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The Fairgame Archive

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2006-07-04: CSI games
by Emily

Guy Shalev asked me if Shooting the Moon is a CSI game.  Here's the concept from his blog:

C is for Competitive/Cooperative.

Most games under the umbrella of "Role-Playing Games"(RPGs) till now had been Cooperative in nature, the social interaction between players, players and Game Master(GM) and that of between player-characters had been Cooperative. This is the origin of or originated from the "party". We're all in this together....The other side of the coin is that which I am putting up as the main identifier of CSI Games, the Competitive side. Competition is something inherent to human interaction, inherent to the act of gaming....I want the players to compete, whether for spotlight, victory, control, in-game resources, whatever. There need be a competitive element somewhere in the game.

S is for Story.

We're here to tell a story, to hear a story or experience one's wake. We're not here to merely roll the dice or shuffle the cards. Unlike board-games and card-games, we have a story unfolding here. If we don't, we're dealing with something else.

Story often goes with Cooperative. The story-building part is a joint effort by all participants.

I is for Interaction/Isolation.

We're playing a game with other people, you interact with them. You want to help them stop that other guy from winning, you're talking to them and trying to stop them, that's also interaction! You do not play in a void, you're playing with people, interact with them.

Mechanics should have some way to represent and encourage interaction between the players.

Game is self-explanatory.

This is a game, it has winners. This is a game, it has rules. This is a game, it is an activity you do for fun. This is a game, one of the basic human activities, and you know one when you see it.

Guy, the garden variety interaction between GM and players is pretty competitive.  By Competitive are you talking specifically about inter-player conflicts? That shift in games is incredibly rich imo.  Free-form/LARP games exploit it, or depend upon players having interests at odds with one another.  It is what makes AG&G (or what it will come to be known as:) so hot: the characters' interests that are intentionally woven together to be a cross-purposes.  It's the engine for the Roach. The characters careen into one another, ravening in their heedless plunge into depravity for ambition.

But not all of these are CSI's to be sure.

Shooting the Moon falls under it: there is a specific goal for each character that the players are playing with & off one another to gain.  1001 Nights is very much competitive,  interactive and story oriented.  The goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though the players are directed toward playing off the other characters, but the motive for that is mostly fun not profit: you gain resources in the game for doing good story stuff, which is fed by the fires of competition.  Wow, that's cool.

But can there be a game or story or competition with out interactivity? What is the alternative for that, Guy? What are you distinguishing it from?


2006-07-05 14:19:24 Emily

Hey Guy,

First, the competition is not rooted in rules, it is rooted in tradition, with nothing to force it into happening.

So since there is no reward mechanism for the gm to throw adversity at the players, it does not count.  Traditional rpgs are somewhat...incomplete in this way. The mechanics do not encompass motivating factors for the gm.  The rules do, however, as do the social contract surrounding play.  It is the gm's "job" to give the players something to struggle against. If a gm doesn't do a good job of that, they likely get the boot.

But it seems clear that what you're talking about isn't adversity. It's more sited in specific mechanisms for victory and competition for resources.  A marathon isn't a competition because the runners have no way to effect the success of the others? But a horse or stock car race is or could be since the riders can cut each other off and place themselves strategically.  Ball games seem a better analogy: you can tag someone out in baseball, you can block a goal in football (of either stripe).

I am talking about inter-player conflict. These can occur between the characters, but it's important to note that if the players are all lovey-dovey and agree OOC for their characters IC to be in conflict, then it doesn't hold for me.

We still all have to agree to uphold each other's actions within the context of the game. As in all games. In Capes I have to affirm the actions my opponent even if they narrate that they save NYC while I am playing the super-villain that threatened it. There is agreement that underlies the competition. But it sounds like what you are talking about is having the players have motive and opportunity to oppose each other, and not have to compromise by soft pedaling that opposition.

I've only larped once,  but that was enough to let me see that the player embodiment of plot and focus of (mostly) playing one character create conditions very suited to strong inter-player competition. Mutually exclusive victory conditions, (along with really strong mechanisms for creating the expectations of inter-character conflict) as in the Roach do the trick as well.

In Shooting the Moon, each of the players take turns bringing opposition to the others (in a very different way Jason, Remi and Clinton :), but they also will work together with one other player as time goes on. Shooting the Moon certainly has strong mechanically supported competition, but it is not solely so. So I'm not sure how you view that for the CSI categorization.


2006-07-05 14:22:07 Guy Shalev

To clarify, a Marathon is a competition, that was me giving an example of a competition with no Interaction.

The GM isn't adverse to the players, he plays characters adverse to theirs. And even if he is adverse to the players, then the players are working together, rather than also compete.

I have no problems with "Acceptance" OOC, you're still all trying to have fun. But the players need compete, not be together. The players.

As for Shooting the Moon, I'll wait a bit more. Tell me more of how "Victory" and scoring goes.

That is an aspect of Game, not of Competition, but in the end all four portions tie up.


2006-07-05 14:51:52 Emily

Ah, marathon = competition - interaction. I get it.

In Shooting the Moon, each of the players have a goal for their characters: two are playing suitors of the third, the beloved. The suitors are trying to gain the affections of the beloved. The specific goal is chosen by the suitor players and can be whatever makes sense: get her in bed, marry him, earn her trust, you name it. It's mutually exclusive between those two characters, and only one player can win it in the end.

The beloved has a Dream. Some aspiration or ambition that they are blocked from acheiving by various aspects of the world.  The beloved's player is trying to achieve it by gaining points towards it. They work together with the suitors' players during two turns, then the beloved's player actively opposes the suitor players in a third turn, in which they can gain more points toward their own goal.  Again, it's mutually exclusive who gets those points. In the final analysis, though, the beloved and a suitor can both claim victory.

And throught, not only do players get to block others from gaining points towards their goal, but they get to create aspects of their opponent's character. So the competition is not only about victory, but also about authorship of the characters. Although there are ways that opponents are asked to collaborate in order to give a player an advantage.  But for a price, at the expense of the character.


2006-07-05 15:27:07 Guy Shakev

Ok, this sounds very much like a CSI Game(The capital G is not optional).

Interactive Story, Competitive Game.

Even though you compete for story control, all want the story to be good, where each only wants their character to win at Conflicts regarding them.

So far, sounds CSI Game :)


2006-07-05 08:07:07 Guy Shalev

You ask several questions, some of them very involved, others are left unanswered for now, but I'll try to tackle them all! :)

What is a Competition is what most questions are in essence.

The GM Vs. players competition is not enough.

First, the competition is not rooted in rules, it is rooted in tradition, with nothing to force it into happening.

Second, you have a "We" and "Him" mentality, the players are working together, but aren't competitive.

As I've answered Mike Holmes on the quoted IRC Chat, people still play these essentially non-competitive games in a competitive manner, which may in turn lead to hurt feelings(as it was unexpected) or the game not doing what it's built to do(it's not built for competition, yet it's there. Designers should take into mind how people play).

I am talking about Games, I'm talking from a design stand-point, so I'm looking from the outside-inside, so yes. I am talking about inter-player conflict. These can occur between the characters, but it's important to note that if the players are all lovey-dovey and agree OOC for their characters IC to be in conflict, then it doesn't hold for me. The players need to vie for different things, for control.

No game is truly zero-sum, because hopefully everyone also "earns" fun, health or whatever else from playing. If games were truly zero-sum, then for every player who had fun another would suffer.

When you run in a marathon, there is no real interaction. You run, they run, and you compare the results. Interaction in this case means that what you do, directly affects what happens to the others and what they can do back to you.

And hopefully, more people will use the "CSI Game" moniker, I'm also trying to push it into usage.


2006-07-10 15:04:49 Guy Shalev

Consider this post on CSI Games.


2007-03-24 00:30:03 anon.


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