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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Peregrine on November 01, 2002, 03:09:01 AM



Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Peregrine on November 01, 2002, 03:09:01 AM
Hi all

This may be a very bad idea, and I've been warned off by others who've done similar, but: I have significant issues with the GNS paradigm.

Let me expand and discuss the matter. All replies and explainations will be welcome. My tone here may get a little heavy handed, purely a result of slipping into my thesis-writing mode, so no insult is intended to anyone present.


When first I read the various articles and threads on GNS I found it very enlightening. Of course, I thought to myself, that makes sense. It is the first theory of gaming that has genuinely seemed to cover all the bases. Someone has had a real stroke of genius here.

But, the more I've thought about it, the more I've played of late, the more that... well my observations are begining to errode any faith in the paradigm. So first, I'll outline my understanding of the paradimg, which may be utterly erroneous, wherein the problem may lie. Then I will discuss some observations and hopefully have some feedback...

The parqadigm (and aparadigm it is: a theory can be conclusively refuted by experimentation) seeks to categorize the rewards that player's seek from a game-experience. This revolves around three basic concepts. None of these are mutally exclusive. One may enjoy all three to varying extents.

Narrativist: A narrative player enjoys co-creating a story. Theme, and plot are highly important to this mode of play.

Simulationist: A simulationist player enjoys exploring a internally believable (but not necessarily realistic) world. What Tolkine called sub-creation is probably important to this mode fo play: that ll things make sense in the context of the invented world.

Gameist: A gameist player enjoys challenges, problems and in partiular the chacne to 'win' something. To the best of my understanding a Gamest mode of play requires a competetive set of rules/method of play.

Tautology
Tautology is a case in which a definition is defined by itself. There are some famous tautologies in pop-culture. Take for example this famous, but scientifically highly erronous tautology:

Natural selection is the survival of the fittist.

What are the 'fit'. Those that survive.
What sruvives: That that are selected by nature.

QED: The statement means nothing. No evolutionist worth his salt today would use this line. You would be laughed at. The infamous line is indeed not even present in the Origin of the Species. Refer to both Dawkins and Gould if you don't believe me.

So, my first concern is this. The categories are tautologgies. What does a narrativist enjoy? Narrating. What does a simulationist enjoy? Simulating. What does a Gamist enjoy? Playing games. None have an external definition, from which we can extrapolate the fundamental features of any given mode of play.

As a very basic level the theory appears to mean something to the casual observer, but it tells us only that these categoies may exist, not what they are or how to recognize them.

This, may of course have been addressed in more recent threads and essays with which I am not familiar. nIf so,m please refer these to me...

My second issue with the GNS paradimg is one of a more observational sort. There are certain, (admittedly over-simplified but prevelent) archetypes of players that we are all familair with. These players pursue personal enjoyment in a way that becomes obvious to the point of obnoxiousness to other players. These archetypes, however, do not appear to fit well in the GNS system.

Let me explain:

The Munchkin: I will define this as a player who seeks to exploit loopholes in rules and setting at the point of character creation. This behaviour, however, often appears in the absence of an obvious competetive structure - unless the rules themselves are considered something that the player is trying the 'beat' then this mode of play does not fall into any of the GNS categories. Indeed I do not think that the Munchkin is trying to beat the rules, as it is often th case that a munchkin player prefers games in which it is easier to find loopholes and twist rules. He is not enjoying the challenge, he is enjoying the result, and whether that reuslt will help him 'win' in gameplay is to all intents and purposes often irrelevant.

The Rules Layer: I will define the rules layer as a player who enjoys demonstating an extensive knowledge of the rules: sometimes to his advantage, sometime sto his detriment in gameplay. Enjoyment here seems to stem from a meeting of a psychological urge to demonstate mental prowess. Again there is no challenge structure as two rules layers seldom compete to demonstate the best understanding of the system. If they do it is often in a way that appears to be mutal psychological reassurance, and reinforcing rather than symbolic combat.

Power Gamer: I will define this as a player who seeks to increase the social, physical, magical, political power of their character in setting, in game-play, often to no obvious ends. The power gamer may be doing this in order to exert social control over other players, but more often it is the case that the power gamer is simply attemtping to address his or her own issues of ego and self-image.

Escapist Gamer: I will define a chaos gamer as a player who seeks to lead a life in game setting, which he or she is either unable or unwilling to dabble in in Real Life. This can be as simple as a meek, bookworm playing a chaotic evil barbarian, or as complex as a politaclly minded person playing a character who leads a campaign to free the serfs.

Disruptionist Gamer: I will define a disruptionist gamer as a player who actively seeks to disrupt or destory a game world, setting, or other characters with no apprarent reward for his or her own character. A character who polymorphs into a dragon in the middle of a town square for no evident purpose, or a character who opens up with an M16 in a crowded McDs for no apparent reason, or a character who actively robs fellow player characters of items his cahracter does not want or need, falls into this category.

These are all I can dredge up for now, but I can probably recall more...

It is perfectly possibly to take each of these cases, and bring up specific cases in which a power gamer was only seeking in-game power for the purpose of competing in a game, rather than for the passing of his/her own ego. But, it is not (I believe) possibly to apply the GNS aparadigm to these observed modes of play in an all encompasing and coherent way.

It is also possible to argue that all of these modes of play are in some way 'dysfunctional'. It may be true that the modes of play may be highly anti-social, when practised to an exreme, but this does not remove their validity as actual and observable modes of play.

Summary

What I would like to have addressed here is...

1) The apparent tautology inherent in the GNS paradigm.

2) The apparent inability of the GNS paradimg to explain the above mentioned modes of play, in particualr those that appear to result in social and or egotistical rewards.

Thank you for you time taken to read this

Chris


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on November 01, 2002, 04:35:58 AM
I think that much of you misconception arises from the fact that you view GNS as labeling devices for personality types. Let me quote from the essay:

Quote
Much torment has arisen from people perceiving GNS as a labelling device. Used properly, the terms apply only to decisions, not to whole persons nor to whole games. To be absolutely clear, to say that a person is (for example) Gamist, is only shorthand for saying, “This person tends to make role-playing decisions in line with Gamist goals.” Similarly, to say that an RPG is (for example) Gamist, is only shorthand for saying, “This RPG’s content facilitates Gamist concerns and decision- making.” For better or for worse, both of these forms of shorthand are common.

It's very common that people come and say: In my group there are three Narrativist Players, one Gamist and two Simulationists. Ok, maybe not that spread but what the heck.

The problem is that such labeling is of very dubious value. If we instead translate Gamist as "This person tends to make role-playing decisions in line with Gamist goals" it becomes much clearer that it's not a definition of a personality type, but a kind of play this person likes. And there's a lot of difference in that.

If you work on getting better because you want to be better than the other players' characters or want to survive the dungeon the GM made, then those might be gamist priorities. However, you might also not want to make a character with only weapon skills. That might be sim or gamist. It's gamist if you think that spreading your skills will give you better odds for later, whereas it's sim if you think spreading your skills would be more in line with what the character ought to have to make sense. And it can even be narrativist if you think that by choosing a skill you'll get a chance to play out the conflict a certain skill combination might imply.

I think it's very unfortunate that the GNS easily comes out as a labeling device when it's more of like colours made from RGB. Pretty much nothing is just RED, GREEN or BLUE. You can say that a colour has more red than another colour, and maybe a certain pixel is more red than another. But it doesn't make the pixels either Red, Green or Blue.

If we continue this (dubious) colour analogy, we can see "Exploration is fundamental" as saying "black is not a colour but lack of it". And say that making a "white" game is probably impossible. We could even draw parallells about how different wavelengths are bent differently by lenses and such. :) But I'll try to avoid it. :) Ooops.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Matt Machell on November 01, 2002, 05:20:04 AM
It seems that you're trying to match each of the three modes with a person. But one person can shift between G, N and S. Depends on the day, depends on the game. The G, N and S define the player's reason for making choices in an instance of play, not a consistent attitude to play.

One day I might play Bedlam (which is horribly competitive), one day I might play Sorcerer (to tell a story).

-Matt


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Christoffer Lernö on November 01, 2002, 05:40:40 AM
Hear hear! Excellent point Matt. This is also a thing that's easily missed when reading the essay. In fact, when you read the essay it's easy to think you understood stuff, but then it turns out that all the meaningful things were in the fine print.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Peregrine on November 01, 2002, 07:26:45 AM
Matt wrote...

Quote

It seems that you're trying to match each of the three modes with a person. But one person can shift between G, N and S. Depends on the day, depends on the game. The G, N and S define the player's reason for making choices in an instance of play, not a consistent attitude to play.

One day I might play Bedlam (which is horribly competitive), one day I might play Sorcerer (to tell a story).


Hmmm, I think we may be missing the basic tenet of the argument.

It is, to all intents and pruposes, irrelevant whether a person IS gamist or in certain circumstances MAKES GAMEIST DECISIONS. This almost like arguming whether or not a person is the sum of his or her actions. For the sake of simplicity assume all of my Archetypes to by hypothetical 'pure-creatures' who would not exist in the real world.

My argument is: the three modes of decision making (if you will) do not account for all modes of decision making I have observed. Aslo, the three modes of decision making are defined by tautologies, and are thus, meaningless.

I will try to explain...

Quote

Much torment has arisen from people perceiving GNS as a labelling device. Used properly, the terms apply only to decisions, not to whole persons nor to whole games. To be absolutely clear, to say that a person is (for example) Gamist, is only shorthand for saying, “This person tends to make role-playing decisions in line with Gamist goals.” Similarly, to say that an RPG is (for example) Gamist, is only shorthand for saying, “This RPG’s content facilitates Gamist concerns and decision- making.” For better or for worse, both of these forms of shorthand are common.


I understand this and it does not relate to my argument. If it helps:

John is sitting at a games table. He sometimes, under certain circumstances will refute the GMs rulling on an in-game situation, by quoting the rules from the book.

Sometimes these refutes help his character. Othertimes they do not. There is no competetive element to this behaviour: it does not appear to be motivated by gamist goals.

Sometimes these rules make good sense in the context of the world. Othertimes the GMs decision makes better in-world sense (even to John, who has admitted this). There appears to be no simulationist motivation for his decision to quote rules.

His quoting of rules seldom adds to or subtracts frrom the story. Again, there appears to be no narrativist elements coming into play in his decision.

And yet, it is an observable behaviour. He is doing this, and would not being doing this if he were not recieving some form of social, economic, or phsycological reward (perceived or real) in so doing.

You can rephrase all of my hypothetic arcetypes into to this form of (rather convulted) situation.

The behaviour I have observed in many players does not appear to derive from decision made in pursuit of ANY of the GNS goals, semantics aside. Does this mean that most of my players generally make egotisitcal, often illogical, often chaotic in-game decisions?

perhaps, but as they appear to represent a majority, I believe any peradigm of gaming should take account of these particualr types of decision making.

Now as for the Tautology argument. Let me approach this in a different way. I have stated that (for instance) the Narrative mode of play, as defined by GNS is a meaningless concpet because the concpet fails to define what narration actually is. We are told merely that a narrative descion in a game is in pursuit of narration.

So let me first define: what is narration?

A satisfying story (repesenting about 99% of what is published toady, and 99% of what has been told around the campfire since we first banged rocks together) can be broken down into a single fromulaic statement. Quoting Marion Zimmer Bradley:

Quote

THE ELEMENTS OF THE SHORT STORY

Most short stories work on some variation of the following (so do most novels, but the novel works at a different speed):

A LIKABLE CHARACTER overcomes ALMOST INSUPERABLE ODDS and BY HIS OR HER OWN EFFORTS achieves a WORTHWHILE GOAL.


There are of course exceptions to this rule. Also quoting Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Quote

Writers who ignore this formula, either out of ignorance, or because they honestly believe that creative writing must not be bound by the demands of category or formula, usually end up as starving artists -- unless they are geniuses, in which case they would not need writing technique classes. They call their work literature, and rage against the public which does not recognize literary forms.


Let's hope no-one here is going to claim genius status by stating that their 'stories' do not share the basic elemnts of: character, adveristy, and resolution. By using this external defintion of what a story constitues then we can examine the defintion of 'Narrativist decision making' with more objectivity.

So, let us examine the narrativist style of play as defined by GNS. Now without meaning to pick fights let's get it straight from the horses mouth.

Ron Edwards wrote
Quote

Narrativism is expressed by the creation, via role-playing, of a story with a recognizable theme. The characters are formal protagonists in the classic Lit 101 sense, and the players are often considered co-authors. The listed elements provide the material for narrative conflict (again, in the specialized sense of literary analysis).


Keeping in mind that a narrative includes the elements: Characters, conflict and resolution.

Once we remove synomyns by adding an external definition and highlight important keywords the defintion becomes:

Quote

Narrativism is expressed by the CREATION, via role-playing, of an event including CHARACTERS, CONFLICT and RESOLUTION with a RECOGNIZABLE THEME. The CHARACTERS are formal PROTAGONISTS in the classic Lit 101 sense, and the players are often considered co-authors. The listed elements provide the material for CHARACTER, CONFLICT and RESOLUTION <based> CONFLICT (again, in the specialized sense of literary analysis).


From this we can conlude that the important elements condusive to a narrative mode of decision making are...

* That a narrative be present (see definition as given by MZB)
* That a recognizable theme is present
* That characters are present and that there are protagonists
* That (narrative) conflict is present

Of these elements all RPGs I have observed share the following...

* That characters are present and that there are protagonists
* That (narrative) conflict is present

Most have a narrative structure...

* That a narrative be present (see definition as given by MZB)

I would in fact argue that only those games which I have seen run by inexperienced GMs/players lack all the basic narrative structure: Characters, conflict, and resolution. Almost every game retains at least two of these.

This only leaves us with...

* That a recognizable theme is present

A theme is a message or idea which a story revolves around. It may be very obvious for instance in All Quiet on the Western Front, the theme is that young men - often tragically - die fighting old men's wars. One theme of Anna Karenina can be summed up by the opening paragraph (I paraphrase): All happy families resemble one another, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. Themes are often intended to teach us a lession. Aesop's fables are resplendant with these educational themes.

What this leaves us with the perculair conclusion that all narrative-based decision making in a game is geared only towards delivering a theme to the player. Nothing else in the definition is unique to the Narrativist definition.

Also, ironically player decisions that would lead a character (which a player likes), to be more likely to overcome insurmountable problems, with the express prupose of gaining a satisfying conlusion (i.e. the problem has to actually BE insurmountable. It cannot be created so that it can be defeated ala paper tigers), would be viewed as gamist by many GNS advocats.

Perhaps the Narrativist mode of decision making should be renamed Thematic?

Chris


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Valamir on November 01, 2002, 07:34:28 AM
Some of your problems may be oversimplification of the definitions.  This is a problem that many of us contribute to by using various short hand references.  Those of us familiar with the useage understand the short hand to include invisible caveats and foot notes.  Those not as familiar see only the short hand and can miss some of the real depth.  Solving this problem (or at least making progress towards the solution) is part of the glossary project now getting off the ground.

Further The three modes G, N and S should be understood to refer to types of decisions not styles of player.  A particular decision is a Narrativist decision.  "Narrativist Player" is not really a "real" term.  It is simply short hand for a Player who makes Narrativist decisions.

Nor should it be assumed that a "Narrativist Player" makes ONLY Narrativist Decisions.  Often times what makes for a Narrativist Session (i.e. a game session where Narrativist Decisions were featured) is not that the entire game session was full of Narrativist Decisions.  It is possible for the majority of the game to have been full of Simulationist Decisions.  Then at a critical juncture of the game, a decision is made that makes the session a Narrativist one.  For most of the game the Narrativist players were happily making Simulationist decisions because there was no conflict between what was a good Simulationist decision and what was a good Narrativist decision.  Check out this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1733&highlight=congruence) for a great discussion on this concept of GNS Congruence.

However there will come a point somewhere in the game play where the choices are no longer congruent.  That is, that there is a clear and distinct difference between what the "right" Simulationist choice is vs. the "right" Narrativist choice is (note well the " " around "right").  It is at this moment.  What Ron refers to as an Instance of Play, that the game session takes its flavor.

It is here that the Narrativist Players at the game demonstrate that they do, in fact, prioritize Narrativist Decisions over Simulationist ones.  Thus even in a game where the vast majority of decisions were S...the session and the players can be seen to be N.  When push came to shove and it made a difference they made a specific kind of decision.

Similiarly it is at these critical junctures that fall out between G, N, and S players occur.  The rest of the game session might have been happily enjoyable by all but it is this particular decision that will leave some players feeling disatisfied.

I think if you reread the essay with these points in mind you'll come up with a very different idea about the definitions of G / N / and S than you did below (and someday after slogging through a mountain of other projects Ron will no doubt rewrite the essay to make these points much more explicit...they're there now...you just really have to work to see them).

I'll leave the redefining to your own reading, but I did want to correct a couple of specifically incorrect ideas.

Quote
Narrativist: A narrative player enjoys co-creating a story. Theme, and plot are highly important to this mode of play.


Story, theme and plot are important to all modes of play.  Their existance does not point to Narrativism and it should not be assumed they are absent from Gamism or Simulationism.  What distinguishes Narrativism is that it involves making decisions that shine the spotlight on a narrativist premise.  You'll want to pay special attention to the section on Premise in the essay.  There are several different kinds of premise defined there, but it is the specific kind (where Egri is discussed) that applies to "N".


Quote
Simulationist: A simulationist player enjoys exploring a internally believable (but not necessarily realistic) world. What Tolkine called sub-creation is probably important to this mode fo play: that ll things make sense in the context of the invented world.


You'll want to read the section on exploration closely also.  All players generally enjoy what you describe here.  The mere presence of an internally consistant world or decisions made to keep the world believable are not a good litmus test for Simulationist preferences.  These things are one of the major areas of Congruence I mentioned above.  

The best way to understand Simulationism, I think is as follows.  The five building blocks of Exploration (setting, character, situation, system and color) are foundational to all GNS modes.  For G & N having a solid grounding in these building blocks allows the players to get to the point of G or N play.  For S players they are the point.

Quote

Gameist: A gameist player enjoys challenges, problems and in partiular the chacne to 'win' something. To the best of my understanding a Gamest mode of play requires a competetive set of rules/method of play.


Competitive is one of those words that has caused alot of ink (electrons?) to be spilt in debate.  Several people have certain very specific notions of what constitutes "competition", but the word as used in the essay actually encompasses a far broader range of possibilities than your definition allows for (leading some persons to say "but those things aren't 'competition'" and others to say "yes, when seen from this perspective you can see that they are".

To skip all of that, I feel the best way to understand a Gamist decision is as follows:  It occurs when the player uses the player's knowledge and abilities, and skill to enhance the character's effectiveness.  By this thinking you should easily be able to see how such things as "munchkin" players reside well within the definition of Gamism.  Although one should note that "munchkin" is a term generally applied by those who don't enjoy a particular (and valid) style of play in order to demonize the style.

So to summarize.  Your list of gamer types, while interesting, is really pretty irrelevant to what GNS is attempting to accomplish.  It is, as has been noted, not a labeling system.  The various psychological influences you note may well be valid observations.  But they exist in a "box" much larger (i.e. higher in the hierarchy) than what GNS is defining.

Ron will often describe portions of these theories as being the box within the box within the box.  I suspect much of what you identify below occupies one of the very largist boxes...that of the psychology of social interaction (in roleplaying or otherwise) GNS resides in a much smaller box nested several levels down from that concern.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Peregrine on November 01, 2002, 08:58:52 AM
Valamir

Excellent some feedback. I genuinely think is is an important debate to clear up - given that GNS is the dominant current paradimg/theory of gaming.

Anyway...

Valamir Writes...


Quote

Some of your problems may be oversimplification of the definitions. This is a problem that many of us contribute to by using various short hand references. Those of us familiar with the useage understand the short hand to include invisible caveats and foot notes. Those not as familiar see only the short hand and can miss some of the real depth. Solving this problem (or at least making progress towards the solution) is part of the glossary project now getting off the ground.


Thank you for helping with this. It is a perculair concept to cope with. However, I do understand this concept and I suppose am using the same shorthand.

Is a playern who makes gameist decisions a gameist player. Is he or she a sum of his actions. I leave that to better philosopher's to decied. My most recent post treats this with more delicacy, I refer to 'gameist decisions' or 'motivations' instead.

Quote

Nor should it be assumed that a "Narrativist Player" makes ONLY Narrativist Decisions. Often times what makes for a Narrativist Session (i.e. a game session where Narrativist Decisions were featured) is not that the entire game session was full of Narrativist Decisions. It is possible for the majority of the game to have been full of Simulationist Decisions. Then at a critical juncture of the game, a decision is made that makes the session a Narrativist one. For most of the game the Narrativist players were happily making Simulationist decisions because there was no conflict between what was a good Simulationist decision and what was a good Narrativist decision. Check out this thread for a great discussion on this concept of GNS Congruence.


Yes. Fine. Good points. But, I understand these already and these points are *not* a cornerstone of my argument.

Quote

It is here that the Narrativist Players at the game demonstrate that they do, in fact, prioritize Narrativist Decisions over Simulationist ones.


You know I'm about ready to give up. This is the problem. I am arguing that a sentance like that above is meaningless for two reasons:

1) The theory has no external defintions of what narrativist, simulationist and gameist decision making IS. The theory is a TAUTOLOGY. It is a circular definition that *appears* to hold water, but is in fact illusory.

2) There are psychological, social, egotisitcal rewards that I have *observed* gamers in games seeking that ARE NOT easily explained by the GNS theory.


Quote

Quote:
Narrativist: A narrative player enjoys co-creating a story. Theme, and plot are highly important to this mode of play.  


Story, theme and plot are important to all modes of play. Their existance does not point to Narrativism and it should not be assumed they are absent from Gamism or Simulationism. What distinguishes Narrativism is that it involves making decisions that shine the spotlight on a narrativist premise. You'll want to pay special attention to the section on Premise in the essay. There are several different kinds of premise defined there, but it is the specific kind (where Egri is discussed) that applies to "N".


Fine: Narrativism is making decisions that tend a game towards Narrativist play.

What is Narrativist play?

Narrativist play results from making narrativist decisions.

Can I make this any more clear. The basic, fundamental, underlying definition is circular. IT IS MEANINGLESS!

I am not arguing nuances here. I am arguing fundamentals. I am stating that unless someone can provide external measures for definiting what is Narrativist, Simulationist, and Gameist.

Quote

To skip all of that, I feel the best way to understand a Gamist decision is as follows: It occurs when the player uses the player's knowledge and abilities, and skill to enhance the character's effectiveness.


Fair enough. Good defintion. Now go back to my various achetypes described above. In those cases the behaviours I have observed cannot be definitely linked to ' the player using the player's knowledge and abilities, and skill to enhance the character's effectiveness.'

This allows us to conclude that in some but not all cases, Rules-layer, Munckin, Power gamer etc decisions is not based on a Gamesit desire to...  use the player's knowledge and abilities, and skill to enhance the character's effectiveness.'

The must be some *other* motivation at play. I now table to possibility that the other motivation, may not be reducable to 'narrativist' and/or 'simulationist' modes of decision making.


Quote

So to summarize. Your list of gamer types, while interesting, is really pretty irrelevant to what GNS is attempting to accomplish.


How so? My archetpyes are hypothetic examples of pure gamers using the same short hand you yourself use. Redefine them in your mind. Add the various addenums and notes. Then reasses whether or not they impact upon the GNS Theory.

I would argue they impact upon the GNS theory becuase the GNS theory cannot account for these forms of behaviour. Thus, as a thory pruporting to explain what players want out of games, it is fundamentally flawed.

Quote

GNS resides in a much smaller box nested several levels down from that concern.
[/QUUOTE]

Are you then stating that GNS acknowledges that is is reletively inconsequential as a theory of gaming? Would game desingers be better advised to take the more important and larger social concerns into consideration when desinging/writing/play testing a game.

*sigh*

Well, I am off to Ireland now for the weekend. I'll see if anyone has been able to address my two great questions at the end of the weekend, or indeed if anyone thinks I'm even making sense.

Chris


Title: Consider the Alternatives
Post by: Le Joueur on November 01, 2002, 09:02:27 AM
Hi Chris,

Good to see you posting.

As 'resident dissenter' to the GNS, I expect I should make a note or two about your text.

Quote from: Peregrine
Tautology
    Tautology is a case in which a definition is defined by itself. There are some famous tautologies in pop-culture. Take for example this famous, but scientifically highly erroneous tautology:

    Natural selection is the survival of the fittest.

    What are the 'fittest?' Those that survive.
    What survives: That which are selected by nature.[/list:u]
    QED: The statement means nothing.[/list:u]So, my first concern is this. The categories are tautologies. What does a Narrativist enjoy? Narrating. What does a Simulationist enjoy? Simulating. What does a Gamist enjoy? Playing games. None have an external definition, from which we can extrapolate the fundamental features of any given mode of play.

If you'd like to engage in reductio ad absurdum, try this:
    Narrativist enjoy focusing on their character's
role in the story.
Simulationists enjoy playing in the game world.
Gamists like to win the game.[/list:u]The problem isn't tautology; for example "survival" isn't "That which are selected by nature," it really does carry the connotation of 'not being killed' or defective.  If you attempt to reduce thus and therefore prove absurdism, you must abandon expected connotative inference.

But that's beside the point.  All you are really calling foul on is the terminology and what it seems to imply.  The terminology is an unfortunate heritage of paradigms from which GNS draws its roots.  GNS is also simply a theory, not the theory (and has never purported itself as such).

To add to Christoffer's point, the GNS has also clearly stated that its intention it to diagnose problem games.  This means it is not a guide to 'how to play,' but how to find out 'what went wrong.'  Likewise, its application is meant only for individual decisions actually made, not intentions, rationale, or style, just the actual concrete decisions (as viewed in hindsight considering a whole body of them, if I am not mistaken).  Given all that, it is definitely not meant to categorize other terms; even though there is some resemblance (more on that later).  Nor is it meant to "explain...modes of play."  That is not its purpose; if anything it was meant to describe modes of dysfunction.

Quote from: Peregrine
My second issue with the GNS paradigm is one of a more observational sort. There are certain, (admittedly over-simplified but prevalent) archetypes of players that we are all familiar with. These players pursue personal enjoyment in a way that becomes obvious to the point of obnoxiousness to other players. These archetypes, however, do not appear to fit well in the GNS system.

Let me explain
    The Munchkin
    I will define this as a player who seeks to exploit loopholes in rules and setting at the point of character creation. This behaviour, however, often appears in the absence of an obvious competitive structure - unless the rules themselves are considered something that the player is trying the 'beat' then this mode of play does not fall into any of the GNS categories. Indeed I do not think that the Munchkin is trying to beat the rules, as it is often th case that a munchkin player prefers games in which it is easier to find loopholes and twist rules. He is not enjoying the challenge, he is enjoying the result, and whether that result will help him 'win' in gameplay is to all intents and purposes often irrelevant.[/list:u]
    The Rules Lawyer
    I will define the rules layer as a player who enjoys demonstrating an extensive knowledge of the rules, sometimes to his advantage, sometime to his detriment in gameplay. Enjoyment here seems to stem from a meeting of a psychological urge to demonstrate mental prowess. Again there is no challenge structure as two rules layers seldom compete to demonstrate the best understanding of the system. If they do it is often in a way that appears to be mutual psychological reassurance, and reinforcing rather than symbolic combat.[/list:u]
    The Power Gamer
    I will define this as a player who seeks to increase the social, physical, magical, political power of their character in setting, in game-play, often to no obvious ends. The power gamer may be doing this in order to exert social control over other players, but more often it is the case that the power gamer is simply attempting to address his or her own issues of ego and self-image. [/list:u]
    The Escapist Gamer
    I will define a chaos gamer as a player who seeks to lead a life in game setting, which he or she is either unable or unwilling to dabble in, in Real Life. This can be as simple as a meek, bookworm playing a chaotic evil barbarian, or as complex as a politically minded person playing a character who leads a campaign to free the serfs.[/list:u]
    The Disruptionist Gamer
    I will define a disruptionist gamer as a player who actively seeks to disrupt or destroy a game world, setting, or other characters with no apparent reward for his or her own character. A character who polymorphs into a dragon in the middle of a town square for no evident purpose, or a character who opens up with an M16 in a crowded McDs for no apparent reason, or a character who actively robs fellow player characters of items his character does not want or need, falls into this category.[/list:u][/list:u]

The funny part is I have to disagree.  These actually do fit the GNS paradigm; in fact the way they do underscores its operation as a diagnostic tool.  The principle use of GNS in diagnosis of dysfunction is that its primary point is that clashing GNS modes cause dysfunction.

For example, "The Munchkin" as you describe is a Gamist in an environment not conducive to their interests.  Lacking game structures to present, moderate, or reinforce the types of challenges desired, they engage in behaviors that conflict with the rest of the group and are therefore branded with this pejorative term.

As far as 'demonstrating knowledge,' "The Rules Lawyer" isn't really any archetype of player.  As I've heard it used, these 'knowledge demonstrations' are timed to cause disruption for the sake of 'playing by the rules,' but actually to work things either to the benefit of the "Lawyer" or to the detriment of anyone else (spouting rules for no reason isn't worth mentioning as everyone does that).  This kind of player-versus-player competition is clearly of a Gamist sort, but smacks of not being between Gamists and thus dysfunctional.

I'm not sure how you miss the 'acquisitions' of "The Power Gamer" as anything but competition between the player and other players or the setting; that seems quite clearly Gamist to me as well and again, outside of a group of similar players is dysfunctional.

I also don't see how you don't recognize the Simulationist in your description of "The Escapist Gamer."  Certainly they are enjoying Exploring either Character ("chaotic evil barbarian") or Setting ("lead a life in game setting") and often at the expense of Thematic or Challenge issues.  In that absence, they become a detriment to a groups gaming and GNS makes this manifest for everyone's enjoyment.

I can't imagine why you identify "The Disruptionist Gamer" as an archetype.  This is clearly an act of rebellion and antithetical to fun making it dysfunctional.  Any of the GNS mode adherents can become disruptive in the face of priorities they simply can't empathize with.  No paradigm of functional gaming need include dysfunctional archetypes, so there isn't much point in covering this one.

Quote from: Peregrine
It is also possible to argue that all of these modes of play are in some way 'dysfunctional'. It may be true that the modes of play may be highly anti-social, when practiced to an extreme, but this does not remove their validity as actual and observable modes of play.

I disagree.  If we focus only on the observation of a behavior in its worst form, it will not tell us much.  As I pointed out, a paradigm to describe functional play (which is borderline GNS at best) cannot and should not include dysfunctional archetypes.  Look at it this way, turn these dysfunctional stereotypes on their heads; imagine what they do when not being disruptive or acting as a 'square peg in a round hole.'  What are they ideally engaged in?  How do their games work when the group in unified by its similarity of interest?  Only from this can you build a paradigm for functional gaming.

Quote from: Peregrine

What I would like to have addressed here is...[list=1]
  • The apparent tautology inherent in the GNS paradigm.
  • The apparent inability of the GNS paradigm to explain the above-mentioned modes of play, in particular those that appear to result in social and or egotistical rewards.[/list:o]
I'll go you one better, how about we acknowledge the limitations of the GNS as a theory, made specifically for diagnostic purposes, for identifying decisions and consider a broader model?

I have done a lot of work clarifying a self-selection model to help people identify what sorts of gaming they desire to proactively avoid dysfunction.  I break it down to four Approaches to gaming; Avatar, Swashbuckler, Joueur, and Auteur (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1662) (use this link to review the model).  It not only goes into the specific Approaches, but talks about how Self-Conscious (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1662) the play of the game is and how much sharing takes place (Self-Sovereign, Referential, and Gamemasterful (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1662)).  I take this a step farther when I discuss how Ambitious these Approaches can be (Ambitious, Intentional, and Passive (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2142)).  Your archetypes sound like a clash between an Ambitious Approach and a group who subscribes to a different Approach engaging in name-calling.

Since this is ostensibly a discussion of the GNS, if you're interested in discussing alternatives, I invite you to start up a different thread (in RPG Theory) with questions or complaints about any of the alternatives.

Fang Langford


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 01, 2002, 09:22:20 AM
First, Chris, Ralph obviously cross posted with you. He coudn't have read your last post written all that and posted it in a matter of 8 minutes.

To address your more important points, GNS does not claim that these three decision making forms are the only reasons that anyone makes any decision. Far from it. Any particular decision may have a plethora or reasons for which it was made, including that the player saw something on Oprah today that made him think of it (and I'm not going to accept Oprahism).

Further, Ron and I (but not Ralph and others) claim that GNS is not about motivations at all. That it merely describes the decision making behaviors.

In addition, I don't believe that GNS even states that all decisions must be of a G or N or S sort. That is, certain decisions can in fact not be Any of the three.

What GNS does say is that players often (even usually) make decisions that are at least in part one of the three sorts, and that this is important because of the fact that they are mutually exclusive. And as such, certain play, mechanics, etc, which are likely to suport such play or detract from such play may be desired, or undesired. Etc.

As to your other point, there is no tautology except as is found in shorthand usage. This is not to just repeat the above, but to say that, yes, if someone says that NArrativist play is about making narrativist decisions, that you are correct that in this case they hav created a tautology. But if you look at the definition in the essay, you will see that in fact all three modes are defined much better and in depth. Narrativism, also known as Narrativist play, or making Narrativist decisions is identified by particular player decisions that are made in such a way as to address a question raised by the game that has a moral weight to it. The other modes have similar definitions.

How are they circular?

Mike

Edited to note that I cross posted this with Fang's post.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Valamir on November 01, 2002, 10:03:58 AM
Quote from: Peregrine
Quote

It is here that the Narrativist Players at the game demonstrate that they do, in fact, prioritize Narrativist Decisions over Simulationist ones.


You know I'm about ready to give up. This is the problem. I am arguing that a sentance like that above is meaningless for two reasons:

1) The theory has no external defintions of what narrativist, simulationist and gameist decision making IS. The theory is a TAUTOLOGY. It is a circular definition that *appears* to hold water, but is in fact illusory.

2) There are psychological, social, egotisitcal rewards that I have *observed* gamers in games seeking that ARE NOT easily explained by the GNS theory.


It is not at all tautological.  I'm afraid that you are making it that way yourself by relying on your own incorrect perceptions of what the definitions are.  I tried to point out a few common problem areas with understanding the essay so that you could go back to the essay and realize where you went wrong with your definitions.  That's really the nutshell answer to your tautology issue.  Your definitions are incorrect.  Plug in the correct definitions and the issue goes away.  Unfortuneately the concepts are fairly involved and don't condense to nice 3 line dictionary style definitions.  It is your attempt to condense them that way combined with you misunderstanding some of the core concepts that leads you to your erroneous tautological conclusion.  I'm afraid I don't know how to answer it better than that.

Quote

Quote

Story, theme and plot are important to all modes of play. Their existance does not point to Narrativism and it should not be assumed they are absent from Gamism or Simulationism. What distinguishes Narrativism is that it involves making decisions that shine the spotlight on a narrativist premise. You'll want to pay special attention to the section on Premise in the essay. There are several different kinds of premise defined there, but it is the specific kind (where Egri is discussed) that applies to "N".


Fine: Narrativism is making decisions that tend a game towards Narrativist play.

What is Narrativist play?

Narrativist play results from making narrativist decisions.

Can I make this any more clear. The basic, fundamental, underlying definition is circular. IT IS MEANINGLESS!

I am not arguing nuances here. I am arguing fundamentals. I am stating that unless someone can provide external measures for definiting what is Narrativist, Simulationist, and Gameist.


I'm afraid you're being a little unfair here.  
Let me outline it for you differently.

What is Narrativist play?
Narrativist play results from players making narrativist decisions.
What is a narrativist decision?
A Narrativist Decision is a decision which focuses the game on highlighting a Narrativist Premise.
What is a Narrativist Premise?
Go back and read the essay where Narrativist Premise is defined.  It is not circular.  It has a specific meaning.  If you have some specific questions on that meaning come back and present them, and we can try to address those.

Quote

Quote

So to summarize. Your list of gamer types, while interesting, is really pretty irrelevant to what GNS is attempting to accomplish.


How so? My archetpyes are hypothetic examples of pure gamers using the same short hand you yourself use. Redefine them in your mind. Add the various addenums and notes. Then reasses whether or not they impact upon the GNS Theory.


Did you miss the part where the model is not about labeling gamers?
Your logic isn't making much sense here.

Consider:
Me:  The paradigm is about X it is not about Y.
You:  Here is a bunch of Y...your paradigm doesn't address Y.
Me:  Because the paradigm isn't about Y...

I'm not sure which part of that isn't clear.


Quote

Are you then stating that GNS acknowledges that is is reletively inconsequential as a theory of gaming? Would game desingers be better advised to take the more important and larger social concerns into consideration when desinging/writing/play testing a game.


??!!
GNS does not now, nor will it ever attempt to factor in how the indigestion caused by eating 3 taco bell bean burritos with Fire Sauce on the way to the game impacted your behavior and decision making during the game.  This hardly renders the theory inconsequential.

Nor does the theory attempt to identify whether a particular decision was influenced by a recent girlfriend break-up or a death in the family.  Those issues are present at a much higher level than GNS.  

This is another oft repeated, oft refuted, but perpetual error made by people trying to detract from the theory.  At no time was the theory ever presented as being some all encompassing universal psychological thing.  If you wish to explore how some of the larger boxes interact with the GNS box, I'm sure you could find some willing discussion in that regard.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Bankuei on November 01, 2002, 11:09:19 AM
Let's be clear about GNS's goals:

1)Identifying what sorts of experiences they seek in gaming
2)Identifying what sorts of experiences to encourage in gaming to satisfy #1
3) Identifying what sorts of design aid or hinder those experiences

The experience is the reward.  The sort of experience you get from chess is very different from the experience you get from football, yet both can be classified as fun by someone, because they provide the experiences that those people seek.  All GNS says, is, recognize the type of experience you want and go for it.  In fact, you don't need GNS to do so, if you are perceptive and aware of what you want.  But then you also have to deal with a group of folks who may or may not be as perceptive as you, may or may not be able to communicate or formulate exactly the experience they want.  GNS is simply a tool for communication along those liines.

You are correct that GNS doesn't address all the issues of personal ego and neurosis, its designed to model behavior, not psychology.  The player types you've listed still make GNS based decisions, even if their dysfuncational issues lie higher than that.  GNS is an useful, if imperfect, means, just as words are an imperfect means of communication of ideas.

But, instead of simply debating the "wholeness" of GNS, let me ask you; what exactly would you be hoping to find out about those particular dysfunctional players?  Why they're dysfunctional?  How to "fix" their behavior?  What is it you're seeking from GNS here?

Chris


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: damion on November 01, 2002, 01:05:27 PM
Gotta write this fast:
This point seems to have been missed, hopefull it will help you Peregrin:

GNS is about decisions, as Mike said, but it is about decisions within the context of the game. Or to put it another way, it is about decisions that relate  to in-game situations.  If a person makes a decision because they want the game to be over  early because they have a date or a person makes a decision to hit on another player, those decisions have nothing to do with GNS, while the decision may affect the game, it isn't based in it.  If you want to develope a theory of why people play roleplaying games(seems to be where your archetypes were going) then go ahead, that could be cool, but it would be different from GNS.


      The Munchkin
       As Ralph mentioned, munchkin is degrogatory term used to disparage a certian type of play. I would mention that it is only defined relative to the rest of the gaming group. It refers to a person who uses a certian style of play and their style disrupts the group.  

      The Rules Lawyer
       There are a couple reasons here.  You mentioned simulationism, and said you have seen instances where it is not true. Another possiblity is a wish for precision, which is commonly associated with some personality types.  People can quote rules for GNS reasons, but meta-game reasons are also possible.

      The Power Gamer
      Fang covered this pretty well.

      The Escapist Gamer
      The Disruptionist Gamer
       These two have nothing to do with GNS, because they can exist in ANY group based leisure activity. (Escapists can exists alone).

Hope that made sense.


Title: The One Oft' Forgot
Post by: Le Joueur on November 01, 2002, 01:56:38 PM
Quote from: Bankuei
Let's be clear about GNS's goals:[list=1]
  • Identifying what sorts of experiences they seek in gaming
  • Identifying what sorts of experiences to encourage in gaming to satisfy #1
  • Identifying what sorts of design aid or hinder those experiences[/list:o]
And let's not forget the very first paragraph of the essay:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
My straightforward observation of the activity of role-playing is that many participants do not enjoy it very much. Most role-players I encounter are tired, bitter, and frustrated. My goal in this writing is to provide vocabulary and perspective that enable people to articulate what they want and like out of the activity, and to understand what to look for both in other people and in game design to achieve their goals. The person who is entirely satisfied with his or her role-playing experiences is not my target audience.

Note: if 'satisfied role-playing gamers' are not the audience, then it must be for the diagnosis of problems too.

Fang Langford


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Bankuei on November 01, 2002, 02:29:33 PM
True, Fang, but lets take the one point:

Quote
My goal in this writing is to provide vocabulary and perspective that enable people to articulate what they want and like out of the activity, and to understand what to look for both in other people and in game design to achieve their goals.


Which is basically what I restated.  

Granted, you may not have a good gaming experience if you are unhappy in life, such as some of the neurotic and disruptive behavior is the source of.  If we were to take the idea of eliminating anything that might get in the way of the "perfect" game, we might as well go for some form of enlightment philosophy.

Now this isn't to discount that people's personal issues DO affect the experience, but to say that it is of a higher level than what GNS is about.  GNS is basically a diagnostic tool for gaming.  If your problem is bigger than gaming, it's fairly unreasonable to expect GNS to cover that.  No computer diagnostic can prevent human error, since it's of a higher order than what it was intended to cover.

Of course, if anyone wants to come up with a psychological profiling method for gamers and potential methods of therapy, it's all good by me :)
Lord knows enough folks need it.

Chris


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 01, 2002, 02:50:57 PM
Hi Corey,

I think that most of your concerns are best addressed by considering the following point. I'm quoting myself from a thread called GM decisions (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2806).

****
I cannot over-stress that my take on role-playing theory is a layered one, or better, a boxes-in-boxes one. The biggest box is non-imaginary: a bunch of humans spending time together, with all manner of social ties being strained or strengthened through that interaction. The next box in is Exploration: the effort and enjoyment associated with imagining things as a group, mediated through dialogue. To clarify, not all Social Interaction is Exploration, but Exploration is a kind of Social Interaction.

GNS is the next box in, or rather, a set of three boxes within the Exploration box. As I've stated many times, hybrids exist, so let's not get all hung up about the "divisiveness" among the three boxes. The key point is that Exploration must include at least one of the three boxes within it, or else it is individual daydreaming and not role-playing at all.

Once within a GNS box, or some combination of them, the inmost boxes concern the specific and identifiable behaviors of "how we play," as codified by the rules of the game, or more specifically, how that group makes use of the rules of the game.

I strongly urge everyone to consider that influences, dependencies, and causalities occur both out-to-in as well as in-to-out. Understanding both directions is a big deal; that is the essence of System Does Matter as a concept.

****
My point in bringing this up is this: The literal concept of GNS does not "explain role-playing." It explains one level of a layered set of issues that are, in sum, role-playing.

Most of these "player-description" taxonomies, all the way back to the Champions supplement Strike Force and most recently in Robin's Laws, are vertical descriptions from the outer/top to the inner/bottom of the layers. Trying to compare vertical (or out-to-in) descriptions with my series of layered horizontal descriptions is always going to "reveal" terrible perceived discrepancies in one mode or the other, which are of course not discrepancies at all but rather results of the mismatched comparison.

A couple of other threads that might be helpful are:
Seven major misconceptions about GNS (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1578)
Can a game designer work for all three? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3396)

Everyone, I'm interested in Corey's take on these issues, but I think any more round-and-round about subsidiary points won't get anywhere until we can discuss these.

Best,
Ron


Title: me belated 2 cents...
Post by: Kester Pelagius on November 01, 2002, 03:02:31 PM
Quote
Peregrine:

Tautology
Tautology is a case in which a definition is defined by itself. There are some famous tautologies in pop-culture. Take for example this famous, but scientifically highly erronous tautology:

Natural selection is the survival of the fittist.

What are the 'fit'. Those that survive.
What sruvives: That that are selected by nature.


In other words "a circular argument"?


Quote
Peregrine:

My second issue with the GNS paradimg is one of a more observational sort. There are certain, (admittedly over-simplified but prevelent) archetypes of players that we are all familair with. These players pursue personal enjoyment in a way that becomes obvious to the point of obnoxiousness to other players. These archetypes, however, do not appear to fit well in the GNS system.


And this is different from the age old "role vs. role play" debate how?

Everyone has a *style* of play which they enjoy.

Narrowly defined strategy is merely: *the manner (strategems) in which a general seeks to decieve an enemy* more broadly strategy is the *skillful management/use of resources/skills to get the better of an adversary or opponent* in a conflict situation.

You can't have a game without strategy anymore than you could have a theory about gaming that didn't attempt to cover strategy.  The problem, as I see, which is just an opinion, my unworthy one at that, is that the terminology employed isn't as clear or concise as it could be.  (Apologies to Ron, not a personal slight.  Just a observation based upon the input/responses I have seen.)  Why?  Because in Ron's efforts to create a purely original set of terminology-- I do believe he mentioned that somewhere, that he was trying to create an original thesis divorced from all past references, more or less (I am sure Ron will correct me if I am wrong, right?)-- the Theory creates a wide gap which allows for much side trekking into the valley of confusion.

keywords: game, theory, apoglogies to Ron



"Huh?"

Yeah, huh.  I think it was Ron's intent to try to create something new, from the ground up, and thus he distanced his thesis from extant terminology.  Not altogether a bad thing.  Alas the problem is the theory doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Lest you think I am merely speaking out of me arse let me just say, for those who don't know, which aside from Ron is probably everyone, I have been trying to work on a encyclopedic entry on the GNS Theory.  To say it ain't easy is like saying the sun is hot.  Even posted an early version of it, which is now 1/5th the size of what I have, or had.

As I see it, and this is just my personal opinion, the Theory needs revising in both terminology and examples provided.



"What?  You blasphemous curr!"

Uh, yeah, if you say so.

But one thing should be painfully obvious by now.  The essays, as they stand, seem to alienate a lot of people.  Rather than dismiss these reactions as being somehow the product of intellectually inferior mongrels, maybe one should examine the complaints.  Which, as I see it, and this is just my observational opinion, is in the terminology.



"But I don't think the GNS Theory is confusing?"

Really?  And how long have you had to digest it?

To me, and I realize this is just a opinion, probably a unpopular one at that, the sorts of debates I see sound to me like nothing more than the "role vs. roll playing" arguements of old.  Now, let me tell you, I've heard and read a lot of 'em over the years.  Yes, Virginia, Kester is a oldster.  Which means I've been around long enough to know these debates cover a lot of the same basic ground regarding "styles of play" and all the rest of it, albeit with a twist.

To oversimplify:  It's just a different set of terminology that is used to express the sentiment.

Then again there is a difference.  The "GNS Model" is a GAME THEORY, if you think it is difficult to follow then type in "Game Theory" in your favorite search engine sometime.  Eyes open.

[silly humor]
Unless of course this has all been a subtle Hegalian plot by a college Professor in the pursuit of observational pscyhology pertaining to the social interaction of online communities?

Nah, that Kant be it.. er.. can't.
[/silly humor]


Quote
Peregrine:

Thank you for you time taken to read this


No, thank you for giving us all the opportunity to rant and make abject fools of ourselves by showing just how little we really know.  What, just me?  Joy of joys!  (jk)



Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: greyorm on November 01, 2002, 06:11:54 PM
Hrm...I noticed two problems in this thread, of which I cannot recall the second.  So, to the first:

Without actual play behind the behaviors noted, the archetypes being presented are, for all intents and purposes, illusory. That is, it is a fictional creature (or creatures) constructed for the argument who, in their proscribed behavior, will support the argument.

In essence, they are a series of "What if someone did this, then did this, then did this?" which is not a foundation for discussion of the behavior of actual people, even if someone might do exactly that.

Frex, a rules-laywer who doesn't use the rules to his advantage, then later uses them to his advantage, is a fictional entity in-so-far as they are not actually the record of the behavior of a living human being (even though such a beast might exist).

Unless providence can be made of actual, human examples of "the rules lawyer" et al., rather than a described archetype and attendant possible behavior, the discussion goes nowhere, as ficitional entities may behave in any manner we proscribe to them, so it is of no use utilizing them as a base for discussion of what works and what does not.

We can invent any sort of paradigm-breaking concepts, which will ultimately wither in the light of day.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on November 01, 2002, 08:39:46 PM
Quote from: greyorm
In essence, they are a series of "What if someone did this, then did this, then did this?" which is not a foundation for discussion of the behavior of actual people, even if someone might do exactly that.

Frex, a rules-laywer who doesn't use the rules to his advantage, then later uses them to his advantage, is a fictional entity in-so-far as they are not actually the record of the behavior of a living human being (even though such a beast might exist).


Well, Raven, we can chalk up this rules lawyer example on the side of reality. This guys is indeed in my group. He memorizes the rules. He does this because he can. He has a near-photographic memory. So I guess we can drop the idea of these people being fictional entities. If you look hard enough, you will find them. ANd they may not be as rare as you think.

It's more useful to point out that these behaviors are focused on One Particular Action. How about we have the guy who had bad Chinese food for lunch and has to keep running to the loo or the guy who scratches his ass with his left hand instead of his right?

Well, that's probably unfair. Maybe these behaviors are worth noting as part of RPG theory. They just don't mesh well with GNS, which was never intended to be a be-all end-all of game theory (none of 'em are, ya know). So I'd say that somewhere in this the basis for some interesting RPG theory and behavior. It doesn't work with GNS, but who cares?


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: greyorm on November 01, 2002, 08:47:51 PM
Jack,

My point was not that the "Rules Lawyer" et al. himself is a fictional entity or the traits of such are, rather the Rules Lawyer complete with described behavior pattern and decisions made during a fictional game is a fictional entity.

Hope that clears my meaning up.

(Further clarification: I have a rules-lawyer in my group, so I know they exist...and actually, I love him for it, its like having a second brain!)


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Peregrine on November 05, 2002, 05:28:48 AM
A lot of my posting was rushed so thanks for not pulling me up to much on some of my more stupid errors.

Le Jouer: A lot of good points there.

Le Jouer wrote
Quote

I disagree. If we focus only on the observation of a behavior in its worst form, it will not tell us much. As I pointed out, a paradigm to describe functional play (which is borderline GNS at best) cannot and should not include dysfunctional archetypes. Look at it this way, turn these dysfunctional stereotypes on their heads; imagine what they do when not being disruptive or acting as a 'square peg in a round hole.' What are they ideally engaged in? How do their games work when the group in unified by its similarity of interest? Only from this can you build a paradigm for functional gaming.


I have to concede that I hadn't considered the Archetypes I'd listed as potentially the byproduct of a player NOT getting what they want. Instead I saw them (and still see them to a certain degree) as a represetnative of modes of decision making that players make in preference to decision making as explained by GNS.

Mike Holmes wrote
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Narrativism, also known as Narrativist play, or making Narrativist decisions is identified by particular player decisions that are made in such a way as to address a question raised by the game that has a moral weight to it.


I am really begining to think that Narrativist Play should be renamed Thematic, as it appears that most people define it as the pursuit of resolving or exploring themes rather than a narrative which consists of characters-conflict-resolution.

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The problem isn't tautology; for example "survival" isn't "That which are selected by nature," it really does carry the connotation of 'not being killed' or defective. If you attempt to reduce thus and therefore prove absurdism, you must abandon expected connotative inference.


Having completed evolution courses at Masters level I'd have to disagree with you there. Connotation and inference are concepts that should never, ever, ever be allowed into any valid discussion of a theory.

Let's see: as far as I can recall Natural Selection for an adaptation to an evironment is presently defined by Neo-Darwinism as meeting all the following criteria...

1) That generation B have a distinct phenotypic different to generation A: Some physical difference has to be observable.

2) That the phenotypic trait is iheritable: i.e. that it is not a product of the environment but is either genetic or cytoplasmic in origin.

3) That the phenotypic trait can be demonstated to result in an advantage over non-trait bearing members of the same species.

4) That inidivuals who carry the trait can be shown to produce/raise more viable offsrping than the non-trait individuals.

See the problem is that from the original old school Darwinian statement: Natural selection is survival is the fittist, we could *infer* a Lamarkian explaination: That the environment causes changes to the phenotype of the animal and then these phenotypic changes are translated to genotypic changes. Completely erroneous. The original statement says nothing about how natrual selection actually occurs: only that it does.

The same criticism can be applied to GNS at present.

I will explain further with an example: It can be observed in Africa that Flamingos are predominantly pink in colour. According to the old school definition we can infer that pink pigment in flamino feathers the product of natural selection - simply because there are more pink flamingos that white flamingos.

Indeed a certain eminant zoologist tried to explain the pink colouration around the turn of the century as camoflague for hiding against sunsets. (No, really, I'm not kidding here)

The problem is that the original definition of natural selection gives us no way to test whether any given hypothesis based on it is true.

The second, Neo-Dawrinist definition is clear enough that we can test the validity of the hypothesis that pink flamingos are the product of natural selection.

The hypothesis falls down on one major point. Put a famingo in a zoo and it turns white. The phenotype is not geneitc. It is a product of a certain type of pink shrimp flamingos eat. QED Pink flamingos are *not* a product of natural selection.

What I am getting at here is that any 'Theory' needs a definition that is clear enough, and easy enough to understand that it can be proved or disproved. At the moment the definitions of GNS are too vauge and circular for any hypothesis based upon it to be shown to be correct or incorrect. GNS is the sort of theory scientists were inventing in the 1800s. Modern meta-theory does not toelerate that kind of vagueness. Clear, well defined and externally testable points of definition are needed.

Well that was a bit of a crazy aside...

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Without actual play behind the behaviors noted, the archetypes being presented are, for all intents and purposes, illusory. That is, it is a fictional creature (or creatures) constructed for the argument who, in their proscribed behavior, will support the argument.


Good point. Being completely hypothetical the behaviours would have to be shown to actually exist before they have validity. You could take my word for it that I have observed these as I've explained them in at least one instance.

Er, well, having read all this, and having places to go and whatnot I'm really not sure what to say. I still have fundamental issues with the GNS theory.

Also I still beleive that the definitions are too vague and bleed into one another.

A narrative consists of character-conflict-resolution. Players who augment their character skills and abilities in order to overcome a conflict and gain resolution are simply playing out a narrative.

Couldn't it also be said that players who enjoy demonstrating their ability to better cope with complex themes are really just engaging in player-versus-player competition on a more subtle level.

Or are they exploring a world that subscribes to 'literary reality' according to rules of tragedy/plot/comedy/happy endings as opposed to rules of physics. Does that make a decision made to pursue a moral theme simulationist?

You can choose any of these explainations:

1) I am an idiot and can't understand a simple theory.

2) I am taking exception to the way GNS is implied to be an all encompasisng gaming theory when in fact it is nothing of the sort. Also, I am an idiot and can't understand a simple theory.

3) As valid as the theory may be, for someone who has had to write and defend theories of hard science, GNS remains just too plain wishy-washy to be satisfying. There remains the possibility I am an idiot and cannot understand a simple theory.

Let me round this off also by saying that you have at least convinced me that as a tool for identifying what may be wrong with an unhappy group of players GNS has some potential.

As a tool for game design? Of that I am not so sure. Most games I know of can be twisted to be made more G than N than S, if so desired. Moral themes can be explored in D&D just as they can in Vampire. It is all in the GMing.

I look forward to seeing Kester's final encyclopedia entry on the GNS model - though - for the record I supect the theory itself still needs some serious revising before it will ever be more than a vague set of terms and circiular definitions that no two people can agree on.

Chris


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Valamir on November 05, 2002, 06:11:59 AM
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As a tool for game design? Of that I am not so sure. Most games I know of can be twisted to be made more G than N than S, if so desired. Moral themes can be explored in D&D just as they can in Vampire. It is all in the GMing.


That is the key misconception right there.  Its NOT all in the GMing.  The only reason its all in the GMing for a particular session is because the game is designed in such a way that requires the GM to compensate for what's not there.  In other words the GM is managing to do it in spite of the system not because of it.

Take instead a game like Dust Devils.  There is very little for the GM to do in Dust Devils aside from run the NPCs.  The very mechanic design of the game drives the game towards resolution without needing the GM to steer it.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Matt Machell on November 05, 2002, 06:26:59 AM
Hi Peregrine,

not sure how much this will help your understanding, but consider the following (which is just an example, and there are probably better ones, but it helped me understand GNS):

In an RPG a character ends up with a gun fired at him at close range as he protects his lover, the trigger is pulled. At that point a decision must be made.

1)A simulationist decision might be: Guns kill. The character should be dead.

2)A narativist decision might be, the Premise is: What will you sacrifice for love? The characters death will show that that character is willing to sacrifice everything. He dies.

3)A gamist decision might be: If the character dies, I lose. I will try and make sure the character survives.

Decisions 1 and 2 result in the same outcome, but the reasoning is different. If the premise in 1 is different, then the decision might be different. This is where the definitions appear to bleed for you (I think), the same thing can happen, but for different reasons.

The usefulness of GNS as a design tool is in ensuring that when a session occurs, all players are aware of which type of decisions are expected, so no difficulties occur when different players make decisions based on varying criteria.

So, yes, you can make narativist decisions in D&D, if all your players are aware of those expectations. But the system isn't going to aid you in your task, not unless you're fudging things. GNS suggests that thing swill go more smoothly if you use a system which supports those decisions.

Hope that helps.

-Matt


Title: The Attack on the Straw Man
Post by: Le Joueur on November 05, 2002, 06:54:28 AM
Hey Chris,

Quote from: Peregrine
Quote from: Le Joueur
The problem isn't tautology; for example "survival" isn't "That which are selected by nature," it really does carry the connotation of 'not being killed' or defective. If you attempt to reduce thus and therefore prove absurdism, you must abandon expected connotative inference.

Having completed evolution courses at Masters level I'd have to disagree with you there. Connotation and inference are concepts that should never, ever, ever be allowed into any valid discussion of a theory.

Let's see: as far as I can recall Natural Selection...

See, the problem is that from the original old school Darwinian statement: Natural selection is survival is the fittest...

That's a fine example you posted.  I like it a lot; it's clear, well written, and concise.  I especially enjoyed how well it stood as an example...

...of the straw man argument.

You have two competing situations here that you seem perfectly willing to bridge between whenever it suits your contrary stance.  On the one hand you claim that Darwinian theory is "survival of the fittest" and attack that as circular, then you turn around and say that The Origin of Species never says that.  The two situations are 'lay description' and 'rigorous scientific definition.'  If you want to put something down you attack the lay description; 'survival is nature selecting the fit,' 'fit is that which survives.'

I pointed out that the lay description only functions when you take into account the connotative meanings.  You attack the idea that a rigorous scientific definition cannot depend on connotation.  That makes perfect sense except your not attacking a rigorous scientific definition.  'Survival of the fittest' is never expected to be a rigorous scientific definition, nor it The Origin of Species simply 'survival of the fittest.'

Before this discussion reaches any worthwhile conclusion you're going to have to pick which you wish to discuss, the lay description or the rigorous definition.

Quote from: Peregrine
The same criticism can be applied to GNS at present.

Absolutely!  Bluntly, you use the same argumentation with GNS; it's especially obvious when you continually return to your stance on what it means and then attack that.

You either need to choose to discuss the theory with rigorous attention to all it presents or you can attack the lay comprehension of it.  It is intellectually dishonest to use rigorous attention to attack the lay comprehension and do things like dismiss the denotations of the original article (as opposed to attacking the connotations of the terms).  That's what you've been doing.  Statements like, "Does that make a decision made to pursue a moral theme, Simulationist?" show a disregard for the body of the essay that differentiates between Narrativism and Simulationism.  Likewise, your constant misunderstanding of the terms based on their names shows similar disregard.  It becomes intellectually dishonest when you attack, not the theory, but your misunderstanding of its use of terminology.

Quote from: Peregrine
What I am getting at here is that any 'Theory' needs a definition that is clear enough, and easy enough to understand that it can be proved or disproved. At the moment the definitions of GNS are too vague and circular for any hypothesis based upon it to be shown to be correct or incorrect. GNS is the sort of theory scientists were inventing in the 1800s. Modern meta-theory does not tolerate that kind of vagueness. Clear, well-defined and externally testable points of definition are needed.

It really amuses me that you make these requirements.  They almost insure a moral victory for you.  Consider again The Origin of Species, while a bit dated, it was clear, but not easy to understand.  It was neither easily proved nor disproved.  Yet, it stands as a demonstration of execution of a theory.  Theories cannot be "easy enough to understand" when their subject matter is complicated (take particle physics for example).  You want easy?  Go for the lay description.  You want "externally testable points of definition" and you're going to have to put up with a lot of complexity.

And when I say, "put up with," I mean 'take the time to understand' the theory.  Don't attack a half-understood concept of the model; that is very disingenuous.  Recognize how the model limits itself (for example it does not, nor never has, claimed to be a tool for design; unless you count a method of diagnosing problems a design tool).  Come to an understanding of how the terms are chosen.  (You seem to understand biology, do you recognize that the terminology of the GNS, for as problematic as it is, was chosen using the fairly normal nomenclature practices of biology?)

Quote from: Peregrine
Let me round this off also by saying that you have at least convinced me that, as a tool for identifying what may be wrong with an unhappy group of players, [the] GNS has some potential.

According to the essay, that is its primary design.  Good to see you've finally 'got it.'

Honestly, I have a lot of problems with the GNS myself.  Principle is exactly the traps you've fallen into.  Its terminology is very easily misconstrued, people take it for more than it purports to be (often much more), it gets continually confused for similar theories both in structure and terminology, and while built in normative fashion, it gets applied divisively (whether this is a design problem or a common malpractice, I haven't concluded).

However, I do not have a problem with it on its own merits.  Doing what it is stated for, in the absence of 'common misapprehension,' it does what it claims to.  However, I find this of little use in direct design of role-playing games.  Comprehending it offers new vistas in the grasping of the concept of gaming that are very useful, but it does not work at all well in direct application for design.  Thus as an 'understanding gaming' teaching aid it's fine, as a design aid it fails; it makes no claim to be such and it thus of limited practical use to me.

I hope you are beginning to see the fruitlessness of your argument (arguing that the GNS isn't very good for something that it says it isn't for) and accept that it isn't meant to be everything to everyone.  I welcome a rigorous discussion of design tools that would be used in the fashion that you misapprehend the GNS is for.  Those would be highly useful and I welcome the chance to discuss them.  Do you have any such ideas?  (Post them over in RPG Theory if you do; I'll meet you there.)

Fang Langford


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Ron Edwards on November 05, 2002, 09:40:09 AM
Hi Peregrine,

I'm not sure whether you saw my post earlier in this thread. It's at the end of the first page, and posts in that position are notoriously overlooked. I'm interested in your comments about those points - it seems to me that no further discussion on your refutation is possible until you do so.

Best,
Ron

P.S. I seem to have become mixed up about names. The post I'm referring to is addressed to Corey, but "Chris," "Peregrine," and other nomenclature is making no sense to me as I re-read the thread. Pay no mind; I'll figure it out soon.


Title: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 05, 2002, 09:59:34 AM
On the subject of Terminology, for Kester and Perigrine's sakes (and others), there are lots and lots of threads from early on where we discussed the selected terms. In point of fact, the only person that I am certain is satisfied with them is Ron, and that only because his academic background inculcates him with a steadfastness on the subject based on the simple principle that once you start changing terms, the changes become neverending.

So, my opinion is also that Simulationism having little to do with simulation directly, and Narrativism having little to do specifically with Narrative, is highly confusing, especially to people newly aware of it. Ralph (Valamir) was, and still probably is, the strongest advocate for a change in terminology, and was, in fact, on the side of Scarlet Jester when he proposed the GEN theory. If others support Ron's terms, they have been silent. Many have come out against them. So there is no conspiracy to keep the theory obscure.

But I will say that maintaining the terms consistently has had the benefit that those few who do put the effort into the theory can understand it, and not have to deal with shifting terminology. So I can only applaud Ron with regards to that. And would not have him change it. Especially at this late date.

BTW, one can get the reasons for the terms from the ongoing thread about it's accidental relation to Threefold. Which may help some.

Mike