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Old 05-15-2013, 04:20 AM   #1
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Past or Present Tense?

With regards to roleplaying, I was wondering about preferences when it comes to players taking actions in the past or present tense, i.e:

Tom looked at Joe. He said, "hello Joe." (Past)
Tom looks at Joe. He says, "hello Joe." (Present)

I wonder if past tense was used it may create a sense of distance from your character, and more of a focus on creative writing. Things aren't happening to your character now, so it may not seem as personal when things happen to them. It may be easier to objectify them that way, treating your participation in the game more like you are telling a story.

However, I can see how that would also not be so desirable, because players also want to feel like they are their character too, and I think using the present tense works better for that.

Which do you prefer, and have you noticed any difference with how players play, in terms of how they react to bad things happening to their character, if past tense was used as opposed to the present?
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Old 05-15-2013, 06:15 AM   #2
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Re: Past or Present Tense?

I've previously discussed the idea of using past tense for flashback scenes, roleplaying logs, or even the entire mud, but more as an experiment than a serious suggestion. I don't think I've seen a mud that actually used past tense.
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Old 05-15-2013, 08:16 AM   #3
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Re: Past or Present Tense?

Present tense is my preference. It trips me up to see past tense in "live-action" mudding. When you're playing a mud, the scene is unfolding *now.* Sue didn't look at Joe a minute ago. Sue is looking at Joe right this moment, as the scene progresses.

So - in mudding, it didn't happen. It *is* happening. You're not reading the text at some future moment, reflecting on the past. You're reading it while it's happening.
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:26 AM   #4
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Re: Past or Present Tense?

Having played conventional muds for so long, the past tense style reads funny to me. Like I'm writing one of those shared stories instead of playing a game. When you're roleplaying, in the eyes of your character, it's here and now, so the present tense makes sense from that perspective if you're really trying to get into your character's head, but I can see how writing about your character like you're writing a book about someone else, rather than playing a game as your character right now, can give a sense of distance and remove some of the personal emotional investment in your character "winning" everything.

Ultimately though, it's just a style thing that doesn't really change the substance of the game. Once people got used to typing everything ending in an ed, they would probably play the same way they play a mud that uses regular writing styles. Some muds prefer/require 4-6 line posts in each emote, while others prefer shorter sentences using stock "say" commands and built-in socials. New Worlds actually asks you to only put one space after each period. Styles vary. There have been big debates in the past over exactly how much describing and creative writing actually correlate to roleplaying and vice versa. If I'm a good writer and can toss out ten lines of creative prose talking about the scene and how my character speaks (spoke?) and moves (moved?), but my character is lame and never says or does anything people are interested in, I'm probably not as good of a roleplayer as I think I am.
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Old 05-15-2013, 01:44 PM   #5
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Re: Past or Present Tense?

I've never seen anyone use past tense in 15+ years of mudding. It'd be an interesting experiment.

You know, it wouldn't be so far-fetched to write a parser that puts any say or emote into past tense .
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:44 PM   #6
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Re: Past or Present Tense?

I think that it wouldn't work for players actions happening "now", because said actions happen at the instant of the enter key. Using said makes it seem like the events have already happened, which presumes that the ending is already known. To me, this would be jarring, and I don't think I'd gain much out of it; that said, I'm not into RP. The specific problem here is that past tense implies that I know the story already or that a narrator is telling it to me, not that I am actively participating or that my actions are meaningful. It would cause a general disconnect, not a specific, focused one, and I don't think that's a good thing. I think it might have a place in IF, of some sort, perhaps for dream sequences or places where the player never really had a choice. Past tense is the wheel of fate, grinding forever forward, grinding us to dust beneath it's inexorable force, and we have no choice.
Using this as flashbacks, or to record RP events, though. That's actually a cool idea. I imagine that you could write present and past tense versions of all the socials, that says can be converted to said and the like, that generally converting any predefined block of text into the past tense shouldn't be a problem. Given a dictionary library and a bit of clever coding, converting even freeform emotes should work out, and the actual content of says doesn't need to be converted. I think that, if one is looking to use past tense, this is the place.
Perhaps I'm completely wrong, though.
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Old 05-16-2013, 08:03 PM   #7
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Re: Past or Present Tense?

I tend to jump to and fro without thought or pattern between the both. But thats not really something I do by choice.
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