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07 April 2008 @ 12:13 pm
Social-Play Model: Social Contract vs. Play  
Bruce asked me about my Social-Play Model:
This may be my lack of familiarity with TBM but I was wondering if you might elaborate on your division between Social Contract and Play, more specifically on the fact that Procedures, System, Techniques and IIEE sit outside Play in your model. I think I can kind of see what you're getting at but am myself inclined to think of these as elements of play. Any thoughts?

These things create play but are not play themselves. Here's an analogy.

Take, for the sake of example, a cook. I'm not much of a cook myself, so I'm gonna stick to what I know: barbecue. Okay? So a bunch of people want to come together and grill some steaks, and eat them. They're the players in the analogy. The play is the act of cooking and eating the steaks. All the social contract stuff in the model? That's the tools by which cooking and eating get done: the agreement to meet at my house on Saturday at noon, my bad-ass cast iron charcoal grill, the charcoal and lighter fluid, the tongs and spatula, and the steaks themselves. It's tempting to want to categorize the steaks in the cooking and eating category, but they're not. They're the material, not the act.

Now let's go back to my Social-Play Model. When you role-play, a bunch of players agree to get together, use some set of rules, apply those rules as specific techniques, and talk and stuff. All that stuff is Social Contract in the model, because it's the means of play, not play itself.

To use another analogy -- this one a bit specialized -- take object-oriented programming. In such languages you have classes, which are generalized collections of methods and data, and you have objects, which are specific instantiations of classes. For example, the RolePlayingGame class might be your representation of all games you have on your bookshelf, but when you look at a specific game on your shelf (via the code) then you need to get a particular object. In the Social-Play Model, play is the specific instantiation of a social contract.

Bruce said almost exactly the same thing in his own article, RPG Theory Journey: back to basics (January 23, 2008):
I’m going to start with a statement that I made in a post I wrote a few months back which basically theorised that the constituent elements of roleplay were Players (the participants), the Game (the system of play) and Story (the product of play).

We're saying the same thing. My Players are Bruce's Players. My Play is Bruce's Story (we're using the two terms to mean exactly the same thing: the product of play). My Social Contract is Bruce's Game. The system of play in my model includes the Social Contract because that's how play really happens.
 Adam Drayadamdray on April 8th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
Fantasy, Fiction, SIS
I'm happy to indulge you. I have strong opinions about this stuff, but I don't assume I have it all right. Let's discuss our ideas and learn from each other. I have a lot to say so I'll break it into a bunch of different topic threads.

I think both our terms, "Fantasy" and "Fiction," are inferior to The Big Model's term, "Shared Imaginary Space" (SIS). SIS is a great term because it includes a spot for where play contacts system and stores state of play. That's why I am leaning towards "State of Play" in newer versions of my model. Fiction is still there, but State of Play has a special meaning. I think of State of Play as the RAM of Play.

I realize I'm not explaining this well. Let me try a different way. The state of play necessarily includes more than just fictional elements. It has to maintain state of procedural stuff. It includes stuff like, "You rolled a natural 20!" and "the wizard we met is at least 5th level because he cast fireball." That stuff is not part of the fiction, per se, but is definitely part of the game state, the non-diegetic information about play.

So is your Fantasy the same as my Personal Fiction? Probably, but only if your Fantasy includes non-diegetic game state. I have done a disservice to my model by grouping diegetic and non-diegetic stuff into a category called "Fiction," but my model really requires a slot for out-of-game state.

Does your Fantasy category include non-diegetic material?
(Anonymous) on April 8th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Fantasy, Fiction, SIS
Cool. I agree, much can be learned from discussion and understanding other people's perspectives. Seeing things in different ways often illuminates aspects we would otherwise have missed.

To answer your question my Fantasy category is specifically the diegetic elements of play and my Process category is the non-diegetic elements.

In the context of my model I'd see the "State of Play" at any given moment to be each individual's perception of all three elements; the Fantasy (i.e. their personal diegesis), the Process (i.e. the non-diegetic procedural stuff that you've mentioned) and the other Players (social context).

If I may be so bold, I think you're right that 'State of Play is a better term for what you're describing. 'Fiction' is misleading because it suggests you're only considering the diegetic part.

As for SIS, it's certainly an appealing term, but from a personal perspective I'm somewhat reluctant to use it since much of my own theorising is based upon game play being about creating similarities in the players' Personal Fictions and drawing them together to create the appearance of shared fantasy. So I'm kind of wary of it as a term. That's merely my preference though.

-- bruce (leagueofimaginaryheroes.wordpress.com)