Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More thoughts on the impact of a story

In my former post on the matter, I mused about how different the impact a really good science fiction novel had on me, compared to a game session. Thinking a bit more on that, I think that maybe I have confused what makes the different art forms work. I know that often when I hear Robin D Laws talk about game design, or when I read some of his newer games, I feel he is often talking about how to model this or that narrative from film or tv. It often makes me cringe, since I feel that he seems to be mixing water and oil.

Having thought about it, I am wondering if I was doing the same. Maybe a novel and a rpg game are two different arts, producing two very different expressions which really don't translate from one to the other. Staggering insight, I know. I have read "novelizations" of games and it usually reads quite terrible. Maybe the idea to transfer a well structured narrative in a novel into a co-created narrative of a game session is just as terrible. You can do it, but more often than not the players are then just along for the ride, and the payoff still isn't that great.

Then there's the movies. In True Grit by the Cohen's, there are some scenes which utilize the screen space marvellously well. They basically make the most of a medium which is visual. A RPG session on the other hand is verbal. A book also is verbal, and I think that fooled me into thinking they are thus related. But, spoken words and written words are very different. So different that translating from one to the other sometimes does makes you hurt.

What could we then do? Anything?

I'm thinking about the Star Wars rpg. For me that means the WEG d6 based game, and I have no problem with any other Star Wars game, but that's what I've read. Yeah, I'm showing my age. In that game there was a lot of advice on how to run a game that felt like the movies did. It might surprise you, but back then there was only three movies. Weird, eh? Where was I? Oh, gamemaster advice. Yes, the advice was about the feel of the movies, not the qualities that made the movies film, their visual impact. No, it was the pacing and the turns and twists of capture and breaking free again to chase down the next plot point. Those qualities you can actually translate into a rpg.

It will probably take me forever, but my next challenge will be to try to find the feel of Karl Schroeder's Permanence and see if there is anything there that can be translated, in feel. At least it helps to know what you're looking for.
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