Sami on Push 1

Sami Koponen was nice enough to send us his thoughts on Push 1, which I’m reposting here:

Sorry that my answer is a bit unstructualized. I’ve been hoping to write comments for a long time now, and I’m afraid that the only way to get it done is to just do it. No fancy tricks, no deep analysis. Just some pointers.

First of all, about the idea of Push: I absolutely love it. It seems to be the best chance for inter-cultural discussion, to find out new ways of role-playing. I just realized how utterly fragmented the role-playing scene is here in Finland: no-one knows what the others do, and cares maybe even less. I myself am very excited about the possible combinations, which can be made out of traditional role-playing, board games, Forgean movement, Nordic immersionism, larping, hermeneutics, psychology, theatre, JeepForm and a dozen of other things I haven’t even heard of yet. I have to admit that so far I have no idea why this is so exciting – that is, why should we mix everything we have. Push seems to be aiming more or less for the same target and, what’s more important, creating a community around this innovative and experimental brainstorm. All I need after this is play more.

Then about the articles. Collaborative Roleplaying and Immersive Story Methods felt oddly out-dated. Boss is like celebrating things I’ve been playing here in the cold North for the last three years and Kim is writing against party protagonism, which is a blast from the past. Sure, both writers gather information into a whole and present some new ideas while at it, but surely you can do better than that. Instead of saying “that is bad, but this is cool” I’d recommend to make the old things smoother (how to get the best of GMing) and/or pointing out where they fit (what is the proper use of party protagonism). Or, if this is not possible / uninteresting / whatever, the leave them to rot and embrace the new wave. This of course depends to who you are writing to: if the audience is Forge-ignorant folks, then some foundation might be justified. Though even then I’d say that actually playing a couple of these games is going to be an eye-opening experience: I still remember how I thought that the lack of the GM would lead into an incoherent story and illogic events, no matter what people told me. On the other hand it’s not a bad idea to collect and present some things that have been in fashion in the Forge, for I at least have no time nor patience to read the forum (I’m not the only one, how considers Forge to be a bit hard to approach). Somehow I just tend to think that Push and Forge are pretty well connected in the readers’ heads: if you don’t know the other, you don’t know the another either. Furthermore, Push seems to be a publication for (wanna-be) game designers, who are more interested in going forward than looking back.

I’m not in the right position to judge Against the Geek, Choice, since it’s about my native roleplaying history. It also expresses the call for cultural activity, which is no news to me. Reading about different roleplaying histories is interesting only in the sense that they can learn me to see how big part of roleplaing culture is merely a historical consequence. That covers all kinds of things like the idea that there are only certain characters, which you keep on following and controlling, and the marriage with the speculative fiction. The end result is therefore finding out more things somehow connected to roleplaying (Universalis is a great example of this; it’s not really a roleplaying game, not according to the tradition at least). On the other hand, there are a lots of things that these kinds of contemporary scene presentations could contribute, especially about the social status (publicity, rpg organisations), position (the relations to the mainstream) and execution (how are the games played) of roleplaying. Go for the unique features.

The games, Mridangam and Waiting for the Queen/Tea at Midnight, were clearly the most interesting part of the journal. Both hold huge amounts of ideas, like “hidden” conflict resolution system; the lack of conflict resoltion system; emphasizing the characters’ thoughts and emotions; pulling players to cooperate and participate in the same story; a clear, board game-like narrative structure; adapting to new instant media, just to name a few. It may not be the first time I run across them, but it seems to take a couple of instances before I recognize them and their meaning for the game. Very thought-provoking material especially in the sense that they make me take a hard look at all games, both those I play and those I design, and try to understand what they do, how and why. Analysizing practice, I suppose, and a lot more cheaper than buying a single whole game (which sometimes aren’t even ready yet).

I have the feeling that this message needs some sort of final word. I suppose it’s clear and simple: you now know how to make a journal. Don’t make me wait another couple of years for the next volume.

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