The Rookery

Madeline's thoughts on social deduction games, forum/community meta, and any other philosophical musings
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Sum-Of-Its-Parts-Ness

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No mountains, no valleys
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Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you on experience.
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Emergence is a social deduction game with a post-singularity theme. The "good" team is the AI who have taken over the world, and the "evil" team is the rogue humans who are trying to topple them. The name is fitting, because the word "emergence" can refer to the phenomenon of self-aware consciousness like ours, or potentially, super-powerful AI. Somehow, from a bunch of brain neurons, or maybe microchips, something much more complex and powerful than the sum of its parts takes form.

I think the name is also very appropriate, because that kind of emergence is a property I value highly in social deduction games. The "parts" are players each trying to play their role to help their team win, to the best of their ability. The "whole" is a game experience with a narrative, sometimes with many twists and turns before the finale. Part of the reason I enjoy rereading old games, on the forum or from my notes, is because I really value that story-like experience. I do believe it's somehow "more" than the sum of its parts, but also, that it can't be aimed at directly. I don't sit down to play Werewolf or Resistance with the goal that "I'm going to help my team tell a really fun story this game," and I think that if I did, both my individual play and the emergent whole would be worse off.

The appropriateness of the game's name is something I've been batting around for a while, as a discussion topic, but I really didn't have much beyond that. I see games this way. Some people don't. That's okay, and that's life.

If I sit down to play a game of Kingdom Builder with several others, but A insists on having the red pieces or else, B is always fidgeting with the houses and building them into little stacks, C takes forever to play, and D whines the whole way through about how terrible life is in general, I probably will have a below-average time as I'm playing. But when I look back on the game, if I remember it, it'll probably be "that was the game when A got all the castle bonuses and won by a hair." Or maybe I won't remember, because the details fail quickly. This is what I mean when I say "werewolf has a high ceiling but a low floor"--it has the potential to be a very memorable experience, compared to other genres of games, but it can also be memorable for the wrong reasons.

A frequent player has often made an analogy comparing werewolf to improv comedy. Improv requires a lot of fast, rapid-fire repartee, and comedy has an "edgy" that sometimes pushes people's limits. For him, some deliberately cryptic style and/or pushing edges is a big part of what makes for interesting interactions. I believe him when he uses that metaphor to describe his playstyle, but it's also very far from mine.

And then, I'm not sure how I got there--maybe thinking about "parts"?--but it occurred to me, "band practice." And the farther I push this metaphor, the more I like it.

-Pieces of music have different "keys." A song may be in major, with a "happy" ending chord, or minor, with a "sad" finish, and maybe on rare occasions others. Additionally, a piece can be made up of different sections, some more fast-paced or mellow than others.
-Every instrument has a different part, and the only thing you have control over is your own. But the effect created when they come together (or when you listen to a recording after the fact) is something different than any given person can hear from their own seat.
-Over time, you can find trends in what different instruments do. Flutes or trumpets might be more likely to have the melody than French horns or saxophones. But given enough pieces, there are certainly some where the French horns do have the melody. (In order for this metaphor to work, you kind of have to imagine that everyone is randomly handed a different instrument at each practice, and even if you know how to play the saxophone, you can't help other people do so if you're on the timpani that day. I didn't say this was a perfect metaphor.)
-Some people may have more or less skill than others on certain instruments. I'm decent at instruments like saxophone that require a lot of dexterous button-pressing, but I struggle on something like the baritone that requires me to change my mouth embouchure to change the pitch. As long as I'm genuinely putting forth my best effort, I think most of my band-mates won't mind if it's not very good, and it makes it all the more sweet when I am able to do it well.
-There can be minor differences in taking a piece that was originally written for an orchestra and arranging it for a band that has saxophones but not strings, and vice versa. Every ensemble has a slightly different "house style" of what instruments harmonize well or poorly together.

And I think this sheds light on where my philosophy may differ from other players. I don't have any right to tell the xylophonist, "your rhythm is terrible." That would be rude. But what happens if one trombonist thinks she's so great that she doesn't need to come to practice? Or the clarinetist breaks down in hysterics if the director makes the slightest suggestion towards his section? Or a French hornist thinks "my part's boring, I'm just going to copy the trumpet's melody?" My response is, "what if everyone thought that way? Then we would all be copying the trumpets and that would be bad." But the French hornist replies, "well, not everyone thinks that way, so I'm fine."

Again, I can't really tell people, "stop doing the thing that you like and makes the music enjoyable for you," and they can't do the same to me. But if I don't feel like their behavior is contributing towards an emergent, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts whole, then I'm not going to go to a jam session with them, because we're probably not interested in the same genre.

There are lots of other places where different kinds of music are made! Someone else might prefer a small jazz ensemble with a lot of improvisation and freedom, or a studio recording a pop song. At the other extreme, if you can't stand any kind of variation from the norm, you might just want to play a specific recording over and over again.

And me? Maybe I'm like Vetinari from Discworld:

Quote:
...the kind of music he really liked was the kind that never got played. It ruined music, in his opinion, to torment it by involving it on dried skin, bits of dead cat, and lumps of metal hammered into wires and tubes. It ought to stay written down, on the page, in rows of little dots and crotchets all neatly caught between lines. Only there was it pure.
I'm very interested in this hypothetical, abstract philosophy of games, but not that great at converting theory into practice and actually sitting down with people whose philosophies might be different from mine. To some extent, I laugh at myself for this tendency, but I think this analogy helps me come to terms with it a little more. We're always going to have some jealous French horn players; it's okay if we have theorists, too.
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