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Thread: Threads of the Never-ending Story

  1. #1

    Threads of the Never-ending Story

    Scott Gajewski
    MCS Senior Seminar
    Media in the Margins: Making Do; Making and Doing; Reception as Production

    Threads of the Never-ending Story

    For my capstone project for my Media and Communication Studies major, I will be describing and analyzing the relationship between the Never-ending Story threads and its community. I will be using the forum itself as a reflective means of opening a dialogue among others in response to my analysis. Over the next week, this first post will be edited to introduce this non-traditional project more properly, and over the next month, I will be posting my analysis in a (hopefully) logical fashion. I encourage anybody to participate, without restraint (except by the forum rules, of course).

    In the meantime, this would be a good opportunity to ask any questions you all might have about my project, raise any concerns, whatever. Feel free to say how you perceive the NeS -- what you think it is and how you are (or aren't) involved with it and its community.

    When you first post, please state whether you have (or are) a writer for the NeS or not. If you feel you're part of the community but were or are NOT a writer, PLEASE explain your circumstance.
    Secondary Bibliography

    Armitt, Lucie. Fantasy Fiction: An Introduction. New York, NY: Continuum, 2005.

    Cowley, David. Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society, 5th Edition. 2003.

    Duncombe, Stephen. Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. Verso: 1997.

    Harrigan, Pat, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007.

    Laramée, François Dominic. Game Design Perspectives. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media, 2002.

    Marris, Paul and Sue Thornham. Media Studies: A Reader. 1996.

    Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy. New York, NY: Routledge, 1982.

    Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.

    Wardrip-Fruin, Noah, and Pat Harrigan. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 04-10-2010 at 08:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Oh no! You mean we've just all been Geb's Little Science Project (GLSP)? Looking forward to finding out what you come up with ...

    Out of curiosity, what's your basic hypothesis i.e. do you have any ideas on what the relationship between the Never-ending Story threads and its community may be?

    Cheers

    Calilmalith (writer)
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  3. #3
    Not Suitable for Motor Vehicles
    Posts
    4,265
    GLSP indeed. before i have any questions, i'd like to see more of what this project is about.

    i've been an on-again-off-again writer for NeS for...6 years now? sounds about right. NeS has been an output for my creative writing impulse that allows me to express it in anyway i choose. i've gone from zany to dead serious, to somewhere in between. its fun to do and i'd say its probably the main reason i've stuck around massassi.net for so long.

    dont mean to boost your ego scott.

  4. #4
    I will potentially contribute to this!

  5. #5
    I'm trying remember how long ago I learned about the NeS. I'm guessing 5 years ago? I lurked around and then finally made my first post for the story back in October 2005.

    -Voodoo Snowflake (writer, part time NeS recruiter and GLSP test subject )

  6. #6
    Tea-sipper, character-killer
    Posts
    798

    Thumbs up Testing

    As long as there's no anal probes involved, I'm willing to try and help you out anyway I can with your project... not that I could help very much, I'd guess.

    Must be cool to be able to do a project on something like the NeS? XD

    I've been a writer here for YEARS... in spirit. I think I might actually be the newest writer? Still? I've been hiding in a toilet cubicle for weeks now so the older boys won't try to photocopy my face again...


  7. #7
    This is his MCS 499 professor. Woo!

    (OK, this is really Geb, but I'm testing to make sure subscriptions work for him).

  8. #8
    Making sure it's not just his. (ignore this post)
    The Plothole: a home for amateur, inclusive, collaborative stories
    http://forums.theplothole.net

  9. #9
    Some important terminology:

    Board: A sub-section of the Massassi forum, organized by subject. Examples include the Discussion Board, the Interactive Story Board, and the Showcase Board. While the Discussion Board is technically called the Discussion Forum, I will be referring to them as boards for simplicity.

    Thread: Topics found within the various forum boards. They can be about nearly anything, and are created, or "posted," by any of the forum members. Examples include the popular "Camhoez" thread on the discussion board (where one posts pictures of themselves), the Nes workshop thread, and The Never-ending Story Thread^2.

    Posts: A post is any given chunk of text, images, etc. created by any one forum member found within a thread. This is a post, made by me (Scott), giving the "low-down" on the NeS and its community. The first post of this thread, on the other hand, defined the assignment.

    The Low-down

    Before analyzing the elements that define the relationship between the Never-ending Story (henceforth often referred to as "NeS") and its community, it is first important to describe what the Never-ending Story and its community are as well as delve into the context that shaped them. After all, if it were common knowledge what these were, it's likely that they'd be products of mass-media and not marginal. Go figure.

    I. A Brief History

    The NeS and its community are found on the forums of a website called The Massassi Temple. The site was founded in 1998, shortly after the release of the PC game Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 in 1997. Jedi Knight is a first-person shooter that places the player in the role of a half-Han Solo, half-Luke Skywalker mercenary character named Kyle Katarn, learning the ways of the Force and how to use a lightsaber as the player-character journeys on an epic battle. The player, as Kyle, ultimately has to decide between joining the Light side, and stopping the bad guy from succeeding in his plans for galactic domination, and joining the Dark side, stopping the bad guy to rule the galaxy themselves -- typical epic Star Wars material. This game also allowed players to make their own levels and modifications (or mods) to the original game, and The Massassi Temple site became a place for players to submit and download these levels and mods. Tutorials were also written by these players on how to make levels and mods, based on their own knowledge and experience. Forums were created to support the growing "Massassi" community of modders and gamers in the first half of 1999. However, it should be made clear that the Massassi Temple and its community is not synonymous with the NeS and its community, but serves as an important, influential backdrop to what would come.

    In the summer of 1999, a number of popular "end of the world" scenarios were being thrown around, in various degrees of seriousness, by the media and the public at large due to the next year being 2000, whether those scenarios involved something as concrete as the Y2K bug or faith that God would literally bring about the Apocalypse. One Massassi forum member, known as GA_Farrant, posted a thread on Massassi's Discussion Board titled "Nostradamos... SCARY stuff here." The (now long gone) thread discussed a news report made about a celestial object (an asteroid or comet) discovered to have a trajectory that was heading in the general direction of Earth, comparing the possibility of an impact with the Earth to a prediction made by Nostradamous. What that prediction or celestial object exactly was, and what the accuracy of the interpretations were, are of little importance in this case. What is important is that, out of some random whimsey, another member jokingly suggested that they (the forum members) head for the Earth-bound outer space object themselves.

    From that point, other forum members, including myself, made up stories about how they traveled to the Earth-bound object (let's say it was an asteroid), discovering some evil plot by Grand Admiral Thrawn (another character from the "extended universe" of Star Wars) in the process, spiraling the narratives into increasing chaos as more asteroids got involved, more characters, more plots. Ares, one of the other posters at the time, decided to challenge all the "bad writers" (read: everyone) to "fight" him in a giant arena, creating a new thread as an attempt to control the chaos that had sprung up. "Writers" and "posters" and "characters" at this point were all one and the same, as far as those writing for the growing story was concerned. Coincidentally, at least one other story was being written on the Discussion Board at the time -- Saga of the 3rd War -- and these story threads were soon beginning to annoy the other members of Massassi. A new board was then created, the Interactive Story Board (or ISB), and I, without the power to move threads on the Massassi Forums, took it upon myself to copy and paste Ares's "The Neverending Story Thread" into a new thread on the then-new ISB.

    II. What is the NeS?

    The Never-ending Story, known as the NeS, is more or less a round-robin story -- a collaborative, online story with the possibly paramount premise that the story will never end. The "NeS" currently consists of three story threads (the original NeS thread, its continuation called The Never-ending Story Thread^2 or NeSquared, and NeShattered), an "out-of-story" thread for resources and discussion called the NeS workshop, and a webcomic based off of the first page of NeS called A Never-ending Story Illustrated. It is not based on The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, though the NeS has certainly parodied it. The NeS, at least in its current state, is also not meant to be a fan-fiction based on Star Wars, though Star Wars is the most common source from which elements are "remixed" (to put it nicely) into the NeS, especially towards the beginning. While it is hard to summarize the NeS as a whole, it could be described as an "epic comedy" of sorts, where a rag-tag group of hero-types often save the world from a variety of evils.

    Most of the protagonists are relative unknowns within the world of the NeS, such as a professional freelance hero named Gebohq, a robot (unoriginally) named Galvatron, and a janitor called Janitor Bob. The world they inhabit is, in many ways, the same real-life present-day Earth as ours, but is accustomed to absurd end-of-the-world threats found so often in superhero comics and other fantasy stories. "The Fight of the Century of the Week" in which Ares, god of war, challenges any would-be heroes to defeat him in The Arena (tm) prior to stopping a world-destroying comet (noticing discrepancies here?) is symptomatic of how the epic is seen as mundane in the NeS world. Thus, the various evils the protagonists encounter, such as a Borg-like spirit called The Darkside, a former Soviet spy named The Last True Evil (and his many clones), Bill Gates, and the denizens of Hell (Canada), are often ignored as real threats (or unavoidable evils).

    The NeS is also defined largely by its meta-fictional nature. However, the NeS does not merely break the fourth wall when such things like the characters talking to the Narrator occur. Instead, the meta-fictional qualities are part of the story-world itself: plotholes are literal objects that powers homes and tosses characters from one location instantly to another, writers become the equivalent of lazy and irresponsible gods, and the "real" threats become not the villains who threaten to end the world, but who threaten to end the story. The meta-fiction is absorbed into the meta-narrative.

    Not surprisingly, the collaborative and never-ending qualities of the NeS often make the narrative itself very confusing, and the immensity of the contradictions-filled story doesn't make understanding the plot any easier. It's probably telling that one of the greatest bad guys in the NeS is the "Ever-ending Plot." By necessity, the NeS follows an episodic structure, such as Homer's Odyssey or Star Trek. The NeS is usually written in a comedic tone (since comedy is arguably held to a lower standard of quality than drama), in a script format (emphasizing dialogue over description), and in the present tense. Any writing conventions, such as these, are placed in the hopes of making it as easy as possible for the writers, who consist of the majority (if not all) of the NeS community.

    III. Who Makes Up the NeS Community?

    The NeS community, as stated before, is primarily made up of the writers, such as myself. At any given time, there are usually at least five active writers, and there have been over a total of fifty people that have written for the NeS. I am currently both the "oldest" writer, in that I've been involved with the NeS since before the first page of the NeS thread, and its most prolific writer, writing over twice as many story posts as the next prolific writer and having written nearly 1/5th of the story posts within NeSquared. I worry sometimes that the NeS or its community may not live on without me.

    A significant number of the writers have been friends that I knew from school that I suckered into writing for the NeS. Most of the writers live in the United States, but some of them live in Canada, England, Scotland, or Australia. I've met four of the writers in person that I had known only through writing on the NeS beforehand. While most of the writers are similar to me in age and general interests such as videogames, there are the exceptions. Most all of the writers probably have me to thank for getting them involved, since I have an infamous reputation for trying to get people involved in the NeS, regardless of skill or interests.

    While I often turn to the broader Massassi member base in hopes of gaining new writers, at least half the writers were not forum members prior to writing for the NeS. Many of these writers are not "active" members of the larger Massassi community upon becoming a forum member, preferring to stay within the Interactive Story Board. Many of the writers are not especially aspiring to be writers outside of the NeS -- being by trade things such as (but not entirely) programmers, scientists, and students of law -- and the ones that are aspiring writers are generally amateur. Everybody would consider themselves a geek in some fashion, and everybody is involved in NeS not just as a means to an end in being part of a community, but to add something to the NeS itself. While I can't be certain, I'd like to think that the community is not a means to an ends for producing the NeS either, if for no other reason than because the collaborative nature of the NeS requires a certain level of involvement between members of the community -- a level of involvement that could stand on its own.

    Should there be anyone who reads the NeS, but doesn't write, they're keeping themselves under the radar.

    ---------------------------------------

    Questions, comments, critiques, and the like are encouraged. Is there something that should be included in the "low-down" -- the background and description of the NeS and its community -- that isn't right now? Remember, this project is meant to take advantage of its opportunity for dialogue, so help me out!

    In the installments to come: analysis! To answer Cali's question earlier, I have an idea what the relationship between the NeS and its community is, but I don't want to give it away yet for fear of coloring the responses I receive.

  10. #10
    While I had hoped to post all of Analysis: Part 1 in one post, I'm going to post what I have at the moment. As with everything posted here, please please open a dialogue with what I'm presenting. Throw questions at it, tear it apart, trail off on tangents -- the more replies, the better!

    ----------------------------

    In analyzing what defines the relationship between the NeS and its community, I feel the need to step back and look at the larger picture, to take a Hegel-esque approach and follow through with a common thesis and an equally common antithesis to arrive at (what I believe to be) a more accurate, but less-obvious, synthesis. I will be analyzing each in some small way, touching on what definitively applies to the NeS and its community in the hopes of accurately grasping the nature of their relationship.

    Thesis: The Literary Element

    The idea is pretty simple: the relationship between the NeS and the community is the same one that all writers have when experiencing the literary element -- the process of communicating a story. After all, the NeS is a story, and its community consists of its writers, and a relationship between the two should be easily broken down by their production, text, and reception. Immediately, however, certain problems seem to arise. The writers producing the "text" are also the primary consumers, or at the very least, there is no barrier for a reader (consumer) to become a writer (producer) in the way that there is when reading a published book or watching a movie. The "text" of the NeS is also blurred with its production and consumption by its meta-fictional nature. How well could the text stand on its own, without some insight into its community of writers? I can not answer that question, but I can say that these problems can be addressed by analyzing seemingly conflicting qualities within the NeS and its community.

    I. Orality and Literacy

    One misconception that some may have when considering the process of storytelling is that the story must be fixed, to allow for objective distance and analysis, but oral tradition and its literature proves otherwise. Walter J. Ong, in his book Orality and Literacy, discusses some of the qualities of oral literature, such as how they used mnemonic devices that would be considered clichéd in written works or how the storytelling was participatory rather than objectively distanced. There is a clear understanding that oral storytelling is embedded in the present place and time, and that the storyteller must be able to improvise their story to the current responses of their audience. Therefore, any lengthy narrative, such as The Odyssey mentioned before, or Journey to the West, follow an episodic structure, where the adventures between the very beginning and the very end are virtually interchangeable, where characters are flat not because of poor storytelling, but to reassure characteristics within the story that would otherwise be easily forgotten without the luxury of being able to re-read and analysis.

    But what does this have to do with the NeS, which is a written work? Ong also suggested that newer media technologies, such as the radio and television, were prime outlets of what he called secondary orality, carrying the sense of the present and expanding the "village" to a global scale in McLuhan terms, but with the capability of analysis that recording technologies and centuries of literate cultures bring with them. The Internet, of which the NeS and its community call home, is arguably the epitome of secondary orality. Words are permanently placed to be analyzed like any other printed text, but unlike a book, the "audience" can respond back to the storyteller -- the knowledge need not stand alone from the knower. The NeS, in this case, is very similar to traditional oral storytelling: its narrative is broken up into episodic "story-arcs" across a loose meta-narrative, the most influential characters often have flat characteristics (Gebohq as the coward, The Last True Evil as the evil Soviet stereotype, Krig as the simple, short, crazy Viking), and it is written in the present tense, suggesting that the actions of the story are played out at the moment in the spirit of improvised theater.

    -------------------------

    Next to come: Parts 2 and 3 of the literary element!

  11. #11
    I think the parodies in the NeS come from all kinds of things we see currently in various types of media including books, the Internet, T.V. and video games.

    And other things in the story I think come from our own experiences. I have not yet read all of the NeS, but I'm guessing the part in the story where some of the characters actually went to school to learn to be heroes developed when more of writers started going to college. When I stated to write for the NeS I was a cashier and deli clerk at a grocery store. Voodoo (the character) was introduced to the story as the cashier in a scene inside the Convince Store of the Damned.


    It can be fun to look see how some things in the story that correspond with things that are currently going on in the real world. I can just be things like parodies of movies that are popular at the time or posts made on or around certain holidays.

  12. #12
    Another key feature of the 'episodes' in NeS that I'm surprised Geb did not mention is breaking the fourth wall (I guess he sort of mentioned that the posters exist). Many of the episodic transitions are handled by the 'writers' actually sitting around wondering what to do next, and at times actively interacting with the 'heroes' to move the plot in new directions. There are even occasional second-order breaks in the fourth wall where 'posters' interact with their writers. What I'm really getting at here is that I see you out there. Yeah you, with the grading and the schooling... I'm watching you...

    Ok, so maybe where I'm really going with that is that the interaction goes both ways. NeS adds new layers what you might think of as traditional 'oral' story-telling in that the heroes are free to interact back, and rise up against their writers or The Narrator. It's an option that most characters never have, and it contributes alot to the participatory nature of NeS.
    In Soviet ISB, NeS writes YOU!

  13. #13

    Jenkins?

    I think the project is very interesting. I still think that there is a connection to fanfic even though it is a mashup of different universes. Make sure to check out Textual Poachers!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by dsnyder View Post
    I think the project is very interesting. I still think that there is a connection to fanfic even though it is a mashup of different universes. Make sure to check out Textual Poachers!
    I sort of feel the need to contest that comparison (however belatedly). We here at NeS don't pick the works we draw from because we see them as classics or important pieces of culture- we pick them because they are familiar and therefore convenient. From my admittedly limited exposure to fanfics they are (when not works of pure self-gratification, which is admittedly a problem NeS writers sometimes share) an attempt to emulate something that the author sees as an existing great work of art. Sort of the way the portico of the Pantheon emulates much admired Greek architecture, even though it doesn't get it quite right.

    NeS by contrast is somewhere between collage and Mad Libs- we may or may not admire the outside works that we use. Either way our objective is not to emulate, but to create something unrelated to its components. Characters from films or books/games tend to become minor gags rather than prominent movers of plot. They are the many Jesuses to our Brians, if you will. The story may be different without them, but it would not die in their absence.
    In Soviet ISB, NeS writes YOU!

  15. #15
    (As always, please respond with questions, criticisms, cheese, etc.)

    II. Meta-Narrative and Meta-Fiction

    As stated before, the NeS is characteristically meta-fictional -- the characters, in short, are mostly aware of their fictional existence. Meta-fiction is a product of post-modernism, however, which comes with the notion that there is no one, objective answer but only various, subjective answers. A meta-narrative, by contrast, is associated more with modernism -- an all-encompassing story to explain events and the like. In the NeS, the two often blend: meta-fictional elements such as characters referring to page numbers and themselves as stock characters are used simultaneously to remind the audience of their artificial nature (written by multiple authors) and, at the same time, explain events in a singular, definitive manner within the world of the story.

    For example, here is a part of a story post, written by The Last True Evil on the story thread "NeShattered" in which the character Highemperor, something of a megalomaniac Superman (without the Clark Kent or the kryptonite), is confronted by The Answerer, who is introduced as a self-appointed judge, juror and executioner to the character flaws (literally in this case) of Highemperor:

    Quote Originally Posted by The Last True Evil View Post
    *Eventually, Highemperor is escorted into a vast underground chamber, dim save for a few torches burning and a large beam of light pouring onto a raised throne at the centre of the chamber. Thousands of identical figures stand in the cavern, their faces shrouded. One man sits on the throne, whom Highemperor recognises from his generic NeS days instantly.*

    Highemperor: TLTE...?

    TLTE: No longer, Highemperor. From now on, you need only know me as The Answerer.

    Highemperor: What do you mean? This is a page from NeSquared, isn't it?

    TLTE: It's not as easy as that, Highemperor. You see, your use of the bloodink has irretrievably affected the...permanency... of the pages. You travelled over them the first time, and that was set in stone, immutably changed unless you yourself intervened. Which you have now, by travelling to this page.

    Highemperor: How much have I changed?

    TLTE: Even as we speak, the damage is spreading. Previous triumphs in battle, near brushes with death...nothing of your past is certain now, Highemperor. And if even one of your page characters dies, the resulting shockwave will annihlate Highemperor from the span of plotfractals. An eventuality I now exist to confirm.

    Highemperor: Why? We were friends! You have to help me!

    TLTE: No, Highemperor. You and your page-character spinoffs have always been a thorn in my side. They are, quite frankly, invincible, lacking in both humility and depth, dying only to return more infuriating than before. However, I think you'll find that this time I am sufficiently equipped to defeat you.

    Highemperor: How so?

    TLTE: I give you Equitas and Gossamer!

    *TLTE's right arm is suddenly covered with a golden round shield, perfectly crafted. In his left hand resides a thin blade of godlike quality, shining brightly enough to make the TLTEs near squint.*

    TLTE: The shield is crafted of your own bones from page 3164, providing resistance to all your magical and spiritual attacks. The blade is made from purest steel, coated in liquid mercury and forged in the fires of your cremation on page 3165. Have no mistake, this blade will kill you beyond some cheap resurrection ploy. But you are not without a chance, Highemperor. If you can somehow defeat the manifold TLTEs here, escape to another page and ensure that every one of your alternate selves survive, you could defeat me. In return, I'll tell you how to rectify this mess you're in.

    Highemperor: Deal. I'll see you at the end of this, TLTE.

    TLTE: Yes you will. And sooner than you think...
    This post is also a good example because it reflected the sentiment of the writers. "The Answerer" character served as a thin veil for The Last True Evil's fustration towards Highemperor the actual writer. Rather than the narrative and the community remaining seperate, the issues become one. In other stories, if a writer writes something that the editor or a fellow writer feels is inappropriate to the story, they would address the issue directly with the writer. In NeS, however, the relationship between a writer and a character is less detatched. The perspectives of the characters affects the way the writers interact, and the issue becomes a part of the story. Conflicts in perspective build the meta-narrative, blurring the relationship between characters and writers.

  16. #16
    (As always, please respond with questions, criticisms, cheese, etc.)

    III. Product and Process

    Traditionally, stories are told in the understanding that they are a final product. The Never-ending Story can be understood in this way: writers and readers often perceive a beginning, middle and end to conflicts within the NeS. However, the NeS is also understood as a process. Take this post, for example, written by Semievil:
    Quote Originally Posted by Semievil333 View Post
    Damn Black and Decker
    They never suspect the toast
    Until far too late
    This post was written as a response to two challenges: to write a post in the form of a haiku and to create a possessed toaster as a character. After this haiku post, the next writer tackled the content of the haiku in their own story post. There is as much importance placed on creating challenges as there is on crafting a story in a writer's response to previous material. The process (challenge and response) of writing the story is also the narrative product.

  17. #17
    (Analysis Part 2: The Antithesis! As always, please reply with questions, comments, criticisms, cauliflower, etc.)

    Antithesis: The Ludic Element

    Some significant gaps and inconsistencies seem to prove that the literary element is not the the key means of unlocking an understanding of the relationship between the NeS and its community. This, as many might say, is because the relationship between the NeS and its community is actually the same that all players have when experiencing the ludic element -- the process of engagement with a game. After all, a character are often "controlled" by the writer that created them, and their characters engage in conflicts that the writers often must engage with on the fly. The emphasis on process would seem to show the writers acting as consumers is in fact a sign that they are players. Again, however, there are immediate issues that arise with this antithesis. Previous points have already questioned our understanding of how a narrative can be produced and consumed. Also, neither the game-like structure of the NeS, nor its influence from other well-known published games, does not necessarily mean that its is actually a game. Still, understanding the relationship between the NeS and its community as a game can provide new perspectives on the matter.

    I. Definitional Differences

    What exactly is a game? The answer might might seem obvious, as any number of examples such as Tetris, baseball, and poker, could be listed. What these examples share in their nature as games, as opposed to casual play or jumping through administrative hoops, may be harder to define. In Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman cobble togehter the following definition of games:
    A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.
    Let's analyze this definition in regards to the NeS and its community:

    A game is a system...: A system here means a set of parts that interrelate to form a complex whole. The system of a game includes formal (rules), experimental (play) and cultural parts. The system is framed in what Salen and Zimmerman refer to as the "magic circle." Inside the circle is where the formal elements of the game takes place and where new meanings are established and accepted by the players in relation to the cultural elements outside the circle. The element of play then often engages the borders of the magic circle: where playing a game of Spin the Bottle can allow the simultaneous interpretation that "I am kissing someone" (culture) and "That wasn't a real kiss" (the artificial rules). This engagement with, and existence beyond, the border of reality, is similar to Lucie Armitt's understanding of fantasy fiction as stories "beyond the horizon" of reality. The NeS is a fantasy story, and at least culturally, it certainly experiments with producers (writers) as players (consumers), cultural resistance through parodies and the like, etc.

    ...in which players engage...: For a player to engage, meaningful play is required. Salen and Zimmerman define successful game design as requiring meaningful play, which happens when the relationship between player action and system outcome is both discernible in intent and integrated with consequences in the larger context of the game. In this, it can be said that the writers are perhaps players especially engaging with the systems of meaning, narrative play and cultural conventions, but complications arise when examining the formal outcomes.

    ...in an artificial conflict...: The NeS, as with any fantasy fiction story and as with language, is most certainly artificial, and the conflicts created by the writers are not real conflicts. The conflicts written within the structure of the story may reflect real conflicts of interest, as with the example given in "Meta-Narrative and Meta-fiction," but conflict is mediated through an artificial means at the very most.

    ...defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.: Here is the crucial part of this definition that keeps the NeS from being a game. There are no formal rules for defining the relationship between "player action" (writers posting) and the "system outcome" (what the NeS "does" in response) no more than there is for a writer to create an engaging storyline, if even that. Writers may choose to respond to challenges inside and outside the narrative structure, but there is no requirement to do so. More to the point, there is no "quantifiable outcome" as most games understand it. In the larger context, the NeS by definition does not end, so there is no final outcome, and within the moment-to-moment challenges, the responses are not quantifiable -- there is no "lose" for a challenge having no responses, or one, or a hundred. Any implicit rules that are present, such as writing in the present tense or writing comical material, are not meant to structure the result of a quantifiable outcome, such as a character overcoming an adversity if they have so x-many posts establishing their heroic struggle.

    (Next for the antithesis: Section II. Remediating Games!)
    Last edited by Gebohq; 05-19-2008 at 02:31 PM.

  18. #18
    (Guess what? I still want all the questions, comments, criticisms, and koala bears that you can throw at this!)

    II. Remediating Games

    One argument that could be made that the NeS is a game is that the narrative content often borrows from many other published games. Many of the first writers borrowed heavily from Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 when their characters fought with lightsabers, used the Force for acrobatic feats, and fought "to the death" in the first NeS storyline "The Fight of the Century of the Week." Many other story lines followed similar patterns, some examples include parodying "capture the flag" games in the storyline "Videogames, Anime and Capture the Flag -- Oh My!," parodying first-person shooters in the storyline "The Forbidden Fortress of Forbiddeness," parodying point-and-click adventure games in "NeS: The Point-and-Click Adventure Game," parodying Half-Life 2's narrative in "The Forgotten, the Damned and the Dust," and parodying Portal in "Death and Taxes."

    However, none of these examples provided rules in how the NeS had to be written, nor a quantifiable outcome for the writers. The games that each of these examples contain emulate their narrative and not their gameplay structure. The closest these examples could be compared to would be machinima, where videogames are re-used to create a narrative rather than to play a game. The "point-and-click adventure" storyline is an interesting case, though, as the storyline had been designed so that it could be adapted to actually be a point-and-click adventure. However, the process of creating a narrative for that purpose does not make the process itself a game, no more than when game designers are involved in the process of making a game. While serving as a significant chunk of the NeS, it should be finally said that the gaming and its social structures are not the sole (or even ultimately defining) aspect of the NeS or its community either.

    (Next up: Section III. The Role-playing Relationship!)
    Last edited by Gebohq; 05-19-2008 at 01:57 PM.

  19. #19
    (You know the drill peoples: question, comment, criticize, and kick this stuff!)

    III. The Role-playing Relationship

    Perhaps the strongest argument that could be made for the NeS as a game is its similarities with free-form role-playing games. Writers often post for their "own" characters that they have created, and these writers identify with their character's actions more like a role-player would than a detached writer concerned with crafting the best story. Because of the loose, episodic nature of the NeS, it is easy to conclude that the characters are simply placed in a narrative space of possibility, and that the writers role-play their characters instead of using them as tools to narrate a particular story. The strength of this argument lies in its half-truth: writers often do the things stated, but they also act as many "traditional" writers do in crafting a story. Imagine that the writers of the NeS are actors in an improvisational theater. They are given a direction for character motivation, context, and so on. Now imagine that those writers can be more than one actor at the same time, acting as their own director, and a fairly accurate perception of writing for the NeS is unveiled. This fantastical version of improvisational theater would be hard-pressed to be called a game.

    Ultimately, the primary intent of a role-player in a role-playing game is to have fun and develop their character in a quantifiable manner, which is not necessarily the case with writing for the NeS .There is no doubt that the NeS plays heavily with many formal and cultural elements, but this play is casual (or contained in a loose system). The NeS and its community is built on the hopes that the experience of writing and reading the story is fun, but a game is not defined only by how "fun" it is, nor is "fun-factor" necessarily the ultimate goal of the writers involved in the NeS. This should not lead to the conclusion that the NeS is simply a poorly designed game or that its writers are incompetent players, but rather, it should lead to the conclusion that the ludic element in the relationship between NeS and its community is not ultimately its defining characteristic.

    (Next up: Analysis Part 3 -- the Synthesis!)

  20. #20
    (Comments, questions, criticisms, Canada... they're all cool and you should reply with them!)

    Synthesis: The Liquid Compound

    If the relationship between the Never-ending Story and its community is not based ultimately on communicating a story or playing a game, then what? The relationship between the NeS and its community is defined by their codependency with one another -- the liquid compound. The NeS defines and is defined by its community. The apparent discrepancies in the previous thesis and antithesis are in fact the effects of their fusion. The blend of orality and literacy, meta-narrative and meta-fiction, product and process, and play as simultaneous communication and meta-communication each produce something greater than their parts. In understanding the relationship of the NeS and its community as compounded and liquid, a clearer understanding arises in their characteristic co-ownership of process and product, in their engagement with public and private spheres of life, and in their role as a marginal medium.

    I. The Craft and Play of Co-ownership

    Much of what defines the relationship between the NeS and its community is the co-ownership between story material written by each of the writers. With traditional writing, writers have sole ownership of the story (the product), usually because there is only one writer. Even if there is more than one writer, however, their efforts are placed solely into the production of the story, and the process is only a means to an end to that final product. With traditional role-playing (the closest example of the NeS as a game), players still have sole ownership of their characters, their actions mediated often by a gamemaster who acts as a sort of editor or referee. The product (the narrative of the role-playing and the game design itself) is just a means to an end for the process of play. In writing for the NeS, however, having product and process as equally important is made possible through co-ownership.

    Co-ownership of the product and process means that any material that a writer posts for the NeS becomes public. This is not to say that the NeS and its community are without individuality. After all, each post is separated by their author, and the author is credited for each post they've written. It is, however, to say that I, for example, do not own the character Gebohq anymore than any of the other writers who have written for that character, and nor do I own any of the writing conventions set down. On the contrary, it is the very fact that I do not that is characteristic of the NeS. Because other writers write for my character on the fly, there is an illusion that my character as a life of his own. I can have my cake, in producing a story of my own, and eat it too, in consuming what other people have written in response. Co-ownership allows for a simultaneous crafting and playing of the NeS, allows for the illusion that the NeS crafts and plays back like a computer game, and forges dependency among others in the writer community.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 05-19-2008 at 01:56 PM.

  21. #21
    (Getting towards the home stretch! Get crackin' with those questions, comments, criticisms, and curve balls!)

    II. Public and Private

    The Never-ending Story and its community are defined by their public nature. Anyone with access to a computer connected to the internet can become part of the community. It could be said that, because of the anonymity offered by the Internet, those in the NeS community also retain their privacy. It is difficult to imagine though that everybody has a right to participate in the NeS and the community as they wish -- after all, they could "mess up the story." In this case, that is not an issue. For example, the current storyline in the NeS is actually built on the premise that all the writers are trying to ruin and end the NeS. Its meta-fictional nature mixed with its amateur nature allows for such a premise to work to the advantage of crafting and playing with the NeS itself. The storyline allows presumptions by those not in the community to "test the waters" so to speak, as well as provide definitive goals for writers to obtain without stumbling over writer's block.

    The more likely issue that would arise from the public nature of the NeS is that, in theory, a mass number of people could join and then decide to limit the membership, or act as a "spoilsport" and post only to insult others in the community, for instance -- a problem that, at its core, is shared by any democracy. Another issue arises if people should chose to take characters, and other narrative elements unique to the NeS, to a site outside the NeS and its community, and then use them without giving credit. Since such things are public, it is within their right, and yet most writers would probably agree that such a thing would be wrong. Perhaps then the co-ownership and public nature of NeS only extends as far as its community. If anyone is free to join the community, however, it becomes difficult to define who is not in the community. Are members of the NeS community required to stay within the Interactive Story Board? Since the situation has not risen, such answers to problems are difficult to foresee, and similar problems arise in the context of the NeS as a marginal medium.

    (Last section: Mass Media and Marginal Media!)
    Last edited by Gebohq; 05-19-2008 at 01:56 PM.

  22. #22
    (This is it, folks! After this, I could use everything that you all can throw at this! What works, what doesn't, what should I have included, and what seemed pointless? Be brutal!)

    III. Mass Media and Marginal Media

    The Never-ending Story is currently something of a marginal medium. Since it exists on the Internet, the NeS has the potential to reach as many people as the server it's hosted on can handle. However, as argued earlier, the NeS is dependant upon its community of writers -- it is questionable how many writers one story thread could handle at the same time. If even 50 people wrote on the same day, such an influx could flood the characteristic relationship of the NeS and its community, and such a number is hardly a "mass" at all. The relationship between the NeS and its community might remain the same if it took the same approach as MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and offer multiple threads, forming sub-communities within the larger NeS community.

    Marginal media also often resist mass media, expressing minority perspectives that mass media do not offer or encourage. Even though the NeS often parodies other cultural works and real-world events, many of the writers dream of "selling out" and having their efforts on the NeS recognized by more than just the small number of other writers. To "sell out" though also risks that their efforts are not really recognized at all, but only cannibalized and exploited into something else entirely. Two questions also arise from the relationship between the Nes and mass media: is the NeS dependent on mass media, and could mass media ever be dependent on the NeS?

    As much as I would not like to admit it, the NeS is heavily dependent on mass media. From a larger viewpoint, the NeS and its community engage with cultural conventions, and those conventions, such as good guys always triumphing over evil and Canada as the ninth circle of Hell serving as a joke, are defined by mass media. At a much more immediate level, if the NeS is to continue to appeal to as large of a public as possible, it must offer the ability for writers to "remix" material from mass media, for characters to use lightsabers and call themselves Kyle Katarn when they otherwise bear no connection to those Star Wars elements, because less effort and skill is required. It is an aspect which I'd tried to suppress, but to the testament of the NeS, even I, arguably the keystone member of the NeS community, can not eliminate such "remixing."

    To ask if mass media could ever be dependent on the NeS is arrogant, to say the least. A quixotic assumption needs to be made that its community would increase by magnitudes of power, and that in its growth, those in political and economic power would not alter the relationship between the NeS and its community. Perhaps, though, such a dependency could be funneled if some of the writers were to adapt narrative and ludic elements of the NeS into mass mediums of their own -- a published novel or videogame, for instance. Those published works could then attract a growing community for the NeS itself, where their "remixing" could remain mostly within the greater community, where the synthesis perspective of the relationship between the NeS and the community could remain relatively the same. If this sounds suspiciously like the makings of a democratic republic, where conventional standards are set by those producing the mass media, that is because such an insight on this suggestion would be true. The danger of hierarchy in the NeS community could alter the co-ownership nature for the worst. The truth may be that the NeS and its community must remain marginal to retain its significance.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 05-19-2008 at 02:29 PM.

  23. #23
    I really like this analysis of the NeS. It's very insightful.

    Also, I think the most probable thing that would happen if someone stole characters and elements of NeS and started up their own story on some other site, is that it would of course be incorporated into NeS itself, possibly with a story about Our Heroes discovering an "alternate dimension version of NeS", similar to that time when Geb and others visited TACC.
    So sayest the Writer of Silly Things!

  24. #24
    Child's Play CharityNot satisfied.
    Posts
    4,773
    I'd like to criticise it, but I'm useless at that, so I'll just throw out some vague thoughts. Very interesting read, though. I think it's pretty cool how you've actually managed to analyse what may as well be random posts and other detritus on the internet, broken them down and described how the story works, in its odd, twisted way. Although I suppose having six years' worth of experience helps with that.

    From what I know from past experience, though, and from what I actually understand in the mass of complex-words-too-deep-for-a-thicko-maths-student, I'd agree with a lot of it. Just... just don't ask me what I wouldn't agree with. 'Cause I don't know.
    Hey, Blue? I'm loving the things you do. From the very first time, the fight you fight for will always be mine.

  25. #25
    I do not have any cheese or bags of full of rabid ferrets but...

    -----
    *Voodoo(the character) cracks a sausage link whip*

    Voodoo(TC):I think I see some typos in that last section.
    -----

    Anyway, I very much feel that the NeS is not a game but it is still a form of play. It reminds me somehow of a group of kids playing imaginatively. At first they might just be playing with one thing like legos and before you know it more toys come out of the toy box. Maybe they started by getting the little green plastic army guys out and placed them around the lego building to guard it. Then other toys start to gather around the lego building, ready to attack. Then the little sister wants to play too and she brings in her Barbie dolls. So now Barbie and her friends take up residence in the the lego fortress/mansion while more forces gather around it.

  26. #26
    I just wanted to add that I don't really go in for the "it's like a role-playing game" approach. I've never played rpgs, and I don't have an alter-ego in the story.

  27. #27
    That's because you're awesome, Tracer. However, you also are a minority among the writers. Most writers for NeS do have a character of their "own" because it's usually easier for most people to become part of the community with a character of their own. I'm glad there are writers like you though, Tracer, that prove otherwise.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Semievil333 View Post
    ...We here at NeS don't pick the works we draw from because we see them as classics or important pieces of culture- we pick them because they are familiar and therefore convenient.
    I agree. My pop culture references are purely to hook in the reader, give a moment of amusement, a few laughs - and perhaps a few groans as well!

    Aside from the geek/fanfic connections, I see NeS as primarily a child of pop culture, an Andy Warhol-ian world where everyone and anyone gets their 15 minutes of fame measured in inches. As AW said:"Isn't life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?" Welcome to NeS.
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  29. #29
    Aaarrgh! I just lost a really long post !!!! Damn being logged out automatically. Damn it!!
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  30. #30
    What about those that not only need their own character but need several others so that they don't even really need to participate in the general NeS universe?

    *cough*

    It's really well done, Geb. It was an interesting read.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Calilmalith View Post
    Aaarrgh! I just lost a really long post !!!! Damn being logged out automatically. Damn it!!
    I you log in at the prompt it will post whatever you wrote before complaining about the timeout.

    And my pop-culture references are because I can't think of anything good to write.

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Gebohq View Post
    (Guess what? I still want all the questions, comments, criticisms, and koala bears that you can throw at this!)

    However, the process of creating a narrative for that purpose does not make the process itself a game, no more than when game designers are involved in the process of making a game. While serving as a significant chunk of the NeS, it should be finally said that the gaming and its social structures are not the sole (or even ultimately defining) aspect of the NeS or its community either.
    Aye, there's the koala bear! (Bad reference to Hamlet- meant to elicit groan. Can't believe I had a chance to leave that out but STILL put it in). Anyway, here's my two cents worth.

    Many of the writers on NeS aren't game players - like me. So I'm not certain that what I'm about to write is correct, but here goes. Even if NeS began as something defined by gaming social structures, non-gamer writers have come in and eventually imposed their own interpretations of how the "NeS game" plays. This has had a distinctive effect. Either the structure or the writers have to break or evolve. As it is, both NeS and the writers evolve. Some stories, elements, characters, etc. thrive, some have brief moments of glory then wither and die, others never get a foothold.

    I have heard that other games "evolve" but my understanding is that it is more like natural selection within a relatively stable environment whereas NeS is a more "Burgess Shale" situation - an explosion of creation in which natural selection takes place under somewhat peculiar and uncertain circumstances, resulting in the continuing existence of odd creations that shouldn't exist at all.

    Aside from all this - great work, Geb!! It's been an interesting and thought-provoking read.
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Tracer View Post
    I you log in at the prompt it will post whatever you wrote before complaining about the timeout.

    And my pop-culture references are because I can't think of anything good to write.
    I did log in at the prompt - that's why I went "Aarrgh". It's happened twice now.

    What - you mean pop culture references aren't good? Yikes! We are all in big trouble.
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoosnowflake View Post
    And other things in the story I think come from our own experiences. I have not yet read all of the NeS, but I'm guessing the part in the story where some of the characters actually went to school to learn to be heroes developed when more of writers started going to college. When I stated to write for the NeS I was a cashier and deli clerk at a grocery store. Voodoo (the character) was introduced to the story as the cashier in a scene inside the Convince Store of the Damned.


    It can be fun to look see how some things in the story that correspond with things that are currently going on in the real world. I can just be things like parodies of movies that are popular at the time or posts made on or around certain holidays.
    Actually, I'm not sure about everyone else, but I found it mostly just a good break from the usual fight scene jazz that I'm guilty of doing. Though CookedHaggis and Ford did initially major in my dream major: Slacking and Procrastination. But your point remains valid. I know I often draw upon some of my real life experiences and have made my alter-ego's stories a sort of pseudo-autobiography. I say pseudo because I only use such to the extent of crafting what I think would be a good story, so I edit liberally to fit the NeS.

    Your last point actually also reminds me of a really creepy thing that happened. On Sept. 10, 2001, the story had developed in such a way that I suggested that incompetent extremist terrorists of sorts attack New York City. I came up with it mostly as a reference to The Mouse That Roared, but everybody knows what happened the next day. We quickly ended that storyline, and I've been creeped out about what can develop in the NeS ever since.

    Quote Originally Posted by Semievil333 View Post
    There are even occasional second-order breaks in the fourth wall where 'posters' interact with their writers.
    I just wanted to say that I never liked the second-order breaks. I don't think they've really added anything other than confusion (what? NeS confusing? Never!) and left the door open for an infinite number of fourth walls to break. Then again, I like to pretend that every time a writer and a character seem to interact in person, it's actually the writer's insanity kicking into gear.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsnyder View Post
    I think the project is very interesting. I still think that there is a connection to fanfic even though it is a mashup of different universes. Make sure to check out Textual Poachers!
    I've yet to be able to read the sections that were suggested, but I think Semievil pretty much nailed how the majority of us feel about it. The way I see it, there's convergence, which is the large umbrella that covers a variety of media covering one subject (like the Matrix series), a variety of subjects in one medium (like a personal computer), and the general process of media communication as a whole. Fanfiction is a type of convergence, where fans of a particular subject (like Star Wars) produce their own works with the intent of emulating that subject in some manner (identifying with characters, existing in their world, etc.). The NeS, however, hardly ever (if at all) intends to emulate what pieces are taken. The NeS is most definitely an example of convergence, and by its nature, the lines drawn in what constitutes fanfiction are artificial and can be blurry, but lines do have to be drawn. If nothing else, the community does not consider itself to be producing fanfiction, whether they actually are or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Krig the Viking View Post
    Also, I think the most probable thing that would happen if someone stole characters and elements of NeS and started up their own story on some other site, is that it would of course be incorporated into NeS itself, possibly with a story about Our Heroes discovering an "alternate dimension version of NeS", similar to that time when Geb and others visited TACC.
    I agree. That's what I like about the NeS so much -- it's easily adaptable to circumstances thrown at it. The only problem, as I've seen it, is if a mass majority of people tried to do something that "wasn't NeS" or that was otherwise deemed inappropriate. Again, that's the sort of problem that occurs with any democracy: the people can always chose to not make it a democracy anymore.

    Quote Originally Posted by - Tony - View Post
    I'd like to criticise it, but I'm useless at that, so I'll just throw out some vague thoughts. Very interesting read, though. I think it's pretty cool how you've actually managed to analyse what may as well be random posts and other detritus on the internet, broken them down and described how the story works, in its odd, twisted way. Although I suppose having six years' worth of experience helps with that.

    From what I know from past experience, though, and from what I actually understand in the mass of complex-words-too-deep-for-a-thicko-maths-student, I'd agree with a lot of it. Just... just don't ask me what I wouldn't agree with. 'Cause I don't know.
    It'll be nine years in August, actually. And as to random posts -- hey! I resemble that remark!

    The beauty of this being a dialogue is that the mass of complex words can be questioned by you. Be all "what the heck are you talking about when you say [complex stuff here]?" It's entirely possible that it's less about being "over your head" and more just me needing to explain it better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoosnowflake View Post
    I do not have any cheese or bags of full of rabid ferrets but...

    -----
    *Voodoo(the character) cracks a sausage link whip*

    Voodoo(TC):I think I see some typos in that last section.
    -----

    Anyway, I very much feel that the NeS is not a game but it is still a form of play. It reminds me somehow of a group of kids playing imaginatively. At first they might just be playing with one thing like legos and before you know it more toys come out of the toy box. Maybe they started by getting the little green plastic army guys out and placed them around the lego building to guard it. Then other toys start to gather around the lego building, ready to attack. Then the little sister wants to play too and she brings in her Barbie dolls. So now Barbie and her friends take up residence in the the lego fortress/mansion while more forces gather around it.
    You see no typos... these are not the mistakes you're looking for... or "I'm emulating the rough draft feel of the NeS." Take your pick. >.>

    I suspect that there's "sandbox play" here at work, but I would be hesitant to say that would be a complete description of how the NeS works. Just throwing that out there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Calilmalith View Post
    Aside from the geek/fanfic connections, I see NeS as primarily a child of pop culture, an Andy Warhol-ian world where everyone and anyone gets their 15 minutes of fame measured in inches. As AW said:"Isn't life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?" Welcome to NeS.
    Pop culture? And here I was hoping for something more timeless. But you're probably right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cool Matty View Post
    What about those that not only need their own character but need several others so that they don't even really need to participate in the general NeS universe?

    *cough*
    For those who don't know, CoolMatty has not one, but four "main characters" of his that he's established. At least one's bound to be written for at any time, right? Now get back to writing! Er, I mean, uh... don't look at my "ISB Kingpin" member title. It means nothing!

    Quote Originally Posted by Calilmalith View Post
    Aye, there's the koala bear! (Bad reference to Hamlet- meant to elicit groan. Can't believe I had a chance to leave that out but STILL put it in). Anyway, here's my two cents worth.

    Many of the writers on NeS aren't game players - like me. So I'm not certain that what I'm about to write is correct, but here goes. Even if NeS began as something defined by gaming social structures, non-gamer writers have come in and eventually imposed their own interpretations of how the "NeS game" plays. This has had a distinctive effect. Either the structure or the writers have to break or evolve. As it is, both NeS and the writers evolve. Some stories, elements, characters, etc. thrive, some have brief moments of glory then wither and die, others never get a foothold.

    I have heard that other games "evolve" but my understanding is that it is more like natural selection within a relatively stable environment whereas NeS is a more "Burgess Shale" situation - an explosion of creation in which natural selection takes place under somewhat peculiar and uncertain circumstances, resulting in the continuing existence of odd creations that shouldn't exist at all.
    Geez, you never cease to make me want to look up the smart things you say! In response to what you said, the major reason I broke up my analysis the way I did was because not everyone is a writer or not everyone is a gamer. It's interesting how some people see this as a story and others see it as a role-playing game. My hope was to pick apart how it involves more "process" than most stories and more "product" than most games, and then offer a more accurate perspective.

    Please continue to pick apart this analysis any way you see fit -- conceptually, technically, uh...aesthetically? I'd like to make this analysis as shiny as I can to show new writers and possible employers in the near future.

  35. #35
    I suspect that there's "sandbox play" here at work, but I would be hesitant to say that would be a complete description of how the NeS works. Just throwing that out there.
    Aye, I have to agree that "sandbox play" is not the only way try describe the how one might participate in the NeS.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Gebohq View Post
    Actually, I'm not sure about everyone else, but I found it mostly just a good break from the usual fight scene jazz that I'm guilty of doing.
    None of what happens in NeS has any resemblance to my real life. You could have a psychological field day analysing the archetypes inherent in the Calilmalith/Granny Cal character and how they relate to where I am physically/emotionally/spiritually in my life, but that would just be a huge wank. And while I created Caspian for Sugarless, I did create a character that I rather liked and wouldn't mind meeting. So make what you will of all that!

    Pop culture? And here I was hoping for something more timeless. But you're probably right.
    Now, now, Geb. While "pop culture" has become a derogatory term used by those who like to make a definition between what they consider 'real' art and what everyone else actually likes, timelessness and longevity are a completely different kettle of fish.

    When Mozart wrote a little 18th century "pop culture" creation called "The Magic Flute", no-one thought it would still be around today, let alone one of Mozart's most popular operas. And a certain J.S. Bach wrote clever little German "pop culture" church songs that are now regarded as masterpieces and performed regularly all over the world.

    So there is hope for NeS yet!

    For those who don't know, CoolMatty has not one, but four "main characters" of his that he's established.
    A few of us do have more than one character. I have two/three (can't work out whether Calilmalith/Granny Cal counts as one or two), and I'm sure there is at least one other person who has more than one character.

    Perhaps here we are looking at another distinct subset of the NeS community. We know we have writers and readers, but amongst the writers we know we have those who see NeS as a story and others who see it as a role-playing game, and now have those who have only one character and those who have more than one character. Where do these subsets intersect? DO they intersect?

    Geez, you never cease to make me want to look up the smart things you say!
    Nah, don't do that. You might find out I'm not so smart! Just airing my years of sticky-beaking, I mean, developing an inquiring mind.

    My hope was to pick apart how it involves more "process" than most stories and more "product" than most games, and then offer a more accurate perspective.
    Doesn't it involve more "product" than most stories and more "process" than most games? Which is why it is neither?
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Gebohq View Post
    (Comments, questions, criticisms, Canada... they're all cool and you should reply with them!)

    It is, however, to say that I, for example, do not own the character Gebohq anymore than any of the other writers who have written for that character, and nor do I own any of the writing conventions set down.
    I don't know what other writers think but I DO think you own Gebohq more than any of the other writers. What you don't own are his actions. You can undo or challenge what another writer has done with Geb, or you can encourage it, by what you write about Geb. Other writers take their lead from your response or lack thereof.

    I feel the same way about the other characters. I have, for example, taken Thrawn and Sugarless, and used these two characters quite extensively - possibly developed them in ways their creators never imagined. But I don't feel I really own these characters. Should their creators step in and write something that made it clear that what I had written was complete crap, then I would modify what I was writing.

    Once you post a profile on ISB, you have in effect made a character your own. Other writers read the profile and try to write the character in line with what they have read. Surely that must mean that they can never really own the character, that there is already a certain deference to a character's creator built into the system?

    I'm not saying this is bad thing, by the way. NeS seems to have evolved its own checks and balances - not that these were ever intended - and this is probably just one of those.
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Calilmalith View Post
    Now, now, Geb. While "pop culture" has become a derogatory term used by those who like to make a definition between what they consider 'real' art and what everyone else actually likes, timelessness and longevity are a completely different kettle of fish.

    When Mozart wrote a little 18th century "pop culture" creation called "The Magic Flute", no-one thought it would still be around today, let alone one of Mozart's most popular operas. And a certain J.S. Bach wrote clever little German "pop culture" church songs that are now regarded as masterpieces and performed regularly all over the world.

    So there is hope for NeS yet!

    A few of us do have more than one character. I have two/three (can't work out whether Calilmalith/Granny Cal counts as one or two), and I'm sure there is at least one other person who has more than one character.

    Perhaps here we are looking at another distinct subset of the NeS community. We know we have writers and readers, but amongst the writers we know we have those who see NeS as a story and others who see it as a role-playing game, and now have those who have only one character and those who have more than one character. Where do these subsets intersect? DO they intersect?

    Doesn't it involve more "product" than most stories and more "process" than most games? Which is why it is neither?
    1) Perhaps I used misleading words there. I don't mean to say that seemingly trivial and/or disliked things today won't become important and well-respected in time. Every new communication technology when it's still new is like that -- see Phaedrus on how even writing was snubbed. And I quite like pop culture, especially when it's not trendy anymore. By timeless, I mean that I'd like to hope that what we write about WILL be able to stand on its own beyond the trendiness of a current pop culture artifact. I'm just not a fan of being fashionable or cool, and is one of the things I would hope people get out of Gebohq as a protagonist.

    2) I'm not entirely sure if being the creator (and thus usually the most invested writer) of one character, more than one characters, or no characters constitutes enough of a difference to be subsets of their own. I'm not sure I see a difference between writers like Tracer, Semievil and CoolMatty, at least not one based on the number of their characters. (Also, if Cali/Granny is considered 2 characters, then Sarn/the Capt./Kern would also be 3, which makes sense.)

    3) Product means that one writes a story to have a story. The reader wants to read a story (product), and it doesn't matter how it's made (process). Process means that one plays a game because it offers meaningful play. It doesn't ultimately matter if they win or lose (I'd argue that if it does, it ceases to be artificial and thus not a game), or if the game churns out interesting results (product) -- it's the action of play that players play a game for (process). Perhaps you misunderstood me, or I misunderstood you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Calilmalith View Post
    I don't know what other writers think but I DO think you own Gebohq more than any of the other writers. What you don't own are his actions. You can undo or challenge what another writer has done with Geb, or you can encourage it, by what you write about Geb. Other writers take their lead from your response or lack thereof.

    I feel the same way about the other characters. I have, for example, taken Thrawn and Sugarless, and used these two characters quite extensively - possibly developed them in ways their creators never imagined. But I don't feel I really own these characters. Should their creators step in and write something that made it clear that what I had written was complete crap, then I would modify what I was writing.

    Once you post a profile on ISB, you have in effect made a character your own. Other writers read the profile and try to write the character in line with what they have read. Surely that must mean that they can never really own the character, that there is already a certain deference to a character's creator built into the system?

    I'm not saying this is bad thing, by the way. NeS seems to have evolved its own checks and balances - not that these were ever intended - and this is probably just one of those.
    The profiles were never meant to be rules for other writers to follow, or even guidelines -- only a means of making it easier for other writers. If there is any thought that writers need "permission" from a certain writer to use "their" character in a certain way, it is only because all of us are so programmed to think that way with writing and with role-playing. It is a way of thinking I try to discourage as much as I can. The problem is that we wish to be courteous. Don't misunderstand me: that's a good thing. Courtesy should not get in the way of co-ownership, though, and if an issue should arise because of how one writer uses a character (which shouldn't just be if it's "your" character, if at all), we have the workshop thread to communicate, to talk it out. We have the tools for dialogue. We just need to use them. I hope my example has not said otherwise.

  39. #39
    (Originally by Calilmalith)Perhaps here we are looking at another distinct subset of the NeS community. We know we have writers and readers, but amongst the writers we know we have those who see NeS as a story and others who see it as a role-playing game, and now have those who have only one character and those who have more than one character. Where do these subsets intersect? DO they intersect?

    (Originally by Geboqh) I'm not entirely sure if being the creator (and thus usually the most invested writer) of one character, more than one character, or no characters constitutes enough of a difference to be subsets of their own.
    It does if the creation of one character, more than one character, or no characters by a single writer is the result of a difference in attitude toward, or expectation of writing for, NeS. Hence my phrasing "Perhaps here we are looking at another distinct subset ...". It is merely a hypothesis which may be investigated.

    (Originally by Geboqh) Product means that one writes a story to have a story. The reader wants to read a story (product), and it doesn't matter how it's made (process). Process means that one plays a game because it offers meaningful play. It doesn't ultimately matter if they win or lose (I'd argue that if it does, it ceases to be artificial and thus not a game), or if the game churns out interesting results (product) -- it's the action of play that players play a game for (process). Perhaps you misunderstood me, or I misunderstood you?
    So what you are saying is: Stories satisfy readers' wants (a story) with the process of the storytelling irrelevant. Games satisfy the players' wants (meaningful action of play) with any product from the game irrelevant.

    Therefore what are you really saying when you state that NeS involves more "process" than most stories and more "product" than most games? Three possibilities spring to my mind - none of which may be correct!

    1) Doesn't NeS still only involve as much process as any game and as much product as any story which would make your statement a little like judging apples on how orange they are, and oranges on how red they are?

    2) Or are you implying that NeS is attempting to satisfy readers with the process of the storytelling and satisfy players with any product from the game - which is likely to be impossible.

    3) Or are you proposing that NeS stories satisfy players wants with the process of the storytelling (meaningful play) and the NeS "game" satisfies readers wants with the product from the game (stories).

    Sorry to pound on this one but I really don't feel your original statement is either clear enough or strong enough at present. You can, of course, ignore me!

    The problem is that we wish to be courteous. Don't misunderstand me: that's a good thing. Courtesy should not get in the way of co-ownership, though, and if an issue should arise because of how one writer uses a character (which shouldn't just be if it's "your" character, if at all), we have the workshop thread to communicate, to talk it out. We have the tools for dialogue. We just need to use them. I hope my example has not said otherwise.
    No, your example has not said otherwise - and I agree with you. It was just that your original statement appeared to imply a Utopia not yet achieved.
    Never give up, never surrender ... oh wait, I already have. Damn!

    CaliWrite - bringing lurve to NeS. And taking it away.

  40. #40
    I don't really use the profiles. The characters just change so much.

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