[Nomic02] Formalists vs. Informalists: general observations

Carl Muckenhoupt nomic02@wurb.com
Thu, 16 Jan 2003 14:08:45 -0500 (EST)

I'm starting to notice a trend.  In both this game and game 01, the
players became polaized between those who want a great deal of formality,
with rules specifying how everything is done, and those who wanted to take
a looser approach, where the important thing is not the rules but the
intent, and achieving agreement is more important than playing by the
letter of the law.

Obviously I'm in the formalist camp, and RC, who takes umbrage at being
asked to say "aye" when he's already expressed agreement using other
words, is an informalist.  But this isn't just about the current game. In
game 01, there was dispute over the matter of letting someone join.  No
one was opposed to him joining, but I was of the opinion that we couldn't
do so because the rules at the time didn't provide for such a thing.  
This led to the animosity that caused the game to break up before it was
far advanced.  In particular, the person who wanted to join at one point
posted "Everyone knows I'm in this game whether the rules say so or not",
or something similar.  My argument against this was that there's no point
in haveing a game that's about its own rules if you ignore those rules,
and that since, at that point in the game, there had already been
disagreement and misunderstanding even on matters where the rules seemed
clear to me, that we couldn't afford to assume things that aren't stated
at all.

As a rather inexperienced nomicist, I'm wondering:
Is this division found in the nomic world in general?  If so, how do they
deal with it?  Do particular games come to be dominated by one camp or
the other, or is there always compromise?
Are formalist tendencies a mark of an inexperienced player?  (Do people
get tired of the fine-print stuff after a while?)
Are there other divisive issues I should be aware of?

There's a third camp that I've noticed as well: the people who are just
interested in passing silly rules with no effect on gameplay - for
example, declaring "Admiral Jota is master of all beasts", and never
referring to it again.  (There used to be a game linked from Jacob
Davenport's page where all the players were sillies, but it seems to be
gone.)  I admit I was like that in my first game of nomic, played in my
teens; the fact that the Peter Suber rules actually require players to
propose rule changes on their turn even if they don't have any in mind is
part of this.