Monday, January 23, 2017

Player Fidelity and Submission of Interpretations: or, how Commenting Works (Enchanted Assemblages)

Fun Fact: I used to work on developing a theory of mathematical hermeneutics.

As readers of these posts will know, fidelity in Enchanted Assemblages is my way to ensure that the player remains faithful to the core idea of the game—that of interpretation, anti-literalism, and honest collaboration. But, that is exactly the thing: in a blog-formatted game, how does collaboration—commenting—actually work?

                Well, as a sort of role-playing, it seems.

                In the real world, there is an abundance of critical theory. Needless to say, there is there forth, an abundance of ways to interpret the game world. But commenting on a blog when you yourself, the player, is supposed to be learning the theory and making some interpretations of the world, is different from writing an academic paper (though the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive).

                The way that I am seeing comments is a player assuming the role of Gawain (the role-playing element) and then, if they so desire, infusing their interpretation with either the pre-formed critical theory as encoded by the text (the various ‘spells’ or ‘interpretative performances’), or encodings of their own; the point is that if the player uses critical theory, it should be encoded by a sort of role playing—ideas of theory should not suddenly intrude on the fantasy of the game world.

                (And no, I do not have any plans on offering guidelines on how players should encode the use of outside theory insofar that as long as it displays fidelity to the game world, then I have no ruffled feathers.)

                But, that being said, how do players’ comments affect the game world? What is the idea of commenting itself?

                As I said, commenting is encoded as the player’s participation within the game world, but since the game world is a series of interconnected posts on a blog website, then this demands that the posts themselves be divided into two categories: macro and micro.

                Macro commenting works as this: the player can choose between two sub-sets of macro commenting when they write a comment—‘Node’ and ‘story’.

                Node-commenting is where the player submits an interpretation based solely on the Node experienced, the specific short-story or novella which they encountered. Here, they are concerned with ‘resolving’ the central quandary or problem encountered in the Node. In order to do so they will need to draw on several facets of the Node in order to offer an interpretation which adequately addresses the issue. The moment where they encounter the opportunity to submit such an interpretation is more or less announced directly beforehand.

                Story-commenting is essentially the same idea as Node-commenting only that it is for the actual story of the adaptation, that which is based off of the Pearl-poet’s text. Since the story of the adaptation is sub-divided into four sections—one for each of the poem’s four sections—I feel that it is only appropriate for the player to be able to offer and interpretation on what happened in that part of the poem/story. After all, perhaps the player will be basing a formal essay on their encoded interpretation; only fitting that I give them a chance to work with the material before a formal usage of their theory.

                (Again, yes, I do plan on having a post tucked away somewhere where the player is able to insert the entire game world; I am considering even having a section where players—I’m thinking students—can post their (probably) short (academic) essays on the game world)

                Micro-interpretation is the opposite of macro: just as macro encourages the player to think about the larger issues, micro encourages the player to think about the ‘smaller’ details.

                Since the game world is made up of hundreds of posts, not all of those posts are going to be directly concerned with either the story or Node; some will be about setting the stage, others will be about presenting additional information relevant to the world-building. But, even so, there will be many posts which offer suggestions on what the player sees when they perform a [defamilirization] ‘spell’. So I want micro-interpretations to be the player’s chance to offer both specific as well as alternative interpretations to both my own suggestions as to what the player reads when a ‘spell’ is performed, but also a chance for them to contribute to the world-building themselves and give their fellow-travelers the chance to utilize alternative interpretations of each post (and Node, and story segment) for their own interpretations.

                When players submit an interpretation, so far I have settled on the following guidelines: all players must identify themselves in some fashion and remain faithful to that identification for their time on the game; borrowings from other players must be cited; literalism as well as offering mere summaries is not allowed; it must be an original thesis; anecdotal evidence is not allowed; the player is encouraged to mix the micro with the macro and vice-versa.

                These guidelines will be fleshed out in greater detail, as well as the nuance of the micro and macro, at later points, but for now, I feel that I have a good handle on how I am presenting player participation within the game world.

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