Showing posts from January, 2006

Death of the Protagonist

There has been a lot of talk about 'co-ownership' of characters, lately; and Vincent has proposed that perhaps we can let go of the idea that players play protagonists. Perhaps, he offers, we can "let the events of the game's fiction choose" whether a character is a protagonist or a supporting character. Apart from the minor quibble that the fiction isn't really the kind of entity that chooses anything, this is a neat idea. Is this possible? Could it be fun? Could it, for instance, be fun to play a character that suddenly dies a deprotagonising death and is thus shown not to have been a protagonist? Certainly. What's more, it could not only be fun, it could also be important. It opens the possibility of a new kind of narrative, a kind of narrative that is a critique of traditional kinds of narrative. The death of the protagonist (those who heard a resonance of Barthes in the title of this piece were absolutely right) is an important step towards the coming

Introduction to Interactive Fiction

I want to talk about interactive fiction in the future, partly because many of the theoretical advances in roleplaying theory of the last few years are very much applicable to this field - and, I think, such application could truly benefit interactive fiction. I have the first paragraphs of a (long) essay on IF and GNS theory lying around somewhere, and a much shorter post about IF and the GM/player divide is also lurking in the back of my head. But since this blog is read by people who are into the theory of roleplaying games, it might be a good idea if I first told you people what interactive fiction actually is . Something like a definition We can speak about interactive fiction in a broad and a narrow way. In the broad way, interactive fiction pieces are works of fiction that require a more active participation by the reader than merely reading them. Examples are text adventures, choose-your-own-adventure books, hyperfiction (fiction that your browse using hyperlinks), and even su

IF: Non-Comp Review Project 2005

If you are into interactive fiction , go and check Greg Boettcher's Non-Comp Review Project 2005 , which contains reviews for all the pieces written in 2005 that were not released in competitions (such as the Interactive Fiction competition and the Spring Thing). One review, of the Z-Code game The Great Machine: a fragment was written by yours truly. If you are not into interactive fiction , remind me to post an introduction here soon. The subtitle of my blog is, after all, "Musings on the theory and practice of roleplaying games and interactive fiction" - but until now, the roleplaying games have gotten all the attention.

Actorial and experiential distance

Over at Mo's blog , I wrote a bit why Universalis and Shades are both not very immersive (in the weaker sense of that word), but not very immersive in a different way. Here is an attempt to explicate that difference. In some roleplaying games, you are very close to your character - it is easy to see the world through her eyes and see her actions as your actions. In the terminology I developed/stole earlier, these will generally be games where it is fictional that you are your character. In other roleplaying games, such as Universalis and Polaris , you are much more distant from your character. In the first, you don't even have a character - you and the other players are like gods who move the pieces in the world, conjuring them into existence and battling each other about their fates. In the second, you are cast into the role of a storyteller telling tales about a time long ago that, paradoxically, nobody remembers anymore. I suggest that this distance from the character can


Here is an update on the Journal of RPG theory . After getting more information about PUSH from Jonathan Walton, Nathan, Joshua and I decided that it is a good idea for theorists to focus on this publication for the present. If time reveals that PUSH leaves something to be desired that a Journal of RPG Theory could offer, we can always start a new project. So, keep an eye out for the first issue of PUSH, which is coming soon if I understood Jonathan correctly. Also, start thinking about what theory topics you would like to write about in the second issue. I suggest you start writing such an article right now, in the form of blog posts which can be discussed by the community. That seems the right cycle to me - first discuss in blogs, then write an article which incorporates the results of those discussions. The article may spark new controversy, or it may not, but even if it only succeeds in capaturing the insight that results from lively and informed discussions, it is a great boon to

Are we making entertainment?

On Attacks of Opportunity , Tony Dowler asks what your most dangerous thought about the hobby is. Paul Czege responds (these are my words) that roleplaying games have a great potential for bringing about social change; they are a radical form of art that can change people's perception of the world around them, and affect their actions. I quote: Imagine the social and economic impact of a truly fun roleplaying game that infects players with an ability to resist powerful advertising messages and more consistently make purchasing decisions they feel good about in retrospect. Or one that exposes the extent to which our educational system works in service to corporate america and the economy and not in the interests of the individual. He is partly right, I think - roleplaying games do have a great potential for changing our perception of the world around us. But do they also have a great potential of bringing about social change - that is, can they ever reach a big enough audience to d