mimesis? oh, you mean consistency

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Steve Breslin

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Sep 14, 2004, 4:28:58 PM9/14/04
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It's normal for a new meaning to condense around a term, especially
where the term is used in a specialized context, and is intended as a
jargony shorthand for a sophisticated argument. So even though the
word "mimesis" actually means "*mime*-ing or imitating" (or more
specially, "representing the real world") as opposed to "describing"
(diegesis) -- and has little if anything to do with consistency, which
is at issue in both mimesis and diegesis --, our adoption of "mimesis"
to mean "consistency" is perhaps forgivable.

However, this seems a bit too close to elevated "lofty" diction, the
worst part of such clumsiness being that the fancier word is often not
only unnecessary (a simpler word would do just fine) but incorrect
also (a simpler word is in fact more accurate).

Had we used the word "consistency", most of our arguments against what
we call mimesis would have simplified into an obvious and therefore
mostly needless point: breaks in consistency are bad unless carefully
considered as such by the author.

If there were a lot more to it than this, we might more justly defend
our (mis-)usage of the term. But it seems our wranglings on the issue
can be traced to our misusage of the term: the argument gets more
complicated in order to justify the misusage, rather than the misusage
being justified by the sophistication of the argument.

The term was first adopted in part because "realism" doesn't fit
right: works which are unrealistic may nevertheless be expected to
have some logic, some consistency. But alas, it appears that we chose
"mimesis" instead of "consistency" because our point was going to be
too flat unless we spiffed it up with a fancy word from English class.
It's a shame, though: "Crimes against Consistency" has a nicer ring I
think.

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 14, 2004, 4:43:31 PM9/14/04
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Here, Steve Breslin <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> It's normal for a new meaning to condense around a term, especially
> where the term is used in a specialized context, and is intended as a
> jargony shorthand for a sophisticated argument. So even though the
> word "mimesis" actually means "*mime*-ing or imitating" (or more
> specially, "representing the real world") as opposed to "describing"
> (diegesis) -- and has little if anything to do with consistency, which
> is at issue in both mimesis and diegesis --, our adoption of "mimesis"
> to mean "consistency" is perhaps forgivable.

Why do you think "consistency" is a better term for the referent of
"mimesis"?

To my eye, it implies *internal* consistency, whereas mimesis-in-the-
IF-sense is about a presentation consistent *with a realistic world*.
(Except "realistic" is the wrong term for fantasy/sci-fi worlds. I
guess "coherent" is the word I usually use, but I didn't get it from
sci-fi criticism. I don't think there *is* a common word for it,
really. Since Tolkien's use of "subcreation" didn't take off.)

The Minesweeper solitaire game is consistent, but not mimetic.

I also disagree with your assertion that the discussions we've had
about the idea would have "simplified into an obvious and therefore
mostly needless point", if only we'd used the right *word*. That trick
never works.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Rexx Magnus

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Sep 14, 2004, 4:44:56 PM9/14/04
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On Tue, 14 Sep 2004 20:28:58 GMT, Steve Breslin scrawled:

>
> The term was first adopted in part because "realism" doesn't fit
> right: works which are unrealistic may nevertheless be expected to
> have some logic, some consistency. But alas, it appears that we chose
> "mimesis" instead of "consistency" because our point was going to be
> too flat unless we spiffed it up with a fancy word from English class.
> It's a shame, though: "Crimes against Consistency" has a nicer ring I
> think.
>

In this context, mimesis is *similar* to consistency. You need consistency
in order to maintain mimesis, but you don't need mimesis to be consistent.

If you say "Doh!" in the middle of a serious game, or have something
totally incongruous to the surroundings that wouldn't normally occur in a
particular environment (read that as being totally unsuitable) then you're
breaking the sense of reality that the game is trying to portray.

The two do not seem like the same thing to me.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.

Harry

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Sep 14, 2004, 4:59:25 PM9/14/04
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On 14 Sep 2004 13:28:58 -0700, ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin)
wrote:


>It's a shame, though: "Crimes against Consistency" has a nicer ring I
>think.

Mimesis is related to narative *as well as* the game rules. You can
have consistent game rules (physics, rules of scoring, etc.) but still
brake mimesis by making the characters behave out of character, or by
allowing the parser to give 'out of character' responses. To some
things up: if it ruins your enjoyment of the story, it brakes mimesis.
This, of course, is my personal interpretation of the term. YMMV, I
guess.

Mark Hatfield

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Sep 14, 2004, 6:28:16 PM9/14/04
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If I had to choose a different word or term for mimesis, I would choose
'suspension of disbelief' over 'consistency'. Even 'continuity' describes
it better IMO. But mimesis works for me.

MH

"Steve Breslin" <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:f407dc2b.04091...@posting.google.com...

Steve Breslin

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Sep 14, 2004, 11:47:44 PM9/14/04
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Andrew Plotkin writes, quoting me:

> > [E]ven though the


> > word "mimesis" actually means "*mime*-ing or imitating" (or more
> > specially, "representing the real world") as opposed to "describing"
> > (diegesis) -- and has little if anything to do with consistency, which
> > is at issue in both mimesis and diegesis --, our adoption of "mimesis"
> > to mean "consistency" is perhaps forgivable.
>
> Why do you think "consistency" is a better term for the referent of
> "mimesis"?

The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
talking about.

The term "mimesis" is wrong because, as I noted, "mimesis" actually
means something entirely different: "mime-ing or imitating" (the
similarity between the word "mime" and the word "mimesis" is not
accidental). In art criticism, following a tradition beginning with
Plato and Aristotle among others, the term came to also mean
"representing (as opposed to describing) reality." (Describing is
"diegesis." When a homeric poet describes a scene, it's a digetic
performance; when he's speaking in the voice of a character, it's
mimetic. Novels are digetic; dramas are mimetic. Modern critics do
sophisticate the terms, but that's the basic matter.)

The referent of our special usage of the term "mimesis" is "(narrative
and structural) consistency," or as another poster suggested in this
thread, "continuity," or as you suggest "coherence." A game with a
lantern and a lazer-gun is not actually breaking "mimesis" at all
(properly speaking) -- it's not even engaged in mimesis to the extent
that the narrative is in the form of diegesis; it's breaking
consistency, continuity, or as you suggest, coherence.

> To my eye, it implies *internal* consistency, whereas mimesis-in-the-
> IF-sense is about a presentation consistent *with a realistic world*.
> (Except "realistic" is the wrong term for fantasy/sci-fi worlds. I
> guess "coherent" is the word I usually use, but I didn't get it from
> sci-fi criticism. I don't think there *is* a common word for it,
> really. Since Tolkien's use of "subcreation" didn't take off.)

Properly speaking, mimesis doesn't imply coherence. It implies
mimicry, miming, and direct representation as opposed to description.
One might make a sophisticated point about the mimetic or diegetic
character of IF; one might get so sophisticated as to deconstruct the
distinction, as Genette does in his famous "Frontiers of Narrative"
(1930); but in this, one would have said nothing about consistency,
continuity, or coherence, as the ideas really do not even intersect.
(Good mimesis and good diegesis may require some kind of consistency,
but this connection is tangential at best.)

So yes, "coherence" is certainly a much better term.



> The Minesweeper solitaire game is consistent, but not mimetic.

It has this in common with good works of interactive fiction (which
are consistent and diegetic).

> I also disagree with your assertion that the discussions we've had
> about the idea would have "simplified into an obvious and therefore
> mostly needless point", if only we'd used the right *word*. That trick
> never works.

I made this (somewhat provocative) suggestion to emphasize that this
is not merely another sematic argument to be brushed aside as
therefore trivial. But to speak to your point: in my experience, using
the right words makes things much simpler, and using the wrong words
makes things much more complicated. The trick of using the right words
for one's meaning (if trick it be) tends to work extremely well, as
I'm sure you'll agree. -- And that's the real point.

As I mentioned, it's a fine idea to appropriate and redefine a term
for use in a specialized context; this can help clarify things, and
provide a useful jargon.

But where this is really not necessary, the appropriated term becomes
a source of confusion: when there's already an available term which
covers our meaning just fine, our failure to use the available term
wrongly (and confusingly) implies that we mean something different.

====

Harry writes:

>Mimesis is related to narative *as well as* the game rules.

Properly speaking, mimesis is a mode of presentation or
representation, and doesn't relate whatsoever to narrative consistency
or continuity of the game rules. "The consistency (continuity,
coherence) of a work of IF" of course relates to both narrative
consistency and structural "game rule" consistency.

Rexx Magnus

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Sep 15, 2004, 4:27:49 AM9/15/04
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On Wed, 15 Sep 2004 03:47:44 GMT, Steve Breslin scrawled:

> The referent of our special usage of the term "mimesis" is "(narrative
> and structural) consistency," or as another poster suggested in this
> thread, "continuity," or as you suggest "coherence." A game with a
> lantern and a lazer-gun is not actually breaking "mimesis" at all
> (properly speaking) -- it's not even engaged in mimesis to the extent
> that the narrative is in the form of diegesis; it's breaking
> consistency, continuity, or as you suggest, coherence.

Think about virtual reality.
VR is more often used to portray scenes that are NOT real in a realistic
way.
Mimesis is about mimicing writing that portrays a reality in the same way.

Anyway, why the heck are we getting all hung up on words such as this,
when it really isn't tremendously important and contributes nothing to the
experience of playing or writing IF anyway?

Michael

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Sep 15, 2004, 9:16:24 AM9/15/04
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"Mark Hatfield" <bhat...@columbus.rr.com> wrote in message news:<4gK1d.17491$_z4....@fe1.columbus.rr.com>...

> If I had to choose a different word or term for mimesis, I would choose
> 'suspension of disbelief' over 'consistency'. Even 'continuity' describes
> it better IMO. But mimesis works for me.
>
> MH
>

Exactly. I look at the term mimesis to mean a player's immersion in
the game world created by the author. An author can create a
consistent game that has a narrator that consistently pokes fun at the
player's typed-in commands, but that would not be mimemtic.

Michael

Rexx Magnus

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Sep 15, 2004, 9:29:14 AM9/15/04
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On Wed, 15 Sep 2004 13:16:24 GMT, Michael scrawled:

> Exactly. I look at the term mimesis to mean a player's immersion in
> the game world created by the author. An author can create a
> consistent game that has a narrator that consistently pokes fun at the
> player's typed-in commands, but that would not be mimemtic.
>
> Michael

Yes, that was more accurately than how I had termed it.

Of course, the only way to make a game that has no mimesis whatsoever is
one that takes into account the fact that it is a game (or a text being
read) and still involve the player in that context - or use literary
tricks, but have those 'in' the game be aware of their use.

The Neverending story films are one example of the former, whilst Jasper
Fforde's books are a perfect (and possibly the only one I've come across)
example of the latter.

Stephen Granade

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Sep 15, 2004, 10:22:47 AM9/15/04
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ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin) writes:

> It's normal for a new meaning to condense around a term, especially
> where the term is used in a specialized context, and is intended as a
> jargony shorthand for a sophisticated argument. So even though the
> word "mimesis" actually means "*mime*-ing or imitating" (or more
> specially, "representing the real world") as opposed to "describing"
> (diegesis) -- and has little if anything to do with consistency, which
> is at issue in both mimesis and diegesis --, our adoption of "mimesis"
> to mean "consistency" is perhaps forgivable.
>
> However, this seems a bit too close to elevated "lofty" diction, the
> worst part of such clumsiness being that the fancier word is often not
> only unnecessary (a simpler word would do just fine) but incorrect
> also (a simpler word is in fact more accurate).
>
> Had we used the word "consistency", most of our arguments against what
> we call mimesis would have simplified into an obvious and therefore
> mostly needless point: breaks in consistency are bad unless carefully
> considered as such by the author.

I disagree. As Andrew pointed out in his post, "consistency" doesn't
quite get at it either. As you pointed out, meanings and connotations
tend to accrete around terms in specific contexts. Had we used the
word "consistence" we'd end up saying "The game world should be
consistent, where by consistency we mean that it should have a
presentation that is coherent and consistent and..." Instead of
clarifying things, we would have introduced hidden pitfalls for people
who know what the word means, just not in this specialized context.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
stephen...@granades.com

Steve Breslin

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Sep 15, 2004, 10:38:53 AM9/15/04
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Rexx writes:

> [Virtual reality] is more often used to portray scenes that are NOT real


> in a realistic way.
> Mimesis is about mimicing writing that portrays a reality in the same way.

Paintings, movies, and VRs are mimetic. Descriptions are diegetic.
(Properly speaking.) But that has nothing to do with "realism,"
"realistic unrealism" or consistency, cohesion. (Quality VR is
realistic; are you using the term "mimesis" to mean "well wrought"?)
Description or depiction, representation or presentation -- these are
what they are regardless of whether or not they're (unrealistically)
realistic/consistent or well wrought. We're confusing concepts because
our word choice is so sloppy.

> Anyway, why the heck are we getting all hung up on words such as this,
> when it really isn't tremendously important and contributes nothing to the
> experience of playing or writing IF anyway?

This discussion is already proving the value of choosing an
appropriate word. Because we don't think about (or don't know) what
the word "mimesis" actually means, our use of the word "mimesis" in
our specialized context will very badly confuse any discussion: one of
us will suppose it means "suspension of disbelief", another person
will feel it means "realism (or realistic unrealism)" or "quality,"
another person will insist it has historically been (mis)used to mean
"narrative and structural consistency," and so on.

The word "mimesis" actually means nothing even remotely related to any
of our divergent notions; it's a dumb source of our confusion. As we
continue to talk at cross purposes, the problem with the term becomes
increasingly clearer.

Rexx Magnus

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Sep 15, 2004, 10:49:45 AM9/15/04
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On Wed, 15 Sep 2004 14:38:53 GMT, Steve Breslin scrawled:

> This discussion is already proving the value of choosing an
> appropriate word. Because we don't think about (or don't know) what
> the word "mimesis" actually means, our use of the word "mimesis" in
> our specialized context will very badly confuse any discussion: one of
> us will suppose it means "suspension of disbelief", another person
> will feel it means "realism (or realistic unrealism)" or "quality,"
> another person will insist it has historically been (mis)used to mean
> "narrative and structural consistency," and so on.
>
> The word "mimesis" actually means nothing even remotely related to any
> of our divergent notions; it's a dumb source of our confusion. As we
> continue to talk at cross purposes, the problem with the term becomes
> increasingly clearer.

Using google's define: feature, gets the following:

"To attempt in art to render in such a way as to mimic or recreate reality
as accurately as possible.
www.usi.edu/artdept/artinindiana/Glossary/glossary.html


Discourse of Electroacoustic Music
www.mti.dmu.ac.uk/EARS/Data/node429.html


n. 1. The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world,
especially human actions, in literature and art. 2. Biology Mimicry. 3.
Medicine The appearance, often caused by hysteria, of symptoms of a
disease not actually present.
www.public.asu.edu/~detrie/pages/design_foundation/pages/glossary_m.html


The concept of imitation, involving the creation of representations that
transcend or exceed mere appearance by implying the sacred or spiritual
essence of things.
www.hearts-ease.org/cgi-bin/termsn.cgi


the imitative representation of nature and human behavior in art and
literature
www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn"


Which is conclusive enough proof to me to indicate that it is not just the
IF community (here) that uses "mimesis" in this way.
You can't pick apart words by using their latin basis as the current
meaning and sticking to it.
Language changes. Dictionary definitions are intended to reflect language,
not define it.

Dictionary.com gives the first definition thus:

mi搶e新is ( P ) Pronunciation Key (m-mss, m-)
n.
The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world,
especially human actions, in literature and art.
Biology: Mimicry.
Medicine: The appearance, often caused by hysteria, of symptoms of a
disease not actually present.


Which is more than good enough for me.

Quintin Stone

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Sep 15, 2004, 11:17:23 AM9/15/04
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On Wed, 15 Sep 2004, Rexx Magnus wrote:

> Dictionary.com gives the first definition thus:
>

> mi·me·sis ( P ) Pronunciation Key (m-mss, m-)


> n.
> The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world,
> especially human actions, in literature and art.
> Biology: Mimicry.
> Medicine: The appearance, often caused by hysteria, of symptoms of a
> disease not actually present.
>
> Which is more than good enough for me.

Same here. Can we put this silly discussion to bed now?

/====================================================================\
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|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
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Mark Hatfield

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Sep 15, 2004, 11:32:52 AM9/15/04
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It occurs to me that a rereading of the essay Sins Against Mimesis is
appropriate. It may be that we are misusing the word. But how many of us
actually encountered this word or used it in everyday speech before that
essay? I believe that essay had the effect of defining the word for the
community. Since that essay, mimesis has come to mean something in the IF
community that may or may not jibe with the technically correct definition
of the word.

You propose substituting the word 'consistency' for 'mimesis'. The problem
I believe most of us are having with that is this: consistency does not
adequately convey the elusive quality described in that essay. Right or
wrong, 'mimesis' has come to describe a quality that is difficult to
describe - a quality that is not adequately described by the word
'consistency'. A quality that we know personally from having experienced
first-hand in games, which is why we relate so well to the article. It's a
difficult quality to describe with a single word. Perhaps no one word will
suffice. To that end, we may have perverted 'mimesis' to mean more than it
does, or something different than it does. However, none of the words
proposed as replacements, including 'consistency', describe the quality any
more accurately or completely.

MH


"Steve Breslin" <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:f407dc2b.04091...@posting.google.com...

Steve Breslin

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Sep 15, 2004, 1:45:58 PM9/15/04
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Stephen writes:

>As Andrew pointed out in his post, "consistency" doesn't quite get at
it

>either. [...]

(Andrew writes: "["mimesis"] implies *internal* consistency, whereas
mimesis-in-the-IF-sense is about a presentation consistent *with a
realistic world*.(Except "realistic" is the wrong term for
fantasy/sci-fi worlds. [etc.]).)

As I replied, "mimesis" does not imply internal consistency. As I also
indicated, "consistency" clearly applies to narration and structure
(the game rules), and everything else we're talking about, with the
added bonus that using the right word eliminates all the confusion, a
confusion which this thread has already made quite apparent.

If there's something implied by our usage of "mimesis" that
"consistency" doesn't cover, please point it out! I've re-read our
discussions of "mimesis" before posting this thread, and I didn't come
up with any exceptions.

As Roger Giner-Sorolla explains, he's about involving the player in
the game, and eliminating the common clumsinesses that interfere the
player's involvement or enjoyment. It seems to me that "consistency"
applies perfectly well to initial object locations, puzzles, contexts
or locations, and NPC behavior; "consistency" applies to all aspects
of the game world, and it's what he (and we) are talking about.

Stephen continues:

>Had we used the word "consistence" we'd end up saying "The game world


should be
>consistent, where by consistency we mean that it should have a
presentation
>that is coherent and consistent and..." Instead of clarifying things,
we would
>have introduced hidden pitfalls for people who know what the word
means, just
>not in this specialized context.

I don't think so: I blame this error on our misusage of the term
"mimesis," a misusage which falsely implies that we must be talking
about something different from consistency (when in fact we are not).

The meaning of "consistency" does *not* change when applied in our
context. There will be specialized guidelines for achieving
consistency, but that's true of all sorts:

"The game world (the narration, writing style, and game rules) should
be consistent [not 'mimetic' or some other unnecessary jargon we'd
have to define]. For some guidelines for achieving a consistent game
world (and common pitfalls to avoid), see <this website>."

"The room description should be good [not 'diegetic' or some other
foolishness]. For some guidelines for writing a good room description,
see <this website>."

etc.

See how much simpler things get when we start using the right words
again, rather than appropriating and redefining a confusing and
unnecessary jargon?

Mark writes:

>You propose substituting the word 'consistency' for 'mimesis'.

Not quite: I'm proposing we stop substutiting the word "mimesis" when
we're really talking about "consistency."

>The problem I believe most of us are having with that is this:
consistency

>does not adequately convey the elusive quality described in [Roger's
essay].

I think we'd make the whole matter much less elusive if we returned to
normal English.

Rexx writes:

>You can't pick apart words by using their latin [actually, Greek]


basis as the
>current meaning and sticking to it.
>Language changes. Dictionary definitions are intended to reflect
language,
>not define it.

Yes, yes of course. That's certainly not at all what I'm doing. Some
of the definitions you present do not describe contemporary usage very
accurately, but some aren't too bad. At any rate, there's not going to
be any proof that...

>it is not just the IF community (here) that uses "mimesis" in this
way

...simply because our usage of the term wildly diverges from what the
word means in all other contexts (and the definitions you quote
demonstrate this very clearly) -- if you haven't noticed this, it's
not really your fault: it's the fault of our misusage of the term.

Michael Chapman Martin

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Sep 15, 2004, 2:35:31 PM9/15/04
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Steve Breslin <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> If there's something implied by our usage of "mimesis" that
> "consistency" doesn't cover, please point it out!

I don't know about "mimesis" alone, but the specific phrase "breaking
mimesis" is used to describe both "breaking the fourth wall" (neutrally)
or "breaking immersion" (negatively).

Example usage, from J. Robinson Wheeler's review of Adam Cadre's "Lock
& Key": "If I had a wish for this game, it would be for some sort of
mimesis-shattering magic verb that would skip over the cutscene..."

(And as an example where breaking mimesis doesn't cause a real
inconsistency, there are some games that take you, the player, to task
for ordering the protagonist to do repellent things. This generally
only works when the game has not been encouraging the player to identify
heavily with the protagonist; while this is consistency of a sort, the
end result is just overloading "consistency" with a thousand subtleties.)

--Michael

Andrew Plotkin

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Sep 15, 2004, 2:49:03 PM9/15/04
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Here, Steve Breslin <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin writes, quoting me:
>
> > > [E]ven though the
> > > word "mimesis" actually means "*mime*-ing or imitating" (or more
> > > specially, "representing the real world") as opposed to "describing"
> > > (diegesis) -- and has little if anything to do with consistency, which
> > > is at issue in both mimesis and diegesis --, our adoption of "mimesis"
> > > to mean "consistency" is perhaps forgivable.
> >
> > Why do you think "consistency" is a better term for the referent of
> > "mimesis"?
>
> The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
> talking about.

It's not what I'm talking about.


> The term "mimesis" is wrong because, as I noted, "mimesis" actually
> means something entirely different: "mime-ing or imitating" (the
> similarity between the word "mime" and the word "mimesis" is not
> accidental).

I acknowledge that the IF-jargon use of the word is not identical to
the "parent" usage in critical discussion. This is unfortunate, but
I'm not interested in changing it if that's your sole objection.

I'd say that it demonstrates that we (the IF community) *wanted* a
term, to attach to a concept that we all saw but hadn't pinned down
cleanly. We latched onto "mimesis" because the famous essay brought it
to our attention. We had not previously latched onto "consistency" or
"coherency". Please believe me when I say that we did know those
words, even back unto the dark days of 1995.

Certainly in my case, I *didn't* know the word "mimesis" -- it was
therefore useful to hang the concept on. And its etymological meaning
of "imitating reality" is in fact a good start on what I really mean
by it. Really it seems to me that the critical meaning (which you keep
referring back to) isn't any closer to the root "mime" than the
IF-jargon concept.

To be honest, it bothers me that you're coming in with an
(intentionally provocative?) criticism of the *word* we're using, but
you don't seem to think it's worth addressing the *concept*. You're
just asserting that the concept is identical to world-internal-
consistency, that we all already know this, and that -- I don't know
-- we're being perverse or something in insisting on jargon.

Mike Roberts

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Sep 15, 2004, 3:16:51 PM9/15/04
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"Steve Breslin" <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> If there's something implied by our usage of "mimesis" that
> "consistency" doesn't cover, please point it out! I've re-read
> our discussions of "mimesis" before posting this thread, and
> I didn't come up with any exceptions.

But have you read the Roger Giner-Sorolla's original "Crimes Against
Mimesis" essay that first established the term in the IF context? I
personally find his usage of the term to be quite distinguishable from
"consistent," which doesn't at all capture his points about the
believability of the fictional world of a game's setting. Internal
consistency is a factor in believability, but it's only a part of what he
was talking about. To my reading he really was talking about mimicry of the
sort that "mimesis" means in a broader artistic context.

I think you're right that jargon can obfuscate, but your arguments in this
thread strike me as making the mirror-image mistake of oversimplifying. I
think you can plausibly argue that the word has acquired a bit of fuzziness
in raif; you see it used here for things ranging from its real meaning to
immersiveness to just plain goodness. But it's not consistent (as it were)
with my read of the group that everyone who uses the term here merely means
"consistency."

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com


Ross Presser

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 3:12:38 PM9/15/04
to
On Wed, 15 Sep 2004 14:22:47 GMT, Stephen Granade wrote:

> Instead of clarifying things, we would have introduced hidden pitfalls
> for people who know what the word means, just not in this specialized
> context.

Which is exactly what the word mimesis does for people who have encountered
it outside the world of IF.

Steve Breslin

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:30:54 PM9/15/04
to
Andrew writes:

(I'm re-ordering the points slightly, moving the most important one
first:)

>To be honest, it bothers me that you're coming in with an
>(intentionally provocative?) criticism of the *word* we're using, but
>you don't seem to think it's worth addressing the *concept*.

It's certainly worth addressing the concept(s), and a stronger and
more precise terminology will help greatly. Also, I think much of this
discussion has already been helpful in clarifying the concepts. (I
hope we're mutually provoking thought and discussion, and certainly
not "provoking people" in any nasty sense.)

In his recent essay for the "Theory" book, Nick Montfort has taken
respectable strides in clarifying and expanding our terminology, with
the hope that our future theoretical discussions will benefit from a
more precise vocabulary. I'm after the same thing.

I'll think about this some more, but meanwhile, here's my first try at
answering your other points:

>> The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
>> talking about.
>
>It's not what I'm talking about.

I really don't want to put words in your mouth; I *think* what you're
talking about is "a realistic (or logical) presentation of the game,"
which fosters enjoyment and immersion.

We seem to be talking a bit at cross purposes, so let me expand on my
point. I think this discussion has uncovered that the IF-conventional
usage of "mimesis" is twofold (at least): we're talking about (1) the
desired effect, an enjoyable, immersive game, one which presents a
consistent (or coherent), logical world, however fantastical that
world and its logic may be; and (2) means to achive this effect (and
pitfalls to avoid).

To the extent that we're talking about (1), I don't suppose there's
anything terrible with the term "mimesis," although I don't understand
the need for a jargon here, especially one which seems to foster
vagaries rather than sharpen our precision. "An immersive game" works
much better than "a mimetic game." The term "mimesis" is really too
vague: for example "breaks immersion/enjoyment" or "breaks the game's
internal logic" (or what have you) are much sharper than "breaks
mimesis."

If we're talking about (2), I think we're talking about making the
game self-consistent on all counts -- and the term "mimetic" doesn't
apply particularly well. "You should make the game self-consistent" is
much sharper than "you should make the game mimetic," no?

>> The term "mimesis" is wrong because, as I noted, "mimesis" actually
>> means something entirely different: "mime-ing or imitating" (the
>> similarity between the word "mime" and the word "mimesis" is not
>> accidental).
>
>I acknowledge that the IF-jargon use of the word is not identical to
>the "parent" usage in critical discussion. This is unfortunate, but
>I'm not interested in changing it if that's your sole objection.

No, that's not my objection; if it were, the point should be laughed
off stage with no further thought. I explained the "literary critical"
usage (which has not changed markedly since Aristotle) only to point
out that we are not using the term in accordance with convention. If
we were using the term "correctly," no further points on the topic
would have gotten out of the gate; this preliminary point legitimates
the discussion, but it is not the discussion.

As I said at the very beginning, I don't mind intentionally misusing a
term (i.e., appropriating a term and redefining it for the purpose of
a clear and precise jargon). The problem is that the term is
unnecessary, and worse, it produces rather than alleviates confusion.
As you've witnessed on this thread, people who are happy to go along
with this vague term begin talking at cross purposes as soon as its
meaning is put to question. This by itself challenges the critical
utility of the term.

>I'd say that it demonstrates that we (the IF community) *wanted* a
>term, to attach to a concept that we all saw but hadn't pinned down
>cleanly. We latched onto "mimesis" because the famous essay brought
it
>to our attention. We had not previously latched onto "consistency" or
>"coherency".

I appreciate this. I'm coming to the conclusion (and I imagine you
might be getting the same feeling) that we have a number of concepts
under the aegis "mimesis," and a more exhaustive analysis would help
focus critical discussion. Where we're talking about "immersion," we
should say so; where we're talking about "self-consistency," we should
say so. If we're speaking very generally about "the enjoyment of the
game, and what brings it about," we should say so. "Mimesis" just
murks all this together.

>Certainly in my case, I *didn't* know the word "mimesis" -- it was
>therefore useful to hang the concept on. And its etymological meaning
>of "imitating reality" is in fact a good start on what I really mean
>by it. Really it seems to me that the critical meaning (which you
keep
>referring back to) isn't any closer to the root "mime" than the
>IF-jargon concept.

"Mime" (as in "mimic" or "imitate") is exactly what mimesis concerns
(properly speaking). I think it might be really interesting to
consider whether IF is "mimetic" (in the proper sense, namely: does it
presenting a thing, like drama or sculpture present things?) or
"diegetic" (which means that it describes, like a novel). This
requires some further thought.

>You're
>just asserting that the concept is identical to world-internal-
>consistency, that we all already know this, and that -- I don't know
>-- we're being perverse or something in insisting on jargon.

Michael quotes an "example usage, from J. Robinson Wheeler's review of


Adam Cadre's "Lock & Key": 'If I had a wish for this game, it would be
for some sort of mimesis-shattering magic verb that would skip over

the cutscene...'"

Here the point would be made just as well (or better) if Wheeler
dropped the phrase "mimesis-shattering." It's not clear to me what the
phrase is adding to the point. The jargon has such attraction that it
worms its way into discourse where it doesn't really belong. And this
is the problem with jargon: people start using it instinctively (and
by extension, vaguely or incorrrectly), and it ends up clouding and
distracting the discussion rather than clarifying it.

Thanks for bearing with me!

Darkhawk (H. Nicoll)

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:32:54 PM9/15/04
to
Mark Hatfield <bhat...@columbus.rr.com> wrote:
> It occurs to me that a rereading of the essay Sins Against Mimesis is
> appropriate. It may be that we are misusing the word. But how many of us
> actually encountered this word or used it in everyday speech before that
> essay? I believe that essay had the effect of defining the word for the
> community. Since that essay, mimesis has come to mean something in the IF
> community that may or may not jibe with the technically correct definition
> of the word.

I have not encountered the essay in question at all; I am familiar with
the word from fiction-writing context. There it's used to indicate a
world portrayed as if it could be real. (Best I can aim at the
concept.)

- Darkhawk, briefly emerged from lurkdom


--
Darkhawk - H. A. Nicoll - http://aelfhame.net/~darkhawk/
They are one person, they are two alone
They are three together, they are for each other
- "Helplessly Hoping", Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

S

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:33:18 PM9/15/04
to

"Michael" <bilgepu...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Exactly. I look at the term mimesis to mean a player's
> immersion in the game world created by the author.

"Immersion", there's a good word for it. :^)

S.

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:52:11 PM9/15/04
to
Here, Darkhawk (H. Nicoll) <dark...@mindspring.com> wrote:
> Mark Hatfield <bhat...@columbus.rr.com> wrote:
> > It occurs to me that a rereading of the essay Sins Against Mimesis is
> > appropriate. It may be that we are misusing the word. But how many of us
> > actually encountered this word or used it in everyday speech before that
> > essay? I believe that essay had the effect of defining the word for the
> > community. Since that essay, mimesis has come to mean something in the IF
> > community that may or may not jibe with the technically correct definition
> > of the word.
>
> I have not encountered the essay in question at all; I am familiar with
> the word from fiction-writing context. There it's used to indicate a
> world portrayed as if it could be real. (Best I can aim at the
> concept.)

Interesting. Maybe the IF usage is closer to the writerly usage than I
(in my previous post) believed.

Although IF (and gaming in general) has a lot of mimesis issues to
contend with that novels do not. Or rather, they interpenetrate the
work a lot more.

(A book has pages and chapters and a spine, but book-readers have a
good agreement on how to ignore those when considering the "reality"
of the world-in-the-book. In a text adventure, you have to contend
with the parser, SAVE/RESTORE/UNDO, and all that stuff. They're much
easier to trip over. Which is why we argue over it a lot.)



> - Darkhawk, briefly emerged from lurkdom

Hi. I think I walked past you at Worldcon. :)

S

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:49:51 PM9/15/04
to

"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> I'd say that it demonstrates that we (the IF community)
> *wanted* a term, to attach to a concept that we all saw
> but hadn't pinned down cleanly.

I think this is a useful point Steve is making: that attaching the word
'mimesis' has not helped to pin the concept down any more cleanly than it
was before. As Steve said, this discussion has shown that not everyone
thinks of the same meaning when they hear the word 'mimesis' in an IF
context. To different people, it represents some combination of:

1) Player immersion
2) Consistent "rules" or internal logic
3) Not referring to the "outside world" within the game's text
4) Robust game mechanics

I would suggest that accurate names for the above are:

1) Immersion
2) Consistency
3) I'm sure there's a name for this
4) Robustness or Completeness or Depth

I would also suggest that our concern over #'s 2-4 comes mainly from a
desire to maintain immersion (#1). In other words, we dislike inconsistent
rules because they break immersion; we dislike references to the player
*when* they break immersion; and we dislike flawed mechanics because they
break immersion.
Or to word it differently: Immersion depends (among other things) on
Consistency, Depth of Simulation, and a clear Player/Protagonist Division or
Unification.

How's that sound?

S.

Richard Bos

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:55:55 PM9/15/04
to
ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin) wrote:

> Andrew Plotkin writes, quoting me:
>

> > Why do you think "consistency" is a better term for the referent of
> > "mimesis"?
>
> The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
> talking about.

Nope. What we're talking about is, to the best approximation I can give,
"that which allows suspension of disbelief". That's too cumbersome a
term to use all the time; and IMO, "mimesis" is a slightly better word
to adopt for it than "consistency", since it's closer. The game world
need not be truly consistent; it needs to appear as consistent as a
plausible (real or completely fictional) world would be.

Richard

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 4:58:38 PM9/15/04
to

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 5:09:06 PM9/15/04
to
Here, S <do...@spam.com> wrote:
>
> "Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> > I'd say that it demonstrates that we (the IF community)
> > *wanted* a term, to attach to a concept that we all saw
> > but hadn't pinned down cleanly.
>
> I think this is a useful point Steve is making: that attaching the word
> 'mimesis' has not helped to pin the concept down any more cleanly than it
> was before.

Attaching a label to a concept is not a way of pinning it down. It's a
way of starting the discussion.

> To different people, it represents some combination of:
>
> 1) Player immersion
> 2) Consistent "rules" or internal logic
> 3) Not referring to the "outside world" within the game's text
> 4) Robust game mechanics

Those are reasonable attributes. Now, what word shall we use for the
combination? Or rather, what word shall we use for the property that
inspired you to list those four attributes as a group?

> I would suggest that accurate names for the above are:
>
> 1) Immersion
> 2) Consistency
> 3) I'm sure there's a name for this
> 4) Robustness or Completeness or Depth
>
> I would also suggest that our concern over #'s 2-4 comes mainly from a
> desire to maintain immersion (#1).

"Immersion" is a property of the player -- a particular player --
rather than a feature of the work. You'd have to say "feature-which-
tends-to-be-immersive" -- I can't come up with a good short term.

It also elides the IF conventions which are non-mimetic, but which
don't violate a player's sense of immersion *because he's used to
them in IF*. (UNDO, etc, as I mentioned earlier.) You can't talk about
mimesis in IF without talking about this.

Darkhawk (H. Nicoll)

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 5:24:05 PM9/15/04
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
> Hi. I think I walked past you at Worldcon. :)

Not implausible. I was there the Thursday, and walked past a /lot/ of
people. :}

- Darkhawk, wave

Steve Breslin

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 5:50:42 PM9/15/04
to
Mike writes:

>[H]ave you read the Roger Giner-Sorolla's original


>"Crimes Against Mimesis" essay that first established
>the term in the IF context?

Yes: I treated it immediately after the paragraph you quoted.

>I personally find his usage of the term to be quite
>distinguishable from "consistent," which doesn't at all
>capture his points about the believability of the fictional
>world of a game's setting.

Believeability, immersiveness, and a lot else besides. In all his
specific points, however, I think we discover a common thread: make
the game as a whole, and its elements, self-consistent and logical
(given the logic suggested by the game). For example, he's not talking
about a "mimetic" NPC (that would be meaningless), but an NPC which is
self-consistent; for another example, he's not talking about "mimetic"
puzzles, but puzzles which are consistent with their environment.

>Internal consistency is a factor in believability, but
>it's only a part of what he was talking about. To my
>reading he really was talking about mimicry of the sort
>that "mimesis" means in a broader artistic context.

In the broader artistic context, mimesis is quite simply a mode of
presentation, and doesn't have anything to do with believability.
"Successful mimesis" will mean believable mimesis, if by "successful"
you mean "believable."

But I'm suggesting that internal (or as I say, self-)consistency is
*the* factor in achieving believability. Roger's essay emphasizes this
everywhere.

(The term "believable" is itself a bit imprecise, but you get the
point I think.)

>I think you're right that jargon can obfuscate, but
>your arguments in this thread strike me as making the
>mirror-image mistake of oversimplifying.

Indeed, our usage of the jargon over-generalizes to the point of
making the term "mimesis" roughly meaningless (as you suggest, below).

But I certainly don't want to oversimplify; I'm aimed at making our
discussions more precise, not more simplistic. Using simpler (and less
vague) language makes our meaning more precise, not more simplistic.
If we tone down the vague jargon and select normal language adequate
to our ideas, we'll simplify into precision.

>I think you can plausibly argue that the word has
>acquired a bit of fuzziness in raif; you see it used
>here for things ranging from its real meaning to
>immersiveness to just plain goodness.

Yes. This is the risk with jargon: people start using the words
instinctively (unconsciously) rather than considering their idea and
selecting precise language proper to the idea. Worse, the jargon
becomes a "fad," and to use it (however irresponsibly) feels cool.

>But it's not consistent (as it were) with my read of
>the group that everyone who uses the term here merely
>means "consistency."

That's my point; people use this questionable term for all sorts. This
is especially problematic in that the term can't be used quite
appropriately in any of the contexts in which we normally use it. By
Roger's argument, and by our more sophisticated and consistent
discussions on this matter, I take it that what we normally mean by
the term "mimesis" is consistency. In any case, saying so is a good
place to start.

Thanks, Mike. I was hoping you'd add something here.

S

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 5:59:30 PM9/15/04
to

"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

>> 1) Player immersion
>> 2) Consistent "rules" or internal logic
>> 3) Not referring to the "outside world" within the game's text
>> 4) Robust game mechanics
>
> Those are reasonable attributes. Now, what word
> shall we use for the combination?

I think "Immersiveness" sums them up well -- see below.


>> I would also suggest that our concern over #'s 2-4
>> comes mainly from a desire to maintain
>> immersion (#1).
>
> "Immersion" is a property of the player -- a particular
> player -- rather than a feature of the work.

I agree completely. That which immerses is "immersive". (Just as that
which offends is "offensive"). When we speak about a game being "immersive"
(or "offensive"), we are implicitly referring to ourselves, or most players,
or a hypothetical "average player". It's like calling a game "interesting"
or "fun" -- the basis in personal taste is implied.

So, the terminology I am suggesting is:

-Players are immersed
-Games are immersive (or not immersive / non-immersive)
-Flaws interfere with (or break) immersion:
-Inconsistent rules
-Incomplete game mechanics
-Inappropriate references to out-of-game entities
-Spelling errors (an inappropriate reference to the author's lack of
writing ability!)
-(etc)


> It also elides the IF conventions which are non-mimetic,
> but which don't violate a player's sense of immersion
> *because he's used to them in IF*. (UNDO, etc, as I
> mentioned earlier.)

This is actually a great way to contrast Immersion with Mimesis. As you
said, "undo" is non-mimetic, but most would agree that it does not break
immersion. While it *is* a reference to an out-of-game entity, most players
consider it an "appropriate" reference. Thus, it doesn't fit the definition
of an "immersion-breaker" given above.

Of course, "appropriateness" is in the eye of the beholder, which is
precisely why there are differing opinions on non-mimetic techniques such as
in-jokes, breaking the 4th wall, parser humour, etc.
Each player's personal view of these non-mimetic techniques as
"appropriate" or "inappropriate" will determine whether their immersion is
broken, and thus affect their enjoyment. This reflects the diversity of
reviews one often finds for games that use such techniques -- for those who
dislike them, they're game-breaking.

S.

David Adrien Tanguay

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 7:07:54 PM9/15/04
to
Richard Bos wrote:
>>>Why do you think "consistency" is a better term for the referent of
>>>"mimesis"?
>>
>>The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
>>talking about.
>
>
> Nope. What we're talking about is, to the best approximation I can give,
> "that which allows suspension of disbelief". That's too cumbersome a
> term to use all the time; and IMO, "mimesis" is a slightly better word
> to adopt for it than "consistency", since it's closer. The game world
> need not be truly consistent; it needs to appear as consistent as a
> plausible (real or completely fictional) world would be.

In my limited, subjective experience of the words, "verisimilitude" would be
the best existing word for the intended concept, but "mimesis" is close
enough and is a lot easier to say/type. "consistency" fails because not only
is it insufficient, but it is a useful sub-concept that we may want to speak
about separately: something can be consistent but not mimetic (in the IF
sense), as Andrew showed elsethread. "mimesis" is a good IF jargon in part
because we don't have any other use for the term.

To some other posts in the thread:
I don't think mimesis/IF includes the concept of immersion, but, rather, is
one means to help attain immersion. For example, a supremely boring piece of
IF could be perfectly mimetic/IF, consistent, logical, etc. and whatever,
but would not be immersive (well, unless it was *supposed* to be a do-it-
yourself adaptation of Little Nemo in Slumberland). Going the other way,
something could break mimesis/IF without sacrificing immersion, as in the
common theatrical "breaking the fourth wall".
--
David Tanguay http://www.sentex.ca/~datanguayh/
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada [43.24N 80.29W]

Mike Roberts

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 7:40:26 PM9/15/04
to
"Steve Breslin" <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> By Roger's argument, and by our more sophisticated and
> consistent discussions on this matter, I take it that what we
> normally mean by the term "mimesis" is consistency.

So you keep insisting, but it doesn't actually seem to be what people mean,
at least to my read of the group. (And most of the posts in this thread
from people saying "here's what I mean when I say 'mimesis'" seem to confirm
this.)

Steve Breslin

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 9:11:18 PM9/15/04
to
Mike writes:

>[M]ost of the posts in this thread from people


>saying "here's what I mean when I say 'mimesis'"

>seem to confirm [that people don't mean
>"consistency."]

I think you already gave a pretty fair range of what people mean by
"mimesis": "you see it used here for things ranging from its real


meaning to immersiveness to just plain goodness."

I agree (though I don't think it has a "real meaning"): this thread
alone has indeed demonstrated a wide divergence of opinion on the
term, but unfortunately it has seen more obfuscation than it has seen
useful and definite statements along the lines of "here's what I mean
when I say 'mimesis'."

Indeed, if someone says "I use the term to mean 'immersion'," this
means that the person would communicate their meaning much better by
simply saying "immersion" instead. Or, more generally, if someone says
"I use the term to mean 'X'," this means that the person would
communicate their meaning much more clearly and precisely by simply
saying "X." (And this because the term is in fact so vague.)

The thing is, we regularly use the term without thinking about what we
mean. As I said, this jargon becomes instinctive and unconscious, and
so we've come to apply it sloppily.

I'm trying to focus the *concepts* a bit, by observing (*not*
"insisting") that what we normally (or at least, frequently) mean by
the term is "consistency." This is clearly not true in many cases, as
our kind correspondents have argued and demonstrated; where it is
true, we will communicate our meaning more clearly by using the term
"consistency." If we mean something else, we'll serve our meaning
better by saing more precisely what it is we mean.

As I mentioned, the term "mimesis" murks all our different meanings
together.

I'm working out a more precise vocabulary (thanks, "S"!), but it
deserves some more careful analysis, so I'll leave off for a moment.

Stephen Granade

unread,
Sep 15, 2004, 9:50:28 PM9/15/04
to
Ross Presser <rpre...@imtek.com> writes:

That group of people is extremely smaller than those who know the word
"consistency." Of that tiny group of people who are already familiar
with "mimesis," most would be familiar with it in the medical or
biological context where it means imitation of one disease by another,
or the appearance of a disease that isn't actually present.

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Sep 16, 2004, 4:07:11 AM9/16/04
to
On Wed, 15 Sep 2004 19:12:38 GMT, Ross Presser scrawled:

I understood what mimesis meant in the context of IF because I already
knew what mimesis meant (not in an IF context) - and I couldn't actually
see any difference, which is why I am constantly amazed that this thread
is even occurring.

Paul O'Brian

unread,
Sep 16, 2004, 10:13:52 AM9/16/04
to
On Wed, 15 Sep 2004, Steve Breslin wrote:

> If there's something implied by our usage of "mimesis" that
> "consistency" doesn't cover, please point it out!

Here's my two cents. It seems to me that "consistency" is a broader term
than "mimesis." When I play a game that consistently misspells words, or
consistently crashes, or, hey, consistently breaks mimesis, that game is
consistent without being mimetic. I would contend that "consistency" just
means that a game doesn't vary in its presentation of one or more
qualities, one of which could be mimesis. "Mimesis" means that a game does
an accurate job of presenting a fictional world in which we can believe.

--
Paul O'Brian obr...@colorado.edu http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~obrian
SPAG 38 is coming!

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Sep 16, 2004, 1:36:32 PM9/16/04
to
Here, Steve Breslin <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> >You're just asserting that the concept is identical to
> >world-internal- consistency, that we all already know this, and
> >that -- I don't know -- we're being perverse or something in
> >insisting on jargon.
>
> Michael quotes an "example usage, from J. Robinson Wheeler's review of
> Adam Cadre's "Lock & Key": 'If I had a wish for this game, it would be
> for some sort of mimesis-shattering magic verb that would skip over
> the cutscene...'"
>
> Here the point would be made just as well (or better) if Wheeler
> dropped the phrase "mimesis-shattering." It's not clear to me what the
> phrase is adding to the point.

Rob will have to speak for himself, but I thought his point was this:
we generally laud a consistently mimetic presentation (remaining in
the game world at all times). But this is a case where breaking
mimesis would (in his opinion) make the game more enjoyable. Since the
entire discussion about mimesis has always been where and how strictly
to apply it, Rob is being perfectly reasonable in bringing it up here:
he is pointing out that this case is instructive.

Tommy Herbert

unread,
Sep 16, 2004, 2:05:51 PM9/16/04
to
ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin) wrote in message news:<f407dc2b.04091...@posting.google.com>...
> Andrew writes:

<snip>

> >> The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
> >> talking about.
> >
> >It's not what I'm talking about.
>
> I really don't want to put words in your mouth; I *think* what you're
> talking about is "a realistic (or logical) presentation of the game,"
> which fosters enjoyment and immersion.

Do you mean "game-world"? The only way I can think of that games
themselves are presented is by uploading, and realism and logic don't
come into _that_.

> We seem to be talking a bit at cross purposes, so let me expand on my
> point. I think this discussion has uncovered that the IF-conventional
> usage of "mimesis" is twofold (at least): we're talking about (1) the
> desired effect, an enjoyable, immersive game, one which presents a
> consistent (or coherent), logical world, however fantastical that
> world and its logic may be; and (2) means to achive this effect (and
> pitfalls to avoid).

<snip>

> If we're talking about (2), I think we're talking about making the
> game self-consistent on all counts

No! It keeps being pointed out in other people's contributions to
this thread that self-consistency is not the same thing as mimesis,
because a game can perfectly well be consistently unmimetic - it can
constantly force the player to think outside the terms of the world in
which it is nominally set. The effect can be comic, as in Ad Verbum,
or chillingly unsettling, as in Shrapnel.

It's often seemed to me that people here have said mimesis when they
have meant immersiveness, but Roger Giner-Sorolla's use of the word
was sound, I think, and since then it has been used rightly as often
as wrongly.

<snip>

> Michael quotes an "example usage, from J. Robinson Wheeler's review of
> Adam Cadre's "Lock & Key": 'If I had a wish for this game, it would be
> for some sort of mimesis-shattering magic verb that would skip over
> the cutscene...'"
>
> Here the point would be made just as well (or better) if Wheeler
> dropped the phrase "mimesis-shattering." It's not clear to me what the
> phrase is adding to the point.

I think I know. By adding that phrase, he meant "I'm making this
suggestion in the full knowledge that it would go against mimesis, so
don't point it out". And I think he was using the right word in this
case.

Tommy Herbert

unread,
Sep 16, 2004, 2:25:42 PM9/16/04
to
ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin) wrote in message news:<f407dc2b.04091...@posting.google.com>...
> Mike writes:

<snip>

> >Internal consistency is a factor in believability, but
> >it's only a part of what he was talking about. To my
> >reading he really was talking about mimicry of the sort
> >that "mimesis" means in a broader artistic context.
>
> In the broader artistic context, mimesis is quite simply a mode of
> presentation, and doesn't have anything to do with believability.

No. It's true that the word can be used in opposition to diagesis,
but in the context of art it can also mean "representation or
imitation of the real world", which has everything to do with
believability. In order to criticise the IF community's fuzzy usage
of the word, you're claiming that the wider usage isn't fuzzy - but it
is.

Seebs

unread,
Sep 16, 2004, 10:01:48 PM9/16/04
to
In article <f407dc2b.04091...@posting.google.com>,

Steve Breslin <ver...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>The term "consistency" is better because it's exactly what we're
>talking about.

No. Props are consistent, but they are not mimetic. Look at _Janitor_ for
examples. Mimesis is the property of acting like a thing is expected to act..
But mere consistency isn't enough. It has to be consistent also with
*expectations*, which is tricky.

-s
--
Copyright 2004, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
http://www.seebs.net/log/ - YA blog. http://www.seebs.net/ - homepage.
C/Unix wizard, pro-commerce radical, spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Steve Breslin

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Sep 17, 2004, 2:23:17 AM9/17/04
to
Thanks very much to Tommy Herbert, for focusing this discussion just
perfectly.

Tommy writes, quoting me:

> > In the broader artistic context, mimesis is quite simply a mode of
> > presentation, and doesn't have anything to do with believability.
>
> No.

Ouch! ;)

> It's true that the word can be used in opposition to diagesis,
> but in the context of art it can also mean "representation or
> imitation of the real world", which has everything to do with
> believability.

Ah, right! -- Though I would like to point out that "representation or
imitation (of the world)" (mimesis) is still best understood in
opposition to "description" (diegesis).

But I really like this point you've made, and I agree thoroughly. (My
point was, you can mime (i.e., you can perform mimesis) without being
remotely believable in any sense; but you're absolutely right to
correct me: "well executed mimesis" certainly implies believability --
my mistake.)

The famous contest between Zeuxis and Parrhasios, and the famous
sculpture of Pygmalion, even bear this point out to radical "actual
believability" (as opposed to the lesser "yeah, cool, seems almost
real" believability). Perfect mimesis (towards which these legendary
artists strove) does imply perfect believability.

By extension, I agree that the term "mimesis" can be used to imply
"believable" ("realistic" or "convincing") in the normal sense of
"seems almost real," in addition to the radical sense of "wow, it
fooled me into thinking it *was* real." (-- But clearly, "believable,"
"realistic," and "convincing" do *not* imply mimesis.)

Similarly, well executed diegesis also achieves believability, but
does so in an entirely different mode.

One question is: which is the mode of IF? Better: why are we talking
about mimesis in IF, when most of the text appears to be diegetic (in
all but the most abnormal cases)?

*Describing* a self-consistent, immersive, "realistic," logical world,
etc. -- this has nothing to do with mimesis; it has to do with
well-executed diegesis. *Presenting* (the same) has to do with
(well-executed) mimesis.

In the recent "diegesis/mimesis" thread, I came to the surprising (to
me) conclusion that IF is at bottom mimetic. Still, it's pretty fuzzy,
this mimesis = immersion = consistency = goodness = etc., and that's
what I'm hoping to have pointed out.

> In order to criticise the IF community's fuzzy usage
> of the word, you're claiming that the wider usage isn't

> fuzzy[...]

Correct. The word "mimesis" always implies that something is being
mimiced (well or poorly, "believably" or not). The fact that mimesis
can mean either "mimicing (something)" or "mimicing reality" -- this
doesn't mean the term is all that fuzzy.

> - but it is.

No. ;)

Thanks Tommy!

Ben Heaton

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Sep 17, 2004, 3:26:12 AM9/17/04
to

On Thu, 16 Sep 2004, Rexx Magnus wrote:

> I understood what mimesis meant in the context of IF because I already
> knew what mimesis meant (not in an IF context) - and I couldn't actually
> see any difference, which is why I am constantly amazed that this thread
> is even occurring.

I first encountered the word "mimesis" in the context of IF, and, going by
that conception of mimesis, have been able to use the word in other
contexts without any misunderstandings (aside from some other people being
completely unfamiliar with the term, of course).

-Ben Heaton

Steve Breslin

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Sep 17, 2004, 4:37:02 AM9/17/04
to
Tommy writes:

> > I *think* what [Andrew, upthread, is]


> > talking about is "a realistic (or logical) presentation of the game,"
> > which fosters enjoyment and immersion.
>
> Do you mean "game-world"?

That's what I took Andrew to mean, yes. Sorry.

> > I think this discussion has uncovered that the IF-conventional
> > usage of "mimesis" is twofold (at least): we're talking about (1) the
> > desired effect, an enjoyable, immersive game, one which presents a
> > consistent (or coherent), logical world, however fantastical that
> > world and its logic may be; and (2) means to achive this effect (and
> > pitfalls to avoid).
>
> <snip>
>
> > If we're talking about (2), I think we're talking about making the
> > game self-consistent on all counts
>
> No!

Ouch again! ;)

> It keeps being pointed out in other people's contributions to
> this thread that self-consistency is not the same thing as mimesis,
> because a game can perfectly well be consistently unmimetic - it can
> constantly force the player to think outside the terms of the world in
> which it is nominally set. The effect can be comic, as in Ad Verbum,
> or chillingly unsettling, as in Shrapnel.

Yes, this is again a very good point. For my money, Nick's "Ad Verbum"
is certainly one of the most engaging and enjoyable IF works ever
written, and is indeed, as you say, entirely consistent -- in the
sense that the game (not the game-world) is consistent. This is proof
that immersion and the consistency of the game-world (so-called
"mimesis") need not intersect at all.

Playing this game, one feels (I certainly feel) a strong sense of
immersion, but it is an immersion altogether different than the one
fostered by the conventional IF masterpiece. (Take "Varicella" for one
outstanding example, which puts the interactor entirely in the world,
the attitide, the very clothes of the PC. -- It's an entirely
immersive game, an entirely convincing world, an entirely successful
work.)

Consistency of the game world (so-called "mimesis") and consistency of
game (as we have in "Ad Verbum") are both conducive to immersion and
enjoyment.

A consistent (or as Andrew suggests, "coherent") game world is one
major goal in conventional IF; in "Ad Verbum," we're enjoying a
consistency on another level. -- But whether or not the work is
mimetic (properly speaking) is another question altogether.

(I haven't had the pleasure of "Shrapnel" yet, but I'll check it out.)

Thanks!

P.S.:

> > Michael quotes an "example usage, from J. Robinson Wheeler's review of
> > Adam Cadre's "Lock & Key": 'If I had a wish for this game, it would be
> > for some sort of mimesis-shattering magic verb that would skip over
> > the cutscene...'"
> >
> > Here the point would be made just as well (or better) if Wheeler
> > dropped the phrase "mimesis-shattering." It's not clear to me what the
> > phrase is adding to the point.
>
> I think I know. By adding that phrase, he meant "I'm making this
> suggestion in the full knowledge that it would go against mimesis, so

> don't point it out". [...]

I think you're right about his intention. Andrew's similar
interpretation of the point is also entirely convincing.

> And I think he was using the right word in this case.

No! ;)

Hehe. Gotcha again!
Thanks Tommy.

Carolyn Magruder

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Sep 17, 2004, 8:39:53 AM9/17/04
to
At the risk of evoking Mr. Breslin's irritation....

As far as I can tell, the majority of the people who care enough about
the art of interactive fiction to use the term "mimesis" have figured
out how the word is used in the context of interactive fiction. Those
who don't understand how the word is used are most likely quite new to
the community, and it is fairly likely that they will pick the word up
from context.

Moreover, I submit that many new arrivals to the community will not
have encountered the word "mimesis" in a more conventional context
prior to encountering its use in interactive fiction. This reduces
the likelihood of confusion within the IF framework significantly. It
may increase the likelihood that people misuse the word in the future
in a non-IF framework... but I do not think that many non-IF-related
circumstances occur in which it is appropriate to use the word
"mimesis" in the sense that it is used in the IF framework.

At the risk of being accused of trivializing a pretty cool art form, I
don't think the terminology is worth worrying about. However, if the
difference be sufficiently significant, and if concern about the
matter is significantly great, one could always submit the
IF-framework usage of "mimesis" to the Oxford English Dictionary and
attempt to have it accepted as a secondary definition.

Carolyn

Tommy Herbert

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Sep 17, 2004, 8:04:40 PM9/17/04
to
ver...@hotmail.com (Steve Breslin) wrote in message news:<f407dc2b.04091...@posting.google.com>...

> (I haven't had the pleasure of "Shrapnel" yet,

No!

> but I'll check it out.)

Yes!

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