was really mad it him for labeling me.
      He can call himself anything he wants but calling me something even though he thought it was a good thing just made me mad.

  3. A Big ‘ol Reply for All Y’uns
    I don’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to chime in on everyone’s comments.
    Zamiel: You said:
    In this case, I don’t think Nouning / Verbing your terms, be it Turtling or Engaging, is going to make one bit of difference to the audience of gamers.
    Ahah! Now we see the heart of the disagreement. When I said “We’ve got to be careful about this” I was speaking mainly of game designers. My audience can and will do whatever they want with my games. That doesn’t mean that I have less responsibility to design them well. And whether I think about behaviors being a problematic (or enhancing) area for the game or people being a problematic (or enhancing) area for the game, makes a great deal of difference in how I design the game, how I present the information to the reader. On the most basic level, talking about behaviors allows me to communicate with you, my reader, because I don’t know the people you game with. Although, I can talk about some of the behaviors they might display.
    TigerBunny: That’s a great breakdown of gaming behavior. The way I see it, you got to that point by recognizing the patterns of behavior and looking into different types of them, rather than look for different types of people. Which is all I was trying to get across in the first place.
    Brand: Even when labels are positive, it’s still more useful to apply them to patterns of behavior than to people. Here’s an example:
    Labeling person: Stephen is a “good player.” Last night, we played with Stephen, but didn’t have much fun. What was the problem? Well, it couldn’t have been Stephen because he’s a “good player,” it must have been something else. {commence wild goose chase looking for cause}
    Labeling behavior: Stephen almost always “plays well.” Last night, we played with Stephen, but didn’t have much fun. What was the problem? Well, Stephen wasn’t “playing well.” As a matter of fact, he was “turtling.” I’ll ask him why. {commence finding out more about your friend}
    I suppose, in my experience, when labels start, thinking stops. Labeling a person stops thinking earlier than labeling a behavior (you’ve got to think to identify the behavior).
    PS: About the “rhetoric” thing, I don’t think I can handle that much … fun all in one day. Maybe at GenCon? 8^)


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