Mailing List
Mailing List
Web Links
Lspace Games Homepage

Clinton Wolf Speaks...

Clinton Wolf wrote the following article in It is reproduced here with permission.
Douglas M Johnson wrote:

I'd have to agree with most of Jim's statements, but I'd put it in a simpler format: Ever heard of acting? Isn't it possible for an actor or actress to play many different roles, with many different personalities and mores, while remaining just themselves in real life (or "RL")? As long as a person keeps clear the times when he or she is "acting" and when he or she is in RL, I don't see a problem.

The same concept could apply in Dip.

Douglas put his finger on something that was nagging at my mind about the whole "true nature" claim. I have been an actor for a long time, in fact majored in Theater in college... during that stint I have played several roles, including some where my characters burned down houses, cheated on their lovers, beat and tortured their prisoners, and a whole host of other nasty facets of human nature. Let's not even say "my characters," I'll say "me," because the first thing you have to understand in acting is you have to be "you" doing these things... any arti- ficial distance you put up between yourself and a role is suicide onstage... if you can't even convince yourself how can you possibly convince an audience? You can't play Shakespeare's Iago and simul- taneously be trying to broadcast that "I'm not really this awful guy, I'm Clinton Wolf and I'm really nice and would like to buy you all a beer and give you a big hug when this is over..." In fact, you also shouldn't need to because the audience goes to the play with that understanding already in place. I refer back to a term I've already used: "facets"... in my acting, to inhabit a character I first think, "Is there anything I have in common with this person?" There is always at least something... even if it's just a shared opinion that vanilla ice cream is tasty (but usually I've found much deeper connections). Then your job is to take that facet of yourself that matches and explore it and nurture it until you can make it blossom onstage so the audience can believe that it's not Clinton Wolf up there: for a period of time they instead experience a genuine loathing, fear, joy, love of a man who is someone else. Then when it's all over I go back and take off my costume and makeup and go out to have a burger and they go home and maybe discuss issues raised or "Wasn't that guy a bastard?", but only the most psycho- pathic people would cross the line to thinking that I must be a murderer because I play one so well. You might as well think that Leonard Nemoy actually goes out and mind-melds with people (and there are some in this world that apparently do).

You could argue I suppose that the script is a pre-written thing and a Diplomacy game is not, but then think: at some point the playwright had this idea and set it down this way. Because Shakespeare wrote of these bad people, even has them succeed, does that make him a man who deep down wants to see evil reign in the world? In things like the movie version of Pygmalion (or the musical "My Fair Lady" that came from it) a lot of people don't know that Eliza doesn't come back in Shaw's original play... and why should she? Higgings was a psychologically abusive, immature brat who treated her like a pawn and plaything, and an intelligent, strong-willed woman like Eliza has no reason to putter back to pick up his slippers and kissy-kiss. This is repeated often throughout the history of entertainment, where people arbitrarily decide an ending is too "negative" and tack on a happy resolution, which just ends up destroying an otherwise carefully crafted narrative, or at very least will leave a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that something just wasn't quite right about the resolution.

I'm perhaps getting off topic, but my point is this: in a Diplomacy game all you're seeing at most is facets of people, not the people themselves... perhaps a piece of a "true nature" but one that is far less proportional to the whole than the smallest big of iceberg peeking up through ocean waves. Like in theater, people are coming together for a certain period of time with a certain understanding and having a night's (or week's or month's) entertainment. And at the end there shouldn't be any thought of "Jim stabbed me... no way am I going to let him baby sit my daughter next week!" The argument that stress reveals true nature? Maybe. But stress in Diplomacy is far, far different than stress in real life because there's the understanding that in the end far less is at stake. That's obvious enough to me from the fact that I have to really work to get a character I'm playing to feel fear in a swordfight, while if someone came after me with a sword RL I'd be scared to death! It's called in-your-face mortality, versus losing a few wooden blocks on a board.

In closing let me apologize for the length of this, but it's an issue I feel very strongly on and I finally had the words to express my views. I have a longtime friend RL who I recently found out was still holding a grudge against me personally for some bogus trade I made to him in a game of Advanced Civilization years ago that I don't even remember anymore, and apparently has this same thought that that defines my "true nature" in gaming and life. Not only is that not true, it offends me he'd think that. It hurts me. Moreover, now I don't know if I'll ever be able to have fun playing another game with him because of the tension I'm going to feel about doing anything against him.

In a word folks, this situation sucks, it shouldn't happen and I damn well hope people will take heed to my arguments and my ex- ample and try to be a bit more objective about simulations of any kind before they creep in and poison your life.

Files Return to the files index.