10 May 2006

Please Oh Please

Can we not turn Mo's "Push/Pull" into specialized jargon terms with super-specific meanings? I can see it happening already and dread it like the plague.

So what if Mo's original articulation was trying to do 12 things at once? There's nothing wrong with that. By all means, let's break down Push/Pull into various aspects and components, but let's not work out every single detail and preemptively declare "Mission Accomplished!" Let's not label the 7 different sub-categories of Pull behaviors. Let's not replicate the Forge's steady accumulation of jargon at Story Games, which has, so far, remained rather accessible.

Push/Pull are general categories, like "roleplaying." There is not a limited number of ways in which they can be done. They are relative and relational concepts, relying heavily on context.

Also, I tend to think that if you don't feel the general distinction between Push and Pull in your gut, after reading the basic descriptions Mo originally posted and the various discussions since then, that Push/Pull are not going to be especially helpful or interesting to you.

When I read it, my reaction was "Yes! This is what I've been trying to say FOR YEARS!" If you don't feel that way, I don't think there's anything you can really do about that. You can enjoy games that are based on Push/Pull ideas without digging the theory, just like with GNS/Big Model and the Forge games. Maybe you'll eventually have an "OH!" revelation. Maybe not.

In any case, remember that jargon terms are icons: they indicate and point at a real idea, but they are not the idea itself. Use the icon well, as an arrow. Don't let it become an idol. Let it point you towards bigger and grander ideas, not tie you down in the nitty gritty details.


Blogger Jessica said...

Oh yes, I feel that. I do want to understand what Mo meant, because I feel that way whenever I encounter something I don't understand. But I really don't want to canonize the terms as Things We All Must Now Use, despite how smart and awesome Mo is. I want to get what she meant, but then I want to make my own meanings using the concepts she's introduced, not canonize her Saint Mo and keep her tibia in a gold-inlaid casket (though that would be awesome!).

You're right, the Forge does tend to like to put tibiae in caskets.


(Yet another reason I avoid The Forge . . .)


11:41 PM  
Anonymous Mark W said...

On the other hand, though, the constant kerfuffle over words like "narrativist", "system", and "immersion" seems to me an indicator of the kind of logjam-to-discussion that can happen when you have a term that people THINK they know what it means. They learn what it means in one community, then get upset when another community uses it differently.

If you really want to buld a common community among different camps of gamer-like-substances, one thing that's going to HAVE to happen is some level of language management. An important component of that is probably NOT to attach words that have mushy, multivalent common meanings (and can easily be used to talk about many different things which are not even necessarily similar) to specific concepts that one or another subcommunity feels strong ownership of.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Good point, Mark. If only there were a better way of getting to that point of clear, shared terms and defining some common ground, without locking down alternate approaches.


2:47 PM  
Blogger xenopulse said...

I'm with Mark here. If we're going to have discourse, we need to know what we're talking about.

It's not a matter of excluding people who don't know the terms. It's a matter of finding a common understanding and then presenting it in a simple, easy way to others so we can all talk about stuff.

Most of the fights and tension and all that jazz in the discussion of RPGs seems to stem from people misunderstanding each other.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Mo said...


Hell. Nobody gets my tibia at all.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Leigh Walton said...

smells like truthiness...

4:23 AM  

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