Author Topic: Explaining Simulationism in action  (Read 3700 times)

David Berg

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Explaining Simulationism in action
« on: February 27, 2015, 01:48:54 AM »
I think I have a new way to put it, which may get to the heart of how Ron sees it more efficiently, for me, than other explanations.  If others think like I do, then it could help them too.  If not, then it's just me synthesizing old threads and conversations out loud.

Ron, is this a good place for that?

Ron Edwards

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2015, 03:34:16 PM »
Sure. But it would be really helpful - you knew I'd say this - if you could tie it to a particular situation of play, both real-person and system-oriented.

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2015, 09:12:10 AM »
The play example I have in mind is from a not-bad/not-great one-shot, so I assume it's not going to provide a conclusive example of any CA.  I do think it works to illustrate the viewpoint I'd like to express, and how that intersects with actual play, though, so I'm going to go ahead.

Preamble:

I came to the Forge in 2006, asked some questions about CA and G and N and S, and got some answers from Ron that made sense to me in a fairly limited way.  He painted a compelling picture of why my drifted Werewolf game seemed Simulationist to him, but I wasn't sure if this was accurate or if he was missing something that I'd been unable to identify and/or communicate in writing.  Link 1!  I was left with a picture of Right to Dream that was rather hazy: in it, I saw both "Exploration as goal rather than just foundation" and "Exploration as foundation for riffing off shared references".  The latter began to fade as I pursued Ron's definition in follow-up discussions; our chats spent significant time on the right to be heard when contributing to the Shared Imagined Space, the constraining role of the group's package of input material, and the constructive denial of the fact that the group is inventing the package themselves.  Link 2!  We ended our chat with me formulating this construction:

Quote
We could say that Exploration is prioritized as Simulationism precisely when:
a) the constraints on player contributions to the SIS are dictated by the players' reference to a package of shared input-material, and
b) these constraints are the primary criteria in determining player contributions to the SIS, and
c) the process of dictating constraints is experienced as if the package itself was doing the dictating rather than the players, which is only possible if
d) the players deny that they themselves created, and continue to create, the shared package.

and Ron saying, "Yep."  Link 3!

So off I went, acquainted with a Simulationism that was based on a rewarding relationship of players to some sort of input package, but with both the package itself and the players' relationship to it being so potentially broad that it was difficult for me to say much about Right to Dream play.  If the package could be either physics or Star Wars, and the players could either openly celebrate it or not even know what it was or that it even existed, I didn't have much to fall back on besides those (a) through (d) points and my own drifted Werewolf game.

Years later, on another forum, I spelled out my very broad impression of Right to Dream, another poster chimed in with a narrower one, and I gave Ron a call to ask, "Is it really as broad as I've been thinking?"

Though unwilling to accept most of the hypothetical limits I threw at him, Ron did say, "I don't believe you can do it by accident."

I was happy to hear this.  It's a lot easier for me to imagine a functional creative activity organized around some shared material that's actually pursued and accessible.

"Accessible."  That's what just crystalized for me this week.  That's what I'm here to share.


Dead of Night game last month:

Have played one full game and one aborted game already, I offered to GM Dead of Night for the first time on a request from my friend Mark for a session of "claustrophobic zombie horror".  I am not a big fan of zombies, but I do like bringin' the creepy as GM, and I do like the Dead of Night system, and all three players were on board with both, so I went into this with a good deal of enthusiasm. 

My prep consisted mostly of grabbing a stat block from the book and then defining my monster, which was basically a contagious, desperate, emotional emptiness.  You could get it not just from being bitten, but through any prolonged contact with an infected person, be it physical or emotional.  Staring into someone's eyes, for example.  Once afflicted, the victim would slowly grow melancholy, then mournful, then absolutely desperate for any sort of human connection (i.e. prolonged contact which would transmit the contagion).

Actual play featured Mark as sputtering-career middle manager Jim at a record label, Rohit as cold and condescending tycoon Thomas come to buy the label, and Andrew as punk band frontman Eli come to complain to his label about booking and studio time.

We had some lobby scenes to introduce the characters and bounce them off each other, and wound up establishing some strong relationships between Jim, his boss Marty, and their receptionist, Christine, Jim's niece.  Thomas gave Marty some bad news; Jim interceded to stop their argument from escalating; Eli bitched to Jim about the music business; Thomas hit on Christine.

After that, I rolled out the despair-zombies.  First a delivery boy looked miserable and hung onto Christine too long as she signed for a package.  Then Eli's bassist showed up looking like he was crashing from a high, but claiming to be sober.  Both NPCs proceeded through the stages of going from mopey to panicked despair, with Jim and Eli both agonizing over what to do.  Thomas was detached at first, but the second it was clear that Christine was legitimately unhealthy, he called the paramedics.  Every time a player character had more than brief contact with an afflicted NPC, I required a Risk check -- failures cost them Survival Points and I described feelings of coldness and despair coursing through them.

By the time Christine was fully zombified, a bunch of other NPCs were in various stages of affliction, and it became clear that it was Barricade Time.  I think the Tension level was still under 10 at this point; definitely under 15.  The PCs had rolled well, lost few Survival Points, and indulged in their Bad Habits to get back what they'd lost.  I was hoping for passionate arguments about what to do, but the players stayed pretty subdued.  Not totally unenthused, just not very loud or thespian-ish or inspired with crazy plans.  Eventually we established where a gun was, they barged their way through the horde to get to it, lost a few NPCs and Survival Points, succeeded in a few actions, and made it to the offices of the Home Shopping Network next door.

Somewhere during all that, I'd varied up the zombie behavior a bit, trying to imply that the zombies began to resemble whoever they'd last consumed, hoping to inspire some new strategies.  No one remarked on it, though, so I dropped it.

We made a bunch of jokes about how the people who worked at the Home Shopping Network were so dead inside that even despair-zombies wouldn't touch them.  Then I gave the players a moment to arm themselves and hide on the roof, from which they could observe the city going to hell around them.  The energy had flagged a bit after lots of repetitive zombie-bashing -- if I ever run this game again, I am not doing a "horde" monster, I'm doing something that can think and plan -- but Mark and Rohit generated a nice moment by contemplating jumping to their deaths.  Thomas was used to living life on his own terms, and didn't want to simply struggle, fail, and be zombified in the process.  Jim gave some "we have to try!"-type speech, which was well-conceived but tepidly acted.  Mark noted a few times that he wasn't comfortable roleplaying strong negative emotions, so there was some aborted IC speech followed by things like "Jim's angry, he fumes a bit."

Eventually the PCs resolved to try to storm down the stairs and escape the building.  Tension by now was at 17 or so, but they were all at nearly full Survival Points.  I tried to chop up the "more zombies try to grab you" encounters into discreet units of varied locations, but it was a bit monotonous.  Having lost track of what successful rolls earned the players in any ongoing sense, we just kind of rolled to see who died when, and gave the last survivor, Jim, all out of Survival Points, a final roll to escape the building, which we had decided would count as some sort of accomplishment, despite the wrecked city.  He failed the roll, died at the door, and we all nodded in satisfaction.

People started packing up to go, and then I remembered to throw in my horror narration about how they're all still conscious, and desperately lonely, looking out at the world from a black hell.  I got a moment of grim nods and that was that.

Overall a pleasant evening, but nothing that primed us to say, "We need to do that again!"

Reflecting afterward, my main complaint was not about hitches or disconnect, but about a lack of really enthused consonance.  There were very, very few moments where someone took action or made a decision and anyone else went, "Oh my god, yes!  That's perfect!" or gave any other sort of very strong reaction.  My overall sense was that I'd wanted to see what Mark and Andrew and Rohit and I could do with Zombie Horror, and we'd found that the answer was, "Nothing great."*


What we lacked was a Vision:

A few days ago I was chatting on a forum about when it's kosher to freak out, drop the torch and run away in a dungeon crawl, when another poster started trying to answer those questions with some shaky GNS logic.  I tried to gently say, "That thing you see as Simulationism?  That's really just 'running a simulation', which is different," but then the other poster wanted to know what Simulationism really is, and I lamented not having a handy answer.

And then it occurred to me: maybe I do have an answer.  Maybe it's about the thing we lacked in my Dead of Night game.  Maybe it's about Vision.

See, it's easy for me to imagine how the Dead of Night game could have gone better, and my imagined version looks like this:

When the PCs are barricaded, and Thomas suggests they ram the zombies, and puts his hand on NPC Marty's shoulder to send Marty out first... if only we had enough context for that, to view it in relation to something, to either be surprised or to appreciate the delivery of the expected... then maybe the group would have celebrated that as awesome, instead of merely accepting it as fine. 

Or maybe (perhaps more likely), if Rohit had enough context at his fingertips, enough zombie movies we'd all shared, then when Thomas pushed Marty forward, Rohit would have been able to add more to the moment -- some details of portrayal or description to make it perfect, or a twist, or something.

But we didn't have that context.  We had some sort of package of input material we brought into play -- we've all seen zombie movies -- but we never wound up with any accessible touchpoints for the whole group to see us all interacting with.  When Thomas pushed Marty, it didn't set off a chain of emotion-laden associations for us to feel -- it was just a selfish guy pushing another guy toward danger, whatever.

So my thought is that a good package for Right to Dream play is a Vision.  A shared Vision among the players -- not necessarily with perfect overlap from one brain to the next, but with enough that we can all reach out and interact with the same Thing.  A Vision that we can know, and see in action, whether or not we ever give it a name or call out the movies and books and comics it's based on.  And, in all honesty, being as direct and analytical and "let's get on the same page before play" as I am, I would expect to be able to give it a name and cite some inspiring and beloved references.  That's what my Dead of Night group missed -- we knew zombie cinema, but we didn't love it.  We weren't inspired by it.  It didn't lead us to form a Vision we could play by and play with.


Describing GNS Simulationism:

If my impression is still on target with Ron's concept, then this is how I'd describe it to others: "Right to Dream is about interacting with a shared Vision."  And then I'd go on to describe how that can happen, and what it can look like, and how it can be fun, because all of those things make sense to me. 

I'd leave out any discussion of rights and constructive denial and exploration platforms and subtypes like purist for system, as those can really distract from the point.  I'd put my (a) through (d) points above at the bottom of a big hole marked "footnotes", and hack off the part that states "this is how Exploration becomes Simulationism".  It isn't.  Exploration becomes Simulationism because we form a Vision we can share and celebrate or parody or stretch or otherwise explore for what grabs us about it.

That's my current thought, anyway.  Ron, is this compatible with your Right to Dream?

Ps,
-David



* To be fair to Dead of Night and to us, I can spot any number of missteps on my part and other players'.  Even with no superb Vision, we could have had more fun by using the rules more skillfully.  That said, I still think a strong Vision was the single most important thing we lacked in terms of a fulfilling creative evening.

James_Nostack

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2015, 09:07:18 PM »
Dave, I know this isn't helpful, but the idea of a Despair Plague is so fuckin' emo that it circles the world back to METAL.  That is god damn genius.  When he talks about Sorcerer Ron sometimes talks about "the shudder," when someone really gets it and is both horrified and cannot look away.  You just gave me that feeling.  Thank you.

And I'm sorry you didn't have a great time.  Because I am looking at that piece of meat and licking my lips.

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2015, 08:22:04 AM »
Thanks, James!  I thought I had something solid there too, but perhaps it didn't belong in "zombie movie" play, or perhaps we all just didn't take the necessary steps to get on the same page.

Feel free to steal it for your own gaming if you want!  I had a few more bits to it my head, and I'm happy to chat about it elsewhere.

Christoph

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2015, 07:18:57 AM »
Hello David

The vision, as you call it, seems to be essential to my understanding of constructive denial. From what you write, it seems to me that "vision" is a synonym to "canon" or "package". A core that cannot be threatened. "Denial" would be the process of denying anything that threatened the package. Of course, confirming, illustrating and even modifying and expanding the package, all the while celebrating how well the canon holds together, are necessary to even have this creative agenda. I'm not sure it's required that people deny that they're doing the denying, thought it certainly happens. I'm paraphrasing Ron in, and summarizing at great cost of detail, this post here, which is my go-to piece for understanding Sim.

If I may speculate, I'm guessing "claustrophobic zombie horror" doesn't quite cut it as a vision/canon/package. At least, the mere stating of these three words are probably not enough to get everyone on the same page. My first reaction in reading your post was "what? emo-zombies? interesting, but weird, not what I had in mind with claustrophobic zombie horror". Did you guys have a kind of jam session (even if only briefly before playing or prepping) where you all pitched in about what you did and what you didn't want to see in the game?

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2015, 02:50:49 PM »
Hi Christoph,

I suspect we're talking about the exact same thing here.  If you find that "package" and "cannot be threatened" and "constructive denial" (of anything that threatened the package) are useful ways for you to wrap your brain and words around this phenomena, then cool, my "vision" talk probably isn't very helpful for you.

Personally, I haven't found those terms suitable as a first line of understanding/description.  I think the focus on wholeness and resilience and threats can easily be misleading -- it sounds more to me like surviving than thriving.  I'd rather lead off with the point, the thing that's fun, as opposed to "how we avoid breaking it".  There's a difference, in my eyes, between viewing the twisting and stretching and fun Vision-interaction of play as a challenge than viewing it as a threat.  A challenge is something you tackle and make it work.  Fun!  A threat is something you guard against.  Boo. 

I also don't think contributions need to be (or often are) so challenging to the Vision as to venture into "will this break it?" territory.  If your group has a Vision you can all use, the risk players face when contributing is this: their contributions will fall flat and fail to say anything interesting about the Vision.  There's challenge there, for sure!  But the challenge is to say something meaningful and worthy of celebration; that does not always (or even often) mean pushing the Vision to its limits.

There was a moment in my supervillain game Within My Clutches when a player with a "charge objects to later explode" power wanted to break into a black ops facility that was hiding behind a legit business front.  This character, "The Boss", handed a street urchin $20 and said, "I need you to go into that business and tell the man by the back door that The Boss wants to speak to him."  The rest of us at the table looked at Greg (playing The Boss) and said, "Huh, okay, well that makes sense, he's a wanted man, he doesn't want to just walk through the front door, but what's his angle here?"  So the little urchin girl walked in and did as she was told, and as soon as the last word left her lips, Greg said, "The $20 bill explodes."  And we all bugged out our eyes (The Boss had seemed rather likable until that point) and said, "Oh shit, you're that kind of villain."  Because of the way it unfolded in the moment, we celebrated it like crazy and still remember it years later.  But there was never any threat to "doing supervillainy" -- The Boss was not the first casual murderer in Within My Clutches, nor the last.  It's a familiar trope, from Bane to Carnage.  It was just the little details of the way Greg pulled it off that made it sing.

As for "claustrophobic zombie horror doesn't quite cut it as a vision/canon/package", I think you are absolutely correct.  Our jam session was mostly just listing references like 28 Days Later and covering physical situations like "survivors trapped as outbreak burgeons".  We never got to the "here's what I love about this stuff, here's what inspires me about it" step.  We just kind of assumed that, because everyone was requesting it and/or nodding in approval, we were covered.  Whoops!  When I pitch Within My Clutches, my passion for Marvel villains really comes out, and I often don't stop ranting until I see everyone looking like, not just "I get it" but "I have some ideas I'm eager to try".  Actually, this isn't just the pitch -- this is pitch through character creation.  During character creation I'm helping connect the dots between "what I love about supervillainy" and "what you might do with this character, tonight".  Our Dead of Night game featured pretty quiet character creation, a bit of "where are we, and who would logically be there, and of those people which one do I want to play" and zero reference to characters we loved from zombie movies.  Again, whoops!

Ps,
-David

Dan Maruschak

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2015, 02:52:39 PM »
I'm not 100% sure how this maps to the canonical concept of Simulationism/RtD, but in my effort to reframe things in a way that makes sense to me I've been trying to focus on how different systems are meant to be fun on a moment-to-moment basis, rather than in a top-down way. From that POV, I've been thinking that Sim/RtD might be when a game makes a contribution feel meaningful by making it about a unique contribution that's interpreted across aesthetic appropriateness (by analogy, Gamism would be when it's unique contribution gauged against whether it's relevant to "winning"). In that sense, it's helpful when games make some things more salient than others. If what's unique about your contribution is how your character portrayal is playing off a particular archetype, I can't pick up on that if I'm not on the same page about your archetype -- kind of like not being able to pick out a signal on a carrier wave I'm not tuned to. Games like Fate are regarded as Sim-facilitating because they make it easy to communicate your touchpoints and make them salient to the other players -- I can watch for how your character portrayal maps to your Aspects and appreciate the particular nuance you're bringing to it, whereas if I see you "just roleplaying" then I'm paying no special attention to the thing you're bringing to the table, and you can tell I'm not picking up on what you hoped to be meaningful, and then the fun leaks out. Doing the thing you're talking about, where you just discuss lots and lots of stuff about inspirational source material, can do a similar thing in a less formalized way if it causes similar concepts to crystallize in each of our heads. At least that's how I'm thinking about it.

Ron Edwards

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2015, 05:02:23 PM »
Sigh ... I suppose it's time ...

First thing
What I'm reading from you, David, looks like the same aggravation I encountered in 2003: people who do what you're talking about what to claim it as the point, whereas I think it is accessible and usable in all role-playing.

A while ago, Roger (at the Forge) wrote about experiencing "superfunctional" play, and how once you did it, you weren't going back to merely "functional." I didn't quibble with him then, but my personal thinking was that what he called superfunctional, I call functional, and what he called "functional," I called lame, halting, confused, and confusing. It may seem mean, but my observation is that many, many gamers accept lame, halting, confused, and confusing play as "functional," and accept all those deficiencies as the price of enjoying it at all. (And then of course defend and complain about it simultaneously)

What makes it superfunctional, or as I say, makes it work? What you're describing, David, well, that's what, which may be turned toward any further collective social-creative end you like.

This is my main frustration with the original Threefold, too, that they defined both Gamism and Dramatism to get them out of the discussion of this thing, and as I see it, in doing that, missed the point and muddied the waters. There's a whole subcategory of verbose Forge members in the same zone, all convinced that no one else understood, when the fact is that most of us were simply past the door they were stuck in. Today the OSR is doing the same thing, with a slightly different set of ideals in place.

Second thing
Can the medium itself be the point? Given success at "the thing" (Exploration, SIS), just as you describe it, how about playing such that it is, in fact, what you want, and nothing else?
I go back and forth about that, and always have.

To talk about it, we need to factor out the OMG factor of doing it at all. If a person hardly believes such a thing is possible, or if it is, that it must be some delicate and rare moment carefully nurtured by GM attention and hours of prep resembling encounter-therapy, then the following question is entirely inaccessible. If doing this thing is normal and not considered an achievement, then what would you do with it? It can only be processed by a person who knows it's possible, without faith, through simple and ordinary experience, and then it's not a "would you" question but a "what do you do" question.

To repeat, can the medium itself be the point?

Option 1: No
Jared's hard version is what he called the Beeg Horseshoe, the idea that there are two identifiable fun things to do with the role-playing medium (SIS, Exploration), either Gamist or Narrativist, such that the Simulationist "for its own sake" agenda was really a hole that people claimed or dreamed of but did not actually do. I tilted toward this and pissed off some people to this very day, none of whom, strangely, blame Jared. Or Vincent, who also tends toward this view somewhere in his array of clouds and arrows.

Mike softened the same idea, appropriating the name, to mean that the base was Simulationism, that you could do "just it" but also extend it into one of the others. His account wavers between the "no" answer and the next:

Option 2: Yes
Every so often I run into people really enjoying an active, participatory, strong-medium role-playing game which isn't Gamist and isn't Narrativist. Just the other day, in fact, with a guy who runs a house-game and recently wrote up a "what we do" summary just for fun - he shared it with me, we discussed it by phone, and sure enough, a fine activity-analogue of Mike's version of the Horseshoe's base, playing "to make it happen" is right there in those rules. It happens often enough that I say, "OK, empiricism wins, people do this."

Third thing
Let's say the answer is yes, and let's say it's defined by absence, corresponding to the Beeg Horseshoe sensu Mike. Two problems immediately arise to ruin the discussion.

Really?
How much of someone claiming that "this is all it is for us, really" is a Threefold-like denial of another agenda in action? This is all over the OSR, especially since word "story" has become their "evolution," a tag for all manner of ill-defined threats to their way of life.

Without calling a person a liar, being entirely open to them really answering, I say it's valid to ask this. "Really? Explain, without just talking about Exploration as such."

Agghh! Defined by absence!
Cue explosions of indignation, but I say, so what? Why is this a counterpoint? Who said Creative Agendas had to be structurally equivalent? All they have to be is fun relative to the medium.

I happen to think the human mind, and a group of minds, prefers to do something rather than not to do anything, so the Constructive Denial concept seems very helpful in such discussions, giving the activity a touch more weight-and-challenge, a necessary way for it not to work, and therefore a foundation for fun that is not merely being there, sitting there, with no "there." Dan has stated it so perfectly above that I have nothing to add.

Last thing
The one thing no one ever, ever believes, is that I don't actually care. The attention bestowed on Oh My God Only Three, or Is It Two or Three, or Prove It's Three to Me, or Ron Believes in Three, and the fierce emotional combativeness about it ... is the most boring and stupid thing in the world. No one seems to understand that I have no stake in the Three at all.

My stake is in these ideas:
  • that Exploration (SIS, the thing you describe) is the medium, that it's an easy medium marred by shocking bad practices out there,
  • that there are social and creative drives to be met, perhaps fulfilled, in using this medium, and that more than one such drive is available,
  • that the mechanisms of meeting and fulfilling those drives are worth parsing and examining, for those who care, fully accepting that people do meet-and-fulfill them with no such examination
  • that we should not mistake the mechanisms or any other categories for those drives
Everything else is secondary, personal, empirical, historical, and customizable. The hassle seems not to be about the ideas, but about taboos: mentioning the drives at all, defying categories formed for social-identity, criticizing the sunk-cost fallacy.

When someone nursing his butthurt all the way back to my 2002 posting about Simulationism and fear presents it to me in defiance, "see, you hate it, you're so unfair!!", or when Zak tries his Perry Mason pin-down interrogation on me, "what is Simulationism, Ron?!", my response is boredom. I'm drudging my way through this post now only because the question's here on my forum, not in the easy ether.

That's probably enough from me for now.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 05:05:31 PM by Ron Edwards »

Jesse Burneko

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2015, 06:07:25 PM »
My stake is in these ideas:
  • that Exploration (SIS, the thing you describe) is the medium, that it's an easy medium marred by shocking bad practices out there,
  • that there are social and creative drives to be met, perhaps fulfilled, in using this medium, and that more than one such drive is available,
  • that the mechanisms of meeting and fulfilling those drives are worth parsing and examining, for those who care, fully accepting that people do meet-and-fulfill them with no such examination
  • that we should not mistake the mechanisms or any other categories for those drives

Oh man, yes this.  Especially this: "there are social and creative drives to be met...".  In my experience those drives can get quite nuanced.  I'm kind of the opinion that once you identify your own drives, you will recognize it as a form of one of the big three.  But it's just that a form.  I have people who share some of my drives that are forms of Story Now.  They're totally there for Sorcerer.  They're totally there for Burning Wheel.  But I have drives that are spoken to by games like Annalise and Lacuna but getting people together for those games is harder even though those drives are also Story Now.

Sam is true for Right To Dream.  My player pool for Right To Dream stuff is HUGE.  Many of the contributors to Fate are personal friends of minds.  *But* their drives are all about Big Heroes and Dastardly Villains and 80s nostalgia genre mashups.  Despite knowing plenty of "Sim" fulfilled players I'm not getting together a regular game of Dead of Night or In Dark Alleys anytime soon because those nuanced drives aren't there for them.

So yeah, I often wished we had a better way of discussing those more nuanced drives but I'm more and more convinced that isn't really possible outside of talking about specific games are and are not fulfilling for individual players.

Jesse

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2015, 05:34:18 AM »
Hi Ron,

Thanks for the explanation.  I came here hoping to be able to answer, "so what is GNS Sim, as defined by Ron?" and I think I can do that now.

I also thought I might be able to contribute some possible ways to approach such discussions in the future, but I don't think you and I are enough on the same page for that to happen.  In the future I'll just offer my own take and leave GNS out of it.

I have some further thoughts on these topics, largely disagreeing with your own positions, but they're not intended as an argument to you, expecting your response.  Just opinions I want to share for whoever's interested (and to complete my own thought process).  I am assuming for now that that's kosher, and will post my follow-up, but if you don't want me to continue this in your forum, no problem, just let me know and I'll take it elsewhere.

Ps,
-David

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2015, 07:29:01 AM »
Exploration and the Vision:

I'd define "functional Exploration" as sufficient aesthetic consonance for smooth forward progress.  I wouldn't slap the label "easy" on this for your average group of adults, but I don't think it's mysterious or particularly difficult either.  The usual hassles about communication and performance apply, and there can be a learning curve, but if you want to do it, yeah, you can, much like most forms of play or gaming.  I'd call the requisite Vision here a Usable Vision.

A constant flow of vehement appreciation, in the style of, "We will remember you blowing up kids with $20 bills for years!", on the other hand, is far from easy to achieve.  I've seen a lot of players play in a lot of ways, and I've seen a lot of fun play -- really, really fun play -- and the fact remains that constant cheers of "brilliant!" for Vision-use are rare.  I'd call the sort of Vision that supports "brilliant!" play an Ideal Vision.  And I'd call the roleplay foundation Optimal Exploration.

One of my contentions here in this thread is that there is a spectrum of how ideal a group's Vision is and how optimal their Exploration is, and that, regardless of where we start on that scale, it's worth thinking about how to crank it up a notch.  To that end, I'm guessing that it's useful to know what an Ideal Vision looks like, and what some of its features are.  That's mostly what I've been talking about above -- inspiration (in the sense that beauty begets beauty, not just in the sense of traction and orientation) and accessibility (having that inspiration ever at your fingertips).

The Within My Clutches game was up in Ideal territory, while the Dead of Night game was merely Usable.  The emphasis on the negative in my Dead of Night account was merely intended to clarify how it wasn't Ideal -- it was still way better than the sort of bad gaming you prop up with jokes and out-of-game socializing, or justify with "necessary price" logic.

Vision-use as Creative Drive:

To me, it's very intuitive that celebrating and manipulating a shared, inspiring Vision can be a creative drive for roleplaying.  People like doing that in general, from kids playing pretend in the world of a movie they just saw to adults geeking out about niche interests and walking through why Superman could beat the Flash.  When presented with the possibility that people roleplay for this, I think the last thing that makes any sense is to define it by absence or to view it as an inert platform in need of something more to make it go.

As I said earlier, we already have activity (celebration, manipulation, putting one's own spin on it) and we have challenge (just like in any game, the group rewards a particularly good celebration, manipulation, or spin more than a merely adequate one, with the result being that players are always striving for "particularly good", and not always succeeding).

Regardless of exactly how many CA families are defined, and regardless of this sort of Vision-use happening in play that's governed by other creative drives, I don't see why it would be controversial* to state that this is a rewarding thing that people can do.  Calling it "just Exploration", or comparing it to Step On Up or Story Now, accomplishes nothing besides making it harder to talk about.  We have plenty of better things to talk about, like the Vision and how we interact with it.

*"Historical accident" is my best guess, from all the Threefold and Horseshoe stuff Ron mentioned.

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2015, 07:41:37 AM »
Dan, that's interesting about the Aspects.  I've never done the "watch for" thing you describe, but I'm pretty sure I've looked at another player's Aspect, incorporated it into my Vision for play, and then later, unreflectively, used that enlarged Vision to appreciate their contribution.  So the Aspect on the sheet has helped during pre-play, but not as an in-play reference.

Ron Edwards

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2015, 11:11:35 AM »
I don't think agreement is even an issue, because as I say, I don't really have a position. What you're posting is interesting - despite my dismissive tone - and I'm happy to see it here. It does fit in pretty well to the framework of concepts I outlined too, or at least I think so.

glandis

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2015, 03:54:10 PM »
David,

As you may remember, there was an enduring and proud history at the Forge of folks "saying it their own way" in order to wrap their brains around something about CA or Exploration or Stances or whatever. I say "enduring and proud" sincerely - albeit not without that mocking voice in my head chiming in with "Enduring and proud? Really?"* - despite Ron's (yeah, understandable) aggravation and boredom, because ... well, many-becauses, but for one thing I usually found something useful in what the post and discussion revealed. Same here, so thanks.

What I see Ron pointing to is the, um, non-exclusiveness to Sim/Right to Dream of your shared Vision. In the GNS-jargon I remember, the way to sort that out was to talk about the CA's as Priorities for play. That was always an important bit for me, so ... here's how I'd rephrase your "Right to Dream is about interacting with a shared Vision" to cover it: "Right to Dream is about interacting as the Priority of play with a shared Vision of Exploration." I'm also not thrilled with "interacting", so my ideal, mildly de-jargonized formulation might be "Right to Dream is about enjoying the shared Vision of Exploration as the point of play."

Hopefully that doesn't do damage to your point - I'm not claiming my version is better in any way other than for addressing my own concerns (which are the whole Prioritization thing and what I see Ron saying about your Vision potentially being a starting place for all CA's, of every family, known or unknown).

I particularly like that "Vision" (especially "shared Vision") communicates more clearly to me that it would always be particular to a given group/game/session, and the whole "ism"-ness issues in GNS seem less likely to arise. I think I'm agreeing with Jesse here in pointing at the importance of the nuances in the creative drives and enjoyment thereof (which the Forge pretty much always acknowledged, but somehow people often missed it). And I'm saying "Vision" might help.

Now I'll do something Ron doesn't care about (although I don't think it does any damage to anything in the Big Model): since I changed your Vision to Vision of Exploration, can I also talk about Vision of (I'd say "Competition", but instead) Challenge? And Vision of (picking a word here is hard, always has been - I want to say Meaning, but I'm gonna cop-out and use) Premise? I think I can, because we do need a shared vision of those things. They don't need to be particularly rich, although clearly they sometimes are (especially when they're the point of play). As you said, a not-so-rich Vision of Exploration sometimes works too, even if enjoying that is the point of play. Now every CA has a Vision of Exploration, a Vision of Challenge, and a Vision of Premise. You share (best as you can) particular details of each, and choose the details of one as the point of play.

This excites me because it more cleanly deals with what I used to call big G and N and S vs. little g and n and s, but ... there are more important issues, Ron is (appropriately, given the previous) unconcerned with this kind of "balance", and it may undercut your point is some way I'm missing, so I'll leave it there.

Again, thanks, and I hope something here is helpful.

*Sometimes that voice sounds like Ron, sometimes it sounds like Vincent, and sometimes it sounds like my 10th grade math teacher. Make of that what you will.