RPGs as Folk Art

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RPGs as Folk Art
« on: August 23, 2015, 10:39:41 AM »
Jason Corley ran an awesome panel with Indie+ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CVrP7NgSjc), featuring Meg Baker, Ara Kooser, and an appearing-in-the-wild Vincent Baker. It has lots of great thoughts and comments in it, and we're trying to put it in front of more eyes because the panel deserves the attention.

The panel has lots of good stuff, but coming out of it, we want to know what designers could do to take advantage of the folk art elements of RPGs. For example, there's a notion that comes up in the panel about the difference between kits and the ability to produce works of folk art through sort of a "follow-the-instructions" kit, and the notion of attempting to dive in and produce the work through your own creativity, abilities, constraints, and thoughts, building upon and essentially customizing the initial kit. Is there a way to design an RPG to better facilitate either or both means of approaching the game? Is it better to angle in one direction than another, knowing that RPG-folk-artists are much more likely to customize their game already, and therefore you don't have to design in that direction?

Apocalypse World is a fascinating game in this regard because it includes a section all about hacking, designing new moves, making new games that aren't Apocalypse World. The game is designed with pieces that, once you understand the basics of how they work, are highly modular and easily played with (and there's no greater evidence for this than the vast volume of different Apocalypse World hacks out there). What else could a designer do to foster and encourage the sort of interaction with the game that is indicative of a folk art style act of creativity and customization?

Re: RPGs as Folk Art
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2015, 01:58:08 PM »
I'm not sure if this counts as folk art per say, but what in the case of pervasive RPGs? For instance, an RPG that isn't really a LARP but isn't really a tabletop RPG either. Here's an example from a game I'm about to run called, "Holy Shit, It's A Spy!?" The idea is that booklets that teach you how to play and give you a character sheet are distributed throughout a college campus. Anyone who picks one up can start playing, and engages with other people on campus (random strangers usually) in secret meetings, using diceless moves on each other, similar to Apocalypse World. What that creates is this individualized player experience, the potentiality for a larger group to experience a game , while condensing the microcosm to 2-4 players holding a secret meeting at a time. The system is general enough in description and mechanics to allow for people to create their own idealized spy world (since I'm playing with archetypes).

AW is so great because it allows individual groups to make with it what they will. In some senses it is like a kit you can use to build this apocalyptic world, to build these experiences, and, similar to the sound and participation style in a drum circle, every group running it will have a unique culture that emerges from play. What happens in terms of mass participation and craft sharing is entirely dependent on the inclusiveness of these small groups. I completely agree with Megeuy's point of the impossibility of a regulated collective.

So what I'm hoping happens with this spy game is that people will just take these general concepts in the game manual and devise their own ways of playing, their own stories. AW is akin to sandbox play in terms of the potentiality for infinite expansion and exploration based on player/MC creativity. Vincent Baker called his game, "Apocalypse WORLD," not, "Mad Max." Can AW be Mad Max? Absolutely. It can also be anything else, but it encourages you to veer slightly toward mad max. From a design perspective, a game maker should consider that her game will be played by people in groups of 2-5, and that that group will devise its own culture and your game will cease to be your game. There are lots of players who pick up systems simply to facilitate their own settings and narrative they wish to build. The system is just there as a sort of crude paint brush in most cases, but with AW it can be a highly masterful set of paintbrushes designed to help you (the folk artist I guess we could make the argument for) paint the desired world.