Role Playing Games



Role Playing Games , and lifestyle change

( + inner / outer + reality emergence )

From: Dante-Gabryell Monson Oct 19, 2014

note to discuss :

I sense the potential to enable a "holiday package" ( as a temporary autonomous zone ) ,

which would be more like a "quest",

with a one year preparation phase,

including a variety of practices inspired by theatre, psychology, etc

facilitating not only inner awareness, listening to self ( old pains, past roles, liberation from pain bodies taking control, etc )

but also potential for convergence for shared vision and manifestation of realities into viable lifestyles.

I imagine at first the potential to reduce the threshold, through some kind of "holiday" style approach, but with the potential to progressively build it up into viable "festivalism" / economic resilience :

I have a friend or two having a half life of experience in a combination of theatre, healing, meditation, but also economics and the like ...

and I sense potential for us to converge to discuss such forms of synthesis, which can also generate facilitation roles,

and build up or connect with each other ( existing ? ) movements. Dante

From: Eric Hunting <[email protected]>Date: Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 8:43 PMTo: [email protected]

Play rather than Place as the basis of a vacation

In the US, about ten years ago, there was a startup company that had a unique tourism concept. Composed of a group of SciFi fans and special effects craftsmen, they constructed a modular stage set system that formed the interior of a large spacecraft. All interior electronics of the vessel worked, hidden speakers provided various ambient sound effects, and the windows of the spacecraft were video displays that projected computer-generated views of space. Everything was controlled by a simulator program akin to an advanced flight training simulator but designed to play out various adventure and travel scenarios. The purpose of this simulator was to provide virtual vacations. People would pay for a simulated trip into space, staying for a number of days aboard the mock-up vessel as though it were a kind of cruise liner but with the service staff all playing the roles of formal crew of the vessel and performing for the various scenarios. Visitors could also take functional roles among the crew, being trained to operate various operations stations. With both software and set systems modular in design, they planned to create a whole fleet of different kinds of spacecraft and various space stations and planetary settings to serve as destinations for them to travel between, setting up various adventure travel scenarios as space cruise packages. Briefly garnering some worldwide media attention, the new company toured their mockup spacecraft in various cities but made the fatal mistake of exhibiting it in mainland China at a peak time for government corruption. After completing a successful showing and heading home, the whole set complex was confiscated without explanation by customs officials and disappeared. It now probably rests in the home of some corrupt party boss as a secret playground. The loss of this 'flagship' mockup was too much for the fledgling company and they went out of business soon after. There is precedent for the idea of play or games being the basis of holidays. For a long time fans of fantasy role playing games have taken the games to a higher level called LARP--live action role playing--where they setup adventures in woodland locations, dress in costumes to suit their game roles, and play-out these game adventures life-size while camping for a number of days. This was a derivative of the activities of the Society for Creative Anachronism which setup medieval-themed camp-in festival events with re-created battles--the largest and most famous being in Pennsylvania. But the first formal LARP may have been started as a business venture in Sterling Castle UK where, in the '80s, they first conducted Dungeons & Dragons inspired live role playing games with various costumed performers. Later, there emerged a fad in the 90s for murder mystery vacations. These were events held in hotels with period architecture where attendees would find themselves immersed in a murder mystery scenario with staff acting out various character roles. These culminated in mystery cruises and mystery trains inspired by the film portrayals of novels like Murder on the Orient Express. To some extent, this fad seemed to also be inspired by TV shows such as Fantasy Island and the '80s SciFi book series Dream Park. After the turn of the century these role playing vacations started taking weird, dark, perverse turns. For instance, a venture opened in Mexico where upper-class Mexicans could experience a re-creation of what it was like to be a poor Mexican refugee trying to cross the border into the US, complete with sadistic and abusive American boarder guards. Another venture explored the experience of being kidnapped by middle-eastern terrorists--inspired by a fictitious venture of the type in a radio play. I guess this relates also to wealthy people's affinity for the services of professional dominatrices. Most recently there emerged in Prague a fad for 'mystery/puzzle/trap room' attractions where visitors are locked into specially setup rooms and must cooperatively work out some mystery or puzzle within a certain amount of time or be 'killed'. It's designed to make excellent use of the city's wealth of period architecture and cloak & dagger history. Notice that, for the most part, these ventures are very structured. But with the emergence of the ideas of Festivalism and Temporary Autonomous Zones there has emerged a notion of a counter-cultural habitat as vacation venue independent of location. This trend is most commonly seen in the SciFi/Fantasy fandom convention phenomenon where fandom sub-culture conventions have become key tourism income for many cities and hotel chains. But no less significantly, it is emerging in the art/creative community as demonstrated most notably by Burning Man. The TAZ is a designated area for the existence of a different cultural habitat which really doesn't care about the particulars of its physical setting as it creates a habitat wherever it is to suit. It's rather like the vacation trailer/caravan camp where the people attending bring their habitat with them. But unlike these trailer camps that are exploiting the natural 'wilderness' attractions of a particular place, the TAZ and its attendants are collectively creating those attractions by what they are bringing with them to the location. So the location doesn't matter; forest, field, desert, parking lot, abandoned building, abandoned subway, hotel or convention center, whatever. The participants create the habitat. All they require is a place to temporarily be left alone, unmolested and free of the meddling of authorities and bureaucracies. (which is no mean feat anywhere these days...) Most notably, the TAZ idea was a key inspiration for the creation of the Burning Man festival, which is setup in the middle of a remote desert lake bed in Black Rock Nevada--a rather harsh un-place devoid of any infrastructure or physical attraction other than space and a significant physical distance from meddlesome authorities. However, as it's scale and popularity has ballooned so too has its compulsion for structure and control and it may no longer be sustainable as what it was originally intended. It may have already run its course. But many other imitators have been emerging around the world. How small could a TAZ be and function has a holiday retreat? TAZ for art exhibition have been well demonstrated and need no more than an exhibition space. I think a live-in/camp-in one would need more space, but perhaps not much more. Consider Basecamp Bonn as an example; a vintage trailer park in an industrial building serving as a youth hostel. Imagining the TAZ as a Neo-Nomadic camping venue, it could be urban, indoors, in places no one has ever used before--even on water. (a German artist contact of mine specializes in that. ) The creation and exhibition of novel portable micro-dwellings and amenities could be the focus of the event--the chief reason for participating. (much like it has been for Burning Man) This notion relates to my old idea of the Vivarium; the suggestion of using Boxbeam/Makerbeam to create, in disused industrial or commercial space, a kind of open public lounge where people fabricate their own furnishings to suit whatever their ideas about pleasure and comfort may be. But there is a potential problem in the abstractness of the TAZ concept and the nebulousness of cultures that may emerge within them. How do you 'explain' it coherently enough to win support for it? Burning Man was founded by a small group of creatives who all 'got it' from the start and could accomplish the events without outside money and support. Thus they could physically, expositionally, demonstrate what it was and attract a critical mass of participation for it long before they had to start explaining what it was (or would be) to indifferent unsophisticated journalists and the public. It may always be a case that this is better demonstrated than explained, which means needing a capable group who get it right from the start. > -- > You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Open+M" group. To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to [email protected]. Visit this group at For more options, visit

-- Eric H

From: Dante-Gabryell Monson <[email protected]>Date: Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 10:05 PMTo: "[email protected]" <[email protected]>

Great reply of yours Eric. With a bit of search engine optimization from our friends, such texts combined with discreet ads on a blog can certainly become additional income for you over time. Or else, an ebook illustrated with copyleft pics or illustrations ? / As for TAZ settings in europe,I could well imagine building on the intrigues of europe's past history, its towns, etc I also imagine the potential to build on its canal water infrastructure (floating modular housing solutions? ) and nearby available land, and the european cycling paths stretching europe along natural waterways and canals, with, if not a past related quest ( which for american tourists could reconnect them with their ancestry / identity related tourism ) may serve as infrastructure, combined with lightweight transportation such as bicycles,for permaculture farms / ecovillages (imcluding existing ecovillages, or external seasonal nodes in support of their local economy ), and/or partnering with farms who have depleted land, to generate, for example, food farms. Importantly, I wish to integrate psychological / emancipation elements, and future vision empowerment practices. I wish taz experiments to support a broader networked economy. I imagine reusing infrastructure along networks of autonomous phyles. I imagine "swarms" as collective intelligence, along such routes. I imagine progressive integration with a variety of existing subcultures, and/or simulating past subcultures, while also generating a broader viable set of alternative "real world" production infrastructure, ..

Engagement and Games ?

Eric H. :

Creating a formal not-for-profit organization should be straightforward, following the process for whatever nation is is primary home. I understand it's a little easier to do in Europe than in the US at present because the definitions 'nonprofit' and 'not-for-profit' are more clearly defined along with the criteria for tax exemptions and the use of deductions for donations.

The more complicated question is

how to motivate support and participation

What is the basis of value that people are financially contributing to? What do they get back from the activity? Of course, we're not talking about 'profit' in an economic sense, but there's always a return on investment in some sense, even if just some kind of entertainment, camaraderie, or a feeling of accomplishment and participation. The real key is a sense of momentum. As an old venture capital broker once told me, it doesn't matter how pretty and finely crafted the ox cart looks. People will hop-on the cart that's moving and looks like it's going in the direction they want to go.

Perhaps the most practical starting point for this may be the idea of crowdfunding modest meetings and events that contributors are themselves participating in. That's easy for everyone to understand and you don't even need to bother with setting up a formal organization at first. It can just be some people agreeing to meet somewhere to talk about a common interest. Or it can parallel other routine events that already provide the excuse for people to be in the same place. It's OK at first for it to be just about fun or company. Such simple group activity has proven growth potential. Most fandom conventions start as informal meet-ups in people's homes that quickly grow as long as the group is inclusive by nature. In the US today there is a fan convention every week, if not every day. It's become a major source of revenue for the hotel and hospitality industry, a major form of mainstream recreation, and a major element of contemporary culture in North America. Our consumer-culture doesn't actually provide many venues for adults to simply have fun and freely express themselves outside of the act of consuming and the fandom subcultures emerged to fill that gap.

What's important is routine--a regularity of participatory events that cultivate community continuity. Why were ancient tribes so into rituals and group dance? It's what held communities together. Every social animal has things like this. I've often talked about the 'movie night' phenomenon of contemporary tribes. And the small event has the advantage of being more creative about meeting venues, choosing unusual locations that can themselves simulate thought and conversation. It's not just hotels and conference centers or even the cafes and pubs. You can have a regular conference on a train--especially on the awesome trains Europe has. In NYC chess clubs used to meet on the subway. (no boards necessary. Elite chess players only needed to shout out their moves to each other in code)

The chief challenge, of course, is distance. You're limited to starting this with relatively local people. It takes some time to build up numbers, but that also depends on how much of a 'show' you can make out of it. The smaller and more local the group the more frequently meetings may be possible and the shorter their duration. The more separated people are, the more planning and cost of travel and so longer, less frequent, events with larger numbers of people are practical. It's tricky to work out the right balance but if there is a sustainable gravitas to the themes of events they inherently tend to grow.

Here's a simple idea, just to get the ball rolling. Someone find or cobble-together a copy of P.M.'s old board game "Bolo'Bolo: Eine Welt Ohne Geld" and try to organize a routine night to meet and play the game with a few people.

Most cooperative games are intended for children or classrooms but there are other adult-level cooperative theme games that might also be tried like Co-opoly;

or Pandemic;

There's even an electronic cooperative game, though it's combat oriented and requires everyone to have a tablet or laptop. Called Artemis, it's a Star Trek inspired bridge operations simulator where each player takes command of one of the several bridge stations. A promising concept for games that's still under-developed;

Games are a good catalyst for socialization. They offer something for a small group of people to do other than just turning up and struggling to start a conversion. And through games people can develop an understanding of each others' personalities and patterns of communication. Building on this meet-ups might then move to adding things like PechaKutcha presentations to present what they're doing, thinking about, or would like the group to do in a simple way that lets them express their creativity without a whole lot of time and effort;

Developing further, the meet-ups might move on to exhibition with portable presentation boards, exhibit prototypes, modest-sized transportable art.

The idea here is that crowdsourcing/crowdfunding things of scale depends on having a core group of supporters of a certain critical mass to initialize that. A functional adhocracy that is bound by trust, camaraderie/community, as well as common interest. A mutually-supportive team that will collectively represent each others' projects/concepts, get the ox-cart moving, catalyze the crowdsourcing, start assembling the Stone Soup recipe. Getting a bunch of people with a common interest together on-line is easy. But motivating them to actually do anything--or even form a consensus on what they should do--is extremely difficult because there's no trust among them. It's ultimately a bunch of anonymous people who are barely on the periphery of each others' Monkeyspheres. The Internet sucks as a venue of trust-building. (and technology like teleconferencing, still, just plain sucks) The power of routine meetings, conferences, conventions is that they cultivate familiarity and a sense of community the Internet is incapable of, and thus build the trust that catalyzes cooperative activity. Regardless of common interests, ventures aren't usually started by random strangers.

-- Eric Hunting [email protected]

2016 Conversations

Dante :

There is a big potential in my opinion, in bringing political economics , as simulations, accessible to anyone with access to a computer.

While also making it easier for anyone with access to a computer to formulate / suggest new "economic games",

and also interact with other "economic games",

with simulators, depending on the processing power available to them ( with the potential to network processing power to the games one wishes to support in their simulation ) ,

enabling artificial intelligence to play out such games ,

ideally getting support from academic research teams who can build various simulators for the games , simulating their usage by what could be seen as economic agents ,

ideally contextualized economic agents ( in combination with semantic technologies ? )

Eric :

Would this be to illustrate the principles of discrete economic system models, to test those models in competition with each other, or both? Or would it be to simulate and examine economic exchange and communication in a very fundamental way to see what systems are inclined to evolve from what situations? There are many kinds of games that illustrate (I'd hazard to say truly simulate) economics in some stylized manner as a way of teaching how it it presumed to work or illustrate some particular point about it. They tend to be very biased toward a particular economic philosophy.

Historically, they've been almost exclusively focused on how conventional market economics or a particular industry functions. The various 'tycoon' games, mostly derivatives of railway management games, are a good example. The two alternative economics games I'm most familiar with are, of course, the grand-daddy of all world simulator games, Buckminster Fuller's World Game (a game so big that, given the lack of personal computers and internet at the time, Fuller designed the Fuller Projection Map to be its game board and whole buildings to play it in. That was the original purpose of the American Pavilion in Expo Montreal. It was, literally, intended to be a kind of gigantic reality TV set for a live broadcast demonstration of the game),

and the Bolo'Bolo board game intended to illustrate the principles presented in Hans Widmer's Bolo'Bolo book. It has one of the loveliest game boards I've ever seen, but was otherwise a pretty low budget production. I've long wanted to try it, but it was only issued in German and French.

The World Game seems to be the closest to what you are envisioning, but was, itself, not a highly structured game. It focused largely on the notion of situational awareness. Global knowledge transparency. It assumed the 'players' of the game were essentially reasonable, empathic, humanistic, Enlightenment era human beings and that the problem with global resource management was one of mutual ignorance of the state of things in the world and objectivist behavior deriving from that ignorance--as opposed to, simply, the chronic sociopathy of society's elites... And so the structure of the game could be simply described as; here are all the scientific facts that sum-up where the world is now, here's how history, science, and logic explain why it's in your own best interests to not be an asshole, here's the list of everybody's needs, here are some physical tokens to symbolize resources for exchange, now get in this forum and figure it out. The core of the game was really this open social activity--deal-making--with little structure, in several rounds with intermissions for collective review of their outcomes. It apparently didn't get into the logistics of communication, production, and exchange very well, nor the issue of how culture influences attitudes toward fact, race, and social responsibility. (how assholes commonly rationalize and institutionalize their behavior)

Later forms of the game, like OS Earth, were more structured to suit smaller groups of younger players in a grade-school educational setting. But the development of the game shifted to a private company which adopted a peculiar business model for it. It became a kind of hired performance, akin to corporate motivational seminars. You would hire these experts from the company (who were, presumably, constantly updating its world data) to come to your school with a bunch of props and multimedia equipment and conduct the game as a special school participatory event--a smaller version of the reality TV event Fuller originally imagined. Though I don't think this way of presenting the game was wrong, personally, I feel this business model may have killed the game and its practical development by locking it up as exclusive intellectual property, which is antithetical to the whole purpose of the thing.

Very early in the history of the Web there was an attempt to re-create the World Game as a web-based game. A site was created that started collecting live world economic and environmental statistical data into a collection of data widgets; little virtual modular control panel displays like those you might see in the control room of a power station. Each widget might show things like the weather report for a region, pollution levels, the production and market price of some commodity, an index for people's standard of living, well-being, in a region, etc. Behind each widget was a certain set of data sources and an algorithm for its, more-or-less, live data display. And you could 'subscribe' to these widgets to put them into other web pages to make a custom display console. The idea seemed to be to create a live world data server that would be the core engine of the game, allowing the creation of custom player group 'consoles' on other web pages. But it never seemed to get past the attempt to cultivate this live data widget library.

A simulation intended to be played by AI can be highly abstract but the notion of a general political/economics simulator is rather difficult for people to grasp or see as fun. It needs an accessible, specific, context that itself is aesthetically appealing. It needs a narrative. There's a fundamental question of economic philosophy that presents a big problem for how you approach any game or simulation design on the subject; is the purpose of economics competitive/objectivist or is it cooperative/mutualist? Can these two perspectives co-exist in the same commons, or are they mutually exclusive, prone to destroying one another? The so-called science of economics has long ignored the reality that human beings are, paradoxically, on both sides of the fence, leaning in inclination with situational, cultural, social, and institutional influence. Is it possible to design a game where these perspectives co-exist? Should they co-exist? Do you intend to make a petri dish or does your game anticipate or intend to have a specific proof or message?

Cooperative games work, but usually in a context where the group has common or complementary objectives and is confronted with a mutual adversary; an environment complicating a common goal, a time limit, a monster controlled algorithmically. Cooperative games can be as much fun as others, but are rarer because they're just not attempted as often, I suspect because of cultural bias. The World Game has the mutual adversaries of strife, poverty, environmental degradation, and a changing/fluctuating natural environment. (and one could argue that the limitation of the World Game as a simulation is that, as a global society, we may not yet actually share the common humanist ethics to treat those as mutual problems...) So competitive and cooperative games have very different architectures and kinds of narratives that make cooperative and competitive behavior somewhat mutually exclusive. Ironically, war themed games have devised some bridge for this. First-person war games are usually cooperative, putting players into teams of soldiers. But they are also competitive in that the team members strive for independent achievements, such as being declared most-valued team member by their combat efficiency--their 'kill rate' and such. Role playing games are similar. The basic goal is individual advancement of a personal character. But activity revolves around team cooperative activity and individual character advancement can depend on the performance in a team. Individual advancement is subordinate to the group activity.

I've often thought about eco-village and arcology simulation games. Games that demonstrate a sustainable built habitat, proving it is possible, practical, and superior. Usually, I imagine them as rather like sea, space, and frontier settlement simulators, only they are 'settling' the hostile alien landscape of the pre-existing built habitat, its culture, and its market economy. Eco-villages can come in many forms, particularly from an architectural standpoint, and can be in many locations/settings. They can be low or high tech. These differences compel different logistical strategies to their development. Since their primary adversary is this existing habitat and culture, from which they must both exploit for certain resources and defend themselves against being exploited, one has a potential for multi-player cooperation based on confronting that common adversary. I've often pointed out how I feel the hermetic, autarkic, approach of so many intentional communities makes them harder to cultivate than they need to be, suggesting that they need independent transportation infrastructures to facilitate mutual cooperation. So we have a potential in this notion for a game where a pursuit of individual achievement complements mutual cooperation against a common foe(s).

Dante :

Thanks Eric for this extremely detailed account of existing options.

What I imagine, is a game of games ( or meta-game ) , where anyone can make proposals for new rules.

Potentially smart contracts on ethereum could enable it. Though I would need contextualisation with various ontologies, hence semantic Web like approaches we discussed around Netention.