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Jan. 10th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
It's also useful when you consider what happens in games - too much choice for your character and you don't know what to do. Constraints are good - hence my constraint theory of gaming.
Jan. 10th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
Oddly enough it's completely the other way round with my gaming groups - the more you constrain their choices the more frustrated they get - they have no trouble dealing with very open ended choices but hate any sense of 'railroading' of their choices.

The one thing I have never have any problem with is players not knowing what to do. My problem is usually thinking on the fly to incorporate their originality. I tend to leave almost everything open ended these days so I have as much basic structure as I need to wing it. So, for example, having a good sense of NPCs and setting is much more important to me than having a plot. The plot (unless its backstory) just tends to end up directing their choices and I end up being left high and dry when they go in a completely unforeseen direction.

The best example for me both come from White Wolf - the Chicago Campaign for VTM is a brilliant example of open-ended with lots of room for choice and almost zero direction (it went down really well and we had fantastic game sessions with it) while most of the actual scenarios are classic railroading - real choice is limited if you intend to follow the path of the pre-determined stories in most of them and player interaction is supposed to largely follow predictable lines. Usually within about 20 minutes of play I just had to ditch almost the entire scenario - often because they had already worked out what was going to happen and had found at least three or four alternative ways of sorting things out better.

I think the key thing is the difference between genuine freedom and directed choices. That probably relates into the wider social aspects in the TED video in that the 'choices' we get in society are largely 'either/ or' choices as opposed to any genuine freedom to do as you want. It's not the freedom thats the problem - it's that the freedom is directed and channelled through multiple preferences. We are asked to define ourselves by our preferences and to be constantly making these either/or decisions when they are actually often fairly pointless.

Having said all that constraints can be very dynamic - so long as they are not limiting the imagination but are instead inspiring creative problem solving. I think that by and large a lot of the creativity in the UK comes directly from constraints - not in what you can do, but with what you get to do it with and with having to find less obvious solutions. In the end its surely about the tensions between the constraints as given and the ability to make open decisions based on them? So the Chicago Campaign for VTM created constraints (its set in Chicago, you play a vampire, the various characters/back stories, geography etc) but left it open what you then did with all that. Whereas the scenarios by and large set up narrative constraints with limited information about setting etc, so their constraints were not helpful to genuinely creative play.