This is a term I got from Quinn over at Thoughtcrime. It represents the way a general concept is captured as a game mechanic. For example, in Marvel, you’re playing a game about super heroes that fight against super villains as from the pages of a comic book. In order to create a system for us to follow, a lot of things require Thingification.
All of these things find a mechanic in the game that’s meant to model it. A game loses some momentum when you run into something it didn’t think to thingify, and doesn’t have a system for. If this happens frequently, the game risks frustrating the players, turning into a story game as the GM has to referee numerous important events without rules for doing so, or the GM has to build subsystems to make the game workable.
How simple a model is for the amount of complexity you get out of it, and how closely it works to approximate the thing it’s trying to model, are just a couple of the ways to judge how well a game does at handling this. Another interesting component is how well the different models interact with each other when needed. We could evaluate the models themselves. We could toss match sticks and evaluate how they land, and is that a worse or better model than dropping tokens on a scatter-chart or rolling multiple dice of varying colors. Finally, a model could be good at generating a very high-level result, or instead excel at providing detail answers – and did the game design appropriately categorize whether something should be handled in detail or at a high level (ex: encumbrance).
Some things that RPGs tend to “Thingify.” This is not meant to be comprehensive, just trying to get my brain working in this direction.
- Physical and mental abilities
- Heroic Level (peasant, soldier, general, superhero)
- Magic Spells & Casting
- Divine Miracles
- Amazing Stunts
- Money & Wealth
- Difficulty of a Challenge
- Circumstantial boons and complications
- Helping Others
- Critical Success/Failure
- Health & Damage
- Status & Conditions