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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2005, 08:31:26 AM



Title: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2005, 08:31:26 AM
Simulationism is problematic. I don't think that I'm saying anything shocking there. There is little agreement on what it actually is, which I posit is due to the fact that there are some priorities out there that players have that they want to assign to simulationism in order that it seem more accesible as a mode of play. Rather that the definition of simulationism as "priority on exploration" somehow doesn't manage to cover what they see as actually occuring behind the scenes. Partly, it seems to me, because it's a behavioral observation, and doesn't get to the goals behind the activity.

I could go on and on (and in fact have before) about why I think these additions aren't really useful, but I'd rather try a new rout to understanding some of these issues. So let's set simulationism aside for a moment, and discuss related player motives and behaviors. Keep that in mind as you read. I'm not trying to define simulationism here (in fact, pretty much everything that I'm about to discuss is, to me, ancillary to the definition of simulationism), but instead to look at things that may be related to it.

(This is also probably related in some way to some people's understanding of the term Immersion, but I'm going to avoid that even more pointedly).

Objective World Description
To start, I specifically want to look at one behavior that is very easy to identify as to it's goal. I'm going to call it "Objective World Description" or OWD for short. Basically this is when a player (using the broad meaning of the term that includes GMs) looks to agreed to materials to find out how to define what exists in the world, and any reasonable extrapolations of actions within it that occur from such description. The example that I often use for this is the fork in the road. If the players go left, do they get to some location that is on a map or that some note says is along that road? Or does the GM just make up what's down the road to the left (potentially putting down there the same thing that he'd put if they'd gone right)? If a player slaps a noble that's written down in the canon as being a coward, does he have the character slink off, or does the GM change the nature of the noble on the spot to make him only seem cowardly and have him fight here?

It seems to me that OWD description stems from a desire to have the world of play have what I refer to often as "objective reality." Think of it this way - when you're playing a CRPG, in almost all cases, the world is set up before hand. So as you travel through it, it has a seeming "reality" to it that you discover as you go. That is, there's something pre-existing that you're uncovering as you go along. As such, maneuvering your character through the landscape has some of the feeling of exploring in the real world. That there objectively is some reality over that hill, and that you'll discover it if you (or your avatar) goes over the hill. There's an excitement that comes along with this sort of discovery, for some players.

Surprise is not enough. That is, if the GM is making it all up as you go along, and it's obvious, then the feeling that you're discovering an objective reality does not happen, even if you don't know what it is that's over the hill before you get there. That's not to say that you can't get something from these surprises. Just that it's not the same sort of thrill that exists in searching an objectively pre-set reality.

Now, the problem with tabletop RPGs is that it's very hard to enumerate the entire world. But don't think that people haven't tried. Take a look at Harn. It's quite possible that there are entries for every single human being on the continent described, including what they do for a living (I'm not sure of the actual state, but this certainly seems the goal of products like Encyclopedia Harnica).

CRPGs have to limit the world in some ways, because the machine is only so good at filling in the blanks. With a GM, however, responsible for filling in the blanks, you can theoretically drill down into any level of the reality that you want to examine. So, in fact, unless you have the players agreeing to never ask any question about anything but what's likely enumerated, there will be occasions where the GM is making things up.

Now, HWD is often accompanied by the GM faking it in these circumstances. That is, he makes up the information, but presents it exactly as he would any other information so the players don't know that it's made up on the spot. So that the appearance of the whole world being pre-existing continues. In other play, some GMs will admit that they're being extemporaneous, but get back to HWD as soon as they can. In some cases GMs will even show materials to "prove" that they're only working from HWD ("See, just like it says right here").

The point is that perfection is not expected. Even if we can't have an entirely objective world in play, players can still appeal to the idea of objectivity to the extent possible. There's value for these players to a world that's only somewhat objective.

I don't know just how common this is, actually, but I know it's not ficituous, because I myself am at least a minority of one in finding OWD to have a certain kick to it. In fact it's the problem of OWD that I find most troublesome in design. I've largely given up on it of late, but not without remorse.

Channeling Character
A similar behavior to OWD is channeling a character. When channeling a character a player does what some authors do, and create a mental construct of the character in their minds. The process by which this is done is murky, but it will suffice to say that they succeed in doing so at least to all appearances. Once this happens, the player feels that the character has it's own motives in making decisions. I think that this has some of the same kick as OWD does for the player using the method. That is, the character seems more "real" to the player, or simply has a quality that's missing from a character for whom the player is making the decisons using the character as a tool to maneuver in the game.

Interestingly, players using this will often say things like, "I wish that my character would do X, but they want to do Y." This seems scitzophrenic enough to observers that it's easy to put this off as some sort of mental abnormality of thought process. But what's really going on is that the player is seeking a certain feeling from the process that can't be gotten by using the "I'll have the character do this" reasoning. That is, the loss of "control" is less important to the player than the feeling of reality created.

The Problem of Outiside Perception
There's a commonality to methods like this in that, in each case, the appearance of player will in making determinations of what exists, or what happens in the SIS is minimized. Or the attempt to make the appearance go away is minimized. Here's the thing about these methods, for a player who does not share them, they seem exceptionally problematic. Because they do have the downside that other player motives have to be discarded in order to make them work. Sure it might be more interesting if they went to the dungeon down the right path, and not down the road to town on the left...but OWD says that they went to the town. So what harm could there be in changing things?

Well, the "harm" is in the destruction of the feeling of objective reality to the characters and places in the game. If you don't understand that feeling (and many players simply don't), then it's easy to call these behaviors dysfunctional and point to a common motive in avoiding incoherence. That is, Beeg Horseshoe says that sim is a retreat from visible player motives because incoherence in them causes problems.

And, indeed, if player motive is visible, these sorts of problems are easier to handle. Rather gam-nar incoherence can be avoided entirely if agenda is made clear, and there are other benefits to players discussing their motives in terms of effective play. So to a player used to these benefits, and who doesn't understand the benefits of the objective world techniques, hiding this way seems like it must only be some bad tactic to avoid discussing other agenda issues.

But it's not (neccessarily, some people may be using it for the wrong reasons). There is definitely something being sought here. RPGs have value as simulative activites. And enforcement of in-game causality and objective reality is part of this.


Now, these are only a couple of behaviors and attendant goals that I could associate with simulationism, there are many, many more. Which is to say that likely some simulationism happens that doesn't include either of the things I mention above. But I think that by dissociating these behaviors and goals from the definitional discussion of simulationism that we can discuss them on their own. Because they are concepts that probably should be discussed, and do certainly become part of actual creative agendas in play.

And, further, I hope that other similar concepts can be discussed on their own as well. This will hopefully be a starting point. I haven't been involved too deeply in the discussion of some of these things, of late, so I hope that I'm not just reiterating something that somebody else has said. If so, please just link me to the appropriate discussion. But I think that these things are very worthwhile to look into.

Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: timfire on October 17, 2005, 11:23:50 AM
Can I upbring some other behaviors/motivations, or do you want to just stick with these two for the moment?


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Troy_Costisick on October 17, 2005, 12:37:16 PM
Heya,

I've come to understand Simulationism in my own mind as a priority on the concept "to be like something else" in the game.  For instance, for games like Star Wars, Call of Cthullu, and MERP the priority was "to be like the settings from the fictional source texts."  For games with combat systems like Rolemaster or TRoS the priorty is what it is "to be like in a real fight."  For a game like ADnD2, the priority would be what it is "to be like a (insert class) in a fantasy setting like (insert module like FR, DS, or Ravenloft)." 

The 'rush' experienced by Gamists when they Step on Up or for Narrativists when the address Premise and learn something about themselves, is vaguely analagous to the rush Sim players feel when they think they've done a good job at "being like something else."  The priority, in my mind, is to try to re-live or re-experience something else that has happen or been created, and the closer they emulate it the better.

My gaming priorities don't line up with Sim all that well, so I may not be the best to comment.  However, this is the path I have taken to help myself learn just what Sim means.  Hope this adds to the discussion!

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Adam Dray on October 17, 2005, 01:00:10 PM
The harm in changing things in an Objective World Description is that it makes players feel their choices were pointless. "I took the left fork, but you were gonna put the castle wherever I went. Why even bother having me choose?"

Indeed, why bother? In a Nar game, you wouldn't bother. Get to the Bang; the fork in the road is a needless distraction. In a Gamist game, you probably wouldn't bother either. Get to the Challenge. Wandering around on the wrong road doesn't get to encounters where I can Step On Up, so can we just skip it? Unless there are wandering monster tables...


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: timfire on October 17, 2005, 01:16:10 PM
Well, Troy kinda brought up what I wanted to, so...

It's just like in that movie, wha'cha'callit!
Sometimes, I encounter play that is filled with references to TV, movies, or other shared images/experiences. Here's an exaggereated example:

Quote
GM: You walk into coffee shop, it's bright and clean, and there's some chatty suburban soccer Mom drinking her Mondo-Vanilla-Mint-Frampachinatto. Suddenly, the barista starts screaming and shifting shape, like something out of the X-files...

Player: I pull my guns out of my long black trenchcoat and start running along the walls, while shooting at the creature.

GM: The barista turns and looks at you, and you realize its the woman from the record store!

Player: The one that looked like Drew Barrymore?!?

GM: That's the one!

OK, cheesy example. But do you notice that's there's some sort of cultural/entertainment reference in almost every sentence? I encounter this type of thing alot, and in varying degrees. But with some games/groups, this type of thing is a major driving force. A somewhat recent personal example was when I played Metal Opera. Someone in my group commented that the game was sorta like "Spinal Tap in Space" (at least, I think someone said that), and the game was played just like that. Through both OOC and IC activity, we were constantly referencing and making allusions to hair-band stereotypes. The GM *cough*Ron*cough* tried to throw in some thematic material, but we the players were having so much fun that we just ignored it.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 17, 2005, 01:42:24 PM
Sure, go ahead and come up with others if you like. Though I would like to discuss the one's I pointed out some, too. Perhaps other threads can split off of this.

So, Troy, what you and Tim seem to be talking about could be termed Genre Emulation? Or does it go beyond that to Pastiche? I see all the "just like in..." references to be social reinforcement for this sort of activity. Is that about right? Yeah, this is not what sim is, but it's also related, I think. Though it could also be related to narrativism in some ways, I think.


Adam, your point seems to address what I'm talking about, but I'm not sure that I get what you're tryihng to say. That is, you seem to be pointing out the value of such play to a simulationism prefering player, but then you're saying that the decision isn't important to other modes? Is that it?

Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Lance D. Allen on October 17, 2005, 03:36:39 PM
I'm not entirely sure how this might apply to the discussion of behaviors and motivations, but I think I know exactly where such an exchange as Tim made might be rooted.

Basically, we have the SIS.. In what I've come to believe is Sim play, there is a big emphasis on the SHARED portion being as strong as possible, so as to create as close as possible to one single experience for all players, so that we don't get such mood breaking things as "Wait, wait.. I thought she had brunette hair!" and "what do you mean you run along the walls?" We've all seen Drew Barrymore, so we know what this mutating barista looks like, and we've all seen the Matrix, so we know what a man in a long black trenchcoat looks like while running along the walls shooting. We don't have to stop to explain or describe further, because we've all got the pictures laid out in front of us.

This same reason is why miniatures can be used to support non-gamist play, and why character pictures are frequently prevalent among Sim-play groups. If I'm not imagining your Paladin as a fiery redhead, then we're not sharing the same imaginative space, and dissonance is bound to occur eventually. The deep simulation players want to avoid that as much as possible.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Adam Cerling on October 17, 2005, 04:40:50 PM
From the title "Simulationism Aside," I take it that we should even really be discussing Simulationism at all, yet, until you want to bring the discussion back around there. What you're describing may or may not have some relationship to Sim, but that can be determined later. Before us we have these schools of techniques.

I agree with your analysis that both OBW and Channeling Character both involve minimizing the appearance of external influence. Might the ideal union of these techniques be described as "There Are No Players"? The players (GM included) strive to convince themselves in play that their only relationship to the Shared Imagined Space is that of observer.



Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: komradebob on October 17, 2005, 06:37:28 PM
Self Defined goals?
This seems to be a really big deal in [some] Sim play, at a much greater level of emphasis than in Narr and Gam designs. I would say that it is often tied into some important core source material, however, creating a "bungee" affect where Sim players leap out into atomic Narr or Gam play, but then return to the Sim core.

This is somewhat different than the reverse situation, where Narr or Gam motivated players demand a certain level of verite to setting or causality.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Troy_Costisick on October 17, 2005, 06:44:03 PM
Heya,

Quote
So, Troy, what you and Tim seem to be talking about could be termed Genre Emulation? Or does it go beyond that to Pastiche? I see all the "just like in..." references to be social reinforcement for this sort of activity. Is that about right? Yeah, this is not what sim is, but it's also related, I think. Though it could also be related to narrativism in some ways, I think.


No, what I'm talking about is something like, "Wow this campaign would fit right in with one of Lovecraft's Stories..." or a reaction like "This has been the coolest fantasy campaign ever!"  Note that the priority of these statements is how close the play came to being like something else.  In the first example, it's talking about how well the campaign would fit in with the Lovecraft cannon.  The second example is discussing how well the campaign would fit in with a person's or group's ideal of what the fantasy genre should be.  For me and for what I'm suggesting, it's not about pastiche nor about recreating a specific plot.  It's about how well a particular priority (read Area of Eploration) is created within the play when compared to an outside source of inspiration.

I think that Genre Emulation might be a good term for what I'm describing, but I think we'd have to discuss it a bit more to be sure.  At the moment, I like the term but not quite sure it is inclusive enough :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 17, 2005, 07:56:42 PM
Hi Troy,

You're right, it isn't inclusive enough. If genre emulation is the overriding priority, then it's Sim, but if it's Sim, there are lots of ways to play that aren't genre emulation.

And just to be terribly confusing, genre emulation as a supportive technique can be found in many G and N applications.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Merten on October 18, 2005, 01:57:17 AM
So let's set simulationism aside for a moment, and discuss related player motives and behaviors. Keep that in mind as you read. I'm not trying to define simulationism here (in fact, pretty much everything that I'm about to discuss is, to me, ancillary to the definition of simulationism), but instead to look at things that may be related to it.

(This is also probably related in some way to some people's understanding of the term Immersion, but I'm going to avoid that even more pointedly).

I think that I'm identifying a lot with the things we are not discussing here (and I'm trying very much not to bring either of them into it) and since what you are describing very much sound like goals I'm/a lot of players I know are trying to achieve, few comments:

Objective World Description
To start, I specifically want to look at one behavior that is very easy to identify as to it's goal. I'm going to call it "Objective World Description" or OWD for short. Basically this is when a player (using the broad meaning of the term that includes GMs) looks to agreed to materials to find out how to define what exists in the world, and any reasonable extrapolations of actions within it that occur from such description.

Very much so; I think the underlying goal is to create a diegesis (maybe SIS, if there is a difference) that emulates a "real world", where real world could be modelled after the world we live in (or built upon it), very detailed creation (usually heavily borrowing from the real world - Hârn is a good example of this), or a creation built upon common expectations (someone mentioned popular culture references) where the actual detail is not important, but the fact everyone agrees on how things work and what elements should be emphasized. I think this is pretty much the same thing that's been referred for a long time as "suspension of disbelief".

When the simulation is good (based on what you can every day see around you or otherwise almost as richly detailed), the player doesen't have invest so much energy into making up things around his character, but can concentrate on what you call Channeling the character or some other task. Problems arise when the simulation is not so good; when things work differently that how you, as a player, imagine them working without a proper explanation. You have to spend energy on validating things (if this thing didn't work as it was supposed to work, and the effect was not properly explained, what else works differently?).

Channeling Character
A similar behavior to OWD is channeling a character. When channeling a character a player does what some authors do, and create a mental construct of the character in their minds. The process by which this is done is murky, but it will suffice to say that they succeed in doing so at least to all appearances. Once this happens, the player feels that the character has it's own motives in making decisions. I think that this has some of the same kick as OWD does for the player using the method. That is, the character seems more "real" to the player, or simply has a quality that's missing from a character for whom the player is making the decisons using the character as a tool to maneuver in the game.

This is an important point; putting the character's (from this on, the mental construct the player has made about the character, which is influenced by the character sheet, possible character background and plenty of other character creation methods - and, to some extent, players own mentality and wishes) objectives and goals before the players objectives and goals. One could say that the player is not an intresting person (which wouldn't actually be true), the character is. Player is making the decisions, but is trying to do them based on what he thinks are the character's goals and needs.

Interestingly, players using this will often say things like, "I wish that my character would do X, but they want to do Y." This seems scitzophrenic enough to observers that it's easy to put this off as some sort of mental abnormality of thought process. But what's really going on is that the player is seeking a certain feeling from the process that can't be gotten by using the "I'll have the character do this" reasoning. That is, the loss of "control" is less important to the player than the feeling of reality created.

This sometimes leads to a situtation where there obviously plenty of excitement and adventure available if the characters just confort the seemingly deadly enemy - and the players know this. However, doing such thing wouldn't just make any sense from the characters perspective, so they'll walk away, possibly ending the session or plot. With players who's primary motivation for playing is Channeling their character, this is quite an obvious way to go and other players usually support such decision - while their characters might not ("C'mon, let's go and bash his head"), which in turn might lead into the separation of the character group.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 18, 2005, 08:25:01 AM
First, Ron's got the subject matter here, and is showing the way in a Taoist manner. And, Adam, you have the idea precisely. I don't even know that we have to get "back around" to simulationism's definition at all, however. I think these things are interesting to discuss on their own.

So, Lance, when you say "In what I've come to believe is Sim play..." an interpretation of that which I would agree with is, "In some games that I've played which I think are Sim, XYZ tends to happen." That is the "SIS Matching" efforts that you describe are yet another technique or goal that might be strongly linked to simulationism, but otherwise in no way definitive of simulationism.

Part of the point of this thread is that no technique, XY or Z, is definitive of simulationism. Nor is any goal. Only by dissociating them from any notion that they might be definitional can we discuss them sensibly.


So, on to details: Adam, yes, I think that the two things I mention are part of the "There are no players" ideal, which I think is also one possible definition of Immersion (though, I said I would avoid that, too, didn't I). But, yes, I think that the specific goal there is to make the world feel real by trying to block out as many real world elements of play as possible. To that extent, the SIS Matching that Lance brings up can be useful. However for some groups the idea of using real world references will actually be counterproductive, no? Yes it's a very powerful way to create matchings of imagined material, but it neccessarily brings in narration of the real world.

The Turku school, for example, would be appalled, I'd think. That is, playing a LARP, if you stopped and said, "Imagine me dressed like Neo from the Matrix" that might be grounds for ejection from the game (OK, I kid, but you get the idea). So the goals here can be widely disparate.


Bob, yep, that's another goal, basically eliminating the appearance of GM influence by having the players be the drivers of all play, the GM "just playing the world." Related to Open Sim play. The idea being to obtain the ideal of the objective world, by making sure that the invisible hand of the GM is not only invisible, but actually pretty much inactive. Again, so that it's like the CRPG, where it's merely player choice driving where the character goes and what he does. There's the sticky question of whether or not putting "interesting stuff" in play is kosher or not, however. If I put in an NPC that has a need for doughty adventurers, is that manipulating the environment with drama in mind? Even if it's up to the PCs to find this NPC?

There's simply no getting around the fact that the GM has actually created the world, at least in some measure. All of the objectivity goals are, again, neccessarily imperfect. Again, the tough question there is whether or not that imperfection automatically leads to problems in play.

I think that genre has two parts to it, how well it's emulated (fecundity), and how well it's employed. I think that you can have a really Lovecraftian story created that would be dread dull to have played out. So there's at least two, and probably more, aesthetic qualities we're looking for here.

Note, interestingly, how emulation of somthing like Lovecraft might actually run somewhat counter to the idea of an objective world. Just like refering to the Matrix may break the illusion, noting that something matches literary convention could have the same effect. The "perfect simulation" seems to me to likely be dull, since nobody is actively creating drama, so as to avoid the appearance of outside interference in the objective world. This is, of course, what leads to illusionism as a technique. Trying to make it all look like it's just "player run's character, GM runs world" while moving behind the scenes to create drama.


Jukka, oh man, that's another forbidden term, sorry. Suspension of disbelief discussions are hereby banished to some other thread, if not off of The Forge completely. OK, that's over-reacting, and I appreciate what you're saying. I just don't want any part of this thread to break down into looking at the definitions of any of these (three now) problematic terms.

Quote
Problems arise when the simulation is not so good; when things work differently that how you, as a player, imagine them working without a proper explanation. You have to spend energy on validating things (if this thing didn't work as it was supposed to work, and the effect was not properly explained, what else works differently?).
I think this is somewhat besides the point. That is, given a goal of having a good simulation, of course doing it badly is to be avoided for this reason. But "doing it well" is always a goal for all play. That is, mistakes will happen with all goals, and that's just a fact of play.

The "Beeg Horseshoe" side of me wants to say that what you're describing as "not so good" play of this sort is actually "incoherence." That is, I see this sort of thing become problematic to handle only if/when there's a suspicion of players playing using gamism. The "extra effort" explanation really being a smoke screen for the acutal problem. But I could be wrong.

Your initial comments on channeling the character do put forward the viewpoint of the channeler, yes. But then your follow up comments reveal the basic problem that many people have with these methods. Which is that having the player as an outside agency have the character act in a plausible yet dramatic way is often beneficial to producing play that is enjoyable in terms of action and adventure. People used to narrativism are going to see this as the player hiding behind the character in order to avoid conflict. Again, Beeg Horseshoe says that what's really going on is that the player, used to having control taken away from them senses the pre-planned plot in question, and in order to keep his control over the character, has him avoid the GM's plot. So in actuality you have a player who is using a lot of player judgment to decide on his actions, and just qualifying the unexciting decision by saying "it's what the character would do." AKA My Guy play due to Abused Player Syndrome.

Or, from a more charitable reading, we see a general problem with two common goals in play. One to allow players control over their characters, and the other to have exciting play. The two are far from mutually exclusive. But the question is who is being denied player input into the process. If the GM denies input to the players, in order to get drama, they rebel and defy drama in order to maintain control. If the players deny the GM control (it happens), then the GM may feel that he's being denied his creative due. And if both sides deny the power to the other, then nobody can make drama. Why do they deny each other the power? Well, charitably, because visibility of input destroys the objective world feeling. Less charitably, because the one side doesn't trust the other to create drama in a way that allows them to participate.

This is where you get illusionism, even potentially player illusionism. The one side takes control from the other, and hides behind the "it's what would happen" explanation in each case, and makes it look like the other side still has control. Thus everyone is theoretically satisfied, up until the point where the illusion breaks down.

The only other sim related option is to say that it's OK not to have drama.

Sorry for the rambling here, I'm just showing the relationship of these techniques to some of the sub-agendas of simulationism.

Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: jmac on October 18, 2005, 10:03:29 AM
I support Jukka on everything in his post - what I've read is very similar to my own thoughts. But I'm not sure how this relates to the topic, so

About the question - what relates to sim - it seems to me, that _believing_ in objectivity of game world and of characters' decisions (as part of it) is the key, which implies that players agree to ignore inevitable elements of subjective inside the game world.

So if there is a difference between sim and illusionism and participationism, from such point of view, it is in ignoring only unconscious (sim) or also conscious (ill. and part.) subjectivity of players (including GM).

Do I get it wrong that Mike is talking about "testing" the game - are it's world definitions objective enough?

I usually prefer not thinking about this objectivity assuming it's enough. When something really breaks this assumption, what Jukka described as "spending energy" happens and if energy is not enough - game seems not to be functionall anymore.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Merten on October 18, 2005, 10:48:30 AM
A short disclaimer; I'm relying heavily on my own perceptions on plays I've witnessed as a player (including GMing). I can't really claim on being objective, since what I'm describing here is my take on the things roleplaying culture around me (that would be; the clique of Nordic Arthaus roleplaying I identify with) is doing. It is, at best, a very narrow approach on Simulationism as I understand the term. I'm relying heavily on it because I find it hard to explain things without examples rooted on my own experiences. If I'm going completely off the track, feel free to slap me.

Jukka, oh man, that's another forbidden term, sorry. Suspension of disbelief discussions are hereby banished to some other thread, if not off of The Forge completely. OK, that's over-reacting, and I appreciate what you're saying. I just don't want any part of this thread to break down into looking at the definitions of any of these (three now) problematic terms.

Noted and understood. Wasn't aware of that.

The "Beeg Horseshoe" side of me wants to say that what you're describing as "not so good" play of this sort is actually "incoherence." That is, I see this sort of thing become problematic to handle only if/when there's a suspicion of players playing using gamism. The "extra effort" explanation really being a smoke screen for the acutal problem. But I could be wrong.

You could be right as well; I'm not completely following you here. So, if a player (including but not singling out GM) would be forcing his character (or, in the case of GM, the world) to do things that would violate what is considered to be objective view of the world - in order to gain something he, as a player, wants to gain, he'd be using gamism? If so, yes - that would definately be the problem. The way I think of Simulationism, it's very much excluding the other Creative Agendas. Using Narrativisism (I, as a player, force my character into this situtation that could produce an intresting story/conflict/something, even if my character would never do that) would probably produce similar effect. In this case the extra effort would be to watch out if other players are playing in incoherent way in order to get an advantage to achieve something.

Another possible source for such problems might be that a player is either ignoring or not understanding something in different way than other players do. Then the extra effort would be to keep an eye on if the other player is missing something else as well and making sure that he understands what you are talking about.

As for the drama: yes, if we're after dramatic play, we might run into problems - at least how I see it, achieving it either requires something to trigger dramatic play or forcing character to act in a way (which might or might not violate how the character, as a mental construct is) that produces dramatic play. I've seen this taken into account in at least three different ways:

1) Ditch the dramatic play. Dramatic play happens, if it happens, if not, other things happen. Wheter these things are intresting depends on what the players are after. Dramatic play is athing that could happen, but not the only intresting thing that could happen. (What is dramatic is, I think, a matter of another debate I haven't yet stumbled upon)
2) Prepare triggers which might guarantee that something intresting is going to happen. Triggers might be, for example, pre-written characters put into a situtation where something written into the mental constructs is going to produce dramatic play. (I think this could be called either Railroading or Illusionism, if there is a difference)
3) Use of participationism (*). Something outside the characters (either in GM or player control, depending how the GM tasking is handled) happens and dramatic play happens.

Usually a combination of two or more of the above and/or things I'm missing. Wheter this is a problem depends quite a lot on on player expectations (Creative Agenda, I think). Most of the play I've witnessed is usually built on the expectation that players have a complete control on their characters (they are supposed to create the mental construct and stay with it - wheter they do or not, is entirely up to them) and the GM (or, in some cases, other players) has a complete control on everything else. This control might or might not be challenged with a resolution mechanic or some other form of rules in varying degrees.

But, yes, My Guy play due to Abused Player Syndrome could very well happen if players expectations differ from other players expectations, like a player wanting to force his character to do something he thinks is intresting, regardless of how the character is expected to act. Wheter this becomes a problem pretty much depends on how blatant the forcing is and how different the expectations are.

Or, from a more charitable reading, we see a general problem with two common goals in play. One to allow players control over their characters, and the other to have exciting play. The two are far from mutually exclusive. But the question is who is being denied player input into the process. If the GM denies input to the players, in order to get drama, they rebel and defy drama in order to maintain control. If the players deny the GM control (it happens), then the GM may feel that he's being denied his creative due. And if both sides deny the power to the other, then nobody can make drama. Why do they deny each other the power? Well, charitably, because visibility of input destroys the objective world feeling. Less charitably, because the one side doesn't trust the other to create drama in a way that allows them to participate.

The Simulationist plays I've witnessed tend to either be player/character driven (characters are pretty much free to roam as they want, restrained only by the Objective World as GM and other players interpret it - Objective World has been created or is created during the play by GM) or using participationism (*) (at least in the form of pre-written characters) - which is usually a method known and accepted by the players. Wheter the players force control over their characters is pretty much up to them (so, in essence, they are policing themselves). If the players are defying GM control - well, this is certainly a problem, usually taking a form of argument about how things work ("There is a nuclear silo on this submarine type" "This one doesen't have one" "Does too" "Does not, and that's final").

This is where you get illusionism, even potentially player illusionism. The one side takes control from the other, and hides behind the "it's what would happen" explanation in each case, and makes it look like the other side still has control. Thus everyone is theoretically satisfied, up until the point where the illusion breaks down.

The only other sim related option is to say that it's OK not to have drama.

Sorry for the rambling here, I'm just showing the relationship of these techniques to some of the sub-agendas of simulationism.

Ramble away, I'm learning here as I type - and I definately agree with the problems that this kind of play might lead to, though I'm not completely following you with the sub-agendas. Wheter the problems materialize is, I think, a matter of how well the expectations of the players match.

*) I'm not sure wheter this could be identified as illusionism, participationism, trailblazing or something else. I think it might actually be the trailblazing most of the time, judging by this article (http://ptgptb.org/0027/theory101-02.html). What I'm after is that the players are encouraged to do whatever they think they characters would do - but there are usually some parameters in the characters placed beforehand by the GM. Player iniative is discouraged if it's not in the line with the character - but since there is no straight way to validate that the player is using the mental construct of the character instead of taking the iniative to himself, this usually isn't enforced.

Am I making sense, here?


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Troy_Costisick on October 18, 2005, 11:32:25 AM
Heya,

Quote
And just to be terribly confusing, genre emulation as a supportive technique can be found in many G and N applications.

-Aw, shucks.  It's not that confusing, Ron.  In play, all games have a setting.  If a setting is something like Middle-earth or The Death Star or even something a little more generic like "The Roaring Twenties" then that is just part and parcile of what setting is.  Of course players of all three agendas will want to make sure that the Lore is protected.  All five components of Exploration are in every game, as you repeatedly state. It's just that when the genre is elevated to be the Point of play, then it becomes Sim.

-I think I just restated exactly what you said, but it's probably one of those "say it for yourself" momemts, which thankfully I'm starting to have for the first time.

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on October 18, 2005, 12:57:18 PM
Having always found Simulationism confusing (except to the degree  enlightened by Kat Miller's "Play House" metaphor (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14654.0;prev_next=prev)), I am struck by Mike's thought on "objective world" and Ron-and-Troy's on "genre emulation" as a goal-in-itself (as opposed to a supporting Technique to generate Color): Here we have two "Simulationist" objectives that seem at odds with each other and potentially painfully incompatible.

The "Objective World" players -- or you might call them the "logical extrapolation" players -- take a certain set of precepts ("a world just like ours, except that magic works, by these rules...") or a certain set of fictional sources treated as "observational data" and then see "what happens if..." If the result is very different in tone from the source material, so be it; if the known starting point produces surprising results, so much the better. The aim of the exercise is to fill in the blanks left by the original source, or to extrapolate more imagined reality from the given starting point, in a way that respects the initial "facts" and follows logically from them; just imitating events from the canon sources would be a disappointment to such players, because that's already been done.

The "genre emulation" players -- or you might call them "look and feel" players -- don't start with just a set of precepts, but always with a certain set of fictional sources, and they don't treat these sources as "data," but as an aesthetic standard to emulate. If implausible cause-and-effect reasoning is necessary to replicate the tone of the source material, so be it (viz. "saving the appearances" in Ptolemaic astronomy); if different starting points all produce results similar to the original source, so much the better. The aim of the exercise is to imitate events from the canon sources; extrapolating into what happened "behind the scenes" in the original source (the "underbelly campaign") or creating a result with a starkling different tone from the source would be a disappointment to such players, because it departs from what they enjoyed in the original.

SPOILERS ahead, like any of you hasn't seen the original Star Wars films:

To take a stark "actual play" example of how these goals could clash, consider Curtis Saxton's astounding and slightly scary Star Wars Technical Commentaries, particularly The Endor Holocaust, (http://www.theforce.net/swtc/holocaust.html) where he argues, with impressive (to me) physics knowledge, that the destruction of a Death Star battlestation in low orbit over the forest moon of Endor would have caused nuclear winter and wiped out all the fuzzy little Ewoks soon after the end of the movie.

For an "objective world" / "logical extrapolation" player, this "Endor Holocaust" idea is dynamite: it follows logically from crucially important canon events and would have tremendous consequences to extrapolate and explore, enough to start a campaign in itself.

For a "genre emulation" / "look and feel" player, the "Endor Holocaust" idea is horrible: it brutally departs from the optimistic tone and the "good guys do good things" morality of the original source, enough to bring a campaign to a crashing halt by itself.

And if you have both types of player in the same game when you present an "Endor Holocaust" scenario, the resulting misery looks an awful lot like Incoherence.

I can't say this with any confidence -- I'm no theorist, and more importantly, I lack 'actual play" experience with coherent Simulationists -- but I'd suggest the possibility that these "goals" might be two separate and mutually incompatible Creative Agendas previously lumped together under "Simulationism."


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: komradebob on October 18, 2005, 01:32:17 PM
Could it be that the major motivation of Sim play and game design is to cover up the fact that adults are enjoying "Play Pretend" by disquising the activity with tomes of rules?

I'm only half joking about that.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 18, 2005, 01:42:08 PM
About the question - what relates to sim - it seems to me, that _believing_ in objectivity of game world and of characters' decisions (as part of it) is the key, which implies that players agree to ignore inevitable elements of subjective inside the game world.
Well I'm not sure what your saying about "believing." That is, to be quite precise, there is no objectivity about the game world other than the players attribute it to it. That is, it's all "made up" at some point along the way. Or are you just pointing out that there's a willful ignoring of the subjective parts? The problem is that this is where the problems always begin.

Quote
So if there is a difference between sim and illusionism and participationism, from such point of view, it is in ignoring only unconscious (sim) or also conscious (ill. and part.) subjectivity of players (including GM).
Well, by my phylology, illusionism and participationism are sorts of sim, but if you mean "open sim" as the the third sort, I'd agree.

Quote
Do I get it wrong that Mike is talking about "testing" the game - are it's world definitions objective enough?
No idea what you mean here. No, I wasn't talking about "testing" (as far as I know?). :-)

Quote
I usually prefer not thinking about this objectivity assuming it's enough. When something really breaks this assumption, what Jukka described as "spending energy" happens and if energy is not enough - game seems not to be functionall anymore.
Well, here's the thing, what if you just assume that anything by any trusted player is going to be correct?


Jukka, you're making tons of sense, and I think you understand the theory quite well. But what you're doing here is standing on the verge of betraying the entire nordic scene for one giant heap of dysfunction. That is, I could interpret what you're saying as most of the urge to play sim as a rejection of gamism such that it might breed Pawn stance (implausible play). Note, too, that I've never seen implausible narrativism play - the notion that players "force" their characters to do implausible things to make play "interesting" is absurd because, thematically, implausble things aren't interesting. I suppose a person could play a very post-modern game in which plausibility were cast aside to creat post-modern themes (and actually the game Court of Nine Chambers might actually intend that), but I've never seen it once in play.

Anyhow, we're getting into definitions of illusionism and simulationism which, again, I want to avoid (my fault from starting to slip back that way). So if you want to continue this line of thought, please start a new thread and let me know so I can come over.  :-)

Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 18, 2005, 01:49:47 PM
Having cross posted the above, I'll risk posting again.

Sydney, I think it's not really surprising that there are sub-modes that are entirely disparate. Take the difference between hardcore gamism and gentleman gamism. Especially the difference between play that allows pawn stance, and that which does not. No room for these gamism types to play together. Vanilla vs Pervy narrativism, same thing.

Bob, if we start from an assumption of dysfunction, and discover dysfunction, that's circular logic. Prove that's why play is this way.

Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: HenryT on October 18, 2005, 02:00:07 PM
Jumping back to the original comment, what you call Channeling Character sounds like a good description of the group I play with.  We generally try to be flexible about it ("My character wouldn't do X, but it seems like the game would be more interesting that way...could you do Y, so that he'll do X in response?"), but there's certainly a sense that the character is an independantly simulated person with their own wants, motivations, and behaviors.

I think the description as "exploration of character" is actually fairly apt here.  The interest is in asking questions like "what would this person do when faced with this situation?" or "how does this person resolve this aspect of their life?"  (Indeed, we occassionally play mini-games in which we take characters from different games and throw them into some setting to see what happens and how they interact, often inspired by a "Wouldn't it be neat if this character of mine could talk to that character of yours?")

However, this is all generally done (again, in my group) with a strong narrativist underpining.  Watching the characters interact is a big part of the game, but the real payoff is seeing the characters make choices that address a premise.  The point of paying attention to careful simulation of a character is so that, when they do reach a bang, there's a coherent character who can make a meaningful choice, shaped by what's happened to them (whether or not the player thinks this is the right one).  (I've been debating to myself for a few weeks how to classify this style of play, but my general conclusion has been that it's narrativist play with strong simulationist support.  But I could be completely wrong.)

(As one more aside, I agree that playing pretend is a big element of it, although these days my group isn't trying all that hard to cover it up.)

Henry


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: komradebob on October 18, 2005, 02:28:23 PM
Quote
Bob, if we start from an assumption of dysfunction, and discover dysfunction, that's circular logic. Prove that's why play is this way.


Ever see a gamer try to justify their hobby to a non-gamer? Particularly a non-gamer with a negative view of gaming?

I was that gamer just a few days ago.

I suspect I would have been vastly better off saying that I like "Play Prertend" and leaving it at that.

I don't think that "Play Pretend" is dysfunctional.

Rather, I think it is treated as a form of suspect deviancy from cultural norms by society at large. I suspect RPGs have developed as a protective response/cover for those who enjoy "Play Pretend" into their adult years.

I truly wish that I had a more diplomatic way of putting that idea forward.

Sim isn't hard to understand. It just happens to be the CA with the least "protective cover"- no societally appreciated competition, no high-brow premise/moral statement. Just straight up, joyous wallowing in Play Pretend. As an adult, no less. Ya pervs.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on October 18, 2005, 05:55:48 PM
Sydney, I think it's not really surprising that there are sub-modes that are entirely disparate....

You're probably right that these are incompatible sub-modes rather than independent Creative Agendas -- although I'm aesthetically seduced by the idea that "emulator"/"look-and-feel" Simulationism is the mirror-opposite of "extrapolator"/"objective world" Simulationism just as it's often noted Gamism and Narrativism mirror-image ("admire my clever, gutsy, consequence-full strategic choices" vs "admire my profound, gutsy, consequence-full moral choices"). If anyone can point me to earlier discussions of sub-modes of Sim, I'd be grateful, and mercifully quiet.

More important: I realized I do have some actual Actual Play experiences that show emulator vs. extrapolator disfunction in evidence, with me very aggressively and even disruptively in what I think is Mike is talking about when he speaks about an "Objective World" mode. Both, interestingly, are from my first-ever "real" rolepaying experience (as opposed to 10-year-olds futzing with D&D combat) and my first real GM:

1) Freeform, one-on-one, set in the Star Wars universe (geekdom's Book of Common Prayer), with me as sole player and the GM adding some setting tweaks of her own.

My "Objective World"/extrapolator hits immediately: I want to play an Imperial Customs official: not a good guy, not even a cool bad guy, but someone I consistently portray as a cowardly, petty, bureaucratic bully -- because (setting aside my self-esteem issues, thank you very much) in a galactic tyranny, imagined as an objective and logical world, there'd have to be such people, right, so "let's pretend" I'm one and see what it's like.

I remember with particular and perverse pleasure offhandedly referring to the torture devices used on Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back as "barbershop chairs," the GM blinking and asking what I meant, me explaining that was Imperial slang for the things (into which my character was about to put her favorite good-guy NPCs), and her accepting it -- only to have me explain post-game that I'd made the term up on the spot. If you want to emulate the tone of the Star Wars films, of course, such slang is jarring at least; but if you think of Star Wars as an objective world to explore (extrapolate) unseen crannies of, again, it makes sense that bureaucratic torturers would have such trivializing slang for their tools.

In the end the GM had her NPC heroes abduct/rescue my character and, um, blow up a Star Destroyer with psychic mind powers, but we ended at that on her bemused sense of defeat, and my sense of mild triumph, that my character was too miserable a rat to do anything further with that was Star Wars-y.


2) Same GM, playing with a group in an ongoing campaign, using Star Wars rules in an original setting of the GM's. There were various incidents of Objective World mindset taking us off the GM's track throughout the campaign:

In the first session, I, the real person, immediately forgot a placename mentioned to my character, and the GM wouldn't let me just "remember" it, so I started outlining an elaborate program of investigation (what are the major corporate interests? Who would want to assassinate person x?) until the GM blanched and had me accidentally see an NPC with the required information.

Later on, the GM needed us to jury-rig something about a spaceship, and two other (male) players had a great deal of fun talking in-character about the various modifications they'd need to make and what they should be careful of lest they cause the reactor to explode on the spot; I listened with great approval, the GM with bemusement: She just figured they'd make a roll and get on with it, not invent problems for themselves for the sheer delight of extrapolating different aspects of an imaginary technology -- but, hey, if it were really an Objective World, jury-rigging a complex system would be problematic, so they made it so.

At the climax of the campaign, instead of diving in heroically to destroy the villains' lair alone, I had my character alert the authorities amd beg for military intervention. The GM agreeably had the military come in and then order the PCs to storm the lair anyway, instead of sending in, oh, qualified professionals. In terms of her goal of emulating adventure stories, I was perversely trying to get rid of the climactic saving-the-day fight scene; in terms of an Objective World, my character was doing the logical thing.

(P.S. Human sexuality disclosure, as required by the Ron Edwards "Infamous Five" Act of 2004: Yes, the GM was a female and I was (err, am) male; yes, we were attracted to each other; but we (mostly me) consciously stepped back from that brink early on and ended up as good friends to the present day, with her soon dating and ultimately marrying one of the other guys in the all-male group. Photos of their newborn baby available on request).



Mike, apologies for going on longer than I intended, but Actual Play examples usually do a theory discussion some good. Are these things I'm talking about decent examples of your idea of "Objective World Description" Simulationism as opposed to other forms of Sim? If not, why not, and what would be a better example, so I (and others) can be sure we understand you better?


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Andrew Norris on October 18, 2005, 09:24:49 PM
Hi, all. I'd like to jump back to the subject of genre emulation for a minute.

Our group does "Just like in that movie..." constantly. Sometimes we're trying to evoke a theme or mood, say "This argument goes just like the one John Cusak has with Minnie Driver in Grosse Point Blank."

Most of the time, though, it's an effective shorthand. We can take a character, say "Think X from his/her role in Y", and it saves us having to go into detailed description. I usually load up an appropriate photo and display that before the game.  I find that especially useful, because detailed Exploration in terms of "What does this guy look like" bores the hell out of me.

I think I'm saying that "Just like in that movie..." is sometimes nothing like genre emulation.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Merten on October 18, 2005, 09:48:28 PM
Could it be that the major motivation of Sim play and game design is to cover up the fact that adults are enjoying "Play Pretend" by disquising the activity with tomes of rules?

I wouldn't dismiss this as untrue; I think it's a major contributive factor for the Sim play at least for me, sometimes with the tomes of rules, sometimes without them (though with unwritten rules, as it's been pointed out to me). The "Playing the house" reference Sydney pointed out makes sense to me; if (and this might be pretty exterme example) you're participating in a week-long LARP about being an inmate in prison, one could say that you are "Playing the prison" or "Play pretending to be a prisoner" and they would be right. Change the medium from LARP to tabletop roleplaying and there you go.

I'll make a bold statement (that, at this point, only addresses one narrow approach to Simulationism):

Simulationist play isn't about putting your character into situtation and watching what happens (player is being a third party and might be identifying with the character, but is foremost getting the kicks for being a player and playing a character), it's about being the character and getting a first-hand account on what happens and the feelings assosicated with it. Being a third party gives the player a safety net of not directly experiencing what the character experiences but identifying with it ("My character ordered them to be killed and I could identify with the feeling of power and lack of remorse my character probably had - but I'm not my character"), whereas being the character gives a safety net of not identifying (outside the game) with what the character does but experiencing it ("I ordered them to be killed and felt powerfull - and no remorse - but that was my character, not me as a player. I was my character during the play and afterwards, this chills me to the bone").

I think I'm semi-intentionally drifting towards a topic (Immersion) which was not supposed to be discussed.

Jukka, you're making tons of sense, and I think you understand the theory quite well. But what you're doing here is standing on the verge of betraying the entire nordic scene for one giant heap of dysfunction. That is, I could interpret what you're saying as most of the urge to play sim as a rejection of gamism such that it might breed Pawn stance (implausible play). Note, too, that I've never seen implausible narrativism play - the notion that players "force" their characters to do implausible things to make play "interesting" is absurd because, thematically, implausble things aren't interesting. I suppose a person could play a very post-modern game in which plausibility were cast aside to creat post-modern themes (and actually the game Court of Nine Chambers might actually intend that), but I've never seen it once in play.

Only on a verge of betraying my take on one clique of the Nordic scene as a giant heap of dysfunction - and even then, I'm pretty much disagreeing about the dysfunction. The nordic scene is a diverse one and a lot of it would happily dub the approach I'm stating as "fascist", "autist" or "Turku closet-play".

I'm again not completely following you (and this is probably me still not understanding the GNS) with the stances and implausible play. The way I see it, it's entirely plausible for character to miss out a "scene" of play by sitting in a closet because he is afraid, and it's entirely plausible for the player to do this, because he's experiencing the same fear the character does (or at least acknowledging it). The character might leap from the closet into a middle of dramatic scene because player wants to (author stance?) or because player feels that the character would do this because of something (actor stance?). The reasoning is not intresting to the other players since they assume the player knows what he is doing, though they also assume he's staying in the actor stance.

I guess I can see why this can be thought to be dysfunctional (there's no way to validate how the player came to the decision - it's not stated in any way, it just happens because the player/character wills it to happen), thought I don't personally see it as such. I don't know if this is relevant, but I've been having enormous problems to understand the GNS model because I find it hard to see some of the problems I think it's addressing - one of them being that the process of play I'm familiar with is terribly open for exploiting, but I fail to see this as a problem because exploiting does not happen (or I'm not noticing it). This is probably out of the scope of this discussion.

I don't know if there is such a thing as "implausible" narrativist play (I'm not very familiar with narrativist play - or at least, I've never identified it as such); for me as a player, it would be implausible to be playing a fearful character who would not run away from a violent confortation, because as a player I'd feel running away to be not intresting. "Forcing" this character to stay in place, overcome his fear and save the day would be plausible if the motivation to do so exists in the mental construction - if it doesen't, staying isn't really an option as the fear kicks in. "Forcing" the character to stay despite him not having a motivation to do so would be implausible, even if it might produce dramatic play - motivation to stay does not exist in the mental construction and I'd be violating my own mental construction if I'd "force" the character to stay.

However, running away is plausible because it contributes to the objective world description and because objective world description is thought to be more important goal than achieving dramatic play. So, a one session play might end shortly because there is no motivation for the characters to do anything - and this is a problem I've stumbled into from time to time. Is this assosicated with the pawn stance?

Anyhow, we're getting into definitions of illusionism and simulationism which, again, I want to avoid (my fault from starting to slip back that way). So if you want to continue this line of thought, please start a new thread and let me know so I can come over.  :-)

I'm trying to avoid slipping there, though I'm not sure if I'm actually heading straight there - I find it hard to express my thoughts without backing them up with lot's of background. If this message goes the wrong way, let me know, and I'll start a new thread from it.

In any case, thanks for taking the time and provoking my thought; I think I'm at least getting the GNS better now. :)


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: contracycle on October 19, 2005, 01:33:31 AM
Bob, yep, that's another goal, basically eliminating the appearance of GM influence by having the players be the drivers of all play, the GM "just playing the world." Related to Open Sim play. The idea being to obtain the ideal of the objective world, by making sure that the invisible hand of the GM is not only invisible, but actually pretty much inactive. Again, so that it's like the CRPG, where it's merely player choice driving where the character goes and what he does. There's the sticky question of whether or not putting "interesting stuff" in play is kosher or not, however. If I put in an NPC that has a need for doughty adventurers, is that manipulating the environment with drama in mind? Even if it's up to the PCs to find this NPC?

I'm confused.  In CRPG's player choice is minimal - you can only decide to use the pre-created paths.  So, the GM's hand is overtly visible and interventionist, much more so than TT RPG.  There literally is no possibility for appeal of imporoivisation, there is only that which has been pre-made.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Troy_Costisick on October 19, 2005, 03:12:24 AM
Heya,

Andrew Wrote:

Quote
I think I'm saying that "Just like in that movie..." is sometimes nothing like genre emulation.

Okay, this is important.  It can be easy to get confused about what it is we're saying when we are describing basic Emulation and Genre Emulation.  Read what Ron wrote here:

Quote
Hi Troy,

You're right, it [Genre Emulation] isn't inclusive enough. If genre emulation is the overriding priority, then it's Sim, but if it's Sim, there are lots of ways to play that aren't genre emulation.

And just to be terribly confusing, genre emulation as a supportive technique can be found in many G and N applications.

Just because someone says in a game, "Hey that's kinda like what Will Riker did in that Star Trek episode..." doesn't at all mean you are engaging in Sim play.  It's just color.  Someone is describing what someone or something else in the SIS is like. 

NOW, if someone in the group said, "I want to know what it would be like to be Will Riker (or someone in the same position as Riker) in a Star Trek episode," then that is Sim play. 

The difference is in the first case, the statement is just an adjective.  It's describing something else that just happens to be like an instance from a movie, TV show, book, whatever.  In the second statement, the overriding priority of the player is to experience something he has seen or read in another, outside source.  It is the second instance of play folks are describing as Genre Emulating Sim Play.  Not all Sim play is Genre Emulating.  My example of combat in Rolemaster and in TRoS are two examples of what I consider Sim mechanics, but they don't emulate a particular Genre of books, movies, or what-have-you.  They are Emulation of another sort.  Real World Emulation, if you will.

Make sense, Andrew? :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: jmac on October 19, 2005, 03:17:55 AM
Sorry for that "irrefragable", Mike. I'm using a dictionary quite often - not always sure what words people really use ;-)

Are those problems with ignoring the subjective significant in this topic, should we talk about them here or elsewhere?

I can't actually agree that "objective world" and "genre emulation" are qualitatively different.

It seems to me that exploring objective world is just emulation of a particular genre (like "realism" or something).
From certain point of view the difference is in quantity of deviation allowed from original material - static media or group stereotypes alone.

Other difference must be priority of genre...?

And again I feel very familiar with what are you saying, Jukka!
I want to comment this example with running away from threat or staying. It really seems right to run if character is a coward, but there are situations when ingame motives to stay are present and character is a coward and what would she do is not clear. What motives are used when "objective" stuff can't give you a clear answer?
Drama driven?
Dice?
Player's personal motives? (you know, player owns her character in some way)
Maybe genre elements have to show themselves in such situations? (I choose this one)


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Troy_Costisick on October 19, 2005, 03:36:46 AM
Heya,

Quote
It seems to me that exploring objective world is just emulation of a particular genre (like "realism" or something).


And this is why the word "genre" is troublesome word.  Check the Provisional Glossary.  I wouldn't get bogged down in trying to define what Genre is.  I plan on just focusing on the topics already raised in this thread :)

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: jmac on October 19, 2005, 03:52:12 AM
Troy, genre here is used as thing to be emulated in "genre emulation".

I have no intent on discussing any term. My proposion is to determine meaning of a word (even (potential) term) by context it is usen in.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Wormwood on October 19, 2005, 04:46:29 AM
Well in the interests of Mike's original call for other styles roughly within Sim:

Fire and Forget Play - Players construct characters (or potentially other explorable elements) with a particular goal (usually a series of situations or a particular long term goal) in mind and attempt to play them wholly consistently, and yet achieve that goal. Sometimes this is successful, and often it is not. This is essentially exploration of the character construction mechanics of the RPG.

Game-Focused Play - Players seek to use certain subsystems frequently, slowly refining their tactics. Their fundamental goal is to better understand and use those subsystems. This is simple exploration of the play mechanics of the RPG.

(While both of these styles refer to mechanics, these need not be explicit mechanics. They are perfectly valid approaches to "rules-light" and "freeform" types of RPGs, if anything they become more distinctive when applied to those types of games.)

What is interesting about these two styles is that if they were subordinate to "step on up", they would find themselves as Gamist styles, but inherently they possess no requirement for the social structure of "step on up". Instead, they focus on procedural exploration, rather than objective world, genre emulation, and character channelling which focus primarily on declarative knowledge exploration.

I do not think it is an accident that Sim seems to contain nearly every category of play that focuses primarily on the declarative or procedural learning via play. That may be a less trivializing way to say that these styles are in essence playing pretend, or it may imply something deeper, take your pick.

  - Mendel S.




Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 20, 2005, 08:05:02 AM
Whoa, lots to respond to. Meaning we're looking very much like we need other threads at this point.

Bob (and those responding to Bob's line of reasoning), you're making an interesting point. But it's about the sort of stuff that I really wanted to avoid in this thread. So start a new thread linking back to this one, and we can go on with that discussion with what might become a very long thread on it's own.

Sydney, same reply as to Bob above. I'd love to talk sub-modes of sim, or whether these represent something more like their own modes, but not here. Start a new thread. Very important.

Any discussions of the term Genre Emulation should go to a new thread. For purposes of continuing with that here, people can use the term, and should just realize that it has whatever local meaning assigned to it in this thread. So if four people define it as a different tecnique or goal or whatever in four different ways, that's OK here. Just so long as they define their use or refer to somebody else's definition. I think there are possibly several things that could be called genre emulation that are germain to this discussion.

Andrew, is that non-genre emulation "sim related" or just discussion related to Genre Emulation. If the former, explain how, and it should stay. If the latter, then it should go in either the Genre Emulation thread, or it's own thread.

Ivan, the whole "ignoring the subjective" is pretty pertinent here in terms of it saying a lot about this stuff, but I think it's such a complex topic that it should have a thread of it's own as well.

Jukka, my fault on this one, I've allowed myself to get sucked into the whole "what's Nordic Sim?" discussion, which has become one about potential dysfunction. Let's move that to another thread, and hopefully we'll get some other people from the scene to post some rebuttals. Don't want that to become one sided.

For all of these new threads, feel free to post links in this thread saying "The subject X has been continued here {URL}." If you don't do that, or don't inform me (or anyone else involved in said disucssion) that you've started a new thread, don't be surprised if we miss them.


OK, on to some specifics that should stay here.

Henry, I think that part of the problem with identifying "channeling character" is precisely that I think that it's not simply exploration of character. That is, what you describe is exploration of character, and channeling is also exploration of character, I just think that the channeling goes beyond what you describe. Basically at the point you start any negotiations about potential options that the player has to play the character more interestingly, plausible selections, this shows player motive. Even if done internally, you're no longer channeling, but more overtly controling the character actions.

For instance, one of the things that seems interesting to me about people who really channel is that when if you ask them if they could have had the character to any other thing than what they had the character do, the answer is no. That is, for a channeller they percieve one and only one decision as the only decision the character could have made.

Now this is why it's so easy for people to call this "My Guy" play. Because, if you're not also channelling the character (and it's probably not possible to share a character this way), then as an observer you're likely to note all sorts of plausible routs that the character could have taken. So if you say, "Why didn't you fight the bad guy?" and the other person says, "Because the character just wouldn't do it" that sounds like the player is "hiding behind the character."

If, in fact, channeling is an honest activity, then what the player is really saying is, "If I made any other decision for the character, it wouldn't have seemed to me like it was coming from the character." In fact, I think that possibly the feeling that players have that there is only one possible thing that a character could have done in a particular situation is a strong part of what makes the character seem independently real to the channeller. If the player takes any time to weigh options in terms of what the player likes, then the player feels that they are creating the character, and the illusion of independence is broken.

Ivan, the one thing you're talking about that's still really on topic is the "I am the character" idea. This is, I think closely related to, if not the same thing as, channelling the character. The channelling player knows that he's creating an internal illusion - the player is not crazy thinking that the character is other than a fictional construct. But it's precisely the understanding of this illusion that makes the player feel that they have "become" the character. That is, the decisions made by the character might be quite uncharacteristic for the player. But rather than this creating a sense of separation from the character, the fact that the player can't discern his own motives in the process of creating the decision for the character, that instead it seems as if the character's decisions were coming from a thought process all of it's own inside the player's head, makes the player feel that he has "become" that other person. Yes, I am making the decisions, but I'm making them as my character would, not as I would. So I have become the character in some senses.

Again, I think this relates to the concept of Immersion (but, again, take it to another thread if you want to investigate this further).


Jukka, on the subject of plausibility. No, doing something plausible never itself makes for dysfunctional play, and I'm not sure how you get that idea. I've said over and over, that plausibility is a requirement for most styles of play, not just sim ones. In fact, I'd posit that plausibility is only not a complete requirement for Pawn Stance Gamism play. Or for the theoretical Post Modern Narrativism.

Where play becomes potentially dysfunctional is when a player decides from amongst several plausible actions to take ones that are only interesting to him. And further, this is only dysfunctional to the extent that the other players have agreed to try to be entertaining to each other. That is, if we've agreed to be entertaining in thematic ways to each other, then hiding in a closet to avoid a fear when the character could equally plausibly decide that today is the day that they face their fears, might be a dysfunctional choice.

Again, I don't want to get into how this relates to the Nordic scene any more here, all I'm saying is that I think that there are places where players seem to demand both the right to channel, and want drama, and that the combination seems pretty impossible. Standard sim/nar incoherence.


Gareth, the "set nature" of a CRPG as some pre-existing world, indeed the feeling that any fictional world has some objective reality is a fiction. This is a point that I keep trying to make, but somehow people keep missing. Yes, the "hand of the designer" is everpresent in a CRPG in a very limiting way. But since the designer is not present, and the world does not change to any human whim, it's a very good way of maintaining the illusion of an objectively real world. For some people. As Sydney points out, for some people it'll have completely the opposite effect.

But as annectodal evidence, it works very well for me. I can completely drop out of reality and into the world of a first person shooter, if I turn out the lights in the room. The sense that I'm in the game and discovering a real world becomes very, very intense. And that's in part because there's no human relating it to me, but just a direct sensory input. Again, it's the human doing the relating, and the visibility of them showing their motives in creation that damages this illusion. For some.


Mendel, haven't heard from you in a while, welcome back. :-)
I'm not particularly seeing the distinction you're making between Fire and Forget, and channeling, other than perhaps the agreement to only work the character through one pre-set motive. Not too different than the idea in LARP of agreeing to the fictional situation (or, indeed, in any RPG play of agreeing to situation). So what's unique about his that I'm not getting?

I agree that exploration of mechanics is a very sim related activity, but I've heard others say that it's Zilchplay, or even anti-sim play. I'd like to hear what people think about that. I think the argument is something like "since the mechanics can only be a metagame description of the world, examining the mechanics can't be exploration of the world itself." But I probably have that wrong in some way.

As to the closeness of these to gamism, this is a very interesting subject. One is tempted to say that a rejection of exploration of mechanics and system as sim is protecting against sim-gamism dysfunction. That is, I'd agree with Ron's assessment that when the opportunity for gamism is present, it's hard to resist, and may "take over." But I think that presumes mechanics that are predisposed to gamism, which has always historically been the case. The opposing argument is that it's not fear of gamism at all, here, but that you can't do anything at all but play a game with mechanics, so they're automatically gamism or at least distracting from sim. Or, again, something like that, which somebody else will have to explain in more correct detail.

Thanks, everyone, good discussion.
Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Lance D. Allen on October 20, 2005, 08:47:28 AM
I'm going to try to respond coherently to a few points in Mike's last post...

First, an example of "Channeling Character" from my own experiences. I think maybe I've cited this one in past discussions, so bear with me if you've seen this before.

The character is Tiberius Darklaw, an ex-bounty hunter, utter fanatic about law and order who has crossed a line and become himself a vigilante. He's at least a little crazy at this point because he knows what he does is unlawful, even as he's enforcing law on others. He's vicious, brutal, and had been referred to at least once as "The dark knight of Dreven" by other players in the FFRP community. The only thing that keeps him from going over the edge is the woman who, despite his mysogyny and suspicions, wormed her way into his heart. After a night when he hurt her trying to be playful (something he's not good at) he went into a dark rage and disappeared for days, hunting the streets for criminals. Next she saw him, he was gaunt and seemed barely human. He did not want to be with her because he feared that he'd only harm her again. At one point, her frustration got the best of her, and she stabbed him twice in the back. The way I saw it, the only response he had available was to assume that his one reason for clinging to life and sanity wanted no more part of him, so he went, wounded, into the darkest, most crime-infested part of the city, and waged war on what he found there.. And died of it.

The whole experience really angered me, because I felt I had no choice, if I was to play the character. He would push himself until he died, because he saw the world in absolutes, and there was no middle ground.

And now, responding to another point Mike made:

Quote
Basically at the point you start any negotiations about potential options that the player has to play the character more interestingly, plausible selections, this shows player motive. Even if done internally, you're no longer channeling, but more overtly controling the character actions.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with this. From my years in my old FFRP community, channeling the character was a big goal of live play, but there was a lot of negotiation. Part of this stems from the rule that each player has absolute authority over what can happen to their character; Another character cannot just come and kill their character without permission from the player. So to be able to allow the characters to interact and fight in a plausible manner without breaking from the "what my character would do" ideal, the players would frequently talk behind the scenes to set up the scenarios in such a way that their characters could do what they'd do naturally and all players involved would get what they wanted. What I'm trying to get at is that during any such negotiations, going against the character's decisions is never an option. I don't feel that purposeful drama and character channeling are exclusive, just difficult. While it does require you to get some distance, immediacy is not, I think, a requirement for character channeling. It is a requirement for immersion, but as you've stated, this is not that, and that isn't what's being discussed here.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Merten on October 20, 2005, 09:35:43 AM
Basically at the point you start any negotiations about potential options that the player has to play the character more interestingly, plausible selections, this shows player motive. Even if done internally, you're no longer channeling, but more overtly controling the character actions.

This, all the way to the My Guy play - I'm very much agreeing, both from the perspective of this is how I think channeling works and the perspective of how it could be thought as (and, potentially become) My Guy -play.

If, in fact, channeling is an honest activity, then what the player is really saying is, "If I made any other decision for the character, it wouldn't have seemed to me like it was coming from the character." In fact, I think that possibly the feeling that players have that there is only one possible thing that a character could have done in a particular situation is a strong part of what makes the character seem independently real to the channeller. If the player takes any time to weigh options in terms of what the player likes, then the player feels that they are creating the character, and the illusion of independence is broken.

When the focus is in Character Channeling, weighting options from players perspective might be considered to have negative effect on channeling; you are, so to speak, channeling the player to the character and overtaking the iniative from the character.

Furthermore, I think it might be quite common to try to stay from weighting options and try to do "rush decisions" for the fear of accidentally involving player perspective to the decision making. I'm not sure on this one; I think I've seen it happening. The harder the decision making comes, in terms of multiple choices and consequences of consequences, the harder it's not to let the player perspective to slip in and the illusion might break just for the fear of it breaking ("Is it me or my character John, now?").

Some players seem to be handling this just fine, though.

Where play becomes potentially dysfunctional is when a player decides from amongst several plausible actions to take ones that are only interesting to him. And further, this is only dysfunctional to the extent that the other players have agreed to try to be entertaining to each other. That is, if we've agreed to be entertaining in thematic ways to each other, then hiding in a closet to avoid a fear when the character could equally plausibly decide that today is the day that they face their fears, might be a dysfunctional choice.

Okay, I think I understand you now - and disagree, to some extent. That is, if the players have not agreed to be entertaining to each other, then taking the action which seems to be only intresting to the player (however he's internally reasoning this) is not dysfunctional. If they have agreed on entertaining and collaborative play then I'm pretty much in agreement that yes, taking an action intresting to the player and not intresting to other can be considered dysfunctional.

Again, I don't want to get into how this relates to the Nordic scene any more here, all I'm saying is that I think that there are places where players seem to demand both the right to channel, and want drama, and that the combination seems pretty impossible. Standard sim/nar incoherence.

Understood and agreed.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: jmac on October 20, 2005, 11:57:29 AM
I agree, that It's hard to analyze the decision making of character - which are her and which - mine. But, especially in moments of low tension, why can't character hesitate?

Feelings, emotions are shared - I can't separate mine from character's - that's for sure. Maybe this is the reason for that, very familiar, "rush to be sure" habit, Jukka is talking about. Emotional decisions are more sure to be characters, because there is a little of players own emotions during such play.

And about dysfunction caused by selfish player-character decisions - isn't this issue of unmatched or incompatible scope?
(discussed in the topic here) http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17279.0


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Marco on October 20, 2005, 01:40:53 PM
Simulationism is problematic. I don't think that I'm saying anything shocking there. There is little agreement on what it actually is, which I posit is due to the fact that there are some priorities out there that players have that they want to assign to simulationism in order that it seem more accesible as a mode of play. Rather that the definition of simulationism as "priority on exploration" somehow doesn't manage to cover what they see as actually occuring behind the scenes. Partly, it seems to me, because it's a behavioral observation, and doesn't get to the goals behind the activity.

I could go on and on (and in fact have before) about why I think these additions aren't really useful, but I'd rather try a new rout to understanding some of these issues. So let's set simulationism aside for a moment, and discuss related player motives and behaviors. Keep that in mind as you read. I'm not trying to define simulationism here (in fact, pretty much everything that I'm about to discuss is, to me, ancillary to the definition of simulationism), but instead to look at things that may be related to it.

(This is also probably related in some way to some people's understanding of the term Immersion, but I'm going to avoid that even more pointedly).
I think this post quoted here--and the rest of it is dead on. Highly immersive, highly world/character-is-objective play is very difficult to analyze in terms of player agenda (creative or otherwise). Its association with Sim is unfortunate since it leads to several contradictions*.

I agree, entirely, that OWD and Channeling Character (CC) has a kick to it. It always amazes me when people describe such play as schizophrenic ("but the character doesn't exist"). Even as a matter of player priorities, at the very least, OWD and CC can be equal with any other requirement for functional play (in fact, I am not happy if either the themes of my game are all screwy or I feel the world is decidely non-objective, or I am asked not to Channel Character for some reason).

-Marco
* If I want the experience of "being" Will Riker (Star Trek), I want to "be" Will Riker doing something in an objective universe. For this experience to happen, I have to feel that the world is not being made-up on the fly. I need to feel that there are good and bad choices available to me. I have to feel that I can do things that may make the experience less interesting since I want to be empowered to (also) make the game more interesting (i.e. I do not need/want a guarantee that no matter what I do the world will warp itself to present more complexity. If I come up with a boringly expedient way to resolve a problem, I expect it to work as it would in an objective world and then we'll move on to the next one). Equally importantly, I want to do the sorts of things Will Riker usually does.

What kinds of things does he usually do? Well, let's see: he tackles a lot of moral and societal issues and makes a buncha decisions about them and takes actions on them (often from a position of high empowerment).

What kind of play would you generally call that?


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mark Woodhouse on October 20, 2005, 06:14:32 PM
If I want the experience of "being" Will Riker (Star Trek), I want to "be" Will Riker doing something in an objective universe. For this experience to happen, I have to feel that the world is not being made-up on the fly. I need to feel that there are good and bad choices available to me. I have to feel that I can do things that may make the experience less interesting since I want to be empowered to (also) make the game more interesting (i.e. I do not need/want a guarantee that no matter what I do the world will warp itself to present more complexity. If I come up with a boringly expedient way to resolve a problem, I expect it to work as it would in an objective world and then we'll move on to the next one). Equally importantly, I want to do the sorts of things Will Riker usually does.

What kinds of things does he usually do? Well, let's see: he tackles a lot of moral and societal issues and makes a buncha decisions about them and takes actions on them (often from a position of high empowerment).

What kind of play would you generally call that?

Trick question. As presented, it's perfectly Sim-y. All the referents are internal. Just because the object of emulation is one that is Premise-drenched, doesn't make the Premise itself the point of play. For that, you need to go after the premise purposefully, and because of how you, the player, feel.

It's a cute hypothetical - you're playing a simulation of a narrativist WORLD.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Troy_Costisick on October 20, 2005, 06:23:26 PM
Heya,

Quote
What kinds of things does he usually do? Well, let's see: he tackles a lot of moral and societal issues and makes a buncha decisions about them and takes actions on them (often from a position of high empowerment).

What kind of play would you generally call that?

-If we're talking about a player wanting to play a character who does all those things, I'd call it Narrativist.  If we're talking about a player wanting to play Will Riker to see how he would do all those things, I'd call it Simulationist play.  The difference is, in the first case the player is putting himself in those positions to examine the Premise on his terms.  In the second case, the player is putting Will Riker in that position to examine the Situation on Will Riker's terms.  And that's what separates the two styles in my mind.  Narrativist asks: what can I learn in this situation?  Simulationist asks: What would it be like to be X (in this case Riker) in this situation?

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: M. J. Young on October 20, 2005, 06:53:12 PM
I'm afraid to comment on this thread, and I'm afraid not to comment, and for the same reasons. I have a very clear idea in my own head what simulationism is and what motivates it. I don't want to make the thread about what simulationism is, but I don't want to watch a lot of floundering discussion that could be focused by a bit of input.

In any event, Mike wants to discuss what I think are properly techniques commonly associated with some popular forms of simulationist role playing, and I'm going to offer my two cents on each of them.

Why do some simulationists want objective world design?

If I'm in a simulationist mode, I want the feeling that I'm discovering something. That impression that this is "real" means that my choices matter to what I discover.

Remember, illusionist techniques are bad when they take from the player the power to make choices relevant to his creative agendum. Thus "no myth" and other create-on-the-fly strategies are a type of illusionism in this context. It means that I'm not really discovering what's there--you're making it up. If I choose the left fork, I want the possibility to exist that this leads somewhere other than the next scheduled encounter. I want there to be a world to discover, and not merely a travel guide to the highlights. In fact, if the left fork does lead to the next scheduled encounter, I want to believe that if I turned around and took the right fork, I would wind up somewhere else which would be interesting for a different reason.

My ability to discover the world is dependent on my impression that it is a world, something there to discover. Your decision to make it up as we go along undermines that. The more certain I am that this is already on paper somewhere, the more it feels like my choices are revealing new information about the world, and the less like you're spoon-feeding me whatever you want me to know next.

Why do some simulationists "channel" their characters?

The character is supposed to be a real person, even though I have created him. In play, I play that character as closely to what he "really would do" as I can. On one level, this reveals the character to me--as he moves through the world responding to things around him, I discover who he really is by following his personality wherever it leads. At the same time, I reveal him to the other players, so that they, too, can get to know this character.

In my old AD&D games we had a character category called "special character". The concept was that you could have a character who was part of the party but was included in play when you were not there. I, the referee, would play your character. Before I would allow a player to list his character as "special", he would have to have played him enough times in enough situations that I could begin to grasp who he was. In the same way that friends sometimes do caricatures of each other, I expected to be able to think and act like a character created by one of my players, because he had communicated to me what the character was like through the way he played it.

Thus there is a level of simulationist play that is about understanding how people think and act, and it is achieved by trying to play the character as accurately as possible.

Why do some simulationist players do genre emulation?

Sometimes it's really because they're frustrated narrativists, I think, and they believe that they'll get a story if they enforce genre conventions.

However, genre emulation is definitely in the simulationist camp in the sense that it is an effort to recreate an imagined reality from the inside. This is what it would be like to be a character in a hard-core private eye story, or a romance novel, or a space opera. It is not merely a change of setting and a channeling of character; it is a world in which the rules are bit different in ways that are not easy to define, but if we can make it happen we may well have begun to understand what those worlds are really like.

Why do simulationists want their individual perceptions of the imagined reality to match?

We are trying to become familiar with an imaginary world to such a degree that it will seem real. If the details one of us is imagining are out of synch with the others, that disrupts the reality to some degree, and makes it more difficult for us to get to know it.

The example of the flaming red hair is good, because it's entirely possible that I was told that but keep forgetting it, because my notion of "paladin" includes elements with which "flaming red hair" does not easily fit. Probably if flaming red hair is important to you, it's because it conveys something about this character that I'm missing in my perception (flamboyant, or emotional, or dynamic--all possible character traits for which red hair might be a cue). If I've missed that, possibly I don't understand the character, and that means our exploration of character is hampered by my failure to perceive this important aspect of yours.

Why do some simulationists manipulate game mechanics?

Mechanics frequently are game-world physics. Efforts to understand how the mechanics work in minute detail are the equivalent of doing science experiments to determine the rate of acceleration, effect of force, and similar aspects of the world. It's part of learning how the universe works.

It doesn't seem all that difficult to me; but then, Mike doesn't accept my definition of simulationism, despite that it provides the core motivation he says is absent from the agendum.

--M. J. Young


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: komradebob on October 20, 2005, 07:00:08 PM
If I want the experience of "being" Will Riker (Star Trek), I want to "be" Will Riker doing something in an objective universe. For this experience to happen, I have to feel that the world is not being made-up on the fly. I need to feel that there are good and bad choices available to me. I have to feel that I can do things that may make the experience less interesting since I want to be empowered to (also) make the game more interesting (i.e. I do not need/want a guarantee that no matter what I do the world will warp itself to present more complexity. If I come up with a boringly expedient way to resolve a problem, I expect it to work as it would in an objective world and then we'll move on to the next one). Equally importantly, I want to do the sorts of things Will Riker usually does.

What kinds of things does he usually do? Well, let's see: he tackles a lot of moral and societal issues and makes a buncha decisions about them and takes actions on them (often from a position of high empowerment).

What kind of play would you generally call that?

Trick question. As presented, it's perfectly Sim-y. All the referents are internal. Just because the object of emulation is one that is Premise-drenched, doesn't make the Premise itself the point of play. For that, you need to go after the premise purposefully, and because of how you, the player, feel.

It's a cute hypothetical - you're playing a simulation of a narrativist WORLD.

While I understand the reasoning here, this is the sort of thing that inevitably gives me a swooning headache when discussing GNS. It gives me an even bigger headache when I try to consider High Concept Sim, something that as I understand it often comes with built-in premises that could be addressed, premises that indeed have no "right" answer.

It also brings up questions about games like PTA and possibly Universalis...


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mark Woodhouse on October 20, 2005, 07:35:19 PM
It's a cute hypothetical - you're playing a simulation of a narrativist WORLD.

While I understand the reasoning here, this is the sort of thing that inevitably gives me a swooning headache when discussing GNS. It gives me an even bigger headache when I try to consider High Concept Sim, something that as I understand it often comes with built-in premises that could be addressed, premises that indeed have no "right" answer.

It also brings up questions about games like PTA and possibly Universalis...

Don't it just? PTA tries to steer for the N by specifying that it's about Issues, but it's really quite a little S machine if the players pick their Issues on genre-driven rather than Premise-driven grounds and throw around Fan Mail principally to reward nice bits of homage or appropriation.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Marco on October 20, 2005, 09:29:05 PM
Trick question. As presented, it's perfectly Sim-y. All the referents are internal. Just because the object of emulation is one that is Premise-drenched, doesn't make the Premise itself the point of play. For that, you need to go after the premise purposefully, and because of how you, the player, feel.

It's a cute hypothetical - you're playing a simulation of a narrativist WORLD.

I don't think so. I think that's the answer a lot of people want to be true--but textually (by the definition of Narrativism) it isn't. I might be playing a simulation of a world--but it isn't necessiarily Simulationist (GNS Simulationist) play. That's the disconnect.

That's the problem right there. If you need to see the words "Premise is the point of play" then that limits Narrativist play to people who read The Forge and use the terms. If I want to "be" Will Riker, doing the stuff Will Riker does--which means, most importantly, making the kinds of decisions Will Riker makes, then I am, defacto, addressing Premise (well, it depends on the episodes--I'm thinking of the one where he is chosen to prosecute Data for being property of Star Fleet and has to make decisions about whether/how he handles his loyalties--if all we get is Riker shooting at things, that's fine--but it's also not Next Generation). What's not crystal *clear* from my write-up is my own (the player's) connection to the world.

But I think that if the player's mindset is "I. Now. Calculate. What. Will. Riker. Would. Do." in a cool, mechanical fashion and has no visceral connection to the events in the game (which Riker certainly would have) then I agree, I think it meets the textual definition of Sim play. It may also meet the minimum definition of Channeling Character.

If, on the other hand, the player is experiencing a strong visceral connection to the imaginary events then I think the requirement for player interest in addressing premise is well satisfied. If the play runs like many/most of the Next-Gen scripts the play will be Nar.

I think that if you want to experience what it is like to "be" someone, the second is the experience you are shooting for. The first is what you do if you want to experience what it is like to "act" like someone. It's not surprising that there are several different approaches to actual movie/stage actors that are similar to these methods (early on Next Gen, the directors kept asking Michael Dorn--Worf--to tone down the anger. I'd guess he was closer to experiencing what it was like to "be" a Klingon than some of the others who've worn that makeup).

-Marco


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: jmac on October 20, 2005, 11:40:35 PM
About Will Riker and 'contradiction'.
I'm not sure if there is a problem if I play Will Riker only 'cause I'm interested in his choices or way of life. If I consider my own motives - "exploring" his choices _above_ his (character's) own motives - this can be wrong, because, for instance, if other players still play "sim", they expect me to act as Will Riker, not as myself exploring Will's decisions. If everybody changed their "mode" and such behaviour is acepted - ther is no problem either (but I hardly imagine such situation).

M.J., there is logic in your big list of "Why"s - I can't object it, but I, personally, am not able to distinguish such motivations in myself.


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: jmac on October 21, 2005, 12:32:04 AM
I created "ignoring the subjective"
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.0


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 21, 2005, 05:35:55 AM
Bah.

This thread just went south, guys. I'm not interested in explaining how.

Closed now. If you want sub-threads, start'em where they'd work best: in actual play.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 26, 2005, 01:48:10 PM
This, all the way to the My Guy play - I'm very much agreeing, both from the perspective of this is how I think channeling works and the perspective of how it could be thought as (and, potentially become) My Guy -play.
To be clear, My Guy play as I'm refering to it is the dishonest player saying that the only result that occurs to him to do is one that he knows will annoy another player (or players). And he uses the excuse "that's what My Guy would do!" to hide behind the character and not accept responsibility for his actions.

Quote
Okay, I think I understand you now - and disagree, to some extent. That is, if the players have not agreed to be entertaining to each other, then taking the action which seems to be only intresting to the player (however he's internally reasoning this) is not dysfunctional. If they have agreed on entertaining and collaborative play then I'm pretty much in agreement that yes, taking an action intresting to the player and not intresting to other can be considered dysfunctional.
We agree. Though I'll say again that I think an implicit part of the CA to be entertaining is hard to resist, it being a social activity after all.

Mike


Title: Re: Simulationism Aside
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 26, 2005, 01:50:42 PM
Whoops, totally missed that Ron had closed the thread. Anyhow, looking forward to the subthreads.

Mike