I’ve been working up a Design curriculum for role-playing for a long while, so when Justin Nichols approached me for a game design discussion that leaned toward mentoring, I accepted without reservation.
At the beginning of this episode, we considered our options for the initial approach, and Justin preferred the “lab” version in which we actually worked on a design of his, called Kinfolk. So you’ll see some of the techniques from the Consulting section of the site used here, but it’s specifically a subroutine of the Seminar goals.
I’m drawing upon my Phenomenology videos, which I would be happy to see anyone review and comment upon. If you’re seen them, this leading diagram will be familiar to you. The idea is that you may begin playing the game based on partial or potential excitement, and the question is whether the game experience confirms and enhances this excitement to become real inspiration, creatively and socially.
A game’s design matters (rather than its subcultural identity or any other criteria) insofar as the procedures during play confirm the excitement, i.e., the content that initially prompted excitement was honest, the procedures result in changes of some kind, and the changes are themselves inspiring. The question is whether the procedures really do this, as instruments of human agency, or whether they are merely “Jesus is coming, look busy” pseudo-toys to fiddle with while someone else does it.
I usually introduce these ideas to people using a version of this diagram without all the fiddly terms, especially the stuff under “the fiction.” That way I can get the basic idea across without distraction and then the other people can work through the idea that simply being told the fiction isn’t good enough, that somehow, the fiction must be produced through some kind of activity, which may or may not actually work.
To do that, I focus on what changes, fictionally. Then tracking backwards to see if the procedures did it is intuitive, clear, and instructive.
There are two other recent pieces which serve as a cross-reference, perhaps even crucial ones. The first is my presentation at Lucca, The Plot Thickens, and the other is my consulting session about Heroic Dark. The latter and this session are complementary as the two games being discussed are coincidentally very much alike. Since we talked about different things in each one, viewing both works well.
One last minor point: looking over this session, I think the beginning-middle-end Fortune concept was not too helpful, because it was originally conceived in the context of single resolutions, not overall session outcomes. So feel free to edit that mentally.