Philosophy Tuesday

“It’s common for instrumental play to be framed in opposition to fun, that they are ends of a spectrum. This is understandable in no small part because instrumental play tends towards optimization, which can often result in deeply un-fun player behaviors.  This gets extended out to the extreme where play framed around challenge or investment is treated as irrational or somehow less genuine than some hypothetically more “pure”, “innocent”, “unadulterated” version of play unconcerned with doing well.

It’s important to this conversation to establish, firmly, that this is a false dichotomy.  We’re going to spend a lot of time talking about how fun gets optimized out of games, which is why I want to stress that they are not antithetical concepts.  Rather than being in conflict with one another they are instead in tension; there is not an opposed relationship, but there is a complex one.”

Dan Olsen

 

The Folding Ideas channel just released a (most extensive) video on World of Warcraft that isn’t so much about the game but about the sociological constructs and expectations that have arisen around it (and thus in other game communities as well).  It’s fascinating in its own right, and doubly so for me as I used to play WoW.

But the above quote near the beginning of the video really caught my attention.  I’ve spoken a few times before regarding false dichotomies, and how much of things are actually gradients and spectrums.  What Dan adds here is a great observation that just because things aren’t an actual dichotomy doesn’t mean that there’s no interaction between them at all.  There still could be plenty of friction.  And, out of that comes a realization that the very friction that exists between them is what likely pushes us to think that they must therefore be in opposition to each other (when they may not be) and has them be collapsed into a false dichotomy (when likewise they are not binary).*

And still, it’s great to get that it is very much possible for these, and indeed many things, to all be interacting with each other in ways that may cause friction and diminishment if one is not careful.  Tension is a good way to describe their situation, rather than something like conflict, opposition, or something that implies a direct line and zero-sum-game between them.

 

* There’s a great example he gives of an RP guild doing ‘free play’ to organize an in-game charity concert event, certainly something that is outside of the game aspect of the game, and therefore may seem to be some version of contrasting purity of RP free play vs the rigid confines of the game rules and mechanisms for adventuring, getting loot, xp, and the like.  But in creating the charity concert itself also created its own internal rules for winning, in terms of people attending and money raised.  Again, it’s not that these things are binary and antithetical to each other; they are (always?) in a dance.  (The vid, of course, goes into much more detail.)

Architecture Monday

 

The new Greek church near the WTC in NYC is interesting for a couple of reasons… for one, it’s designed Santiago Calatrava in a very restrained way that is decidedly uncharacteristic for him:

For two, it is clad in sections of translucent marble.  Which is always mind tweaking for me; whenever I think of stone the first thing that comes to mind is light passing through it such that it can become downright luminous, and yet, that is a thing that some stone amazingly can do. Such that, at night, this building very much becomes a lantern:

Unfortunately, this ends up not being carried through to be used in an interesting way on the interior.  Unlike the alabaster panels at the LA cathedral I visited some years ago, only a ring of fingerling arches around the base of the dome allows any of the light pass through into the inside:

Still, it is a nifty little architectural gimmick.

St Nicholas Church and Shrine, photos by Field Condition, by Santiago Calatrava.

Toilet Paper Thursday

Nope, that’s not a typo.  We’re talking toilet paper tonight.  Specifically, we’re talking about finishing our business with clear cut forests.  Think of what level of impudent boors we must be to take a glorious tree, the marvelous gift to us from mother nature and the gods above, and all that tree provides… making oxygen, sequestering carbon, fixing nitrogen, distilling water, accruing solar energy as fuel, making complex sugars and food, creating microclimates, providing habitat, material for shelter, changing colors with the seasons, and it self-replicates… take that and knock it down to wipe our asses with it.

Let’s not do that, shall we.  Let’s not be that type of people.

Click above or here for the full report.

Philosophy Tuesday

This weekend I heard a story on This American Life that reminded me of another story I’d also heard on TAL (and also wrote about it here).  The story from this weekend was about a version of the game of telephone (if you’re not familiar with the game, an explanation is below*), except that this was a more full-blown storytelling version of the game, run as a loosening exercise for people about to appear on a podcast.  The first person told this short, concise, real-life story about a romantic relationship of someone in their friend group, it’s unexpected ending, an even more unexpected twist, ending with a quandary for the friend group.  The next week’s guest listened to the story, then told it in turn for the next week’s guest, and so on.

Not unexpectedly, the story changed.  And boy did it change.  But while that it changed was not a surprise, what was most interesting about it is how the story changed.  It got more dichotomous.  It injected villainy and malice.  It amped up the stakes.  On the whole, it became more dramatic, with both a good guy and with a bad guy acting with definite intent.  It became a plot (in both the nefarious plan kind of way and also in the narrative plot of a novel/etc sense of the word).

All of which all but obliterated the complexity, messiness, and humanity (including sadness, misfortune, and chances for empathy) of the story.

Which brought to mind that previous show on TAL where Ira had made the very astute observation, “And I think what that’s about is, I think, when we encounter something inexplicable or mysterious, our imaginations, we are such hacks. You know? We go to the most standard, stock, seen it in 100 TV shows version of what something probably is.”

Yep, it’s our storytelling minds being such hacks, taking something nebulous and turning it concrete, and often in a most nefarious direction.

And it’s important to remember that none of the participants in this game realized they were doing it, nor did they intend to do so!  They had the same sense we all have:  we hear it like it is, we understand it fully, and we disseminate it accurately, and while others may have problems sorting things out and keeping things straight and seeing things properly, or to keep their bias out of it, no, no not me, no, I tell it right.  That might be the sense and experience we share, but it’s one that’s unfortunately caca.  And the more we believe it, the more susceptible to our hack selves we become.

We’re not bad for this, of course.  Storytelling is one of the greatest gifts we have as humans, and is perhaps the thing that makes us human.  The idea is not to stop being storytellers or to become Vulcans.  It’s just a great reminder to us to practice mindfulness and work to expand our awareness of ourselves, and a reminder to practice being present to and with what’s so.  To develop our deep listening skills.  And to pay attention to the story and not just the plot, representing the depths of the situation and of all those within it, including generosity and empathy, embracing complexity, and to be fascinated with the way life sometimes goes.

 

* In case you are not familiar with the game, the simple rules are that you get a group of people, and one person whispers a phrase of some kind to another player.  That player then whispers it to the next player, who does the same to the next player in turn, and so on, until the last player receives the phrase and states it aloud.  Note that no one can ask for the person to repeat it; they must pass it on as best they understood it.  The surprising thing about the game is always just how different the last phrase often is… it can be downright astounding.