Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What is 'Chargen' ?

Heya,

Just a quick comment today. To me, there are few things worse than showing up somewhere, really wanting to participate, but not being able to simply because everyone around me is using jargon that I just don’t understand. The frequent use of “Chargen” on the Internet is a great example. It took me forever to learn what it meant, and surprisingly it’s not on the Provisional Glossary. As my blog is mainly there to appeal to nascent designers, I thought I’d tackle this word so they don’t have to stumble around trying to understand it for as long as I had to.

Chargen is a shortened way of saying, “Character Generation.” Most games call it Character Creation, but somewhere a long, long time ago someone coined this word and it has stuck. Basically, it refers to the process of creating any character in an RPG, usually but not always before actual play begins. Pretty simple, but I promise, there have been tons of people who’ve gone years seeing this word but never getting what it meant.

I hope that bringing it up here saves some consternation for newer designers like myself. I know I wish I had understood the word a lot sooner than I did. It would have saved me a good bit of grief, heh heh.

Peace,

-Troy

10 comments:

Ron Edwards said...

Hi Troy,

Apparently "chargen" is gamer jargon that's been around on the internet for a while. It confused me too when I ran into it at RPG.net a few years ago.

It's not a Forge term - neither part of my terminology (original or adapted), nor originated in Forge discussions. In fact, I don't use it and think it's crappy talk.

However, as I have to point out pretty constantly, I can't & don't control what people say at the Forge as long as they accord with the site standards of content and courtesy. If they insist on using such talk, it'll be there.

So it's good you posted this.

Troy_Costisick said...

Heya,

I feel bad for people who read stuff and really, really want to get it, but just don't understand the vocabulary. I don't care for the word much either, and if I use it in a post with a new designer, I try to define it so they understand what I mean. It can be tough when someone says something like "Resolution" and you're thinking New Year's. :(

Peace,

-Troy

Joshua BishopRoby said...

Chargen and its sister cgen are both used extensively in MUSHdom, where "chargen rooms" must have short enough names in order to display properly in the WHO listing. I don't know if it started on MUSHes, but it's certainly in extensive use there.

Darcy said...

Wow. Never realized that I was oppressing the masses.

I don't remember when I first started using the term...but it was a long time ago (noting to do with any MUSHy stuff, either), and I guess if you do a search of my posts over at the forge you'll find me guilty of a whole mess of "...crappy talk".

Agreed, I can see how it would be confusing running into the term. But not any more so than "fortune in the middle", "calvilball" or "death spiral".

So the only real question is: "is it a useful term?"

Troy_Costisick said...

Heya,

It's useful shorthand for people who know it :) That's a rule of just about everything though- Know your audience. If it's a newbie designer, don't say things like Death Spiral and Chargen without explaining them in the post. If its me or Josh, go right on ahead and do so. It'll save you time and help ya get to the important point you're trying to make.

Peace,

-Troy

Darcy said...

Fair enough. That being said, I'd like to bat something back your way.

How much hand-holding for a newbie/young/green/whatever designer is too much? There's something to be said for growing a pair and just asking "what the *#$& is insert term?"

As rewarding as game design is, it's also massively taxing (at least, that's been my experience). And a key component is self-confidence -- and if you don't have enough of it to risk looking a fool in front of a group of fellow hobbyists, then should game design as personal expression be your medium?

I don't know the answer to this, but I think it's a viewpoint worth considering.

Troy_Costisick said...

Heya,

First off let me say this: It is great that Darcy and others are starting to ask questions here at Socratic Design. That's the whole point. We need to ask questions and examine ourselves constantly. We will not grow otherwise.

Darcy Wrote:
As rewarding as game design is, it's also massively taxing (at least, that's been my experience). And a key component is self-confidence -- and if you don't have enough of it to risk looking a fool in front of a group of fellow hobbyists, then should game design as personal expression be your medium?


I'm not sure I know the answer either Darcy. So I'll get all Socratic on ya and ask you some countr questions that might illuminate the conundrum.

1. How does one go from being a newb to being familiar with a medium?

2. What is a good way to improve one's skills in a given field when starting out as a beginner?

3. What is the cost of "hand-holding" to the person who is more veteran?

Peace,

-Troy

Darcy said...

Bring it, o socratic one! First, a couple of quick'n'dirty answers.

1)by doing. trial and error. trial by fire. etc.

2)falling on your face. and then getting back up.

3)zero, other than time.

Now, to take those answers and mould them into a new point:

There are only two kinds of artists: newbies and hacks. What differentiates the two is not their amount of experience, but rather their desire to take whatever they have learned and push it. If you're doing that, you'll always be a newbie in every meaningful way. Perhaps "perpetual newbie" is a better term.

If on the other hand, the artist is willing to settle with what's known and comfortable, they are a hack.

I think the clearest example would be a comparison of the novels of Neal Stephenson (newbie) and Agatha Christie (hack). Notice that the dividing line is the artist's willingness to push themselves, not their technical competency with their chosen medium.

With that in mind, I see a few pieces of jargon to be the least of a designer's worries -- what is the real cost of opening your yap and asking "Hey, what do you mean when you say blah?"

To summarize, hand-holding has no significant cost for the holder, but it can have a real cost for the holdee. Don't set up destructive patterns of behaviour over insiginificant issues -- because no one can answer your own artistic questions for you.

Wow. That was...ardent, wasn't it?

Troy_Costisick said...

Heya,

I don't know if I agree with everything in the Newbie-Hack dicotomy you've set up, but it is very ueful reading.

The thing I like about your comment is that there's a lesson for both new designers and veteran. To veterans, it costs you nothing except time to help new people bring their games to life. Get up off your butts and help people in Indie Design. To the new guys (like me) have the ballz to ask for help. Don't expect people to come to you. Go out, get their attention, and ASK QUESTIONS! (all caps b/c that's the purpose of this site).

One of the worst things you can do as a new designer is assume that people won't help you.

Peace,

-Troy

Darcy said...

I'll agree with your reservations, up to a certain point. Let's see if I can clear some stuff up.

I said:
"There are only two kinds of artists: newbies and hacks. What differentiates the two is not their amount of experience, but rather the desire to take whatever they have learned and push it."

What I should have said (italics for emphasis):
"There are only two kinds of artists: newbies and hacks. What differentiates the two at a given moment in time is not their amount of experience, but rather the desire to take whatever they have learned and push it. Someone can be both newbie and hack in succession, vassilating between the two from project to project, but can never be both at the same time."

This opinion isn't based on my experience in game design (which is small), but rather in designing sets and lights for theatre (which is larger). I've observed countless artists (and been one myself), and what I'm really speaking about is: unless you're dabbling in the great unknown (aka learning), you're hacking. Notice that "hack" and "artist" are not mutually exclusive terms.

Hack merely means "doing nothing new", and it's a term that can only be truly applied by oneself to oneself. So, my Christie/Stephenson analogy was only fair as an illustration, not as an empirical fact.

But yeah, it's all about ballz -- new and old alike. If new, ask. If old and crotchety, do something new. Ballz. It should be called Indie Ballz Design.