Archive for July 19th, 2008

Evolving Interaction Methods 2: Presenting Options

2008 Jul 19

Ritualized interaction methods are based on one player doing something that presents another player with a constrained set of choices. For example:

In Polaris, in the midst of the ritual phrase portion, I say: “But only if X happens.” At this point, your options are saying: 1) “And that was how it happened,” 2) “You ask far too much,” 3) “And furthermore, Y happens,” 4) “But only if X happens,” or 5) “It shall not come to pass.”

In Mist-Robed Gate, I hand you a drawn blade and make an explicit demand. At this point, your options are: 1) agreeing to the demand, 2) passing the blade to someone else, deflecting responsibility, 3) stabbing my character sheet in an attempt to kill my character, 4) rejecting all these choices and starting a fight!

In Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan, I say: “My dear! Surely your speed surpasses that of crickets and swallows! Why then were you intimidated by a squad of imperial soldiers?” At this point, your options are: 1) responding to my question in the form “Indeed, [confirmation]! Nevertheless, [declaration]! [Rhetorical question]?” (which doesn’t constrain the content of your choices, just the structure), or 2) responding in the form “Great Khan! [Compliment], but [refusal to divulge details]!” (which is a single choice, mechanically, but open-ended descriptively).

In Waiting for the Queen/Tea at Midnight… um, well, the choices there are a bit complex, since they need a diagram. That’s probably why the game is not as successful at achieving my goals as I would like.

All of these games require you to choose only one of a series of options when someone else asks you to make a choice. However, games like Otherkind and Bliss Stage have given us other options in this regard. Potentially, someone could offer you several choices and you could distribute resources between them based on which ones are more or less important to you. This would basically indicate someone else asking you to demonstrate or reevaluate your priorities, based on the action they took (an action that might change the choices you distribute between).

Some folks on Cultures of Play (schlafmanko and Paul Tevis) recently brought up the difference between having a scene that changes the Status Quo (the plot advances!) vs. having a scene that demonstrates the Status Quo (this is how things are now!). Choices regarding distributing priorities could be either of these, the equivilent of a Dogs in the Vineyard GM asking repeatedly, “How do you feel about X? What about if this happens? What about now? Even if that happens?”

What other things might interaction methods do, aside from asking players to 1) make a choice or 2) rethink/reorder their priorities?