wow such a good editorial im blown away tbh
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The thing I'm most interested in here (and there's plenty that I'm interested in) is what huge difference there must be between being a Tool-Subject and a Toy-Subject, and how impossible it would probably be to discern from the outside. What a strange thing! I can't even conjure up a guess as to how those states would feel different, what different textures the experiences would have, but I know they must be wildly divergent.
In many ways, the Toy-Subject is akin to a GM, in the traditional sense--the need to find something to say that is both True and Satisfactory, for the benefit of others. The Tool-Subject is kind of the traditional player, in this sense, I suppose.
Lots to chew on, here. I'm not sure I have the strength or bravery to play it, but thank you so much for making it and sharing it with us!
I got "testing, testing," and it is exactly what I've been denying about my life recently, which is fun and terrifying. So there's that. I attached the Knight of Discs to my head for a while today because it's the card that insists it is me, even though I don't want it to. I couldn't see it, because it was on my head, and that didn't make it easier. So there's that, too, I guess.
I don't have a lot of art-babble to throw at this, I think because it so thoroughly makes its own case, you know? It seems... whole, somehow. Thank you for sharing it with us!
These are amazing! And such a pair, feeding into each other. They so cleanly demonstrate the uneasy generative/destructive dichotomy of becoming a better human: we have to be better, to act in a spirit of generosity to ourselves, but we also have to take to ourselves with the sugeon's knife. The pieces we lose, which we need to lose, may look very like our identity; and that's why the generative portion is so important, and comes first.
On a personal note, there's a moment in the first game that really put me in a vulnerable space, just reading it. There in the last item on the list, tucked innocuously in there, is the sentence "Ask for help." And it came as such a surprise, I had a really genuine few moments of confusion and searching, trying to figure out why that sentence was there, in a place I didn't feel like it belonged. Of course, it does belong there, it's exactly where it belongs. But I don't have strong categories for this: I don't ask for help, not as much as I should, and certainly not from a place of strength and appreciation and safety. And furthermore, I don't acknowledge that about myself to myself nearly often enough.
Anyway, thank you. It's a truly beautiful set of games.
What a lovely exploration of identity and alienation! It's tempting, much of the time I think, to focus on the negative: those times of day, perhaps, where existence comes less easily. But there's value in lingering in the spaces where we can be, the in-between places that leave us room to move around, to be ambiguous. This game is a needed invitation to appreciate those places, to look at them and admire them, and to admire ourselves in all our various forms.
Thank you so much for this game!
Oh man, what a fun little exploration of identity! There's something powerful about asking the same question over and over: every time we have to reassess what the question means, what the speaker wants from us, how much granularity we can tease out of our answers. And starting with a question that seems aggressive or dismissive or flippant, but that turns out to be deeply existential when you really dig in, well that's delightful. I think the secret sauce of this game is that we're all always already answering this question: the way we present ourselves to the world is an implicit response to the Other's implicit demand that we tell them who we are and what we're about. Being forced to say it out loud is an invitation to inspect that process, which is typically invisible and unconsidered. The fact that the game is stated so directly and simply only adds to its charm.
Thank you so much for the game! I really love it. I do have a question though: Who the fuck are you??
I don't have a lot to add to this (without, as you say, responding in the style of the game perhaps), except to say that I think we're in enthusiastic agreement. Nonetheless, some follow-ups:
- I view mathematical realism/non-realism much in the same way I do fictional realism/non-realism. Which is to say: yes to each, at various times, as necessary or expedient.
- If you're into Quine-Duhem, you're gonna love Feyerabend. He gives the strongest possible version of that claim, and Against Method lays out the argument systematically, drawing on as much historiography as theory. It's an underappreciated book, and one that has completely shaped everything I've done since I read it.
- I'm reading the randomness as a "training wheels" method of getting outside, which we can shed as we come to fully embody the skill. Once we lose the need for "artificial" methods like randomness, we have a more direct access to the Otherwise Than Ourselves, hopefully moving beyond even the limitations imposed by the game (tip of the iceberg, after all) and into the world of the empathetic, the subjectivity of the Other. This absolutely requires some facility with breaking down the Outside-Inside dichotomy, which was always false anyway. (Side note: this gets right at a central point of Against Method, that practice/theory or evidence/theory are not separate, and cannot be. We are always doing both at once, as one gesture.)
I know you're busy these days, but if you end up reading Against Method at some point, I'd love to chat about it! ❤
That's a BIG topic, but I can point to a few things. Caveat emptor: I have a very strange set of beliefs about philosophy of science that makes some people mad.
We could inspect the idea of "solving" something. It's my impression that mathematicians have a very different approach to what it means to solve things than, say, most scientists do. At least their language and demeanor about it tends to be very different. I think most mathematicians aren't very concerned, for instance, if their proof maps onto the physical world, because math is inherently abstract, etc. (It may have implications for the physical world, but it very quickly becomes science or something other than math--art and occultism spring to my mind, in fact--when you start thinking that way.)
And this process of solution that the game describes, seems very aesthetic to me, especially in the advanced variant. What criteria, what impulse, what set of beliefs inform what processes you use to go about solving something? Similarly, what criteria inform your declaration of the problem being solved/finished? These are, I would argue, essentially aesthetic criteria. I have seen so many mathematicians (my physicist ex among them) who prize elegance and beauty in proofs above all else. I have known mathematicians who have found a perfectly "functional" proof, who then go on off in search of another, more aesthetically pleasing one, or a more interesting one, or some other arbitrary--aesthetic--requirement.
The truth is that there cannot be one, singular set of criteria for proof. Any given paradigm requires input from Outside (there's that word again) against which to judge its own set of assumptions and practices. My normal example is the so-called "Scientific Method," which doesn't functionally exist in any meaningful way. If it did, science wouldn't be able to do anything. (For more on this, I recommend Against Method, Paul Feyerabend. I do not especially recommend Kuhn, but to each their own.) And I argue that the same is true for any functional tradition of knowing (art, occultism, whatever): it does not, cannot exist in a vacuum. All progress happens across worldviews, inter-paradigmatically. There's no objective Aristotelian Platform from which to inspect ourselves and our belief systems, there are only other belief systems. And the belief systems that acknowledge this, the way that art and occultism and some approaches to math and science do, are stronger and more agile and more functional as a result.
And this game implicitly acknowledges that, I think. First, randomizing methodologies is a way of getting Outside (of your personal paradigm, of the prevailing paradigm of your culture of inquiry), of reaching for something beyond the current set of possibilities. And once that becomes a natural thing, you can remove the randomness and allow your burgeoning aesthetic judgment to guide that process. And once you've mastered that, you can apply those techniques and proclivities in other areas (such as solving this game). All of this points to an approach to knowledge acquisition that's open and syncretic, that allows input from other, inherently incommensurable ways of knowing.
So that's not a lot of specifics about parallels to art and occultism, but I think it gestures at a larger point?
I don't hate math, but I also have little-to-no experience with it. I dated a physicist for a long while, I like watching Numberphile, that's about it. This game definitely gets at something I've always suspected about math and mathematicians: that math is art, and mathematicians are artists; that math is magic, and mathematicians are magicians. This game maps so cleanly onto the broadest structures of occultism and aesthetics (and let's be real, of language!) that it leaves me a little awe-struck.
Thank you so much for the game! It's elegant and beautiful in ways I can't really put words to (and putting words to stuff is kind of my thing, god help me).
What a harrowing game. I think the scariest thing about it, for me, is the nebulous space it leaves between reality and fiction. We're meant to "draw from" our real lives, but this is still a roleplaying game, and we're still establishing a shared fiction together (at least, the way I read the game). So there's this uncertainty behind every statement: Are we airing real grievances? Are we exaggerating otherwise insignificant grievances? Are we inventing ones that are merely plausible (and is that inherently a kind of judgment or indictment)? Navigating that diegetic/non-diegetic landscape together is difficult in exactly the way that sharing our actual lives with other people is. After all, on some level, the things we think and know and experience only gain realness when put in conversation with the corresponding thoughts and knowledge and experiences of others.
Thank you so much for the game! It's difficult and beautiful.
Oh man, embracing the crossed-out text so common in this jam is beautiful. It does so much work, here! There are things that exist both as themselves and in opposition to something else, that are inextricably bound to their opposite. I guess that's dialectics for you (Blake would probably agree). I think this kind of game has real value in allowing us to practice the difficult rituals we're too often called on to perform. To give us space, together, to enter those foreign places and have a look around, before it's a matter (literally) of life and death. What a remarkable thing.
Thank you so much for the game! It's lovely, and deserves to be played.
Oh man this is a fun direction for There Is No Outside. Also, I'm so down for using a Ouija board to resolve conflict.
It really does feel like an AU (non-D&D) proto-RPG structure that could have existed. It's got that "if the outcome is unclear, roll dice, higher result gets what they want" feeling. I've always felt that there's something fundamentally different about using a shared object (one deck of cards, a ouija board, w/e) for all players to determine their outcomes. It has some cooperative/friendly/working together implications that dice just kind of don't have. It's subtle, but it's there.
And, as always, I love games that encourage us to contextualize violence in healthier ways. That is, not artifically removing it from places where it might be (there is plenty of violence in real life, and in children), but just saying outright: Hey Maybe Don't Punch Everything Immediately. This is exactly in line with how I imagine it would have been handled in the AU of the thought-experiment, and is exactly how we handle things interpersonally irl. There is power in just saying "Be better."
Thanks for the game! There Is No Outside is proving a pretty badass platform to build on.
There's something really... telling about the exact way you get a reward token, here. I think the expectation would be (at least to my mind) that you'd be rewarded for somehow appearing "normal," or "overcoming" your flaw, but that's not exactly the case. You (the player and the character) are rewarded for performing your flaw to the exact level of detail the game demands. Which is very interesting.
If we were to ask the question of what lesson there is to be learned here (a question I don't particularly like, but let's try it on for a moment), we might think it's that what succeeds in the strange and artificial world of a political debate is knowing yourself and your flaws and working with those flaws to make your point, rather than against them. The next question, of course, has to be: How does this align with our material world, and what can we learn by the comparison?
Look at all the thinking I've done just getting inside this game! Much more than watching a debate, rest assured.
Thank you so much for the game! It's such a ride!
Oh this seems like a blast! I'm normally kind of whatever about social deduction (board) games because they're kind of either "just math" or "just shouting," I think? And sometimes some people are playing the math game while others are playing the shouting game? Anyway, I think I like this much better.
I'm sure you know Win Lose Banana. I love WLB chiefly because the game gets out of the way of being silly. It knows the winner/loser dynamic is bunk in that kind of game, so it mostly gets rid of it and gives you the flimsiest possible framework for chumping your friends. This is similar, I think, but subtler, and moves more toward roleplay (obviously). This game lets the win condition drive behavior, but only just enough to hang a character on. The game framework is basically "character creation" for the group and group dynamic, and then the rest is having pretend conversations with your friends. Which is way better than math and shouting.
And I adore the idea of having recurring characters! I'd want to pass established characters around the group, see how other people play the ridiculous truck driver character I made, and see how well I can pull off the nodding academic character my buddy made.
Thank you again for the game. It's great!
Oh man I play this all the time without realizing it!
I love what you've done with the graphic design, here. I have no head for that sort of thing at all, but it adds so much to what is already a substantial (if concise) game. I wasn't familiar with James Turrell before reading this, but I've done a little digging and his work is kind of amazing! So thanks for giving me that, as well.
There's so much power in just providing a framework that allows people (players) to try to do something esoteric: to see differently, to feel differently, to be something else. So much of the barrier between ourselves and the metaphysical disappears when we just give ourselves space to try and maybe fail. Games are able to do that, sometimes. This one certainly does, I think.
Thank you so much for this game! I really love it.
Oh my god! I'm in love with this, and I'm in love with Charlie! This is such a gift: a small piece of a loved one that we can take with us and use to remember them, even when they're not around.
It's amazing (but not surprising, I suppose) how visceral playing this is. Framing something as a game is so powerful for establishing practices of reflection and remembrance and exploration, even when applied to mundane things. This game gave me some real space to just remember the very specific details of how my own cats behave, what they look like when they pounce and such, what mysterious factors affect their dispositions.
Thank you so much for this game! It's truly beautiful.
I am absolutely getting a group together for this, and we will absolutely do it forever. What a beautiful excuse to add some silliness and comraderie to our lives! And excellent life advice: I will never again speak to trees unless the sky is overcast. Upon reflection, it seems rude to interrupt their meal. I should have realized.
I really love the idea of presenting customs and routines as something close to games. Something happens when we call something a game, an inspection of the thing, a taking stock. We instinctively regard it with new eyes, toward its systemic and social properties (perhaps even seeing systems and sociality where there was none or very little). And then we have the added benefit of adding bits, making the mundane stranger, more surprising, more delightful.
Thank you so much for the
game submission! I love it!
It's an instruction manual on how to make art! If you just replace the models with poems, you've basically got my creative writing degree.
I love this! It's so in line thematically with the theme of the jam, and it gets there so quickly, efficiently, and clearly. Great job! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
DISCLAIMER: I have not read the prompts because I'm going to play this asap.
I'm just in love with the idea that the only two outcomes are 1. it happens or 2. it happens metaphorically. There's some truth in that, I think: that things have a tendency to work out, if we can just find the right eyes to see it. In the world of stories, at least, which isn't so different from our world.
Thank you so much for the game! I'm going to rope my roommate into playing it with me, and I'll report back!
Thanks! I'm glad the game successfully speaks to something in the jam prompt. It's definitely been the only thing in my mind since the jam started (haha) so I'm not surprised it showed up here.
And thanks for your kind words about the comments! I know how vulnerable and weird this kind of thing can be, so it's really important to me that everyone feels seen and appreciated. I'm just trying to do my part, I guess, in the best way I know how. It helps that the designers and their games have been so honest and charitable to themselves and to the prompt and to one another. I'm in awe of everyone here!
Edit w/r/t Your Edit: I didn't do that math, but I'm not upset it would typically go for that long. It feels fully in line with my reading of the game for that to be the case. This is not a pleasant game, to my mind, and I think your connecting that to the boxer is on point. :)
Oh man small talk is such a game and I hadn't noticed before! I'm actually pretty good at it, as long as people are willing to go along with some wildly divergent segues haha.
It's such an insightful move to have a solid setting, and a real-world setting, because so much of small talk is contextual. It's about what we share, things that can seem unremarkable on the surface: this building, the city, local sports teams. This game knows that the secret of small talk is that we all share a lot more than that, it just takes some vulnerability to get to it.
I also really like the way the game isn't competitive, but it does provide opportunities to fail, and that failure is basically public. It mirrors small talk itself in both obvious and subtle ways. It's a lovely game! Thank you so much for sharing it.
Oh man having a player/GM be the force attempting to keep you away from the outside is just rude and great. There's something quietly telling in the fact that players use their Inside understanding of Outside concepts to break through. It gets at the permeability of the divide between Inside and Outside, and points to the unspoken bit about this whole jam: that ultimately "dictation" is less about somehow becoming Outside, and more about breaking down what separates the two.
You mentioned you'll probably build this out into a more "official" game, and I'm super stoked to see that too! Thanks so much for the game!
What a cool idea to base a game around superstitions! And they're powerful superstitions that manifest in useful ways sometimes. And the moving GM role seems so natural here, especially with the semi-competitive nature of the game (specifically the way kids are competitive about things like this). My favorite detail is that hindering someone's roll gives you -1 forward because you get a peek "under the hood" of human belief, as it were. Lovely! Thank you so much for the game!
Are you familiar with Frank O'Hara? I posted Personism: A Manifesto in the community section, if you aren't, and I recommend just doing a google and reading some poems. It's good stuff.
"What's past is preface."
In some ways, this resembles my approach to like... "normal" games more than rpg books typically do. Just figure it out, you know? The people in this room are your friends, you do dope shit together all the time, here's some weird ideas about how to frame your awesome interactions in unexpected ways. That's the good stuff, the real stuff, of games.
It's amazing how intimate it is, putting the game between two specific people, and letting the assumptions of that relationship inform the assumptions of the game. There's so much that doesn't need to be explained, and the absence of the need for those things comes to define the game (probably in much the same way that it defines the friendship). Anyway, it's beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing it.
It is not the monotony of nature but the games beyond nature that call to each other above the game designers' heads. The heads of game designers being a part of nature. It is not for us to make the lines of nature precise. It is for the games to make the lines of nature precise. Because of their fatal attraction for the lines of nature, for our heads.
We proclaim a silent revolution. The games above our heads, without tongues, are tired of talking to each other over the gabble of our beliefs, our literary personalities, our attempts to project their silent conversation to an audience. When we give tongue we amplify. We are telephone switchboards deluded into becoming hi-fi sets. The terrible speakers must be allowed silence. They are not speaking to us.
How is it then our business to talk of revolution--we heads of game designers one named Jack and one named James, three in the distance named Ebbe, Charles, and Robert? It is because we as their victims, as their mouthpiece, must learn to become complete victims, complete pieces of their mouth. We must learn that our lips are not our own. A revolution is a savage education.
There are people that talk about games like tired insurance clerks talk about baseball. They must be destroyed by our silence. Even the hatred of them interrupts the conversation that our games wish to continue. Even the mention of them makes it me talking, crashes into paradox that was their truth.
We do not write for each other. We are irritable radio sets (but the image of the talking head of a horse on the wall in Cocteau's first Orpheus was a truer image) but our games write for each other, being full of their own purposes, no doubt no more mysterious in their universe than ours in ours. And our lips are not our lips. But are the lips of heads of game designers. And should shout revolution.
This is an excerpt from a letter that Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Robert Lowell regarding some poems he sent her. The poems would later be published as a volume titled Dolphin, which dealt with the dissolution of his marriage to Elizabeth Hardwick. The poems included quotations from difficult and pained letters Hardwick had send him following his departure.
It’s hell to write this, so please first do believe I think Dolphin is magnificent poetry …
I’m sure my point is only too plain … Lizzie is not dead, etc.—but there is a “mixture of fact & fiction,” and you have changed her letters. That is “infinite mischief,” I think. The first one, page 10, is so shocking—well, I don’t know what to say. And page 47 … and a few after that. One can use one’s life as material—one does, anyway—but these letters—aren’t you violating a trust? IF you were given permission—IF you hadn’t changed them … etc. But art just isn’t worth that much. I keep remembering Hopkins’ marvelous letter to Bridges about the idea of a “gentleman” being the highest thing ever conceived—higher than a “Christian” even, certainly than a poet. It is not being “gentle” to use personal, tragic, anguished letters that way—it’s cruel.
I feel fairly sure that what I’m saying (so badly) won’t influence you very much; you’ll feel sad that I feel this way, but go on with your work & publication just the same. I also think that the thing could be done, somehow—the letters used and the conflict presented as forcefully, or almost, without changing them, or loading the dice so against E. (but you’re a good enough poet to write anything—get around anything—after all) It would mean a great deal of work, of course—and perhaps you feel it is impossible, that they must stay as written. It makes me feel perfectly awful, to tell the truth—I feel sick for you. I don’t want you to appear in that light, to anyone—E, C,—me—your public! And most of all, not to yourself.
Aww thank you so much! I'm feeling pretty down about this one because it felt really strained to write, like it was hard to "hear" it, you know? And I feel like maybe I used some cognitive tricks to force it into existence. It's great to hear that you like it! 😇