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So before the middle of the year hit, I was in the middle of refocusing my research from the application of polyphony to transmedia storytelling, to examining polyphony and its role in shared emergent narrative in tabletop role playing games.
A friend of mine calls this a “PhD&D.”
There are studies on the culture and anthropology of gamers and gaming (and when I say gaming here, I mean tabletop RPGs); there are studies on performativity in gaming, the potential of gaming in therapy, and in education. There are evaluations of gaming materials as literature. But so far, there are no examinations of narrative processes happening in a game in progress.
Because polyphony posits that every voice influences the collaborative results of the interaction of those voices in a given work, and because an RPG setting constitutes a voice contributing to a game even partly based in or on it, I am writing an original game setting to be run using FATE Core rules*. A part of the examinable output of the degree will be that game setting, whose primary themes revolve around questions of war, refuge, personal identity and the meaning of home.
It may seem like analyzing this kind of process doesn’t have broad application, but that’s incorrect. For tabletop RPGs, this research can illuminate ways to improve gameplay, game running, and even setting design. Extending outwards, the research may offer better ways to improve player immersion in story-heavy games, finding better ways to give players more granular and meaningful consequence within current and near-future technological parameters. Even more broadly, analyzing emergent polyphonic narrative processes can have implications in the workplace, improving communication and productivity among employees and management. The original focus of my research — polyphony in transmedia storytelling — remains relevant and can still benefit from my new focus.
The truth is, I’m really excited about all of this, but I do not have the energy or personal focus to lend the attenion and work that it deserves right now. But I wanted to let you know what’s slowly ticking around in my head, because even though I can’t throw all of my focus on it, I haven’t stopped thinking about it, working things out slowly in my head.
* I’m using FATE for three reasons: one, the creation of an RPG rules system is complex enough to deserve its own dissertation; two, FATE is easily usable under both Creative Commons and Open Game Licensing; three, the very structure of FATE — particularly character creation — encourages exactly the kind of collaboration I’m examining.