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The Six Cultures of Gaming

You must have missed that "disagreement." It was about the scope of the comparison, not a difference in understanding. If we consider the APs, organized play, sage advice, etc, alongside the rules of the game, then it tilts heavily in the Neo-trad direction. If you just look at the books, I think it's pretty Trad (and this aligns with stated design goals).
Skipping your continued insinuations that I’m not paying attention; since the blog specifically mentions other written materials and organized play, it’s a bit silly to say “if you just look at the books”

Also, we're not the "two people who seem most supportive." That's a ridiculous statement that's trying to paint me and MBC as crackpot outsiders. Don't do that.
Really, you think saying you are strong supporters makes you look like crackpots? That seems a bit excessive. Also a bit aggressive.

I'm an engineer, a systems engineer to be specific, and analysis of and design of things, from conception through retirement, is my bread and butter. Let's not try to out credential each other.

Irony alert! Ovimancer starts by asserting that they know better than me because they have been “discussing game design” (with the insinuation that I am clueless) and then, when I state “I work in analytic sciences” adds 20+ words to explain why their credentials are better than mine, closing with “let’s not try to out credential each other”

Sorry, Ovimancer, I’m not excited about your debate style. I don’t need continuous needling and aggrsession when trying to discuss things; based on your posts in this thread, this seems a pattern for you which I’m not excited about engaging in. I’m not going to be replying to you in this thread anymore.

Summarizing, the last ”culture” in the blog article seems to confuse people who have studied it carefully, and it seems both vague and contradictory to me. The fact that a solid group does not exist for the single most popular cluster of players seems a pretty strong failing to me. If a theory of cultures does not encompass the most common culture, it has very limited utility.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Skipping your continued insinuations that I’m not paying attention; since the blog specifically mentions other written materials and organized play, it’s a bit silly to say “if you just look at the books”
Well, you keep saying we're disagreeing when we reached an agreement. I don't know if you weren't paying attention, but you did make statements that ignored this. I was taking the more charitable route, I thought, as the alternative implies intent.

I don't think it's silly to look at how game rules present themselves. YMMV.
Really, you think saying you are strong supporters makes you look like crackpots? That seems a bit excessive. Also a bit aggressive.
Hmm, when a statement is pointed out as needlessly dismissive, you resort to further dismissals. And then point that problem back at others. This is an interesting data point -- do you feel that you are gaining something with this approach, and, if so, what?
Irony alert! Ovimancer starts by asserting that they know better than me because they have been “discussing game design” (with the insinuation that I am clueless) and then, when I state “I work in analytic sciences” adds 20+ words to explain why their credentials are better than mine, closing with “let’s not try to out credential each other”
No, I was saying that the words made more sense to me because I have been in circles that routinely use them. This wasn't a claim I knew better than you, but a reason why the words did not seem vague or contradictory to me, along with a pointer that there are places to learn more if you are interested. You can continue to take offense at everything, I suppose, but again, I ask what value you think to gain from this?
Sorry, Ovimancer, I’m not excited about your debate style. I don’t need continuous needling and aggrsession when trying to discuss things; based on your posts in this thread, this seems a pattern for you which I’m not excited about engaging in. I’m not going to be replying to you in this thread anymore.
See, from my point of view, you're the one being aggressive. You're making strong statements about the position of others, and reacting aggressively when those people correct you about their own views. You're the one invoking other people as support for your arguments and becoming belligerent when they dare to contradict what you say they think. I mean, I suppose you can blame me for this, not sure what the point of that is except to continue with your ideas without contradiction.
Summarizing, the last ”culture” in the blog article seems to confuse people who have studied it carefully, and it seems both vague and contradictory to me. The fact that a solid group does not exist for the single most popular cluster of players seems a pretty strong failing to me. If a theory of cultures does not encompass the most common culture, it has very limited utility.
I'm not confused by it, @Manbearcat doesn't appear confused by it, @Campbell doesn't appear confused by it. Are there areas where further clarity is needed, sure, but to say "confused" is making a rather strong statement. Further, claiming the confusion of others, when they aren't saying this, is girding your argument with false testimonials. You'd do better to stick to what you think, or do you feel you need to cover of others to support your opinions? I have no problem with you thinking the article is vague and contradictory. I'd love to engage in a discussion of exactly what you think is contradictory and see if there's any agreement on this, or if further elucidation can help clarify issues seen as vague.

Also, the article didn't say that these cultures are monolithic, or that games or groups are monolithically one culture. It's really pointing out play agendas, many of which are compatible, while some are not. The argument that the article fails because you cannot find monolithic groups completely described by the cultures in the article is a failure to grasp what the article is actually trying to do. No one is just one of these cultures, and the article says this explicitly.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Just so we are clear:
A culture of play is a set of shared norms (goals, values, taboos, etc.), considerations, and techniques that inform a group of people who are large enough that they are not all in direct contact with one another (let's call that a "community"). These cultures of play are transmitted through a variety of media, ranging from books and adventures to individuals teaching one another to magazine articles to online streaming shows. A culture of play is broadly similar to a "network of practice" if you're familiar with that jargon.

Individuals in the hobby, having been aligned to and trained in one or more of these cultures, then develop individual styles. I want to point out that I think talking about specific games as inherently part of some culture is misleading, because games can be played in multiple different styles in line with the values of different cultures. But, many games contain text that advocates for them to be played in a way that is in line with a particular culture, or they contain elements that express the creator's adoption of a particular culture's set of values.
 

Thought experiment time:

A: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the categories in the article?

B: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the following categories: Rules first, Story first, Simulation first, Rules and Story first, Rules and Simulation first, Story and Simulation first?

C: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the following categories: Let's show how good I am at this game, Let's explore this world, Let's socialize together, Let's beat this encounter?

D: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the following categories: Power Gaming, Tactical Play, Method Acting, Storytelling, Casual gaming.

Bonus points for identifying the sources for the other categorizations!

-------

The point of the above is that when we look at a new model for anything, we should compare it to existing models to see if it's any better. I am quite curious as to people's answers. As a side note, @Aldarc's post made me think more about my base assumption that games themselves can be assigned to categories / genres and convinced me I was wrong. So I'm define a specific role-playing session as one that we could attempt to categorize. Hopefully that will help with agreement.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Thought experiment time:

A: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the categories in the article?

B: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the following categories: Rules first, Story first, Simulation first, Rules and Story first, Rules and Simulation first, Story and Simulation first?

C: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the following categories: Let's show how good I am at this game, Let's explore this world, Let's socialize together, Let's beat this encounter?

D: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the following categories: Power Gaming, Tactical Play, Method Acting, Storytelling, Casual gaming.

Bonus points for identifying the sources for the other categorizations!

-------

The point of the above is that when we look at a new model for anything, we should compare it to existing models to see if it's any better. I am quite curious as to people's answers. As a side note, @Aldarc's post made me think more about my base assumption that games themselves can be assigned to categories / genres and convinced me I was wrong. So I'm define a specific role-playing session as one that we could attempt to categorize. Hopefully that will help with agreement.
Rhetorical questions are a poor way to elicit things. I can say whatever I want in reaponse to these questions and there's nothing to check it against. I also think that your reframing is poor -- sessions aren't any more uniquely quantifiable than games are.

That said, I feel moderately confident I could observe aspects of gaming culture in a session. Some with high confidence (story now, classic or osr) others with moderate (likely to ID trad, if not tell between them), and low to ID Nordic Larp, depending on specifics in the session. The cultures has pretty strong identifiers. I don't care to research the others and don't have definitions for them, so I can't speak to them.

I'm curious, though, if you have experience with games that forward Story Now, OSR, or Nordic Larp cultures? I haven't experience with Nordic Larp, but I see how it could work. I do with the others, and it makes those cultures stand out much more. Without that experience, though, I can easily see how the descriptions seem opaque, vague, and condratictory.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But this isn't remotely helpful when apprehending the relevant touchstones and priorities that should be the foundational elements for game design.

If this ("most people don't care about design or at least can't articulate what they do care about in design") was what should be gleaned from evaluating the distribution of TTRPG play and the attendant approach that should be taken for game design...game design would be absolutely incoherent anarchy across the board.
If by incoherent anrachy you mean designers would eschew theorycrafting in favour of just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, I don't see any problem.

The problem with all these theories is they can end up acting as soft borders, with an attendant unspoken admonition "don't think outside the theories"; leading to a slow steady stiflement of creativity until someone dares to ignore the border and break the mold.
 

darkbard

Hero
The problem with all these theories is they can end up acting as soft borders, with an attendant unspoken admonition "don't think outside the theories"; leading to a slow steady stiflement of creativity until someone dares to ignore the border and break the mold.

Have you ever written (or read) a sonnet or haiku, etc? There's a strong argument that borders/constraints/what-have-you enhance creativity through the creation of tight focus.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Have you ever written (or read) a sonnet or haiku, etc? There's a strong argument that borders/constraints/what-have-you enhance creativity through the creation of tight focus.
Oh, I agree; if one is willing to work within the boundaries of that particular style those boundaries can certainly enhance creativity.

In something like design, however, where the sky really should be the limit, I posit that the presence of real or imagined boundaries is counterproductive to overall advancement. And this applies to all design, not just games.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh, I agree; if one is willing to work within the boundaries of that particular style those boundaries can certainly enhance creativity.

In something like design, however, where the sky really should be the limit, I posit that the presence of real or imagined boundaries is counterproductive to overall advancement. And this applies to all design, not just games.
I disagree. Design needs to be focused towards a goal, or else it's a crap shoot with a low chance of success. The cultures aren't straightjackets, but they do help define play goals, and therefore design goals. If I want to make a Story Now game, for instance, I don't want to be adding things to support Trad play, because these two things clash.
 

pemerton

Legend
Thought experiment time:
My view is that one session may not be enough to get a sense of how a table plays; but normally from reading a few posts from a poster on ENWorld I'm able to get a reasonable sense of how they play (eg when I reply to them about how they play, or what else might have happened in a session of theirs, they don't dissent or get outraged). I suspect the same would be true for this blog's categories. Or The Forge categories.
 

MGibster

Legend
A: If you were to observe a randomly-chosen set of players during a roleplaying game session, how likely do you think you would be to correctly assign that session to one of the categories in the article?
I suspect that I would not be able to definitively categorize a group based on one session of observation. I would likely require multiple sessions to observe their behavior as well as time to speak with my sources to ascertain what was going on. And I doubt they'd fit neatly into a single category.
 

I feel like there are dead giveaways in most games that would let you narrow it down pretty well by watching a group play a session. Most games have specific procedures and rules that would give you a strong sense of what game is being played, and how.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
In something like design, however, where the sky really should be the limit, I posit that the presence of real or imagined boundaries is counterproductive to overall advancement. And this applies to all design, not just games.

So, you know, people who design buildings and cars and furniture have limits - physical reality limits engineering. If you want the sky to be the limit... there's some pretty hefty rules you have to abide by if you don't want your skyscraper to collapse.

And people who write poetry, and fiction... they need to choose a language. They can break the rules of that language a little bit, now and then, but for the most part they need to stick by the rules, or what comes out is gobbledigook that nobody can understand.

In the end, you get the greatest advancements not by everybody taking the same approach, but by having diversity of approaches. The most creativity will come from allowing creators to work however they best work - the method that inspires them most will be the most constructive. Some folks can work blue-sky, and others by theoretical frameworks, and others on empirically defined frameworks. They'll get different results that will appeal to different people, and that's for the best, is it not?
 

LOL. No. All horror creators for all media are not given a curated list of the audience's / participant's personal fears, phobias, and traumas. The GM of a horror game (if they're being responsible and using safety tools) is given such a list. And the point of those safety tools is to not poke the players in their fears, phobias, and traumas. A game focused on scaring the players is by definition a violation of that trust and abusive. Or the GM is not using safety tools and therefore shouldn't be running a horror game in the first place. Because they will inevitably stumble into and poke a player in their fears, phobias, and traumas. Dealing with a player having a mental health issue at the table over an elf game is not something you want to deal with...again, that's the point of the safety tools, to not poke the players in their fears, phobias, and traumas.
Some players I've had specifically opted to ask for things that do, in fact, scare them in their real life, so as to help them work through some personal traumas. Not everyone wants to stay in "safe space" when playing. Most don't want to be both feet in the deep end, but are willing to wade past their comfort zone for a variety of reasons.

One of my groups, several players want to actually fear for their character - they want to have an emotional attachment to the character, and have that character at risk, and aren't afraid to have their character confront their own personal hobgoblins. They want the creepy descriptions and the vicarious excitement of knowing Wil is willing to have the badguy torture the character I'm playing. But that group also knows and understands that, if they ask for a pause, or a fade to black, it will happen. When the trust is present, it can be a blast. When the trust is abused, it can be horrible.

It's kind of funny but I've never understood the appeal of the horror genre. Either as a game or as a movie.
It's the same kind of thrill some get from amusement park rides. You know you're unlikely to be actually hurt, but the feeling of being in danger triggers the same adrenaline and endorphin rush as really being in danger, and the endorphin rushes can be additive.
 

MGibster

Legend
LOL. No. All horror creators for all media are not given a curated list of the audience's / participant's personal fears, phobias, and traumas. The GM of a horror game (if they're being responsible and using safety tools) is given such a list.
When I have session zero and ask the players to tell me what they absolutely don't want to see in a horror game I don't think they're giving me a comprehensive list of things that scare them. i.e. I'm not getting a curated list of what scares them I'm just getting a list of things they absolutely don't want to see in the game for whatever reason. I might tell the GM that I don't want to play out any scenes with violence against children or sexual assault though it's okay if these things happen "off screen." There's all sorts of other things in real life that scare me that I'm fine with being included in the game.
And the point of those safety tools is to not poke the players in their fears, phobias, and traumas. A game focused on scaring the players is by definition a violation of that trust and abusive. Or the GM is not using safety tools and therefore shouldn't be running a horror game in the first place.
Specifically poking at a player's personal fears or trauma is what's known as a dick move among my people. But I also think running a game with the focus on scaring the players is a mistake in large part because you're probably not going to scare the players.

Because they will inevitably stumble into and poke a player in their fears, phobias, and traumas. Dealing with a player having a mental health issue at the table over an elf game is not something you want to deal with...again, that's the point of the safety tools, to not poke the players in their fears, phobias, and traumas.

I don't find role playing games to be an inherently dangerous activity that is likely to inflict trauma on any of the participants. Other than the trauma induced by spending too much time in a sedentary activity while consuming salty snacks and sugary sodas. It's only horror games that I ask about what players want to avoid seeing in a game and my primary concern isn't trauma or phobias. You don't have to have any particular trauma or phobia not to want to deal with something in a game.
 

But that group also knows and understands that, if they ask for a pause, or a fade to black, it will happen. When the trust is present, it can be a blast. When the trust is abused, it can be horrible.
I want to highlight this point. It’s almost a truism that a fundamental of a good game is that you trust the GM, and the GM is trustworthy, but so many threads are based on problems that boil down to lack of trust that it seems we need to keep saying it.

Trust is also something that needs building up. In a horror campaign, a good GM will start exploring issues carefully, building up to a point where players are approaching the point at which “a vicarious adrenal-rush of fright” becomes ”I don’t want to be playing this game right now”. And the players need that confidence that the GM is going to know when they are getting near their limit. Mechanisms like X cards are valuable not only when they are used, but also because they are a visible sign that the GM is committed to being trustworthy. With my home group, I don‘t use mechanical aids as the players know they can, without fuss, fade out or modify a scene. At conventions, I typically display them not because i expect them to be used, but because they build trust immediately.

For example, if I am playing with an unknown GM, and we are in an orphanage, and they start describing body parts, then I — as a player — am going to feel a bit worried about how the scene is going to go and I am not going to commit to the scene until I feel sure the GM isn’t going somewhere where I’ll be uncomfortable. If there is an X-card on the table, I will commit to the scene, because I have a safety net and the GM has shown me they are committed to trust
 

I want to highlight this point. It’s almost a truism that a fundamental of a good game is that you trust the GM, and the GM is trustworthy, but so many threads are based on problems that boil down to lack of trust that it seems we need to keep saying it.

Trust is also something that needs building up. In a horror campaign, a good GM will start exploring issues carefully, building up to a point where players are approaching the point at which “a vicarious adrenal-rush of fright” becomes ”I don’t want to be playing this game right now”. And the players need that confidence that the GM is going to know when they are getting near their limit. Mechanisms like X cards are valuable not only when they are used, but also because they are a visible sign that the GM is committed to being trustworthy. With my home group, I don‘t use mechanical aids as the players know they can, without fuss, fade out or modify a scene. At conventions, I typically display them not because i expect them to be used, but because they build trust immediately.

For example, if I am playing with an unknown GM, and we are in an orphanage, and they start describing body parts, then I — as a player — am going to feel a bit worried about how the scene is going to go and I am not going to commit to the scene until I feel sure the GM isn’t going somewhere where I’ll be uncomfortable. If there is an X-card on the table, I will commit to the scene, because I have a safety net and the GM has shown me they are committed to trust

I'll take this opportunity to highlight a related point.

Trust can be more or less systemitized. Its no coincidence that games which are (a) player/table-facing, (b) GM-constraining (by the principles of play, by the rules/action resolution mechanics, and by the authority distribution between participants), and (c) just fundamentally work if you follow the procedures/ethos of play (therefore GMs don't need to go outside of the procedures/ethos, risking a breech of trust, in order to endow the play with the experience listed on the tin) don't face these GM trust issues that you're talking about.

When those things aren't systemitized, the alchemy and social contract at the table is going to have to do the heavy lifting (and, like an addict, its a session to session thing...it can absolutely be lost if you don't stay at it) to ensure that trust persists.
 

I'll take this opportunity to highlight a related point.

Trust can be more or less systemitized. Its no coincidence that games which are (a) player/table-facing, (b) GM-constraining (by the principles of play, by the rules/action resolution mechanics, and by the authority distribution between participants), and (c) just fundamentally work if you follow the procedures/ethos of play (therefore GMs don't need to go outside of the procedures/ethos, risking a breech of trust, in order to endow the play with the experience listed on the tin) don't face these GM trust issues that you're talking about.

When those things aren't systemitized, the alchemy and social contract at the table is going to have to do the heavy lifting (and, like an addict, its a session to session thing...it can absolutely be lost if you don't stay at it) to ensure that trust persists.
No, they don't remove the trust issues; they merely merge them into player trust issues, which is exponentially more tricky.

To be honest, my worst player experiences have been in nerfed GM games where one player abused the rules...
He (1) used the X-card equivalent to prevent encounters he didn't immediately see profit from. (2) ignored it when others used it. (3) intentionally used the X-card equivalent to prevent player complaints about 1 & 2. The solution was to end the campaign and stop gaming with him. It ended a 30 year friendship.

As a player in a strong GM game, he was able to be shorted quickly from toxic areas.

I will never play one of my favorite games with a stranger: Blood and Honor (by John Wick.) It's weak GM game, and unless I trust the players, it's not worth the risk.
 

No, they don't remove the trust issues; they merely merge them into player trust issues, which is exponentially more tricky.

To be honest, my worst player experiences have been in nerfed GM games where one player abused the rules...
He (1) used the X-card equivalent to prevent encounters he didn't immediately see profit from. (2) ignored it when others used it. (3) intentionally used the X-card equivalent to prevent player complaints about 1 & 2. The solution was to end the campaign and stop gaming with him. It ended a 30 year friendship.

As a player in a strong GM game, he was able to be shorted quickly from toxic areas.

I will never play one of my favorite games with a stranger: Blood and Honor (by John Wick.) It's weak GM game, and unless I trust the players, it's not worth the risk.
lol, they'd be out the door so fast for abusing the rest of the group's sensitivity that way at my table.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
At conventions, I typically display them not because i expect them to be used, but because they build trust immediately.
They don't build trust for me; in fact, the opposite.

As a player if I see an X-card or similar my first thought is that now I a) have to wonder just where the GM is planning to take this game and b) have to now trust the other players (or even the GM!) not to use i; 'cause I know I sure as hell won't be using it.
 

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