November 1st, 2015

vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
(This had been in my notes backlog for a while - might as well post it now since it also relates to the whole writing-about-stories kick I've been on (or rather Fr. Stephen's been on and I'm just following him).)

Given a sufficiently large number of people, whenever theories about what makes a good game are discussed, you're sure to run into some ignorant hack who will proudly declare, "I know! A game is good because it is Fun!" and act like he's found some perfect insight that would blow away everything. It shows a contempt not even worthy of being called obscurantist, but it does invite a certain reality check: your theory of what makes a game good must address the preferences of those who are wholly ignorant of your theory, or what you are doing is groundless and pretentious (in the sense of pretending to things it lacks the authority for).

Between the Skinner box approach, the feminist critiques and my own buying/modding habits, I think I've boiled down to the following that a game must do:
  1. Engage
  2. Emulate
  3. Edify
If your game does all three, and they do them in a way that does not offend the player, that player would probably think your game is "fun" on some level.

Engagement is simple enough: the game must provide some kind of stimulus-response-"reward" interaction with the player's input that gets dopamine running. It does not matter if any pleasure is involved (though pleasure may be necessary to get the player started): rage, self-righteous zeal and simple "need" to keep going are all sufficient.

Emulation generally takes the lion's share of the work and is the most likely one to be noticed at the game-buying stage. This may include the game's world-setting and story, as the word may suggest, but participation in a fictional world is not necessary. Emulation may also include the social context of the intended player: whether in collaboration or competition, with friends or strangers, in person or online, whether the game should be a "safe space" for any given identity group. In other words, it is everything in a given game that draws the player into participating in a given narrative or social arena, be it the study of a living ecosystem, glory in combat, or (ostensibly) happy competition with family and friends at a gathering.

Edification has seen a resurgence in discussion in recent years, mostly for negative reasons. Whether any explicit thought is put into it, an activity that sets up a behavioural reward system within the context of getting a reader to participate in a specific narrative of human conduct by definition must be drilling some moral or ethical message into that reader's mind, in a way that is much more easy to implicitly accept - or, rather, much more onerous and unrewarding not to accept ("win the game" as opposed to "type in some cheat codes and fuck around for hours in places the player was never meant to go") - than in a book ("read the book" as opposed to "read the book and scribble long notes in the margins and between the lines with a fine red pen detailing every reason why you think the author is full of shit").

As far as appeal and getting people to play goes, I suppose edification can be subsumed into emulation. Or perhaps emulation is too broad to be a useful category and edification too narrow. I will revise once I get another alliterating trio.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
First, Fr. Stephen's post about something not directly related to stories* at all (though, of course, all things are at least indirectly related to stories*):
http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/10/19/excuse-me-you-are-not-rational/
Someone commented with a recommendation for John C. Wright,** which led me to this blog post:
http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/10/my-elves-are-different-or-erlkoenig-and-appendix-n/
Meanwhile, Fr. Stephen posts the following:
http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/10/28/about-fairy-tales/
Characters in good stories (particularly good children’s stories) are more than simple individuals with complex and unpredictable behavior. Such individuals would be of no more use in training a child, than reciting random numbers is for teaching math. What we want in a character, is, well character. We need them to be a certain kind of person (or dragon, etc.). People, including children, make sense of the world through the stories they know. Children without stories are forced to stumble through the world without a clue.
The underlined portion describes the modern approach to fiction we are all too familiar with. It speaks well of us that most of us fail miserably. (I am thinking particularly of the anti-Mary-Sue pontifications that I'm sure anyone reading this already knows - which tend, if followed literally, to produce characters as described in the underlined portion.)

In the comments, someone comments with a link to this:
http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/orthodox_institute_2012_culture_morality_spirituality/dr._vigen_guroian_the_childs_moral_imagination
Which includes an excellent example*** of how to write fiction in imitation of Scripture. (Dr. Guroian didn't have time to mention Psalm 68(67):23; there's bound to be other stuff in there.)

The above led me to read the following two book synopses, listed in the order I read them. One left me feeling nothing; the other had me immediately searching for a copy.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_Season
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bambi,_a_Life_in_the_Woods
The former tries to stand for so much, but nothing in the story does so - it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. In contrast, every moment in Bambi is fat and heavy with meaning just being there. (Interestingly, the Bambi synopsis has no separate "Major themes" section; such things are irresistibly inferred through both the plot and the book's reception.)

And now for something completely different:
http://www.webscription.net/chapters/1439132852/1439132852.htm
Basically the literary equivalent of playing an FPS.** *****


*I had typed "fiction writing" and then moved on, then came back to add the parenthetical thinking I had typed "stories", then corrected what I previously typed accordingly. Maybe that's the problem: we're (I'm) not even trying to write stories anymore.

**Yes, I am aware of both these authors' involvement with certain recent controversies. I do not make this post with the intent to endorse their positions on such matters and I am endorsing their work inasmuch that I am willing to read past their real and perceived flaws, as one must always do when reading anyone.****

***In other news, misleading description of the day: Cinderella: a young girl uses her mad freerunning skills and commands an army of dinosaurs to secure her reign as queen and execute vengeance upon her enemies.

****Re: flaws, more Wright than Correia. The latter's explanation of the Sad Puppies movement makes a lot more sense than what (admittedly little, but Correia describes it accurately) I'd been reading before getting his side of it. The former's explanation of his stance re: enemies, taken at its best, is indistinguishable from a pagan perspective despite the claims to Christianity, and the best thing I got out of it was the realization that Christ's admonition to Peter about swords could also be read as a prophecy about what would happen with the Western Church over a thousand years later.


*****2015-11-01 19:14 EDIT:
But we have to be taken back to when Parker was fourteen years of age to fully understand what moves him throughout the story. In that year, at the fair, Parker set his eyes on a tattooed man whose entire body, from head to foot, was covered with images. O’Connor writes: “Until he saw the man at the fair, it did not enter his head that there was anything out of the ordinary about the fact that he existed.”
[static]
I was able to finally see the Guardian. He was a giant of a man. Every inch of his skin had been covered in strange tattoos. The ink lines moved like living things. He looked right at me across space and time.
[static]
...a perfect arabesque of colors... (this song was one of the first that had randomly come up as I read the essay)

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.

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