DO NOT TALK THEORY TO ME, I AM THE WITCHFINDER
WHOEVER FIRST SPEAKETH IN THE FORKED WORDS OF GAME THEORY - THEY SHALL BE BURNT
Seriously, please comment and please comment with actual comprehensible situations describes in natural language and without use of game theory jargon. Brendan, you can say 'orthogonal' once, because I know you need that.
And me calling myself a Witchfinder is me being ironic and edgy, the fact that I have to explicitly say this is slowly killing me inside. Please do not actually witch-hunt anyone.
Scrap ran this thread about assumed OSR game elements and that, along with Ben Miltons discussion of the new 40k game a bunch of other things, made me start, or continue, to think about Storygames and what they are.
Everyone has a good idea about what storygames are and none of those ideas are the same ideas.
So here are my thoughts. If you add your thoughts then we can start to agree about what we disagree about.
(Clearly, as I read back through this, I am describing a pattern of thought and a culture that goes way beyond just 'story games' and also clearly I can't defend most of this on rational grounds. This is not me making an argument that all of these things are story gaming but describing the idea cluster in my head that comes up in relation to that phrase.)
If it has has narrative control elements where, to paraphrase Zedeck, 'you play as a screenwriter writing your character, instead of as your character', then that's a story game.
In D&D my OSR witch-finder brain will allow this only through occasional magical effects, only in an alienating and slightly upsetting fashion and only in an irregular and unpredictable way.
Anything where this kind of thing is regularised is storygamey to me.
Apocalypse World, in my mind, must absolutely be a storygame, and if it is, then is seems impossible that anything drawn from its engine might not be.
IT TELLS YOU
If a game outright says that a *primary* purpose is to produce a story then that increases the storygameness.
However, a lot of modern D&D language, especially post critical-roll (role?), is about adventures as a 'story' and that the purpose is 'storytelling'. But under the hood it is very much the same old structure with a complex arrangement of character, challenge based, narrative and other elements all jammed together and which you can play in a variety of ways.
So perhaps the gaming 'culture' is storygamy but the actual system, and much of the play, is not.
I would say self-declared statements in the game text about being a story-generation machine are not themselves enough.
You begin the game caring a lot about your character in a very particular way. Identification is immediate, or quick. They are special now. They have a role and a meaning in the 'story'.
Their emotions matter directly now and very often their emotions are directly mirrored or described or measured in the ruleset.
PERSON TO PERSON
They tend to be good at, and focused on, modelling complex person-to-person interactions. More so than modelling peson-to-space or person-to-world reactions.
If a game has a large cast of PC's largely interacting with each other more than with the world around them and if it has rules governing those interactions, then I am likely to think 'storygame'.
LAW OVER CHAOS
The players have to be protected from power abuses and that protection must come though explicit rules that make it almost impossible for the GM to be 'abusive' (however the designer defines that) if they are running by the written rules.
The benefits from strong protective rules are considered much more imporant than the possible benefits of unpredictable, and potentially unproductive chaos.
This can be extended into the political/social realm as well. That Baker-influenced lego robots game has, I think, a bit that explicitly tells you not to play if you are Fascist. Since everything is political, and since Fascists might like the game, then failing to explicitly tell them not to play is the same as writing a potentially Fascist game.
PLAY & DESIGN CULTURE IS CENTRE-LEFT TO FAR-LEFT
So far as I know there is absolutely no-one associated with storygames in any way who could be described as 'conservative' or right wing in their political leanings.
Conversely the OSR has a wide range from lefty nutters to right-wing whackjobs to whatever the fuck Pundit is.
So this entirely left/liberal and usually metropolitan play culture is something else I associate with something being 'storygamy'.
'Because I want you to feel successful'
You might not be able to absolutely win, but you can lose. You can die. You be unable to solve a problem. Not every problem exists 'to be solved. If you fail to solve something then the world doesn't necessarily push back, morph to provide another option or to provoke a response.
All of these are strong suggestions to me of 'not a storygame'.
Storygames to me are anxious that nothing too bad can happen to your character or you. [EDIT - see comments below & on G+ for view on how storygames actually really like some 'bad' things.] Challenges will almost always be solvable or something you can go around. You will be given many chances.
I imagine OSR-iy games to minimise the extent to which things are moved around 'behind the scenes' and, though they both use complex and somewhat flowing world-generation techniques, I think of storygames and being bent *towards* a flowing or shifting world behind the scenes more than OSR-ish games.
SOMEHOW ASSOCIATED WITH THE FORGE
I barely ever got through a thread on there because it was written in Crazy but something being from the Forge, or a designer being from there or someone referencing the Forge, always makes me think of storygameishness.
So, from Wikipedia; "Agreeableness is a personality trait manifesting itself in individual behavioural characteristics that are perceived as kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm and considerate."
"The lower level traits, or facets, grouped under agreeableness are: trust, strightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness."
To me this fits almost exactly the personality type I personally most associate with the cluster of ideas around 'Storygames'. Except for trust, because they seem to prefer strong rules to interpersonal power arrangements, and for strightforwardness, because they tend to back away from and skirt around arguments.
So when I meet people like this, I think 'storygames', and when I think 'storygames', I imagine people like this.
And this personality cluster is very different from the people I tend to be drawn towards, get along with and who's work I am interested in, who very often are difficult, spiky, awkward, disagreeable, antisocial, strange and very straightforward with it.