Low permanency and remixing

One of the great things about relying on memory to contain the primary record of play is that it allows for some amount of subtle editing.  This is due to the fact that memories are imperfect.  We have this thing where we misremember what really happened, or where we unconsciously alter our records of play in order to assist some goal.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example.  A couple of sessions ago, let’s say about three weeks of real time, our hypothetical game had a character who agreed to go on some quest for some McGuffin.  None of us really remember the circumstances all that well because, at the time, it wasn’t all that important.  But now, at the point in the story where we are in the current session, it would be awesome if the character had originally been extremely reluctant to go on the quest, but had agreed anyway.  Since we’re relying on imperfect memory, we can just shift our memories slightly and discover that he really had been reluctant.

This isn’t quite a retroactive decision.  We’re not deciding right now to agree that he was reluctant three weeks ago.  We really are thinking that he was reluctant.  Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, but since our records are imperfect and somewhat malleable it doesn’t actually matter.  We can not only act as if he had been reluctant, we can actually believe that he was at the time (as opposed to saying, ‘guys, I know that he was enthusiastic way back when, but it’ll be cooler if he wasn’t').

This is one of the reasons that low-permanency mediums are so cool.  They permit a sort of editing that’s much harder to accomplish in something with more permanent records.  We can, within certain limits, change the history of play and have the new version of that history be the one accepted by the audience.

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3 Responses to “Low permanency and remixing”

  1. Ian Burton-Oakes says:

    I think there is a lot to that, although I would also suggest that part of the remix value comes from the fact that those early scenes, even if they had been, say, videotaped, might not provide the information to disprove the altered perspective. In other words, that many events in a roleplaying session are not heavily determined, with rationales all worked out ahead of time. This allows for re-interpretation more along the lines of ‘in light of new evidence…’

  2. Thomas Robertson says:


    I agree. But that’s an advantage attributable to a different aspect of roleplaying. So, yeah, a lot of times it just wasn’t established. But sometimes it was, and we just pretend it wasn’t. That’s an advantage in the medium.


  3. Anthony says:

    Ummm… This idea sounds cool, but I can’t quite identify what it is or how it relates to gaming. I’m just missing it, I think. It sounds as if you’re advocating low-permanency editing, but you don’t want to consciously do it or call attention to it? I don’t see how that’s useful in gameplay/design or am I just being completely clueless right now?

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