4 Normative Categorizations of the Components

4.1 Results

The categorization of Results in the normative version of the Process Model is based on identifying general types of enjoyment and discomfort arising from Role-Playing Processes. Benefits created by other Processes are only skimmed.

The Benefits recognized in the current version of the model are as follows:

Enjoyment of fun, being together and passing the time.
Gaining new knowledge or understanding, affirming or questioning old knowledge, spiritual growth and reflection.
Enjoyment of an emotional experience, resonance with established thought constructs
Aesthetic Appreciation
Artistic appreciation, enjoyment of beauty and form.
Social Benefits
Positive changes in the social sphere arising from role-playing, for example the strengthening of social bonds, or getting to know the other players better.
Physical Benefits
Positive changes in the physical sphere; increased fitness, improved body language, physical pleasure.

The Losses mirror the Benefits, being:

Frustration caused by lack of enjoyment. Usually caused by a failure to gain any Benefits.
False Knowledge
Misinformation, incorrect or misleading understanding.
Unwanted Emotional Experiences
Unwanted negative emotions, overly intensive experiences.
Aesthetic Failure
Failure of form, frustration caused by unengaging aesthetic aspirations.
Social Dysfunction
Negative effects on the social sphere, the worsening of relations.
Physical Hindrances
Negative effects in the physical sphere; catching a cold, spraining an ankle, suffering a hangover.

In the following, the various Benefits and Losses are explained further:

4.1.1 Entertainment

The most common Benefit gained from role-playing is Entertainment. Being together with friends, having a good time, twisting the game into something funny. These all belong under the heading of Entertainment. Entertainment is the lighter side of role-playing, the passing the time aspect of it.

4.1.2 Learning

The Benefit of Learning applies equally well to the study of ancient Greece through a role-playing game as it does to learning how to deal with emotional situations through the game, encompassing equally the acquisition of factual knowledge as well as experience, self-knowledge and understanding. Sometimes the understanding gained through gaming can be faulty however, leading to the Loss of False Knowledge.

4.1.3 Meaning

Meaning is defined as an emotional connect with the game content, be it fear, suspense or a remembrance of past love, as long as it is wanted. The flip-side of Meaning are Unpleasant, Unwanted Emotional Experiences. Meaning is usually approached via empathy or sympathy for, or immersion with the characters, but can also be obtained through any other means, for example when suspense is being created by competition among the players.

4.1.4 Aesthetic Appreciation

Aesthetic Appreciation is the enjoyment of form and beauty in itself, the satisfaction one gets from a perfectly composed scene in the game or from the simple joy of applying a well-designed rule system. Aesthetic Failure is the result when these aspirations fail, when a rule mechanic leads to frustration or when the person framing the scene just fails miserably in conveying anything to the other participants.

4.1.5 Social Benefits

The Results of play are Social Benefits when the play-experience changes something in the social space of the participants for the better. Usually, this happens because of Social Processes, but can also be caused by Processes of Roleplaying. This can be for example by transference of inter-character social cohesion to the actual participants, or when exploring the game content tells the participants more about each other. Social Dysfunction appears when the Processes produce negative social results like distrust or hatred.

4.1.6 Physical Benefits

Physical Results are normally encountered only in live-action role-playing games, and even there they are most often unintended, being a side-effect of the Method of Equating Physical Space with the Shared Imagined Space. Thus, they are at best at the very edges of Role-Playing Processes, but are mentioned here for completeness. They include for example a full stomach from an in-game meal or increased fitness from spending time outside. The opposite of Physical Benefits are Physical Hindrances.

4.2 Processes

The major normative Role-Playing Processes discerned are first listed here, then explained below:

The pursuit of victory
Maintenance and enjoyment of tension
The besting of challenge and the overcoming of adversity
Exploration of an Entity of the Shared Imagined Space
Exploring the many-fold interactions a single entity has with others.
Exploration of a Concept through the Shared Imagined Space
Exploring a concept through its expressions in the Shared Imagined Space, and bringing forth such expressions to be explored.
Equating the self with an entity of the Shared Imagined Space, feeling and acting as that entity

4.2.1 Competition

Competition is the name given for the pursuit of victory in some form, in the classical sports race sense of the word, where there can be only one who is the fastest. It is the aspiration to be the first, the best, the highest in whatever actual measure used. The existence of this measure is key.

Thus, also in the context of a role-playing game, this Process requires some form of measuring competence, be it experience points, character levels or simply giving implicit social appreciation to whoever solves a puzzle first. An important element in Competition is Tactics. Tactics is the subprocess of both optimizing resources for maximum potential and also the actual act of pondering situational choices in relation to their expected benefits. A pure implementation of a game supporting Competition, also from the gamemasters point of view can be found in Rune[4], by Robin D. Laws.

4.2.2 Tension

While it may look like most traditional tabletop games and role-playing games with a strong element of such in them revolve around Competition, in truth most games are designed and most people seem to play in a way which keeps Tension as high as possible. This is the style of play where, in order to keep the winner uncertain for as long as possible, people give slack to those who have fallen behind and use other means to keep the playing field relatively equal.

The enjoyment gained from Tension actually comes from two sources. In addition to the actual enjoyment of the sensation of tension, Tension can also be seen as a chained series of miniature Competitions. As such, enjoyment is also gained from the small moments when one notices that one is ahead and gives slack, thereby acknowledging a small victory for himself.

Like Competition, Tension requires at least some form of measuring competence, and also employs a great deal of Tactics. A good example of a game designed to support this style of play is the 3.5 edition of D&D[5].

4.2.3 Challenge

Challenge, the overcoming of adversity and the besting of challenges, is a Process closely associated with Tension. In contrast to Tension, however, the enjoyment gained from Challenge does not come from besting other players. It is enough to simply overcome the challenges put before you. This is evident for example in many forms of live-action role-playing, where the pursuit of character goals is seen as important, even though there is usually very little comparison going on between players.

The challenges put before players in the Process of Challenge need to be fair, ie. not so easy as to not really be challenging at all and not so hard as to halt progress. In role-playing games, this balancing or ``fair challenge'' inherent in all of Competition, Tension and Challenge is most often seen as the responsibility of the gamemaster, who in traditional role-playing games is given way too much power to actually Compete with the players. Thus, mostly, the gaming systems suitable for Challenge are the same as for Tension.

4.2.4 Exploration of an Entity of the Shared Imagined Space

Exploration of an Entity of the Shared Imagined Space is a process of observation. It means taking an entity, and exploring the interactions of that entity with its surroundings. The entity need not be a character, it can be a medieval village or the love of two individuals. What is important is that it is a distinct, whole entity and that its interaction with other elements is the focus of the exploration. In Exploration of an Entity, the entity will also discussed as an indivisible whole, so that for example when studying how a medieval village deals with the outside influences of church and state, or the rise of internal tensions, the individual villagers comprising the village are in at best a secondary role, the village being thought of as an active entity itself.

4.2.5 Exploration of a Concept through the Shared Imagined Space

The flip-side of the Exploration of an Entity is the Exploration of a Concept through the Shared Imagined Space. The two forms differ in focus. In the Exploration of a Concept, the focus is on a concept, which is then explored possibly through numerous expressions in the Shared Imagined Space. Again, the subject of the exploration can vary wildly, from exploring the sides of a moral dilemma through investigating the concept of psionic abilities to the study of social dynamics of clan life.

These two last explorative processes are interesting also in that in them, the two sides of interacting with the Shared Imagined Space are more clearly separate. After the subject matter is injected into the Shared Imagined Space, it must somehow be experienced. Most often this takes the form of Empathy, an emotional connection with an element of the SIS. This experiencing the SIS is actually the part of exploration that brings on the Results - but it cannot stand on its own as a Process, as it always needs that some subject matter be brought in to the SIS to observe. Only in this combination is it whole.

4.2.6 Immersion

Immersion is the process of becoming another entity, thinking, feeling and acting as that entity. It is a process going beyond mere Empathy, the general method of relating to and experiencing the Shared Imagined Space. To Immerse is to be, to feel inside. It has few counterparts in other medias, method acting perhaps coming close, while for example feeling with the characters in a book or a film is Empathy, feeling from the outside. While Immersion is generally possible with only one target, Empathy can be felt for other players characters as well as for other entities in the SIS.

A fitting description and discussion of Immersion was given recently by Mike Pohjola, who defined it is as:

Immersion is the player assuming the identity of the character by pretending to believe her identity only consists of the diegetic [Imagined Space] roles [6]
The article by Pohjola also contains a chapter on Inter-Immersion, describing what would in terms of the Process Model be multiple Processes of Immersion supporting each other, with some references also to supporting Methods.

Eetu Mäkelä 2005-03-02