The blog where I rant about things that should be obvious to everyone

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The heart of game part 2

The second principle is frame control. When I was first getting into game I would ofter mistake state control for frame control and vise versa, but they are two very distinct things. State control as mentioned in my heart of game part 1 post is the ability to keep your internal state. Frame control on the other hand is controlling the way facts are interpreted.

One of the most famous examples of frame control is Mark Twain's story of Tom Sawyer whitewashing a fence. If your not familiar with the story Tom is being punished by being made to work on a Saturday. The punishment is to whitewash a long length of fence. In the end using frame control he gets a number of other boys to pay him to do his work for him.

Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”
Tom wheeled suddenly and said:
Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”
Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”
Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
What do you call work?”
Why, ain’t that work?”
Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:
Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”
Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”
The brush continued to move.
Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”
That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticised the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:
Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”
Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:
No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”
No – is that so? Oh come, now – lemme, just try. Only just a little – I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”
Ben, I’d like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly – well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it – ”
Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”
Well, here – No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard – ”
I’ll give you all of it!”

So you can see that by using frame control Tom Sawyer took the facts on the ground, him whitewashing a fence, and instead of interpreting them the most natural way instead took the interpretation that he was doing it because it was a fun awesome thing to do.

You can also see from this story why frame control and state control are so easy to confuse. In practice they are often tied at the hip. For Tom to exercise this frame control he had to have great state control. His state (which was a lie by the way) was one of being so absorbed by whitewashing that he did not notice what was going on around him. The truth was that he was itching to go swimming, and he desperately wanted that apple. But by maintaining his state he was able to frame the situation in such a way so that Ben gave him his apple and willingly helped him.