thread: 2006-03-22 : Mechanics and Flinching

On 2006-03-23, Curly wrote:

I think ‘flinching’ is a great word.

I don’t think it’s a great word to describe a GM (or other author-of-adversity) not pulling the trigger on adversity.
There are lots of reasons one might not pull a trigger.  And “he flinched” doesn’t cover the variety of reasons well.  For example, “he couldn’t even find the trigger” is common.

I think Flinching is a much better word to describe when a Player doesn’t react to the adversity in the gung-ho “gimmie more!” way that Sydney & Vincent do:

I played with a woman who played a Thief in her very-first rpg experience.  When we switched to Dogs, she played a thief again.  She really, really wanted to explore that guise.  But she would have been crushed if her thief had been caught, punished, killed. “Normal” amounts of adversity made her flinch.  Literally flinch.

I should mention that her father was a prominent white-collar criminal who hid embezzled money in her name when she was a kid, unbeknownst to her.  When the Feds came, they treated her as a full accomplice; despite her obvious youth. They came to her school & took her away in front of everyone.  Utterly traumatic.  And she still has holocaust-nightmares about gestapo-types taking her away.

I think that biographic detail sheds much light on her flinching, and why she chose to play a thief. I think that just chosing to play a thief at-all was her serious attempt to confront her personal issues, limits.  Sure she has issues.  Ron Edwards would say she’s “brain damaged”.  Vincent would say she’s “not safe here”. But I think they’d both be wrong to diagnose folks like her as clueless about the role of adversity in good narrative.  I think she’s an expert in adversity, like a drowning man’s an expert about water.

I was raised to not respect flinching.  If I wanted to give someone something that I KNEW was a “loving, generous” gift/ and if they flinched/  I was taught to bulldoze right over the social contract & Impose the gift on them, For Their Own Good, until they learned to apprecitate it.

This flaw is mine, not Vincent’s or Ron’s or yours.  But it’s the reason that -I- flinch, when Forgeites write things that smack of My Way Is The Only Way.

Now, Ron & Vincent & you have rpg’d with many times more people than I have.  So they may have run into players who are allergic to adversity in ways which I haven’t seen.

But when I see a player flinching from receiving adversity, I fault the game; not the player.  I choose to conclude that the game is lacking because it isn’t tailored to the amount of adversity the player can handle.  I don’t pathologize the player as not being good-enough for the game.

If I didn’t empathize enough with my thief-friend’s cautiousness, then I’d find playing with her to be frustrating.  But because I do empathize with her quite a bit, I find each of her baby-steps to be electric.  All the ways she plays wrong just make it more satisfying when she is able to do it right.  That’s true of everyone I play with. We all have our limits, our top speeds.

Thanks Vincent & Ron for making games that can dish out as much adversity as a gung-ho player can handle.  But not every player in the slow lane is a brain damaged lamer.  It’s a mistake to generalize.


This makes RE go "Too quick on the trigger"
My "brain damage" term does not apply to this person as you've described her.

This makes Curly go "I thought your essay was clear"
When people do atrocious things to kids, you said it brain damages them; as surely as needles in their brain. True-enough that your TERM brain damage doesn't apply to her. (She never played the games you denounced.) But your broader description of brain damage would apply to the crap her dad & the Feds pulled on her. Yes? no? If you think I'm misrepresenting you, just say-so here & I promise to give you the last word on your own views-- rather than drag it out & be a pest about it further.

This makes RE go "Nope - no deal"
I think you should review the way you're putting me in a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose dialogue. It's a shame, because I do have an answer for your question, but I won't participate in that kind of power-tripping. I acknowledge that it may not be intentional. I suggest you take Vincent's advice and contact me directly, and perhaps we can have a good exchange.

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