Monday, January 2, 2023

The stockdale Paradox in storytelling - overwhelming challenges, and equally adaptive heroes 

Recenly I've been reminded of the Stockdale Paradox and just finished Pharmacologist Reincarnated Into Isekai as a Child but is Extremely OP | Anime Recap - basically a POWER FANTASY. Isekai genre has been filled with power fantasies and I can't help but think of Stockdale Paradox. 

The difference between the A Power Fantasy and Faith of succeeding is the COST OF WINNING. 

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” — Greek Proverb

 In a story of PC fighting overwhelming opponents - giving 100%, and knowing that its never enough and making the strategic goals to fix a social problem or a monstrous opponent - is a KIND OF SANITY. Take any social problem afflicting our kids even when we are gone and we've given our all - our kids have to give the same 100% to fight that fight, and every generation after that. 

Its accepting that we will pay such a cost - being one of a billionth of the effort needed to fix a problem. That billions are needed to fix that problem and we are a tiny but necessary part of it.  

The Difference between a Power Fantasy and a Disempowerment fantasy is that - the Disempowerment doesn't believe ANY COST IS ENOUGH. The disempowerment story believes nothing matters. But the story becomes a Power Fantasy when the sacrifice of those who came before matters. 

If you can do that in the Story: Make the PCs appreciate the COST or Effort to beat the bad guy, the social problem, the Engineering Challenge, etc... Then your like the super GM that can help people reframe their struggle in the scale that engages them. I can't do that, I fumble and blank out, I guess poorly of the motivations and buttons of my players. But I guess If I was able to pick up on the clues and peoples guard are down - and at that moment figure it out - yeah that's what a super good storyteller would make people feel - they mattered and the challenge is overwhelming. 

Its the Scale and Scope, and its the Stakes and Cost. The ability of the Storyteller to Zoom out and zoom back in. One day I'll hear about some GM who would make a Hard Scifi Narrative about the NEW space race, Climate Change (I'm listening to Near Stephensons' Terminal Shock). 

A new generation of GMs who can make these engaging stories that push limits and our knowledge. I'm sure those Gms who can make these relevant and speculative fiction scifi narratives already are born and running games - I wonder if I will be cogent enough to be around to appreciate their work when eventually they have a youtube or podcast of their game.  

After our family reunion, I explained to my son the changes from 5-6 children to only 2-3 children per family. The costs our generation have to pay, and how much it used to cost our parents, and that his generation will be paying a Greater cost than I would and probably even we will be contributing to their Economic unit just to have their head above water.  

I got to thinking about how overwhelming the challenges are - and the thought of dying fighting. Dying fighting is the best and easiest part - the pain just ends. Keep Fights that's the part that kinda Sucks in-Real-life. I don't mind being cheap and strategic all the time - but of course that's just me - to survive you have to compartmentalize your emotions to the point that people will think you callous or hypocritical. A character that is a True Believer - that Faith that Stocksdale talks about - then that True Believer better know the COSTs. 

As a son of my mom who always asks me for the Cost Benefit Analysis - and as a Gamer who should have first thought about it - yeah its going to cost everything with a long shot of success - that may not occur while I'm alive. 

So the Stockdale paradox is - How good is your understanding of the cost - and Does it Matter. If I cannot Grasp the Cost I'm the Optimist who won't last, if I don't think it matters I'm the nihilist/pessimist who will just die. 

As a GM - the COST - you gotta make it the Player have doubts about the Cost. it should be that its TOO much at the same time they are still willing to PAY. I don't think your doing a good job as a GM if your not making them unsure.  

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