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RPG Theory- The Limits of My Language are the Limits of My World

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Whether its your takeaway or not, its an easy out to write off an argument or approach someone doesn't like; just assign ulterior motives on it and smugly move on.

Yes, but doing so without evidence is weak sauce rhetoric that makes the discussion personal rather than about the topic at hand.

There is a reason why I am saying folks should look at their own reasons, rather than presume they know anyone else's.
 

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Yes, but doing so without evidence is weak sauce rhetoric that makes the discussion personal rather than about the topic at hand.

There is a reason why I am saying folks should look at their own reasons, rather than presume they know anyone else's.

I don't disagree, but--good luck with that.
 

I'll add you to that Yora's Law:

"When people start breaking quoted posts into individual paragraphs and sentences to reply to each of them separately, it's no longer about adding to the discussion, but winning a fight."

Which so far I've not seen in this thread, which is something.

Eh. Don't think I can jump on that one; when I do that its because I think my points will lose clarity if lumped together, and that some of them are more relevant than others and I want to provide an easy way to tease them out.
 

payn

Legend
Eh. Don't think I can jump on that one; when I do that its because I think my points will lose clarity if lumped together, and that some of them are more relevant than others and I want to provide an easy way to tease them out.
Sometimes folks will ask you a handful of questions and its less messy to handle it in multi-quote. Though, I do see folks using it to needle the hell out of each others points. It just depends if its in that first dozen pages of a thread or the final 50.
 

Yora

Legend
Eh. Don't think I can jump on that one; when I do that its because I think my points will lose clarity if lumped together, and that some of them are more relevant than others and I want to provide an easy way to tease them out.
Not if you have two or three people have half a page of posts that each contain six to eight posts each.
 

Not if you have two or three people have half a page of posts that each contain six to eight posts each.

I'm not going to deny that trying to keep the arguments straight can, instead, confuse them if you let broken-out bits propagate too far--when I see a discussion I'm in is doing that I try and simplify--but I'm still going to argue that trying to respond to one big block eight paragraph post with another of the same is not better, but worse.
 

Sometimes folks will ask you a handful of questions and its less messy to handle it in multi-quote. Though, I do see folks using it to needle the hell out of each others points. It just depends if its in that first dozen pages of a thread or the final 50.

Like most such things, it can be a tool or a weapon depending on how its applied.
 

So I think that there are always some pitfalls of getting caught up in the discussion and everyone may go further with it than intended from time to time. The itemized quotes and liking posts only of those who appear to be on our side and so on. Anyone can get caught up in some of that from time to time. I know I have in the past; I get stuck in the back and forth of it to the point where the context is totally absent from responses, and you'd have to trace the conversation back across pages to even know what's actually being discussed.

I've made an effort to do that less. I don't always manage, but I think I've gotten a lot better at it. I'm going to continue trying to get better at it. There's certainly room for improvement.

And I think maybe that's part of why I take part in these discussions about RPG theory and how games work and why, and all that. I've been playing for decades and until a few years ago, I hadn't really given more than surface level consideration about why I play RPGs and what I enjoy about them and how best to bring that about in my games. I've found conversation here to have been very helpful in examining that about myself and my games.

I think that's the point of any analysis. To see what's working correctly, and what's not, and how things may be improved. I've spent a lot more time considering my games and their processes and how those interact with what I and my fellow players enjoy. The result is that we're getting more out of our games.

So I tend to see analysis or critique as a tool that can help because that's what it's done for me. When I see people dismiss the importance of analysis or critique, my instinct is to push back on that. Largely because to actually dismiss analysis takes an effort. If someone isn't interested in analysis of whatever subject, they're likely not going to be involved in the conversation. They're either engaging with their game or book or movie at whatever level they enjoy and couldn't care less about analyzing that. That's perfectly fine. There are plenty of topics where that's my level of engagement and I don't seek anything further.

But I think it's something else to actively want to dismiss analysis because it's either all been said before or that it's empty posturing. To me, that's a take that is going to receive some push back, and deservedly so.
 

payn

Legend
So I think that there are always some pitfalls of getting caught up in the discussion and everyone may go further with it than intended from time to time. The itemized quotes and liking posts only of those who appear to be on our side and so on. Anyone can get caught up in some of that from time to time. I know I have in the past; I get stuck in the back and forth of it to the point where the context is totally absent from responses, and you'd have to trace the conversation back across pages to even know what's actually being discussed.

I've made an effort to do that less. I don't always manage, but I think I've gotten a lot better at it. I'm going to continue trying to get better at it. There's certainly room for improvement.
I've been guilty of this too. Once I see a couple of loggerheads with no indication they will stop, I've taken to tuning them out, but keep following along in case a new discussion blooms.
And I think maybe that's part of why I take part in these discussions about RPG theory and how games work and why, and all that. I've been playing for decades and until a few years ago, I hadn't really given more than surface level consideration about why I play RPGs and what I enjoy about them and how best to bring that about in my games. I've found conversation here to have been very helpful in examining that about myself and my games.

I think that's the point of any analysis. To see what's working correctly, and what's not, and how things may be improved. I've spent a lot more time considering my games and their processes and how those interact with what I and my fellow players enjoy. The result is that we're getting more out of our games.
Word.
So I tend to see analysis or critique as a tool that can help because that's what it's done for me. When I see people dismiss the importance of analysis or critique, my instinct is to push back on that. Largely because to actually dismiss analysis takes an effort. If someone isn't interested in analysis of whatever subject, they're likely not going to be involved in the conversation. They're either engaging with their game or book or movie at whatever level they enjoy and couldn't care less about analyzing that. That's perfectly fine. There are plenty of topics where that's my level of engagement and I don't seek anything further.

But I think it's something else to actively want to dismiss analysis because it's either all been said before or that it's empty posturing. To me, that's a take that is going to receive some push back, and deservedly so.
There is also the cynical take of an old timer that has been on boards discussing these things forever. Folks can forget that it could be somebody's first rodeo. I try not to be too flippant when a dead horse gets dropped at our feet, yet again. I try but don't always succeed but I think I'm getting better.
 

There is also the cynical take of an old timer that has been on boards discussing these things forever. Folks can forget that it could be somebody's first rodeo. I try not to be too flippant when a dead horse gets dropped at our feet, yet again. I try but don't always succeed but I think I'm getting better.

As I noted, I can sometimes come from this posture, but I think its more of a flaw on my part (and the fact I've gotten old and mildly depressed) and don't actually view it as a virtue on my part.
 

So, in here, there's a really interesting question:

What is the purpose of critique?

This can be answered in a broad, general sense, or in a specific sense - if you are here, on this site, giving a critique - what is the purpose of that communication?
I’m not sure I’m trying to provide formal critique, personally. That is, I’m not so interested in finding a set of normative principles and categories that I can use to evaluate ttrpgs. On the other hand, I am very interested in understanding the history of ttrpgs and how they’ve been played over time. And I’m particularly keen to see the gaming community take seriously issues of equity and justice, both in games and among game-makers.

Aside from that, I don’t usually approach posts as providing critique or even an argument, given that this is a relatively causal form of communication. Usually it’s more: here’s a thought that I had, here’s are some reflections on an anecdote, here’s a link to a blog post or a tweet that is interesting or provocative or potentially helpful.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I’m not sure I’m trying to provide formal critique, personally. That is, I’m not so interested in finding a set of normative principles and categories that I can use to evaluate ttrpgs.
When other people are advocating for particular normative principles and categories and using words that have strong negative connotations to categorize playstyles other than theirs, then regardless of their intent it causes a rather defensive reaction from those whose playstyles they advocate for categorizing with terms that carry strong negative connotations. It's no wonder discussions involving such advocation constantly blow up. I personally believe people generally have 'pure' motives. In this case advocating for a framework that has been very useful for them. If there was one point of wisdom I could impart it would be to find a way to categorize without using language that carries with it strong negative connotations.
 

payn

Legend
When other people are advocating for particular normative principles and categories and using words that have strong negative connotations to categorize playstyles other than theirs, then regardless of their intent it causes a rather defensive reaction from those whose playstyles they advocate for categorizing with terms that carry strong negative connotations. It's no wonder discussions involving such advocation constantly blow up. I personally believe people generally have 'pure' motives. In this case advocating for a framework that has been very useful for them. If there was one point of wisdom I could impart it would be to find a way to categorize without using language that carries with it strong negative connotations.
Yeap, unfortunately it has a poisoning of the well effect too. Even if you try and get away from a term with negative connotations, the new neutral terms are often rejected as just another form of the same shade. (I.E. railroad vs linear) So its very important to be mindful at the outset when discussing theory topics if you want to cut the negativity and get to constructive discussion.
 

Aldarc

Legend
When other people are advocating for particular normative principles and categories and using words that have strong negative connotations to categorize playstyles other than theirs, then regardless of their intent it causes a rather defensive reaction from those whose playstyles they advocate for categorizing with terms that carry strong negative connotations. It's no wonder discussions involving such advocation constantly blow up. I personally believe people generally have 'pure' motives. In this case advocating for a framework that has been very useful for them. If there was one point of wisdom I could impart it would be to find a way to categorize without using language that carries with it strong negative connotations.
Instead of “Force” we have decided to use the term “Rainbows” instead. Likewise “railroading” will be renamed to “vacationing.”
 

When other people are advocating for particular normative principles and categories and using words that have strong negative connotations to categorize playstyles other than theirs, then regardless of their intent it causes a rather defensive reaction from those whose playstyles they advocate for categorizing with terms that carry strong negative connotations. It's no wonder discussions involving such advocation constantly blow up. I personally believe people generally have 'pure' motives. In this case advocating for a framework that has been very useful for them. If there was one point of wisdom I could impart it would be to find a way to categorize without using language that carries with it strong negative connotations.

I don't disagree with what you're saying; I generally try not to put down anyone's preferred game or playstyle. But at the same time, being critical about something may require some negativity from time to time. If I see what I think is a flaw about a game or a process, and I explain my thinking, I don't think it should be seen as anything other than a stated preference along the lines of "I don't like lima beans because they don't taste good." There may be others.....bewilderingly.....who actually like the way lima beans taste. My preference is not an attack on theirs.

If I level a criticism at a game that you enjoy that you don't think is accurate, then you should state your case on why you disagree. That's what analysis and critique involve.

So if I were to say something like "I find sandbox play to still be largely GM driven; it's just a railroad where the stops can happen in any order" that's a critique of sandbox play. Is it true? That's up to each person as I think the answer is largely subjective. But I can make statements in support of that critique, or against it.

We tend to be overly touchy regarding our preferences about games (myself included), but we don't really need to be. Honestly, I think everyone not taking such great offense at the use of a word or phrase that may have negative connotations would be a huge help. Ultimately, if we just change the words we're using, we're not really changing what we're trying to say. So I think being clear is important, and people just not getting worked up is the bigger deal. Though I realize that can be difficult on things we're al passionate about, I think it's something we should all be striving for.
 

Instead of “Force” we have decided to use the term “Rainbows” instead. Likewise “railroading” will be renamed to “vacationing.”
Hilarious. But I don't think we can pretend that some terms, like "railroading" or "agency" are value neutral. There's the established context of their use within the hobby, in online and in person discussions and in game books. So some terms should be used advisedly if the goal is to have a helpful and mutually productive conversation.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Hilarious. But I don't think we can pretend that some terms, like "railroading" or "agency" are value neutral. There's the established context of their use within the hobby, in online and in person discussions and in game books. So some terms should be used advisedly if the goal is to have a helpful and mutually productive conversation.
Sadly “Agency” was deemed too positive (and controversial) a term so it will be replaced with “Fun.” That will undoubtedly help clarify matters and keep conversations free of controversy.
 

We tend to be overly touchy regarding our preferences about games (myself included), but we don't really need to be. Honestly, I think everyone not taking such great offense at the use of a word or phrase that may have negative connotations would be a huge help. Ultimately, if we just change the words we're using, we're not really changing what we're trying to say. So I think being clear is important, and people just not getting worked up is the bigger deal. Though I realize that can be difficult on things we're al passionate about, I think it's something we should all be striving for.
Normative critique strives to be disinterested, that is, be able to make judgments according to objective standards and avoid self-interested statements (like, saying a work of art is beautiful simply because I happen to enjoy its color palette). However, it's very possible to claim a position of neutrality while (consciously or unconsciously) elevating what one personally enjoys to status of objective good. Or, it can easily be perceived that way. Just something to be mindful of, in general.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Sadly “Agency” was deemed too positive (and controversial) a term so it will be replaced with “Fun.” That will undoubtedly help clarify matters and keep conversations free of controversy.
FUN IS MANDATORY EVERYONE WILL HAVE FUN

WANG CHUNG-ING WILL HOWEVER BE OPTIONAL
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeap, unfortunately it has a poisoning of the well effect too. Even if you try and get away from a term with negative connotations, the new neutral terms are often rejected as just another form of the same shade. (I.E. railroad vs linear) So its very important to be mindful at the outset when discussing theory topics if you want to cut the negativity and get to constructive discussion.
Yea. Moving back a little closer to the thread premise, it's kind of like the Hatfields and Mccoys, this fued has been going on so long that no one knows who or what event actually started it. I mean one of this threads premises is that there's history of how none of these arguments and perceptions are actually 'new'. So to some extent, the well has been poisoned for both perspectives. That's a difficult place to move forward from.
 

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