You’ve gotta do more than one thing. It really helps feed your brain. In my case, I’m a linguistics doctoral student. Right now, I’m taking classes at the LSA 2011 Summer Institute, which happens to be in Boulder this year.

One of the classes I’m taking is about working with endangered languages, and particularly about responsibly and respectfully interacting with the communities that actually speak these languages. One of the professors, B’alam Mateo-Toledo, was talking about his experience working with a Mayan-speaking community in Guatemala.

He was recording speech in a number of contexts, including some ritual and ceremonial ones. He had the full consent of the speakers, with their full understanding of the uses to which the audio would be put. But at a certain point, other people in the community realized that they were not comfortable with the idea of ceremonial speech being archived in a way that would allow anyone outside the community to access it.

There are a lot of interesting questions here about things like “who counts as the community?”, but what eventually happened was this: B’alam put the power to decide what was done in the hands of the community as a whole, and they decided to let him do what he was originally going to do with it.

Give people real power over a question, and they’re less likely to be defensive about the issue. I think that this applies to games. As I was talking about recently in connection with trusting the players. I’ve found that, for example, players love to have their characters beaten up if they feel that they can say no when they wish.

This relates to all kinds of things in game design. We’ve talked about hoarding currency when you have no control over it, and it’s part of why railroading is so often not-fun. This is a participatory medium. Let people participate.

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