19
Oct
11

Second Meditation

Yeah, that was a hiatus. Time for a Second Meditation and it’s the biggest piece I’ve done written yet. The inspiration for this manifesto/rant came from reading a back-and-forth debate on the nature of New Games Journalism over a year ago. It occurred to me that neither side of the debate really grasped what NGJ was. Following this train of thought, I came to the conclusion that Kieron Gillen might not have known either. Fast forward a year and the Sony “Michael” advertising campaign has me a-thinking. That foetus of a NGJ rant is now a full-formed gaming philosophy theory. Like the first, this meditation is long and rambling, it tries to touch upon as many different features of the Theory as possible. In the end it reads more like a manifesto. Ho-hum!

The Existence of the Player Character

On this blog I’ve tried to ask questions that claw at the essential subject matter of games. From what we should properly understand as an RPG to what a definition of aesthetic beauty might be in relation to interactive art. Big questions, too much big to answer in the confines of a humble blog. But before we should even deal with them, there is one deeper question that needs to be asked (if not answered). The question is central to games writing; I argue that New Games Journalism should be properly understood as a mass positing of this question, holding it up as the most vital of all. The question is simply this: who(or what) is this phenomenon, the Player Character?

First, let’s unpack the term itself. In the broad sense, I will define the Player Character as the gap between the player themselves and the game. Seen in terms of Games Design, it is the negative space, the abyss filled by the human operating the controls. Conversely, in a psychological analysis of the player, the Player Character (hereafter PC) is the positive extension into fantasy: Player as Soldier, Player as Wizard, Player as Hero. The PC is not us, but who we become while playing the game.

In terms of a game’s narrative, the PC is the entity that kills the monsters, returns the princess to the castle, but also who rampages into innocent villagers’ houses, stealing their possessions and then high-tailing it to the nearest dungeon. The PC is the catastrophic effect the human player has upon the game world. This is in contrast to the Main Character, the in-lore hero who we control. The Main Character is the one reacted to in cutscenes, who never commits any of the ridiculous acts us players have them during gameplay. Where the Main Character is the game’s official report of a hero, the Player Character is the reality.

Understanding this as a broad definition, the Big Question can be understood as who, in this particular game, is the PC? What is the meaning of this phenomenon? How can we understand it? Any analysis of a game as a work of art will be concerned primarily with this. The question is both subjective, in that it involves a human element, but also deeply objective, in the sense that a program’s reaction to this organic intrusion will always be cold and digital.

With a grasp of this, the whole “War” of New Games Journalism can be finally understood for what it was. The problem was that Kieron Gillen never expressed properly what NGJ was in his manifesto (Did he even know?). The examples of New Games Journalism that we take as exemplars: Bow, Nigger and his own Deus Ex review (I would like to add Tom Francis’ wonderful Galactic Civilization 2 diaries to this list) are brilliant because they focus on the PC, not on the player. In Gillen’s words, the NGJ manifesto is as follows:

1. The worth of gaming lies in the gamer not the game.

2. Write travel journalism to Imaginary Places.

Whereas a better formulation would have been:

1. The worth of gaming lies in the Player Character not the game, nor the gamer.

2. Write a psychological profile for this Imaginary Character

(or)

2. Write an (honest) job description for this Imaginary Character

Because really, everything that ever went wrong with New Games Journalism was down to people overstating Gillen’s first clause, taking it as an excuse to write wanky, self-indulgent diaries of their own, personal experiences playing the game. Go back and read the Deus Ex review, read Bow, Nigger, and you will notice what is described has only half to do with the human being playing the game, and is just as much to do with the mechanics of that gameworld. The human player could be removed and replaced with a similar acting one, and the same phenomenon could occur. Gillen’s Deus Ex review famously includes section where we are presented with a pageant of different possible JC Dentons; different possible Player Characters, each unique in their approach to the same situation. Similarly, Tom Francis’ Galactic Civilization diaries are about this mad figure, the Space-Emperor in his underpants, vindictively carrying out his plans at the expense of the universe.

NGJ works because it shows us the person we could be, if we step into these gameworlds. Great NGJ should pay just as much heed to when games go wrong. A good example of this is again from Tom Francis, who, while taking part in an epic multi-diary playthrough of Neptune’s Pride in conjunction with RPS had to explain how his space-empire had been running on AI autopilot for (real life) weeks. Francis wrote in-character as a furious emperor returning to discover how a faulty AI had ruined his empire, his few belated diary entries chronicling his kingdom’s final days as it was crushed by human-led empires, who had easily outwitted the automatic AI long ago. The turn here is brilliant but perfectly natural to a writer with a innate grasp of what makes games worth writing about : that crazy, unpredictable figure, the Player Character.

While the most entertaining and informative games writing already grasps that is the Player Character we are interested in, the question dangled at the start of this essay remains: philosophically, artistically, how should we understand the PC?

The movement from Gillen’s original “Travel Journalism to Imaginary Places” to a Psychoanalysis or Job Description of the Imaginary Character is an important one. As I touched upon in my Beauty in Games, in strict mechanical terms a mountain pass and a grotty corridor are exactly the same other than the fact the PC can fall off the mountain pass. How does this help us?In a game with invisible barriers around the edges of its mountainous trails, the PC is not a mountaineer, but a tourist who meekly follows a set path. Likewise, the PC has only travelled a great distance to reach somewhere if he or she really has travelled a great distance. A game skipping over a great journey can only be forgiven if that journey should be taken to have been completely unmemorable and without ordeal. This is one area where the the classic Final Fantasy games, can be properly understood as a exemplars of good games design. While it is true that the PC cannot be fully identified with the Main Character of the game, as we are never given full control over their dialogue or story choices, still we find ourselves inexorably tied to games’ protagonists. The Final Fantasy games took you on a long, epic adventure. The random battle system made progress through the huge world map arduous to an extreme, but it was precisely this that provided the player with an undeniable sense of journey and achievement upon arrival at their destination.

Not to labour the point, but here we uncover another example of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind being better designed than it’s sequel, Oblivion. While both games were ostensibly about a single adventurer in a vast fantasy world, Oblivion allowed players to instantly transport themselves to any city or any place previously visited. Conversely, Morrowind offered no such ability, forcing the player to trudge through the strange countryside themselves, or pay money to be transported from town to town by boat (or on the back of a giant flea). To apply the theory here, we can clearly see that while in Morrowind’s case the PC is indeed an adventurer navigating themselves around a landscape, using tricks such as magical teleportation when necessary, the Oblivion PC is capable of this sort of teleportation from the get-go. An Oblivion PC only walks somewhere if he or she chooses to. Factors such as this are those that lead some playing Oblivion not to feel like an active explorer in a world, but a detached, god-like figure, wandering through a theme-park. The problem here is precisely a confusion of who the Player Character is: if we were meant to playing a teleporting, god-like wizard all would be forgiven. As it is, playing Oblivion can sometimes feel like inhabiting a screen saver.

One central advantage of looking at all games through the lens of the Big Question is that it helps prevent us from conflating the Player Character with the virtual, in-lore Main Character. It’s no good if we are told that the Main Character has walked a long distance if we were not part of this journey ourselves. If each journey is instant and without risk we are not playing a traveller but a teleporter. This disconnect, in the context of a Role Playing Game, represents a failure in the game’s design.

All this is seeing the PC in relation to the game system itself. It would be wise to stop here and make a concession to the other aspect of the PC: it’s relation to the human player. Simply looking at things in terms of cold mechanics is not enough; good games design understands the power of the player’s imagination to fill in the gaps. This is something the original Fallout games understood well. Staying with the theme of travelling in RPGs, in Fallout one could fast travel across the gameworld, ala Oblivion. However, in Fallout this transportation outside of the game engine was represented by showing the player’s progression across the map, Indiana Jones style. Crucially, at any random point this could be interrupted by an encounter with a group of NPCs, or perhaps a pack of monsters. Here the PC’s experience corresponded thematically with the Main Character’s. The travelling PC in Fallout was covered mechanically by this concession to the danger of the post-apocalyptic road, but the time-lag as the player watched the icon representing their party travel across the map was just as vital. This animation allows the player to imagine a real journey taking place; it doesn’t matter if we never see it. We are more than capable of filling in the gaps, and fleshing out aspects of the PC that would be too laborious to play ourselves.

Likewise, I may have been somewhat disingenuous when earlier I suggested there is no difference between the PC that walks down a mountain path and one who walks down a corridor. In the cold mechanical sense they are the same, but in the subjective side we look at the backdrop of the beautiful valley down bellow and suspend our disbelief. This disbelief is only shattered when, by accident, we run our character up against the edge of the path and find it is impossible to fall off. Yet even at this point the PC has only ceased to be a character who walks down precarious paths. In our minds the PC might still be a character who walks down a beautiful path. Likewise, a PC who walks down a corridor is in our minds a character who is walking down a confined space, as long as we don’t realise that every space throughout this game, the path in the wide open desert included, has been equally confined. The PC and the Main Character are only the same entity when disbelief is thusly suspended.

This brings us to the dilemma of the Player Character. At once an objective negative space within the design of the game and the programmed laws set down by the code, the PC is also a totally imagined character in the subjective mind of the human player. There is barely a problem in games design that cannot be analysed in terms of this friction between the two faces of the PC; the objective and the subjective. Valve’s solution to this problem is constant play-testing; it makes no difference positing “What is the PC?” in terms of the code written down, or the design in the plans of the developers: the PC only comes to life during gameplay. So Valve test, test and test some more; they never cease documenting the life of the Player Characters that are created. All the while, they carefully groom what is their control: the code, in terms of what subjective behaviour they can reasonably expect from the player. In this way Valve bring in line the subjective half of the PC that is provided by the human player with the mechanically designed half they are responsible: where the player wants to do something, that mechanic may be written in, when the intended psychological effects of a coded scene falls flat, it is tweaked or removed. At every point Valve are micro-managing the player character and the Main Character into unison.

The problem of who the PC is only deepens when we consider the myriad ways the player can interact with the game. So far I have only examined the “exploration” paradigm from my own list, but some of the others prove far more problematic. Who is the PC in a God Game? While this is something openly toyed with in Black & White, the question is ambiguous in The Sims. Maxis seem to have completely removed it from the equation by saying the Player Character is you, the player, playing with this box of toys. The question then falls to what type of play are you likely to be partaking in? (The answer most likely the sadistic torturing of hapless Sims in their underpants with a prison of dangerously cheap gas ovens).

Much more difficult is who the Player Character is in games which operate on a number of gameplay paradigms, such as Dwarf Fortress. There is no direct relation to an in-game character like in a Total War game (where the PC could conceivably be a series of monarchs, or perhaps even a nation’s guiding spirit). With an interface so abstract as to represent nothing in particular within the gameworld, the PC in Dwarf Fortress would again be more directly identified with the human playing the game, an unsatisfactory answer. An analysis of who the PC is here reveals what a strange game Dwarf Fortress really is. It is a game without an aim, without an ending, where failure is held up as the purpose of play.

This is perhaps the best way to understand Dwarf Fortress: the PC here is the Dwarves very failure (or, in the rarest case, their success!) in the face of unspeakable dangers. This I think chimes right with our intuitions. What fascinates us about Dwarf Fortress is not just the simulation of the world or the Dwarves themselves but how events always seem to conspire to the brilliant demise of the diminutive diggers. The rare times seasoned players make a fortress succeed interest us not so much in terms of the rain-man esque player behind their success, but in the features of how the Dwarves overcame adversity to build such a sprawling metropolis. And then how it goes wrong. If this analysis holds any water, it uncovers what is truly revolutionary about Dwarf Fortress; it equates the Player Character, the being we become during play, not with a certain character, but with the meaning of the story itself. You play not someone failing, but failure (or success!) itself.

These are but abstract musings on the theory pushed to its very limits, as Dwarf Fortress, the most intellectually demanding of all games, is likely to do. I hope in this essay I have shown some of the breadth and also the depth of taking this view of gaming and games writing; that it is essentially concerned with the identity and nature of a phantom, imagined being, the PC. This idea is not new, and I would argue that every decent piece of games writing, or games design as implicitly understood what it teaches us.

Where does this leave us? I have briefly examined the new questions thrown up by a PC-centric theory. Firstly, what does it mean to write about games, in the knowledge that what interests us is the person we become during gameplay? The answer, I think, is a sort of re-formed New Games Journalism, though there is much evidence that this has been happening already. Secondly, when looking at games from the perspective of a designer, the question should always be asked “who is the player, right now?” – this question is of particular importance to the designer who wishes to bring together the player character and the Main Character, for instance in an RPG or first person shooter. What is important however is to grasp that much of the character of the PC is in the mind of the player. However much of the PC is defined by the mechanical role it plays within the game, most of the character of the PC is imagined in the mind of the player. The task of balancing this dual nature is one of the chief problems of design. Finally, if approaching a game as a work of art, or as an artefact with some aesthetic potential, the question of who the Player Character is takes on a whole new form. What is significant in the mechanical role the PC takes? How does it feel, to become this kind of PC? What does it mean to take on this role?

Sony’s recent Michael advertisement campaign imagines what each of the gameworld Main Characters think of us, the human player who guides them through their adventures. Each character speaks with reverence of the person who was by their side when they needed help most. However, what is missing from this analysis is the real nature of this relationship, that is, the phantom character that we both become, Main Character and human player, when gameplay takes place. The Sony advert papers over this, pretending at the moment of gameplay our aims are as one. For a better reading of the PC, I return one last time to Tom Francis, who satirises the advert, imagining what the Main Characters from the games he played would really think of him.

Here Francis offers us the first concrete answer to The Big Question, the nagging question, that we must so often try answer. Who is the Player Character? He’s the guy who is given a 1.7 Billion Dollar Nanosuit and uses it to throw a crab into a shed.



18 Responses to “Second Meditation”


  1. October 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Coincidentally, Dan Cox (of Digital Ephemera) and I have been having an extended dialogue about player-character identity. My basic claim is that, like in real life, identity in games is performative. This performativity is limited by the norms enforced by the game’s rules. So (at least in RPGs) a hybrid identity is formed at the intersection of the player and character.

    (Our discussion starts here: http://youmustregister.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/performativity-and-identity-in-games/ )

    Maybe it’s a little too abstract to be directly applied to NGJ. But as you suggest, the negotiation between player and character is at the center of games writing. Those questions–how does it feel to be a PC, what does it mean–I think are illuminated by trying to understand the PC as a hybrid identity. Plus having an ontology of games is cool.

  2. October 30, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Yo, this article is badass. You’ve taken long-standing critical debates and rephrased them with great clarity in a rather flexible and powerful framework. I like the characterisation of the PC in terms of a gap in the ruleset the player must fill and entirely agree that critics need to balance an understanding of the ‘shape’ games’ rulesets give that gap with the subjective dimension of how the player is filling it.

  3. 3 Dan Cox
    November 3, 2011 at 12:27 am

    I have some quibbles about some of the labels you use here. Don’t get me wrong, I like the ideas but I feel you might be trying to reinvent ideas that are already out there.

    “In the broad sense, I will define the Player Character as the gap between the player themselves and the game. Seen in terms of Games Design, it is the negative space, the abyss filled by the human operating the controls.”

    The gap between the mechanics (simulation) and the player (reality) is called The Simulation Gap. Ian Bogost spends a great deal of time talking about it in his book /Unit Operations/. However, I agree with him and disagree with you about it. I don’t see it as a negative force, at least not entirely. Sure, agency can be problematic and lead to subversive play that can break the game, but this is needed! Subversive play, as I have come to think of it, is a needed aspect to understanding a player’s role within the game. Performativity (existence through discourse) and asymmetrical knowledge (partial knowledge on either the character or player portion of their combined trinity) lead to the player constantly appearing as a (potentially) negative force, yes, but this unintended state comes not from malice but insufficient knowledge on the part of the player. More buffoon often than villain.

    “Conversely, in a psychological analysis of the player, the Player Character (hereafter PC) is the positive extension into fantasy: Player as Soldier, Player as Wizard, Player as Hero. The PC is not us, but who we become while playing the game.”

    We both sort of agree here. As I mentioned, the constant discourse (performativity) is very important. However, I’m not sure, again, that the PC is /always/ a positive force either. The point of view character *might* not be good in the world — could be killing people during cut-scenes — while the player-character does not. However, the reverse is also true. What if the player-character is killing people — often, but not always, a negative act — yet the player-character is praised as savior of the universe for /not/ killing people? (This, by the way, is called ludonarrative dissonance. It’s the point where the ludo (mechanics) do not agree with the narrative (story) of a game.)

    Your use of phrase “Main Character” bothers me too. In what case is the character the “main” one? In what context? Some games give different point of view characters. They can’t all be the “main” one, can they? You might be confusing — although this might just be me reading it wrong — “main character” and the concept of the protagonist.

    They can be different things. The MC might be the point of view into the story — the impression of the player into the world at any one moment — *and* not be the protagonist of the story. In fact, one might argue — and I certainly do — that this is often the case in many modern games. The driving force of a story in a passive medium like a book or film is what the protagonist wants and how they get to this goal. That can be completely different than what the player wants! The player might be trying to optimize the experience toward one goal that is opposite than what the character would have wanted!

    I think — and again this might be me reading into this — that you are always assuming that the player-character is always the “hero”. This too might not be the case. There are games where the goal, as set forth by the mechanics, is to rape women. Is this a heroic thing to do? What about those games where you play as monsters destroying cities? Is that noble? All of those interpretations depend on the player and their discourse with the game.

    I think we are both on the right track. I look forward to seeing what you have next.

    • November 3, 2011 at 2:19 am

      Thanks for your reply! I’ll have to read up on The Simulation Gap, it sounds very close to the portrayal of game-player relations I tried to outline here.

      However, I think your objections spring from a misreading of the text. I was probably a little careless with my language. When I say in raw mechanical terms the PC is the “negative” space, I don’t mean it in the normative sense. I simply meant that the PC is the gap in the code – the NPCs after all are governed by AI systems, whereas a programmer has no way of knowing what the PC might do at any moment. The PC is an empty space in the game, the only part the designer cannot control with code (a slight exaggeration, but you get the point). Conversely, the “positive” element when looking at the PC-player relation is “positive” in the sense that we are taking on a role we do not inhabit in normal like. During gameplay we become in some ways an extra person. The negative/positive aspect here is quantitative, not qualitative. One important note is that a good designer will understand this dialectic of negative/positive, and be able to guess at what the PC will be like in his or her game, and shape the game itself with this in mind.

      In the normative terms you use, I’d actually say that things are more like the other way around to how you read me. A game simply isn’t complete until there is a human playing it, and a Player Character present. It is an unfinished artefact – nothing can be gained by observing it, until we add that magic ingredient. Conversely, you could almost say that taking part in the “Simulation Gap” is a negative action for the player (this is a common argument) as we are pretending to be someone we are not, merely involving ourselves in a fantasy and being distracted from the _real us_. I think this is a bad argument, but it might hold some water if we believe that gaming had no aesthetic value whatsoever.

      You might be right about my use of “Main Character”. My interest is primarily in RPGs and adventure games, where there is a clear protagonist. By “Main Character” I mean the protagonist we are given to be playing in terms of the game’s traditional narrative. Not all games provide us with a character like this, that we are supposed to identify with. I think it is useful to contrast this with how we actually are in terms of some RPGs (like Oblivion for example), but may not be in other cases. In a game where you control a party of people there is no direct relation and no use for the term. I choose “Main Character” as a term because it reads well with “Player Character”. What interests me is why, in games when these are meant to be one and the same, they end up so disparate. I think it is fine for there to be a distance, but this distance should itself be part of the overall aesthetic of the game – the moment we realise we are not the Main Character should mean something, not just be a result of sloppy design.

      Anyway, thanks again for your reply. This sort of meaty discussion is the whole reason I write these things. :p

      • 5 Dan Cox
        November 3, 2011 at 2:55 am

        “In the normative terms you use, I’d actually say that things are more like the other way around to how you read me. A game simply isn’t complete until there is a human playing it, and a Player Character present. It is an unfinished artefact – nothing can be gained by observing it, until we add that magic ingredient.”

        Absolutely! I agree with that. The game exists at that instance of player *and* code. This, in turn, is why judging games in common cultural terms is so hard. How can you make a valid interpretation of a game without having played it? You can’t, to use an old saying, judge a book by just its cover.

        “Conversely, you could almost say that taking part in the “Simulation Gap” is a negative action for the player (this is a common argument) as we are pretending to be someone we are not, merely involving ourselves in a fantasy and being distracted from the _real us_. I think this is a bad argument, but it might hold some water if we were to decide that gaming had no aesthetic value whatsoever.”

        The MDA (Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics) framework provides several interesting ways to render /how/ we might be escaping into games. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDA_framework and http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/MDA.pdf) However, I agree with you that escapism, in and of itself, is a very dangerous way to define /why/ we might be enjoying games. If the whole reason for playing games is to get pleasure, then they are essentially a drug in software form. (This is why Jon Blow sees many MMOs, and especially many Facebook games, as being unethical in their blatant use of rewards to keep people playing.)

        “What interests me is why, in games when these are meant to be one and the same, they end up so disparate. I think it is fine for there to be a distance, but this distance should itself be part of the overall aesthetic of the game – the moment we realise we are not the Main Character should mean something, not just be a result of sloppy design.”

        I was going to save this for a post of my own, but I’ll spill the beans on what I was going to say here. I disagree with you about this. Having a close connection between the POV character and the player-character is important, yes, but the game should be about the story elements, if there are any, and the mechanics that correspond to those elements. That is, I think games, if they have any story at all, can be interpreted, like any other medium, in different ways. Ideally, each player’s experience will be a slightly different one — hence the “travel journalism to Imaginary Places” — which they can then tell other people about.

        It is not always “sloppy design” that some ledges will not allow you to fall off of them. The developer has made the decision to step in and not allow that action. This can be a good thing. In my recent time with Dragon Age: Origins (as soon as I got to Ostagar), I tried to jump off the first ledge I saw. I was, as you might imagine, not successful in my intention. Was this a bad thing?

        If I had succeeded, the game would have been over right then but my interpretation of the events would have been highly unique. The problem lies though in reading that intention of the player. What if I had tripped off of the ledge or had been pushed by another NPC? Do you force the player, every time a possible death situation happens, to reload the section or even game? Even more complex, as Heavy Rain tried, do you branch the story at every possible choice and potentially make a game take decades to produce?

        I agree with you /in principle/ but not practice. Yes, the ideal experience would be one that never breaks the fourth wall while you play. All exposition and scenes happen to you, as the player-character, and not just the character (in a cut-scene) or the player (loading screen text). But we are not there yet and might not ever be. Even Valve, praised though they may be in their use of immersion, achieve such a status by taking away the story from the player.

      • November 3, 2011 at 4:04 am

        “It is not always “sloppy design” that some ledges will not allow you to fall off of them. The developer has made the decision to step in and not allow that action. This can be a good thing. In my recent time with Dragon Age: Origins (as soon as I got to Ostagar), I tried to jump off the first ledge I saw. I was, as you might imagine, not successful in my intention. Was this a bad thing?”

        This is actually something I dealt with in the main article. I think you are exactly right, and your point brings into focus the dual nature of the PC as I see it. It is totally fine for a ledge to have invisible walls, as long as we don’t notice it, or more, as long as it does not impede our own understanding of the character’s situation. The PC cannot be simply understood as an objective role laid down by the game’s rules, as half (or all) of the magic happens in the mind of the player. Really the PC doesn’t exist, we are only imagining we are battling monsters on a precarious path. The “Sloppy Design” comes in when such measures actually interfere with what we perceive is happening – the whole point of staging a fight where there are lethal drops, is that this adds danger and drama to the situation. If it so happens that the invisible walls are noticed by most players, and cause most players to clock their characters are not really in any danger, then that is sloppy design. A better solution might be another illusion – maybe a tripping animation, were characters stumble as they approach the edge and automatically walk back or maybe have characters always grab onto the ledge as they fall off, only to be helped back by another character, Left 4 Dead style. While these are still illusions, if they trick people into thinking they are on a precarious ledge then the designer has done their job. If the measures taken break the suspension of disbelief and make us realise we are in a different role to the one we are being told we are in then that is a failure of design. I’m willing to be pretty hard-line about this. If you can’t make me feel I am on a precarious path, change the story so it doesn’t involve one. We all know this kind of rule-breaking is the first thing non-gamers try, and quite rightly so imo. I don’t think its wrong to ask more of our games, or want them to do whatever they do right. It’s over things like this that non-gamers turn off – “why can’t I step over that fence?”, etc.

        The fact that all this hangs constantly in the balance is pretty fascinating imo, and like you say it puts us in an interesting position trying to do cultural analysis. With my next piece I want to try and explore that, and say something a little more provocative about were a theory of a Player Character can take us.

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