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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: Jack Spencer Jr on June 11, 2003, 08:42:10 AM



Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on June 11, 2003, 08:42:10 AM
I have been thinking about the whole issue of Simulationism issue, the question on whether that particular box exists, and how this applies to hybrids. Here's what I've come up with.

Roleplaying consists of the five elements: Character, Color, Setting, Situation, System. and roleplaying is Exploring one or more of the elements. Making that exploration the focus of play is the simulationist mode of play. This could be seen as "pointless" since Sim play is the means are the ends. G & N play asks that the exploration is "to what purpose" and then answers that question in their modes of play.

My point here is nothing new but with a bit of a different emphasis. S is the basis of all roleplaying. Both G & S require exploration of the five elements. Therefore, It seems that to refer to a game as a G&S  or N&S hybrid is pointless since all RPGs are a hybrid with Simulationism. Without the exploration of the elements of roleplaying, it is not roleplaying. Arguably, nothing happens if at least one of the elements is not explored. So what makes a game (or play)  simply G or N and other games GS or NS hybrids? I think that this distinction may be highly subjective and not so useful.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 11, 2003, 08:58:36 AM
Hi Jack,

You're going in circles ... this is just like all those Exploration debates back on the Gaming Outpost.

It's so much easier when you think of GNS as creative agenda - which is to say, what you actually put your attention toward.

Then S just becomes "Stay with the Exploration per se." That doesn't make the baseline Exploration into S for the other modes! Exploration + G is G, not S + G. Exploration + N is N, not S + N. Exploration + S is, yes, more (squared) Exploration.

That's the error you're committing. Does that make sense?

Best,
Ron


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Bankuei on June 11, 2003, 09:11:09 AM
Cross posted with Ron, Hmm, I guess Sim alone is just something I might never get...

Hi Jack,

Damn you for beating me to the punch.  I've been mulling over this for some time, and was on my third rewrite trying to put my thoughts in order.  So, I'll give you what I got, muddled and unclear as it is...

Quote
This could be seen as "pointless" since Sim play is the means are the ends. G & N play asks that the exploration is "to what purpose" and then answers that question in their modes of play.


Conflict, "one of these kids is doing their own thing"

G & N have specific goals, challenges to be overcome, Premises to change from question form to Egri statements("Family or Power?" to "The pursuit of power ruins your family", etc.).  Sim doesn't have that.  While G & N have definite destinations to run for, Sim wanders a bit down G's path, then comes back, a bit down N's path, then returns, to the endless frustration of folks who aren't on the same page.

Conflict is the social commitment to a goal

This is where Egri states, "The protagonist can't back down from the Conflict" and Ron says, "You have to be committed to your characters, to care about them, and drive them towards conflict", where Gamists hop up and say, "Play to win!", etc.  Conflict tells you what the game plan is once you get ahold of the Ball.

Sim Drifting...

Well, for me, I see sim in two flavors:  High Concept and Open Exploration.  High Concept preloads plenty of conflict in Character and Setting usually, giving plenty of stuff to work with(Splats, Clans, Traditions, etc.).  Open Exploration basically says, "Bring your own Conflict, and drift as you see fit".    High Concept drifts easily, because with the Conflict, G/N folks go, "Oh, this is what the game is about!" and then proceed to either break down into "My guys vs. your guys" or high drama based on the conflicts given.  Open Exploration either jazzes people as they feel "Free to add" whatever they will, or else they throw their hands up and go "But what the hell am I supposed to do?"

Sim w/o Conflict?

So, what happens if you don't drift one way or another?  Or what is this idealized dream that isn't either?  I have no clue, this is the point where Sim becomes completely alien to me.  If you're talking High Fidelity(versimilatude, or whatever), G or N, then I'm with you.  When you're talking that High Fidelity alone is the goal of play, I don't get it.  I admit that this is "my view" and not necessarily a statement that S doesn't exist or doesn't make sense.  I just haven't had it explained or observed it in a way that I could go, "Ok, I see what this is about".

Maybe if we're talking about "Let's dress up and pretend we're vampires, and chat", maybe that's Sim I can understand.  But without any form of goal, or theme to pull out, it just seems to be group daydreaming, which seems just highly unsatisfactory to me.  Again, my prejudice shining through.

What I have observed, more often, is High Fidelity G/N play, just because either one produces something that has historically been identified as "interesting" for humans, that is, games of challenge & chance, or stories. Whereas for raw imaginative Sim, the closest thing I can think of is either day dreaming or writing, both of which don't seem too conducive to group action.  Again, my narrow view.

Maybe one of you Sim guys can enlighten me?

Chris


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 11, 2003, 09:26:10 AM
Hi Chris,

Quote
So, what happens if you don't drift one way or another? Or what is this idealized dream that isn't either? I have no clue, this is the point where Sim becomes completely alien to me. ...

Maybe if we're talking about "Let's dress up and pretend we're vampires, and chat", maybe that's Sim I can understand. But without any form of goal, or theme to pull out, it just seems to be group daydreaming, which seems just highly unsatisfactory to me. Again, my prejudice shining through.


Let's pull the word "just" out of its double-spot in your second paragraph. Do you see that its presence is strictly judgmental on your part? We have to get rid of that before I can make my point.

Which is ... that I agree. Both in terms of preference and in terms of acknowledging a bias. What I have to go on is only the apparently heartfelt and committed testimony of others that this, exactly this, is what they want out of play. "Group daydreaming" as a top priority is precisely the term used by Seth ben-Ezra, for instance, to explain to me why Narrativist play isn't some kind of higher ideal of play (not that I claimed it was, but never mind that). Jason Blair hits it again and again as his stated high-ideal in playing Little Fears, in the text.

So apparently it's there. People like it, want it, and do it. Hence - it gets a name.

Best,
Ron


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: contracycle on June 11, 2003, 09:27:13 AM
Hmm, daydreaming or writing or both together, perhaps, as in science or theology or philosophy.

I think its a valid pursuit to construct an imagined environment and ask a series of questions premised on "if this were true...."  That can be entertaining in its own right, although whether its entertaining as a group activity might be a different question.

IIRC, there are a number of caveats that nobody is going to play a pure style, but rather have a preference and perhaps a predominance of a style.  SO I don;t think the extreme end of pure sim needs too much serious consideration; if it does I would suggest the mixed fortunes of Myst bear considering.


Title: Re: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Cassidy on June 11, 2003, 09:38:58 AM
I'm not a GNS guru but as I see things GNS is essentially about the priorities (be they G, N or S) that underpin the decisions players make during any instance of play.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
S is the basis of all roleplaying.


I though that Exploration is the basis of all roleplaying. Simulationism as I understood could be described as a mode of roleplaying wherin decisions made during play prioritorize Exploration rather than addressing Themes (N) or enaging in some Competetive element of play (G).

Exploration may be the basis of all roleplaying but not all roleplaying is Simulationism. If it were then all decisions made in all roleplaying games would prioritorize Exploration.

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
So what makes a game (or play) simply G or N and other games GS or NS hybrids?


As I see things a "game" would be G, N or S if it was designed to encourage players to prioritorize their decisions based upon what mode of play the game designed wants to promote, i.e. one of G, N or S.

A "game" described as GS or NS would be one where players are encouraged to make decisions sometimes based on one priority, sometimes on another. A GS hybrid "game" would at best guess be a game designed to encourage players to sometimes make decisions that prioritorize Competition whilst at other times encourage them to make decisions that prioritorize exploration of one or more of the five elements.

That's my take anyway.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 11, 2003, 09:51:27 AM
Spot on, Cassidy.

Best,
Ron


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Bankuei on June 11, 2003, 10:24:42 AM
Hi Ron,

I unabashedly recognize the prejudice on my part, and am only hoping to at least intellectually "get it" if I can't emotionally understand it.  I think the hardest part is that I've played with primarily non-gamer sorts who have instantly gravitated towards G or N right off the bat, and S just hasn't been available for me to really observe, plus my own inclination against it.

I'll take folks words for it at this time, at least until I mentally wander down that path again...

Chris


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: jdagna on June 11, 2003, 01:22:06 PM
Quote from: Bankuei
I unabashedly recognize the prejudice on my part, and am only hoping to at least intellectually "get it" if I can't emotionally understand it.  I think the hardest part is that I've played with primarily non-gamer sorts who have instantly gravitated towards G or N right off the bat, and S just hasn't been available for me to really observe, plus my own inclination against it.

I'll take folks words for it at this time, at least until I mentally wander down that path again...


Cris, I can assure that I keep feeling the same way about N play.  I can just barely grasp what happens in N play, but can't really imagine why anyone would want to play that way.

So maybe I can explain the differences.

When I sit down to role-play, my primary source of excitement is in being able to take on the role of another person.  I want to find out how he thinks, what his life is like, and what life is like in general for someone in a fantasy or sci-fi world.  I want to get outside of my head and get to know an imaginary person in a way that makes him real.

Do I want some challenge in that?  Yeah - after all, I don't want to role-play a blacksmith making his hundredth horseshoe.  But I'm not going to seek out challenge for itself - I'm much more committed to having this imaginary person act true to himself. I do like to have a character who shapes major events in his world, but not for the challenge.  It's only through changing things that you can really experiment with what makes them work.

I don't even think about the implications of moral choices or themes.  When a choice comes up, I consider it from character's sense of morality and decide as he would.  I can't even envision why or how I would promote a theme in what he does.  Sometimes I can look back over play and pull a theme out of it, but it's purely a retroactive process.

But at the end of the day, I'm happy just to learn about this person and his world, and that's my priority.

So, going back to the original question, I just can't see excluding S play as a priority.  You can group it in a different place than N and G if you want, but I think it has just as much of a metagame priority attached to it as G or N play.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Bankuei on June 11, 2003, 01:46:33 PM
Hi Justin,

That has to be the most awesome explaination of "what S is about", for me, personally, that I have seen.  You're talking about immersion deep, which I can understand the thrill a bit better.  I guess I'm still murky about the joys of Author or Director Stance Sim, but then again, I recognize that some folks like to play Civilization or the Sims just to see things happen.

Thanks again,

Chris


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on June 11, 2003, 01:54:45 PM
Quote from: Bankuei
While G & N have definite destinations to run for, Sim wanders a bit down G's path, then comes back, a bit down N's path, then returns, to the endless frustration of folks who aren't on the same page.

This is going to spark all kinds of "no it's not" replies but this makes it sound like Sim is both G&N. By not prioritizing either, both modes can be explored without having to commit to either.... as long as everyone is on the same page, as you had said.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Jason Lee on June 11, 2003, 02:26:30 PM
Quote from: jdagna
I don't even think about the implications of moral choices or themes.  When a choice comes up, I consider it from character's sense of morality and decide as he would.  I can't even envision why or how I would promote a theme in what he does.  Sometimes I can look back over play and pull a theme out of it, but it's purely a retroactive process.

But at the end of the day, I'm happy just to learn about this person and his world, and that's my priority.


This is what I kept bumping up against (and am still trying to get to work in my head) in the Is this really Nar? thread.  When you decide something from the character's sense of morality, moral decisions are happening in play.  If you remain consistent with the motives and reactions of the character (as any good Simmy would) you will continue to address the same sets of themes, because that's how the character behaves.  Which leads you into Vanilla Nar (that unintentional, "hey look a theme and I didn't mean it" thing).  The only way I see to escape this is if the character never has to make a moral decision...which means to conflict...which means nothing happens.

Just how I'm seeing it.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: M. J. Young on June 11, 2003, 06:00:55 PM
I'm not real keen on "group daydreaming" as a descriptor, largely because it sounds so passive; other than that, it's good.

A few years back I was involved in an e-mail discussion (on completely unrelated topics) with a guy who called role playing "the Great Thought Experiment". That rang a chord with me at the time, as a very keen insight into what role players were doing. Yet now I think it's probably more definitive of what simulationists do. It's a what if question, it's an examination of reality and its alternatives.

Somewhere in James Burke's television work he cites the story of the student watching the sun set and commenting to his teacher that it was amazing no one realized all those centuries that the earth was turning and going around the sun, rather than the sun going around the earth. The teacher's response was, "Yes, but how would it have looked if they were right?" Doing simulationism enables you to some degree to explore what the world would be like if certain assumptions were true; in doing so, you can test whether they might in fact be true, or whether the truth of those assumptions would alter reality in ways that don't seem plausible or realistic.

It's not impossible that a sim game would stumble into competition or theme, but it is also entirely possible that it never would. Jason observes that characters making decisions from their own senses of morality leads to vanilla narrativism is only sometimes true. He tells a story about a batch of characters from very different backgrounds with different moral attitudes who wind up in terrible conflict with each other. What if everyone in that story had the same moral values, and never came in conflict? What if everyone believed that relationships were about individual commitments and no one should ever interfere with a commitment in any way, and they all acted like that? Similarly, what if no one thought that relationships had any exclusivity at all, and it was always perfectly fine for everyone to have any interludes they wished? In either of these cases, every character would consistently make choices based on his/her own moral principles, and no one would ever come in conflict, and no themes or issues would be explored. They would all do what they do, and get along fine, without any problems.

No one ever said there weren't any tough cases. If you load a game with potential challenge conflict, you tend toward gamist play; if you load it with potential issues conflict, you tend toward narrativist play. Simulationism can still happen, even in the midst of conflict, if that's where the players are invested.

--M. J. Young


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: taalyn on June 11, 2003, 07:40:38 PM
Bringing up the 3d theory here, it seems to me that ALL rpgs are G, N, and S. That is, that every game must have elements of exploration, challenge, and theme. The relative strength of those elements is what we usually consider the supported style of play of the game. An individual's tendencies always incorporate all three styles, but prioritize one of the three.

Consider the following:

Exploration only: watching Reality or travel shows
Theme only: literary criticism of meaning and theme
Challenge only: monopoly, parcheesi, etc.

E+T: most drama and film
E+C: Myst, Civ3, computer games without theme and meaning
C+T: first-person shooters

I takes the presence of all three foci to make an rpg. AT least, that's my thought at the moment.

Aidan


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Cassidy on June 12, 2003, 07:34:01 AM
Quote from: Bankuei
I unabashedly recognize the prejudice on my part, and am only hoping to at least intellectually "get it" if I can't emotionally understand it.  I think the hardest part is that I've played with primarily non-gamer sorts who have instantly gravitated towards G or N right off the bat, and S just hasn't been available for me to really observe, plus my own inclination against it.


I bet that even without realising it you have observed instances of Sim play from these N & G players. By Sim I mean instances of play where the decisions the players made prioritorized exploration.

Sure, a player may be observed as gravitating towards N, meaning I guess that you observe that the player concerned tends to make decisions that prioritorize N type goals. However, not every decision the player makes during play will be prioritorizing N goals. Even if a player has some meaty N issues they want to address through play, sometimes the aspects of N the player finds engaging and wants to prioritorize may be entirely absent. Instances of play will almost inevitably crop up that necessitate a decision to be made by the player that have no bearing on their N priorities.

When that happens what other GNS mode, if any, will the player prioritorize when making a decision? Remember, by definition the player can only prioritorize one GNS mode in any instance of play. So, if the player can't prioritorize N because there isn't any N in that instance of play then the player will either end up prioritorizing G, S, or something else outside GNS.

Assuming the player has some degree of commitment or desire to explore and imagine the five elements then in lieu of any N (or G) chances are that the players decision will entail some level of exploration. Their decision will default to prioritorizing Exploration above Theme, and hence could be observed as Simulationism as defined in GNS.

A lot of the time Sim stuff is bloody inconspicuous.

"Is there a lock? No? OK then, I'll try and hold the door shut as best I can."

Even a simple statement like that could be Sim.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 12, 2003, 08:02:35 AM
Hello,

Problem 1: people are still thinking about individual decisions in very small units of time. This is not valid for GNS discussions. GNS operates at along social lines of communication across multiple decisions - that's what "priority," "goal," and "mode" are all supposed to be driving at, as terms.

Cassidy, when you write ...

Quote
"Is there a lock? No? OK then, I'll try and hold the door shut as best I can."

Even a simple statement like that could be Sim.


... the scale that you're operating at is simply not an appropriate one for the discussion. You're talking about Exploration, and identifying that activity as being present is not GNS-relevant.

The presence of Exploration does not tag the instance of game-play as being Simulationist. For some reason, thinking that it does has cropped up throughout this thread - in fact, it's the essence of Jack's error in his first post. That others are compounding the error boggles me.

Problem 2: "Presence of all three ..." in a game. The focus needs to be on play. That's what GNS is about. Taking our attention to game design is a secondary level of analysis, and I'm very reluctant to do so in the context of the error that's being perpetuated in the thread so far.

Best,
Ron


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on June 12, 2003, 09:26:28 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
The presence of Exploration does not tag the instance of game-play as being Simulationist. For some reason, thinking that it does has cropped up throughout this thread - in fact, it's the essence of Jack's error in his first post. That others are compounding the error boggles me.

The problem, then seems to be how to tell whether something is a priority or not. I know that I, and I would imagine plenty of others here still do not get what GNS keys on. It's not a single event of an instance of play over several event or decision that the GNS priority is seen. How does one differentiate straightforward G or N play which contains Exploration vs GS or NS hybrid play?


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Cassidy on June 12, 2003, 09:36:10 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
... the scale that you're operating at is simply not an appropriate one for the discussion. You're talking about Exploration, and identifying that activity as being present is not GNS-relevant.


My interpretation of what constituted an "instance of play" was clearly incorrect. Thanks for pointing it out.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: taalyn on June 12, 2003, 10:09:41 AM
Ba vocab on my part, Ron. I meant "a game as played" or "a session", not game design. Well, okay, I meant game design a little, which is wrong, but predominantly, I meant, a game session.

Aidan


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ian Charvill on June 12, 2003, 10:13:13 AM
It seems to me that the only decisions one needs to consider re GNS are those where two or more of the modes come into conflict.  So it's not about whether you prioritize setting, it's about whther you prioritize setting at the expense of story, frex.

So a decision to explore every back alley of the seedy docks district because you're really enjoying the atmosphere even though there's no challenge involved in doing so and it doesn't advance the plot would be a decision where simulationist priorities were expressed.

Choosing to explore when there is no challenge or story at stake isn't simulationist -as far as I understand it - only choosing to explore at the expense of challenge or story.

When I'm thinking of simulationist play I tend to think of Paul Mason's Imazine, and his emphasis on immersion and his ideas about culture games.


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 12, 2003, 10:18:28 AM
Hello,

Jack, that's why we go to actual play to talk about this stuff most concretely. Check out some of my posts about Tunnels & Trolls - that's where I try to talk about real Gamist priorities, in action. Check out my posts about The Riddle of Steel, or Fvlminata. These are only a few examples.

Ian, your "back alley" example doesn't really illustrate the crucial "at the expense of" element of Simulationist play. Your other points are all on-the-mark, though.

I also want to mention something else, apropos of my Gamist essay - people are flinging the term "Challenge" around all over the place, in reference to its "necessary presence" in Gamist play. I think they are missing the point - that Step On Up is the key ingredient of Gamist play, and that "Challenge" is merely a re-labelling of Situation when Step On Up is active.

Best,
Ron


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ian Charvill on June 12, 2003, 10:43:42 AM
Ron,

To check that I'm understanding your last point:

it's not that there is a challenge that make's it gamist, it's that the player is challenged and gets (or stands to get) some kind of gain within the social group (winning, kudos) by rising to that challenge?


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 12, 2003, 10:51:31 AM
Hi Ian,

Right - and that the "rising" (Step On Up, meaning kudos is on the line) is socially acknowledged as the point of play.

It ain't Gamism unless you (you!) can lose.

Best,
Ron


Title: Revised does S really exist. Or It's everywhere!
Post by: Jason Lee on June 12, 2003, 01:10:29 PM
Giving kudos to M.J. for a nice positive definition for Sim agenda.

I guess the way I'm seeing GNS here is like the color (creative agenda) of sand.  You go to the beach and pick up a handful (instance of play), and say "hey look, white sand!"  If you start looking at individual grains of sand (individual decision points) you see all sorts of different colors, and you lose sight of what color the beach is.

I guess that's just a metaphor for what Ron has been saying, "GNS dunna work all little like." (well...maybe he was a little more eloquent about it ;) ).

That seems to makes sense to me for Sim as an positive, individual priority.

I guess my problem is that I'd like to look at the individual grains.  When I look at individual decisions I see G/N as actually making the decision and S simply limitting your choice of options.  I see the negative definition for Sim; it seems like a different beast than G and N; it never makes its own decisions; it just colors G or N decisions.