Author Topic: Explaining Simulationism in action  (Read 3421 times)

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2015, 06:13:18 PM »
Hi Gordon,

Thanks for letting me know that I got your gears spinning in a fruitful direction!

I think we're more or less on the same page about "as the priority of play" -- my alternate phrasing of "as a creative drive" was somewhat arbitrary.

I also agree that "interacting" is an uninspiring way to phrase the Vision-use, but I don't like "enjoying" any better.  "Manipulating, twisting, celebrating, offering your own take or spin, for all to see" -- do we have a word that means that?  "Exploring", "reinterpreting", "growing"... I dunno.  Maybe "reflecting"?  Like, when you and I get together and play with a shared Vision, we each reflect it in our own unique way?*  So when I reveal my character's unique villainy, you're seeing our Vision reflected in me, and my specific choices are like the rippling pool or funhouse mirror, presenting the Vision to you in both new and recognizable shapes?  I'll keep thinking on this.  I think that last metaphor is pretty, but I'd rather have a more immediate and obvious verb than "reflect".

As for talking about Visions of Challenge and Visions of Premise -- I really have no idea how those compare to each other and to a Vision of Exploration... but individually, on their own merits, yeah, I suspect there's some value there.  Let me give this a shot...

There's a certain style of challenge-tackling that I particularly enjoy in RPGs, where the GM sets up an in-fiction puzzle, and the players more or less play themselves, as if they were there in the fiction, facing the puzzle, with no formal game cues intervening.  Depending on the resources at hand and the habits of the players involved, I'm tempted to call that a Vision right there, as something that can be unrealized, or realized just enough to play, or realized to truly fantastic extent.  But on second thought, I think that's just a foundation, and that the real Vision here is what that challenge experience is supposed to be like.  What skills does it reward?  What's the color and tone?  What determines success and failure?  What qualifies as inspired play?  I think the answers to those questions constitute why I like this type of challenge -- (1) lots of attention to fictional detail, (2) the opportunity for creative problem-solving and learning through risky trial and error, and (3) the sensation of immediacy ("It's coming for me!") in whatever threat or ticking clock is present. 

So a summary of this Vision might be something like "creative experimental problem-solving during a sensation of danger".  Is that a Vision we can interact with / enjoy / reflect / whatever, in a way that binds us together in (if we earn it) mutual appreciation?  Hmm.  I suppose it is... but I don't feel particularly enlightened after putting all that together.  I don't think I needed any "Vision" talk to say, "We appreciate skilled and effective problem-solving within the arena of Do It In Character, Under Pressure."  What do you think?

Ps,
-David

* Note to self: I am reminded of my favorite construction of the players' role in pre-plotted Participationist play: the players reflect back the GM's unfolding events through character responses, and this "unfold and reflect" cycle is the creative glue that binds.  Perhaps that could be usefully thought of as a process of turning "the GM's Vision" into "the group's Vision".

Dan Maruschak

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2015, 09:20:51 PM »
This might just be me, but the "top priority" framing doesn't seem to capture the notion of incompatibility expressed in Ron's parable of the pigs. The mental model I'm working with is that things are incompatible because the "parts" are used in different ways -- as an analogy, both a tent and a trampoline are made of a big flexible sheet, some line, and some rigid frame pieces, but they're put together in a fundamentally different ways because they're trying to do different things. And some things that would be perfectly fine for one (e.g. having a frame piece directly in contact with the flat/flexible thing) could be totally inappropriate for the other. (Or I could be misunderstanding the definitions).

Rather than "reflecting the Vision", the way I'd frame it is that when someone is making a contribution, they're expressing themselves about the genre/source material/whatever (as an analogy, in a competitive game, each move is someone expressing their view of a good way to win). In order to be fun you can't be overconstrained by expectation (if there's one and only one way for you to act "correctly" at this moment there's no room for your particular expression) but you can't be utterly unconstrained, either, what you say has to seem aesthetically appropriate. The analogy for a strategic game would be that you don't want to feel that "there's one best move" or "there's no difference between any of the moves available to me" because then there's no room for the player to "say" anything via the move they make. At least that's how I've been thinking about it.

glandis

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2015, 11:49:09 PM »
David,

Well, I suppose the Big Model would have us Address our Vision, but if I'm avoiding jargon, that's no real help.* The best I can come up with is "engage with", and I don't have much (that seems easy, at least) to say about what it looks like - the point would be that it looks like whatever you decide is a creatively rewarding Vision. Mutually reflecting? Sure, maybe - unless this particular Vision involves a one-way mirror. I wouldn't want to embed too much into the definition of Vision, as part of the point to me is that the Vision is what is going to (provisionally and, most importantly, aspirationally) define play.

I guess the other idea from your post (plus what I saw from Ron and Jesse) that I'm running with a bit is using Vision as a way to gauge how we're doing - that by articulating our visions about Exploration/Challenge/Premise, and identifying one as the point of this particular here/now play, we can more easily see how we're doing regarding our aspirations. But - and here's a potentially contentious thing, a "talking about what it looks like" that I do have something to say on - I think the context of Exploration/Challenge/Premise matters enough to add value over just "skilled and effective problem-solving within the arena of Do It In Character, Under Pressure."  That could easily be part of a Vision of Exploration rather than Challenge, probably even Premise. Or even if the point of play is a differently-articulated Vision of Premise, "skilled etc." might be something in our Vision of how Challenge works.** Here/now, which is it? I do like being able to talk about what's in our shared Vision of (say) Challenge even though the creative focus of play is our shared Vision of (say) Exploration. I think that's always been possible in GNS, but (as I said before) this might be a little "cleaner". It might more effectively provoke discussing the details beyond a (e.g.) simple "Right to Dream" label - details that have always been important but don't get as much attention as they could/should. I'll engage some self-suspicion, though, until I run this thinking through some actual-play of my own.

But to do your optimal/ideal/particularly good things for a Vision of Exploration, I think it'd be important to know both the details involved and the pure fact of point-of-play-Exploration, plus maybe (depending) also what visions of not-point-Challenge/Premise are included.

Thanks again for getting the brain churning!

*I'm using Vision to match your post, David, but I guess ideally - going totally with my own preferred words - I'd just be looking at "in this game, how does the group envision engaging with the imagined exploration, player competition, and the creation of meaning"? Or from a design perspective, "how does the game want (and perhaps encourage) players to engage with ..."? Note that "it doesn't envision them engaging with xxx much at all, really" is perhaps less-viable for the imagined exploration than the others, but maybe "not much imagined exploration at all" is still a bare-minimum that some folks could make work. And I would distinguish "not MUCH at all" (possible, in all three current and any yet-unknown areas) from literally "not at all," which I consider impossible in all three existing and any imaginably important not-yet-enumerated areas. Not engage with more than one as point of play? Sure, currently definitionally. Not engage significantly with more than one? OK, fine. Not engage ANY important area AT ALL, not even in a "be aware so you can avoid it" sense? I don't see it.

**Obviously - well, after-Threefold-and-GNS obviously - there are some things that don't work and play well together within and across Visions, but details matter. Noticing conflicts that lead to failed play is real useful, but every group out there potentially has found a way to resolve that conflict in the particular circumstances of their play - in how they've constructed their visions. Which I guess is mostly just What Ron Said in "Option 2." Hopefully this covers some of what Dan mentioned in the created-as-I-typed post about "top priority" - some group might potentially make a tent-trampoline, although until I see it, I won't feel bad about discouraging folks from trying that.

(Re-reading all this, I find I should acknowledge Vincent's "Object of Play" discussions as influential in I'm-not-sure-exactly-how ways here. I'm not saying I even understand Vincent's Object of Play discussions, but it felt wrong to not mention that this somehow feels influenced by 'em.)

Callan S.

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2015, 06:08:53 AM »
Defined by absence seems an interesting angle to work off.

Perhaps it's rather like dreaming at night - when you dream then, you aren't attempting a game, you aren't attempting to outlay a moral problem - at the time it just seens like what you deal with. No more than one questions dealing with RL (warning: Philosophy!)

But I'd think genuinely discussing it might be really hard - the more you talk about it, the harder it is to fall into that dream space that's absent an overall agenda.

Ron Edwards

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2015, 03:35:53 PM »
Whatever it is or isn't, we have to stay empirical.

What happened at the table? What was the fictional content? What was the color-reward process? What procedures (techniques) reinforced one another and the enjoyment?

Furthermore, personal ideals can be thrown out the window, or preferably on my part, stomped to death. This isn't about what anyone wishes role-playing could be, or would find it wonderful if it were, or knows it's what a bunch of people like to tell one another it is. That crap ruined the 2001-2004 discussion almost for good.

What if it didn't matter even a tiny bit what Simulationist play is or isn't? In that case, what is happening which seems to need an agenda name of its own?

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2015, 12:48:51 AM »
Dan, agreed on the desirable level of constraint.  "Expressing themselves" is what I was going for with my talk about funhouse distortions and pool ripples -- active reflection, not passive reflection -- but I guess that didn't come through.

Gordon, good point on keeping terms broad to accommodate disparate Visions.  I'm still not satisfied with our language on this, and will keep thinking.  As for "Vision of Exploration/Premise/Challenge", I'm not entirely sure what utility you're seeing in that language, especially given your clarifications on how much other context and info is required -- but if you wind up applying it to your own actual play, I guess I'll find out!

Tonight I had an interesting session of the World Wide Wrestling RPG.  Our Vision got a little richer, and our enjoyment of play (or at least mine) expanded accordingly.  Please see my following post.  I imagine it wouldn't be hard for an outsider to make the case that this was "just Exploration" and that when we're done solidifying this foundation, then we can really do something with it, but I would strongly disagree with that assessment.  Last year, I played a very resonant Monsterhearts game with three of the four other players in this group -- we dug right into some fiction about interpersonal dysfunction and I think we made some thematic statements.  My guy, for one, tried too hard to always be powerful and in control, and the second that image slipped, he wound up abandoned by the powers and allies he'd attracted using that premise.  This sort of thing was what got everyone at the table stoked.  The Buffy color and genre expectations were, indeed, the platform to do something else.  For us, though, World Wide Wrestling is definitely not that.  The explicit goal is "celebrate pro wrestling", and that's pretty much all we've done so far.  Whether that changes over time, we'll see, but I'm not expecting it, and I'm not seeking it either, as long as the trends from tonight's session continue.

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2015, 02:29:13 AM »
World Wide Wrestling

2014 One-Shot

Last year, some friends and I agreed to try the World Wide Wrestling RPG.  We like trying out new stuff, and Rohit was pumped about it and willing to GM, so the rest of us said, "Sure!"

Andrew, Joey, Ramya and I came up with characters, fleshed out our theatrical gimmicks, and laughed our way through a few ridiculous fights.  We slowly got a handle on how the rules worked (pull off Moves to generate Momentum to spend on other Moves to generate Heat to earn Audience to earn Advances) while using punches and tackles as an excuse to pimp our tycoon (Daddy Warbucks), jungle mystic (Dr. Hell-no), and talk show host (Late Nite) shticks.  We had a good time, but schedules changed, Ramya moved, and we didn't come back to it.

New Ongoing Game

Then, last month, Rohit got a copy of the finished game, and suggested we play again.  Andrew and Joey and I were down, and we invited Mark to replace Ramya.

Rohit is a big pro wrestling fan.  Mark used to be, and has retained a lot of familiarity with it.  Myself, Joey and Andrew are largely ignorant of it, and Rohit decided we needed to watch some wrestling before playing again.  So, three weeks ago, we watched two hours of NXT.  It was about what I expected in terms of over-the-top showmanship (which I enjoy plenty) and clownish over-acting in the ring (which I enjoy in small doses), but I was impressed by what great athletes many wrestlers are.  The second match was a lot of jumping and spinning and fast-paced acrobatics, infinitely more enjoyable than the slow first match where the wrestlers would punch for a few seconds and then stagger around moaning or yelling for dozens.  The third match featured some guy in elaborate dragon body paint + costume, which was really cool.  Running around outside the ring and hitting each other with chairs was a nice change of pace after the bodyslams started to get routine.  The pre-fight build-up was pretty weak until the last match, but the last match featured some nice interviews and historical montage as set-up, which made the otherwise mundane fight more enjoyable.  These were my takeaways, and my sources of inspiration for our first session of the new arc.

Session One

Session one had some good and some bad.  Mark wasn't there.  Andrew fought first, and really hammed it up with Late Nite, finding clever ways to work his gimmick into both his entrance and his actual wrestling moves.  I thought it was brilliant... but not quite as brilliant as the first time he did it last year.  While he fought an NPC, I studied the rules and tried to get a handle on the game's strategies, so I wouldn't have to sweat them during my own fight.  Then it was time for me (Daddy Warbucks) to fight Dr. Hell-no (Joey).  We had fun with our gimmicks, but just as with Late Nite, there was some sense of diminishing returns (no one said that; this is my guess from people being less pumped than last year).  Joey and I tried to include more actual wrestling moves, in celebration of the athleticism we'd watched on TV, but our descriptions got a little awkward and we had to look at the sheet of move pictures a lot.  We'd babble on, and Rohit would say, "You mean you do a powerslam?"  And we'd look at the sheet and go, "Yeah!  That!"  There wasn't much resonance to the experience, as Andrew was sleep-deprived and not into being an active Announcer for our fight.  I also was still distracted by working my way through the rules.  After the session, having finally somewhat internalized how best to pursue progress, I was left reflecting on why to care.  I asked Rohit, "So the development of play and luck of the dice determine how quickly my guy advances and reaches the inevitable end state; does this pace matter?  Or is there other stuff going on besides just my progress?"  He replied that there'd be other stuff going on, that each development would feed into the story of my character and the World Wide Wrestling league.  This sounded good to me!  But why hadn't it begun already?

Seeking a Vision

In the time after this session, I spent some time thinking about what was missing.  I felt like Rohit had a more complete Vision in his head, where every little NPC action he described was plugged into some implied contexts.  Grudge-building, good-bad flip-flops, foul play, lobbying for fights or opponents or recognition, playing off past history -- he knew how to evoke each of these with a good one-liner, while Joey and Andrew and I needed things spelled out to clue ourselves in.  We were sticking with our initial inspirations (character gimmicks) plus what we'd seen on screen (wrestling moves) but it wasn't quite enough to make it all mean anything.  I asked Rohit if this game would turn out like Contenders, where we spent a lot of time on the characters' real lives, and he said no.  So the more robust inspiration I was seeking wasn't going to come from that.

Tonight, in the car on the way to the game, I asked Rohit about some of the topics I've been addressing in this thread.  "So dude, now I know what wrestling looks like, but what inspires you about it?  What's the most rewarding thing you do when you play it with Nathan and other wrestling buffs?"  His answer included some fluidity of trading wrestling moves with an equally-informed other player (not a great sign for our group of noobs) but also a lot of storyline stuff.  Although he never said, "I love the history of these ongoing narratives," he repeatedly referenced how wrestlers joined forces and split apart, re-branded themselves, jumped to new federations, were outed for being bad sports or influencing things behind the scenes, etc.

That's when my Vision expanded.  Just like the final NXT match I watched, it was about context.  But not real-life-players context, or real-life-wrestlers context -- it was about on-camera context.  I'd taken a stab at that in the first session, sending a minion to disrespect Dr. Hell-no before we fought, but it didn't add much, and now I saw that wrestling storylines were bigger than that.  My first attempt was like the sports rivalry coverage you get from disconnected broadcasters on a national network who don't know the teams -- just the obvious facts.  "The Yankees and Red Sox don't like each other.  Go!"  But what Rohit was seeing was more like what I see as a Mets fan turned semi Sox van via Yankee hatred -- a deeper history of twists and turns, a true epic.  Our grandstanding fights didn't need more grandstanding -- they needed drama, stakes, Shakespeare and Homer, factions and families and feuds.  Wrestling isn't quite as ephemeral and flavor-of-the-week as I'd thought.  There's more to a rivalry than "I'm coming for YOU, brother!"  When Joe Whatsisname joins in a match alongside Hulk Hogan, everyone remembers how he used to roll with the Iron Sheik and the Undertaker.  Just like in Marvel comics, something I actually do know, Rogue going from one established "evil" team to another established "good" team and how that colored everything she did for a while.

Session Two

So, tonight, I spent my brief moment of out-of-the-ring camera time on establishing an evil empire that would absorb wrestlers.  Daddy Warbucks is everything people hate about The One Percent -- he enters with a butler and secretary, smacks people with hundred dollar bills, tells the audience to go get a job, and uses a finishing move where he blows cigar smoke into his opponent's face while choking him out.  So it's only natural for this guy to launch a corporate takeover of World Wide Wrestling itself.  I introduced top lieutenant Isaac Vanderbilt, chief attorney of Frontrunner Industries, who scammed opponent Monster Ricky into signing a contract putting his allegiance on the line.  If he lost his upcoming fight, Ricky would have to join Frontrunner in fighting behind Warbucks.  The other players loved this, and it made the tag team match of Warbucks and Late Nite vs Ricky and Steve much easier to narrate.  Instead of generic "evil rich guy" riffs, I was doing stuff specific to Ricky -- having my goons put a Frontrunner Industries T-shirt on his little sister once he made eye contact with her in the crowd, etc.  All this stuff was a big hit with Joey as audience and Mark as Announcer.

This kind of "fraught allegiance shift" material was already a part of what Rohit and Mark were bringing into play, but we hadn't really celebrated it together, as a group, before tonight.  I don't know how accessible it is to Andrew and Joey yet -- Joey's fight, which closed the session, was for the league title, but was mostly narrated as a sequence of wrestling moves and didn't elicit as much full-group enthusiasm.  I'm tempted to discount that as "rushing to finish" and "past Andrew's bedtime" -- we shall see.

In the car afterward, Rohit told me how excited he was by the WWW vs Frontrunner antagonism and how he already had more fun ideas for his NPCs and new ways to present conflicts and matches.  So we're definitely on the same page about this being an important dynamic in play.  I don't know how long our game will last -- Rohit doesn't tend to GM one game for very long -- so it's possible that the current faction struggle will be a single instance and thus hard to draw conclusions from.  In one respect, it's just like any persistent fiction -- the more you play, the more background you have for future play, and the richer your situations become.  So, "look, my group now sees wrestlers as embroiled in a faction war, because I narrated it!" is not really my takeaway as regards Vision.

Takeaway

My takeaway is more about how we were able to get to this point: exposure, first efforts, and then the key -- picking the brain of the guy whose personal Vision was most full of the vital ingredients for play, and knowing what to look for.  I was looking for a love of the source material's beauty, and fluid access to it as inspiration, and I got enough of that from Rohit to improve our overlap and the Vision we could share.  Hopefully the whole group can share something similar after I brought it into play.  I can't claim that I've developed a deep appreciation for wrestling after one chat and one good session, so we'll see where this goes, but I think we're on the right track.  I certainly got more out of my richer Vision tonight than I did from my less vibrant one in session one.

Callan S.

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #22 on: March 15, 2015, 03:40:11 AM »
Quote
I asked Rohit, "So the development of play and luck of the dice determine how quickly my guy advances and reaches the inevitable end state; does this pace matter?  Or is there other stuff going on besides just my progress?"  He replied that there'd be other stuff going on, that each development would feed into the story of my character and the World Wide Wrestling league.  This sounded good to me!  But why hadn't it begun already?

Had you gotten any points, by that time?

David Berg

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #23 on: March 15, 2015, 02:30:29 PM »
I had earned Audience, but not a full Advance.  Looking at the Advances on the sheet, I didn't see how they'd have been meaningful to the story of my character and the league at that point in time.  Now, having established some more fiction in that direction, I think some of them could be. 

It is possible that we began play without some recommended set-up.  Rohit generally presents games as intended, but he can be forgetful -- I'll look through the book and see.

Callan S.

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Re: Explaining Simulationism in action
« Reply #24 on: March 16, 2015, 11:14:35 PM »
With Rohit not GMing games for very long and perhaps your own preference for a build up/enrichening of fiction, would that seem significant here? How different are the things you're both doing, because of that? Just a little? A lot? Maybe just a little, but I thought there might be some worth in pitching the question, anyway.