Joined: 20 Sep 2002 Posts: 2639 Location: pellucidar
Feature - The PM-Player Communication Dynamic ... - 12/15/07 ... in Alternate Reality Gaming and Chaotic Fiction
Link to Feature.
The Puppetmaster-Player Communication Dynamic in Alternate Reality Gaming and Chaotic Fiction
In a previous article, I discussed Chaotic Fiction as a concept and as a context for a better understanding of Alternate Reality Gaming. This was intended more as an overview and did not address in detail the gaming dynamic, the process, or the chaotic play of Alternate Reality Gaming. How does it work? What engages an audience? Which elements are necessary to facilitate the growth of the audience, and which elements can be discarded? <a>Why does there have to be a "curtain?"</a>
Many discussions focus on only one of two aspects of the experience as being the primary drivers within the medium: (1) dividing the audience into discrete groups and (2) defining types of "real-world" game interaction mechanisms. Because the process of Chaotic Play is so different from that of more traditional gaming and entertainment pursuits, I believe that the metaconversational space shared during the creation of a chaotic enterprise should be the focus of the perspective from which we describe the system.
[EDIT] Stickied. Because it deserves to be --Gisk
Alternate Reality Gaming
Sat Dec 15, 2007 9:02 pm
Joined: 19 Dec 2006 Posts: 992 Location: Indiana, USA
Seven pages! Somebody's an academic.
But, of course, I'll read because I don't want to be out-of-the-loop, like one of those kids who thought that CF was just a passing fad and decided not to read your (excellent) article on it.
I'll add more once I've gotten to the end.
- iTube - iTweet iNetwork
Sat Dec 15, 2007 10:23 pm
I Have 100 Cats and Smell of Wee
Joined: 01 Sep 2005 Posts: 4246 Location: Where the cheese is free.
Reading through it, I was sure there was a comparison to the properties of fire coming, with the proper balance of fuel, oxygen and heat. Blowing the correct amount of air on it can provide the additional oxygen needed to build the flame. While blowing too hard cools it and eventually kills it.
I was also expecting a Venn diagram to marry it all up.
The singularity concept didn't hit me till very near the end, but is a good representative analogue. Well said and thorough considering the dynamics of the subject matter. Well done.
I'm telling you now, so you can't say, "Oh, I didn't know...Nobody told me!"
Sun Dec 16, 2007 12:50 am
Joined: 23 Nov 2006 Posts: 1340 Location: Philly
I enjoyed the diagram encompassing the interaction between Architect and Audience -- the "magic" zone reminded me very much of the cartographic "Here Be Dragons" conceit.
Sun Dec 16, 2007 1:34 am
Joined: 20 Sep 2002 Posts: 2639 Location: pellucidar
When I wrote the above article, I admitted I had not seen an example of an "open-source" style Architect team in a chaotic system as I had described but I pointed out that I thought it was conceivable. Last night, I read
that I think was a good example of an emergent engineering of the system I described, in just such a non-directed fashion. This example does not fall directly within the realm of pure gaming, although I am fairly certain most would accept the idea of politics in general as some sort of grand game.
In the article to which I refer above, Glenn Greenwald wrote on Salon.com of the successful blocking of a certain bill in the United States Senate, which among other things would have conferred retroactive immunity upon any telecommunications companies that may have broken the law over the past few years in complying with governmental intelligence requests which may themselves have not been in compliance with the law. Nothing has been proven conclusively in court one way or another with respect to alleged lawbreaking in this regard, so far as I know, but opponents of the amnesty clause claim the bill's passage would shut down any further possibility to even know the truth behind those questions (all other avenues having previously been foreclosed by the current administration) while proponents of the plan say that the telecom companies shouldn't be held criminally responsible for assisting the government in time-sensitive investigations involving national security (even though the law governing such surveillance, in place since 1978 and amended multiple times recently at the behest of this current administration, already provides for such a characterization of amnesty, if only the telecom companies bother to ask for things in writing from the government first in order to cover their asses). Anyway, for the purposes of this post, some people like it and some people don't and for those of you who care not for American politics, I apologize, but a small amount of background is necessary in order to consider the mechanics of the events which unfolded.
I encourage you to read Greenwald's post for a better understanding of the events that happened but here is a brief synopsis. It became clear based on public information that the bill containing telecom amnesty would be brought to the Senate floor for debate. A group of people interested in this development in American politics were discussing the issue at the time, and one of the community members, a Jim White, brought up a "What if?" scenario, asking if there were a Senator who could be approached to put a "hold" on the bill, referring to a procedure where a Senator may reserve the right to object to a bill before it is voted upon. A "relatively small group of bloggers and a couple of representatives from grass-roots organizations" then came up with the idea of locating such a willing Senator. They used other independently generated community information to determine the most likely candidate, one Christopher Dodd. The community then rallied around this idea, communicated their will to the Senator, prompting him into action, and then continued to support him in other ways for the decision, such as by contributing to his campaign or even contributing to his body of work to draw upon when filibustering, if necessary. The end result was that the bill in question was pulled from consideration until a later date.
In order to establish my point about this being an example of an emergent effective chaotic gaming system, let's evaluate it by the criteria I've previously attempted to establish. First, does it fit the definition of Chaotic Fiction? Well, not exactly, as this is real-world stuff rather than fiction but I've pointed out before that the definition can be altered to encompass other systems. In this case, the only alteration required is to shift perspective on the "Coherence" portion to consider the above events as the narrative in place of a fictional plot, the narrative in question being defined as, "What if?"
Was Authorship distributed between the Architects and the Audience? Here, it seems that the Architects - the community that first discussed the political developments leading up to the narrative inspiration - had much, much less influence on the subsequent development than did the Audience, but the answer is clearly yes. Was a framework for metaconversation with the universe established? Remembering that intent is not required, I'd have to say yes again, in that the Architects here inadvertently set up a framework that would enable an effective collective act. Was there a plot? "What if one brave Senator could put a hold on this legislation?" Sounds like a plot to me (or at least a narrative). Finally, the History should be apparent by the fact I've linked to it above.
So does it satisfy the community dynamic I've described as well? I'll admit the comparison breaks down here a bit because I have not been previously able to model a distributed-Architect system. However, the Audience side of the equation can be seen pretty clearly:
What If? Question is asked and some discussion participants propagate the meme (Architect stage)
Focused discussion determines best candidate for targeted action
Some participants ascend to Organized Discussion, creating tools to facilitate accomplishing the initial goal of soliciting a reaction from Senator Dodd
These tools actualize a broad range of the Audience, requiring little commitment to activate, enabling Audience members from at least the Networked Aware and above stages to participate at the Organized Action level with very little additional energy (interest) commitment
Upon success of the initial goal, when the Senator pledged to place a "hold" and filibuster the bill if necessary, the Organized Discussion stage proposes a next level of Organized Discussion, creating a resource upon with the Senator may draw in order to support his filibuster with appropriate messages to read aloud. They also contribute large aggregate sums of cash to his campaign
After about 8 hours of filibustery, the bill is withdrawn until a later date, Greenwald writes up a post-mortem (hello, Organized Discusser), and also suggests possible future action (hello, Organized Actor? Potential Distributed Architect Member? Who knows?).
This is a prime example of an emergent, self-organizing, chaotic system that effectively and unexpectedly accomplished a real-world task, in a classic gaming arena - American politics. It was enabled by the real-time communication network of the internet, which allowed it to adapt itself as a process in real-time to the events that unfolded, even as they were effected or affected by the process itself. It was not directed by any individual or group, although it seems to have been set in motion (or initially fired anyway) by a small community. This is cool.
I am curious to see what, if anything, will happen in the future with this particular issue and/or community. The bill may come up again next year without change; will the same type of reaction occur then as well? Will, as Greenwald suggests, people work harder in the interim to come up with alternative plans to combat the bill and will they be as effective then too?
But I really want to know what the difference is between something like this and something like World Without Oil, besides the obvious - that this event was centralized around a primary focus of initiating a specific reaction in the Senate, and subsequent refocusing around supporting that success in materiel and finance, rather than about creating a broader, semi-fictional story. Is there a way to tap into this kind of apparently innate interest in certain aspects of politics? Or was the event's success due entirely to the ease of actualization provided to participants by the creators of the communication-enabling tools? This is the kind of thing I would look at if I were trying to develop Serious Games: How to tap into the existing interest levels out there rather than how to excite interest in causes.
I am sure it is only a matter of time before we can understand these dynamics to the extent that we can start to make predictions about them. Then things will get really interesting.
Alternate Reality Gaming
Thu Dec 20, 2007 2:30 am
Joined: 17 Mar 2008 Posts: 14 Location: Not as far as you might think.
This is the kind of thing I would look at if I were trying to develop Serious Games: How to tap into the existing interest levels out there rather than how to excite interest in causes.
Yes. This will have the additional effects of increasing player numbers across the Audience spectrum and of heightening realism, imho. And it holds true for any interest, whether political, social, scientific, etc. There is nothing so powerful as an alternate reality whose time has come.
Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:48 am
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