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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: John Kim on December 26, 2003, 02:17:24 AM



Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 26, 2003, 02:17:24 AM
OK,

After more-or-less fence-sitting for a while, I am starting to form my own opinions on GNS as a whole.  I will hold off on comments on Narrativism for Ron's upcomming essay.  However, here I want to talk about Simulationism.  After looking through various older threads as well as current discussion, I believe that understanding of GNS Simulationism is frequently muddled.  I think the ideas of addressing Premise and Exploration as separate goals are very insightful -- but the points get lost in how they are expressed.  

This quote from the recent thread highlighted it for me:
Quote from: Silmenume
  For a player who might be described as expressing himself in a Simulationist fashion he might have been motivated by the following -

To experience what it is like to live the life a knight fighting against impossible odds.
To experience what it's like to save the life of another.
To experience what it's like to be in deadly combat.
To experience what it means to operate under the bonds of Chivalry, Duty, etc.
...
The Simulationist desires to experience the life of the character, hopefully in a fashion that is exciting and interesting.  The interesting thing is that exciting and interesting fashion of experiencing things leads to exciting and interesting stories.  The important thing to remember is that the Simulationist does not enter into a game with the number one priority of creating a story; it's just that the game, by virtue of exploring character and situation automatically leads to story creation.

I believe that this is quite off-base.  GNS "S" as defined has nothing to do with simulation or immersion.  There is no particular attachment to "living another life" or anything of that sort.  It is solely about exploration, which doesn't require immersion nor is it even peculiarly benefitted by immersion that I can tell.  Further, one can be Narrativist without self-consciously thinking about "story" as your goal.  You may just be playing your character -- but if everyone focuses on the PCs' moral decisions, then chances are good that play will address a Premise -- i.e. you are playing Narrativist.  

However, I think that there are good reasons for misunderstanding:
  • Even though it was long ago pointed out that Simulationism is a misnomer, the name has stuck.  The only defense that Ron offers is that it doesn't have a specific wrong connotation, even though it is misleading.
  • It is the same name as the rgfa Threefold term "Simulationism", which is about immersion.
  • The Simulationism essay talks almost exclusively about traditional designs, without noting that most of the qualities discussed are not part of the definition.
  • The example game Mongrel from the essay is an illustration of traditional design rather than something which demonstrates the range or flexibility of the style.  
  • Most important, no terminology is offered to distinguish between the GNS mode as a whole and traditional associations with it. [/list:u]
    To address this final point in particular, I would like to propose a few terms:

    Immersionist is a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.  This is defined pretty much as the rgfa term "Simulationist" is defined in my FAQ.  It is also the term used in an adaptation of my rgfa FAQ which appeared in the book for Knudepunkt 2003 ( http://www.laivforum.dk/kp03_book/ ), which is on the Scandanavian LARP scene.  

    Fabulist is a term coined by Christopher Kubasik in a Jan 2003 thread, which is vaguely termed as "an active use of the imagination that, in the context of the shared story between players, possesses a logic that defies physics and responds to poetic concerns".  In other words, it is the opposite of Immersionist and encourages conscious attention to story qualities.  

    Finally, I think that the old term Explorationist makes far more sense for the "S" of GNS.  I will use it in this article to illustrate this.  The obvious solution can frequently be right -- if you define something as emphasis on exploration, why not call it "Explorationism"?  Use of Sim as a term seems to feed the frequent confusion on the subject.  

    ---------------

    Now, here is the key:   The Immersionist/Fabulist split is not at all the same as the Explorationist/Narrativist split.  I will illustrate three possibilities of Explorationist here:

    (1) Explorationist / Fabulist:

    These are games which feature conscious attention to story, but do not have dynamic addressing of Premise.  Toon is a great example.  Play has nothing to do with seeing what it really feels like to be a cartoon character, or to simulate a different reality.  The purpose of play is to be funny -- to spin an entertaining yarn.  Players are directly rewarded for making other participants laugh.  This is not Narrativist, though, because the theme is pretty much designed into the game and scenario.  By picking the situation, the GM is more-or-less designating what subject will be mocked.  The players and GM will do a good job at poking fun -- which does have moral content, by the way.  But most of the meaning in this genre comes from the choice of subject.  

    I think that Ron is correct in his assessment of Theatrix as being Explorationist as well.  It is solidly Fabulist -- with plot points, description in story terms, and a bunch of narration being given to the players.  However, the focus of the game is on spinning out an interesting plot.  PCs have personality traits but they are defined at character creation.  The GM is encouraged to plan out the story arc of the game in terms of dramatic development.  It encourages the GM to allow players to change details to suit them, but it intends that the dramatic pacing and meaning should be determined by the GM based on how the PCs are defined.  This encourages theme, but discourages dynamic addressing of Premise.  

    It is important to distinguish these from Narrativism.  Exp/Fab concentrates on making a good story.  With a good set of players, Theatrix may well produce stories which are fascinating to read about.  But in play, there is little emotional impact to what happens -- just intellectual plot twists and portrayal.  The in-game events could feature some great moral choices, but they would be ones which stem from character design.  A reader who doesn't know the Descriptors, traits, and context might be caught up in hearing about it.  However, to the participant's it won't be gripping.  

    These games will be a creative outlet, which is a valid outlet.  But they do not have emotional weight or depth for the players.  


    (2) Explorationist / Immersionist:

    These are more traditional designs, which emphasize representational elements of play -- i.e. in-game reality rather than meta qualities.  When they are truly Explorationist, this means that the focus is on elements of in-game reality rather than on dynamic story.  

    One clear type of this game is a culture game -- like GRG's Sengoku or Paul Mason's Outlaws of the Water Margin.  This is a game which sets out to teach about another culture through the device of role-playing.  This includes not just facts about the region and society, but what it is like to be a part of that.  There will be a story, but it is a device for learning rather than an end in itself.  Other games may feature other types of learning.  I've mentioned Traveller before in my history of science education, for example.  

    The goal can also be more artistic as opposed to educational.  I would say that Harn is a fine example.  The finely-crafted setting is itself an artistic work.  By role-playing, players not only view the material but add to it and expand on it -- filling in the skeleton of book-read-Harn into a deeper played-Harn.  


    (3) Explorationist / Mixed:

    I think more common Explorationist designs are mixed.  For example, Pendragon includes learning about Arthurian literature and culture -- and also includes some mechanics for emulating Arthurian stories.  The reality mechanics represent the Immersionist side, while Passions represent the Fabulist side.  

    I'm not very experienced with White Wolf games, but it seems to me that Vampire: The Masquerade has similar design.  It has a detailed background which is explored (like Harn is), but it also suggests that the game emulate story structure -- with a few nods towards that like scene-based mechanics and defined Nature and Demeanor for the PCs.  

    -----------------------

    These points are not new, but I think that it is important to benefit from them.  Sifting through old threads is tedious and not very rewarding without direction.  I think that to make points clear we need to incorporate people's excellent discussion into the GNS model -- like Christopher's Fabulist distinction, which goes well with the rgfa Threefold concept of Immersionism that was dropped.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: M. J. Young on December 26, 2003, 05:02:22 PM
I'm having trouble finding the referenced thread; however, I have taken issue with what I have viewed Silmenume's rather narrow view of simulationism in the past--not that I think simulationism is never about experiencing what it's like to be someone else, or can't be immersive, but rather that I think the core of the mode is found elsewhere.

In the recent thread Simulationism, started, I believe, by Calithena, I analogized simulationism to an interest in non-fiction.
Quote from: There, I
This is an interest in information for its own sake, in discovery, in exploring ideas and places and things.

That's what simulationism is like: it's mind-expanding, in that we're learning about something. It might be learning about people, or about places (real or imaginary), or about situations or color or just about anything else.....but if you love learning about something, then that's what the core of the simulationist experience is: learning about something.

Certainly you can learn about people through immersion in character; but you can learn about moral questions through immersion in character (understanding the issue by seeing it the way this other person would see it), and you can face great challenges in which immersion in character is a factor (recognizing that certain solutions to the problem would not be acceptable to the character, and so limiting the range of options). Yet I think that people who do simulationism as immersion exclusively tend to exclude the bulk of that which is simulationism--the Great Thought Experiment, as someone once wrote to me.

There was a recent thread specifically addressing this immersion question--Silmenume started it, and I took exception to his suggestion that immersion was central to simulationism. I've found it, it's Why we (I?) roleplay - especially in the Simulationist mode.

In any event, I have always maintained that immersion is a completely isolated question from creative agenda; today I would say it is in the category of techniques, methods we use to reach the objectives of our creative agendae, applicable to all of them.

Simulationism can be immersionist; it need not be, and that's not a telltale for it.

--M. J. Young


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: M. J. Young on December 26, 2003, 05:18:08 PM
Having now stumbled on the referenced post over in [Narrativism essay] Concept & excerpt (on the third page), I'm going to say more on it. Not surprisingly, I'm going to take issue with Jay's position.

I agree that someone might pursue those experiences as approaches to simulationist play; but again, Jay's emphasis on immersion as a hallmark of simulationism (which it is not) shows in his selection. One could as easily play the story of the knight to who sets out to slay the dragon and rescue the princess for any of the following reasons.
  • To determine by experimentation whether a knight of that level of ability is a match for a dragon of that design.
  • To attempt to test certain strategic and tactical possibilities (weapon choice, choice of ground, and others) to see whether these make a difference in the outcome of such a battle.
  • In response to the recognition that a character of this type would in fact risk his life to save a princess from a dragon, even if the player does not have any particular desire to do so.
  • To cement a political alliance with the knight's family and that of the princess which will improve the player's opportunities to explore the milieu.[/list:u]I could probably come up with others, all of which are simulationist in nature and none particularly immersionist.

    Immersionism is a red herring in identification of creative agendae. It exists in all three agendae, impacts play significantly, can be used effectively in the right context for any, and tells us little or nothing about what the player actually wants from the game. Yes, much simulationist play is immersionist, particularly in regard to exploration of character; much is not, particularly in regard to exploration of system; and as John has rightly recognized, the balance falls in many different places in many different games, all of which are simulationist.

    Any help?

    --M. J. Young


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Caynreth on December 27, 2003, 03:11:18 AM
I'm still struggling with the difference and the nuances between N and S.

This thread - especially the idea of the Great Thought Experiment - is very helpfull as it points out that immersion is more of a technique than part of any special CA.

'Interest in information and discovery for its own sake' - hm...


Title: Simulationism is not Immersionism.
Post by: Silmenume on December 27, 2003, 09:00:33 PM
Quote from: M. J. Young
Jay's emphasis on immersion as a hallmark of simulationism...


I am afraid that I have to disagree with you in the strongest of terms.  I have NEVER said that "immersion" is a hallmark of simulationism.

I have said, and I still maintain, that Simulationism is about the desire to Experience something, but that does not imply immersion at all.  One could simply desire to play the "tank" because they want to experience the power of being an ass kicker.  There is nothing immersive about that on any level.  Such a character would in all likelihood be played in pawn stance for nearly its entirety.  This kind of uber shallow character is a completely valid form of Simulationist roleplay.  As long as the player's desire to be a killing machine did not turn into a competition to be the baddest asskicker of all the players (not characters) on a meta-game level, or morph into a desire to defeat anything the DM can throw at him, he remains well within Simulationist play and has not drifted into Gamist play.

As Ron has said before, "immersive" play, although it is a term he does not believe has much merit, can be expressed in all modes of play, G, N, or S.

The one hallmark of Simulationist play that I do stand by is the very vital need to maintain the internal causality of the Shared Imagined Space.  The corollary to that is that meta-game is kept to a minimum.  Other than that, just about anything goes for Simulationist play.  It is for this very reason that I believe that Simulationist play is so diverse and rich in experience.

Quote from: M. J. Young
To determine by experimentation whether a knight of that level of ability is a match for a dragon of that design.


The above is pure meta-game as the character would have no concept of "level" nor would he have any concept of dragon "design".  Also the notion of "experimentation" regarding the two ideas is pure meta-game.  This motive is breathing all over Gamist agenda, specifically Hard Core, especially when you consider

Quote from: Ron Edwards
"... Hard Core occurs when Gamist play transmogrifies into pure metagame: Exploration becomes minimal or absent, such that System and Social Contract contact one another directly, and, essentially, all the mechanics become metagame mechanics."


Experimentation, level and design, as indicated, are all meta-game.

Quote from: M. J. Young
To attempt to test certain strategic and tactical possibilities (weapon choice, choice of ground, and others) to see whether these make a difference in the outcome of such a battle.


If these interests are purely meta-game player-only interests then you have a gamist agenda.  If these interests are character interests then you have Simulationism.

Quote from: M. J. Young
In response to the recognition that a character of this type would in fact risk his life to save a princess from a dragon, even if the player does not have any particular desire to do so.


That sounds more like the "immersive" style of play that you accuse me of proselytizing; in this case the player is staying true to character even to the point of possible loss.

Quote from: M. J. Young
To cement a political alliance with the knight's family and that of the princess which will improve the player's opportunities to explore the milieu.


Once again you have a meta-game agenda when you speak of the "player's" opportunities.  This could either be Narrativist by virtue of making a decision that purposefully opens up story options, or Gamist if the player is seeking to gain some sort of competitive advantage over the other players or the GM.  The key here is speaking of the player and not the character, which automatically pulls one out of Simulationist mode of play.

So I say again - Simulationism is not synonymous with "immersive,” but it is about the desire to experience things while maintaining internal causality as a high priority.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume


Title: Re: Simulationism is not Immersionism.
Post by: John Kim on December 27, 2003, 10:26:15 PM
Quote from: Silmenume
  The one hallmark of Simulationist play that I do stand by is the very vital need to maintain the internal causality of the Shared Imagined Space.  The corollary to that is that meta-game is kept to a minimum.  Other than that, just about anything goes for Simulationist play.  It is for this very reason that I believe that Simulationist play is so diverse and rich in experience.
...
Once again you have a meta-game agenda when you speak of the "player's" opportunities.  This could either be Narrativist by virtue of making a decision that purposefully opens up story options, or Gamist if the player is seeking to gain some sort of competitive advantage over the other players or the GM.  The key here is speaking of the player and not the character, which automatically pulls one out of Simulationist mode of play.

So I say again - Simulationism is not synonymous with "immersive,” but it is about the desire to experience things while maintaining internal causality as a high priority.  

I understand that you think that, but I also believe that this is incorrect for the GNS model.  The thing is, this is exactly the definition of Simulationism in the rgfa Threefold Model.  However, in his GNS model Ron took the same term and used it for a different definition.  I confronted a lot of this over the past year, starting with my thread Confused over Simulationism + example campaign.  Because it is confusing, I relabelled the rgfa term as "Immersionism" in my post here, following Petter Bockman's adaptation of my Threefold FAQ (cf. my Threefold page).  This is why I also now advocate using "Explorationism" do describe the mode which prioritizes exploration.  

My point is that you are making what I think is a good and important distinction.  It was the subject of much discussion which I participated in on rgfa.  However, it is not the same as the Narrativist / Explorationist distinction.  

By your definition, games like Toon, Theatrix, or Feng Shui would be Narrativist, because they do encourage violating internal causality and meta-game thinking about "story".  However, I claim that they are not Narrativist because they do not encourage dynamic addressing of moral Premise.  I do think this is an important distinction, which is what makes Ron's model different from the earlier rgfa Threefold.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: M. J. Young on December 28, 2003, 10:59:08 PM
First, let me apologize to Jay if I've misrepresented his position; it seems to me even yet that his emphasis on experience must be to some degree immersive.

However, I am confident[list=1]
  • that metagame priorities and external causalities are valid in some forms of simulationist play, such as those John just identified in which simulation of genre is achieved by metagame approaches;
  • that simulationist exploration of system to determine such things as tactical advantages and game break points is not gamist;
  • that exploring character honor and motivation from an external viewpoint is an entirely valid approach to simulationist exploration of character.[/list:o]

    There is no reason in the world why you can't talk about player opportunities and player intentions and desires in relation to simulationism; after all, as we've hashed out many times on these boards, there's no such thing, really, as character opportunities, intentions, or desires, because the character only exists as a tool for the player.

    Jay, you're a wonderful advocate for a particular kind of simulationism; but you're making the mistake of thinking that anything that isn't that kind of simulationism isn't simulationism. It's the same mistake as is made by those who think that D&D is not competitive because the players aren't playing against each other. There are gamist games in which players play against each other, and gamist games in which they work together against the game. There are simulationist games in which internal causality is absolutely required, but also simulationist games in which metagame techniques and player interests quite validly and directly impact events.

    We can play a wargame about the Battle of Gettysburg to see whether one of us can outplay the other and win that battle given the same troop strengths Grant and Lee had at the time. That would be gamist. We could play the same wargame to see what would have happened had Pickett's brigade not charged the artillery, or Meade not held the hill, or otherwise altering the tactics of each side to see what might have happened--and that is not gamist, but simulationist, because the objective is to explore the possibilities of what might have happened. In the same way, I can have my RPG character go after the dragon for very gamist reasons that have to do with trying to prove that I've got what it takes to beat a dragon with this character, or for very simulationist reasons that I want to explore whether it is possible to beat a dragon with a character of this caliber (or in fact for the very narrativist reasons of wanting to send a character to almost certain death in the name of honor to explore the demands of honor as a virtue). Sure I can do it for simulationist reasons of wanting to experience something; but I can do it for very disengaged simulationist reasons of wanting to watch what happens to "him" (not "me") when I put him in that situation.

    Finally, I can see why you would think that my statement
    Quote
    In response to the recognition that a character of this type would in fact risk his life to save a princess from a dragon, even if the player does not have any particular desire to do so.
    sounds immersive. I didn't mean it that way. I meant it not as "I'm going to do this because it is what I would do if I had his values", but as "He's going to do that because he's an idiot who thinks he has to do that kind of thing in situations like this; he'll probably get himself killed, but that is what he would do." I clearly remember having a character who strongly believed in honor, and as the third-level party leader of a motley and undisciplined group of mostly second level characters, he agreed to take a drow princess home to her family somewhere fifteen miles below ground through uncharted underdark mazes populated by creatures so dangerous that the things they ate for breakfast could kill him with a glance--all because when the princess requested that he escort her, I knew that his honor would not permit him to decline a request from a member of a royal household whatever the danger to himself. I was not happy with the referee, because I knew he knew that would be the answer.

    Maybe we're talking past each other. I would make a major distinction between experiencing something and observing something. I have the impression that you think simulationism is always about experiencing something; I think it can be about that, and/or about observing something. If you'll agree that there is a valid distinction here and that both are valid forms of simulationist play, then probably the disagreement we have is mere quibbles over specific instances; but if you're going to insist that experiencing is required and observing is something else, then we've got a major disagreement, I think.

    --M. J. Young


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 29, 2003, 06:05:53 AM
Hello,

Well now, I'm all confused.

1. John, I do consider internal causality to be the primary definitional concept for Simulationist play. I've expanded it well beyond "physics in the game world," such that it can be applied to, say, character psychology or genre-faithfulness, but the idea remains the same. At least it does in my mind.

I cannot for the life of me imagine how you see my definition of Simulationism as differing from yours. "Prioritizing Exploration" and "prioritizing internal causality" are synonyms. What could one prioritize about Exploration per se except its own internal causes, of whatever sort? There isn't anything else.

2. More generally, I think the word "simulation" is perfectly valid for what I'm talking about. It's not merely a historical or default term. It works for what I'm expressing; my section in the Simulationism essay about that is built to show that no usage of the term denies my its use - not to say that the word has no meaning and therefore I might as well use it.

2. Jay and M.J., I think the word "to experience" is causing a little more trouble than it's solving. Remember, grasping the N/S distinction is a personal process; people often have to find the right verbs and examples for themselves. Sometimes it's better to let that happen without constantly over-correcting bits and pieces along the way.

Best,
Ron


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on December 29, 2003, 02:25:20 PM
Hmm .. . let me take Ron's three points and add my effort to disentagle things a bit.

Point one, which I take as saying that John's Immersionist statement is mostly the same as GNS Sim.  Here's the Immersionist statement I see Ron pointing to:
Quote from: John Kim
Immersionist is a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.

I think Ron's point is about "in-game causes"="internal causality"=Sim, and I agree with that.  But the second part of John's Immersionist quote is (to my mind) the key.  The desire to "reduc[e] the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment" is something outside of GNS priorities (not Creative Agenda factors), and as John points out, a Sim (or Explorationist, in his terms) priority can exist with that stuff (Immersion) dominating, or absent, or sorta-important.

Note that this in-game causes/internal causality stuff is always important to any RPing, and Sim just means that it becomes the definitive priority of play.

To further point to John's Immersionist/Fabulist axis as outside GNS (which is clearly - to me - how he means to use it, though I'm perhaps taking that outside-ness even further than he intended), consider that some folks might consider that in-game causality is actually WELL served by allowing breaks in Immersion.

My guess is that this confusion is cleared up by saying that Immersion isn't really about in-game causes/internal causality, it's about the other stuff - preferred styles of play, that MIGHT be seen by particular groups as serving that Sim/Explorationist priority.  Or not.  And that allows John's definition for Explorationist be essentially the same as Ron's Simulationist, without losing the interesting and important (IMO) distinction John wants to create regarding an Immersion/Fabulist split - which he flat-out states is NOT meant to be the same as the Sim/Nar split.  By including that "in-game causes" bit as part of Immersionist, John (inadvertantly, I think) creates a link that need not be there.  You can prioritize the in-game causality with or without Immersion.

(The above reads as rather repetitous, but I'll leave it all in on the chance one repetition reads better than another . . . )

Point two, about the terminology - I'll just add that one big (as I recall) reason that Explorationist was rejected was that the term had a meaning, created by the Scarlet Jester in his GENder model (back on GO), and it seemed wrong to use the word he/she created as a counterpoint to GNS as an actual priority within GNS.

Point three, "to experience" - yeah, I can imagine an understanding of that phrase/concept that gets to the core distinction between N and S.  It doesn't work for me, and I share the concern others have about using it.  It seems to me to point to the wrong place to look, some kind of internal mental state.  But if it were understood to mean the group as a whole prioritizing the creation of an experience - creating The Dream - then it might be helpful to a particular individual understanding the S/N split.  

Hope that's in some way helpful,

Gordon


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 29, 2003, 04:55:14 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Well now, I'm all confused.

1. John, I do consider internal causality to be the primary definitional concept for Simulationist play. I've expanded it well beyond "physics in the game world," such that it can be applied to, say, character psychology or genre-faithfulness, but the idea remains the same. At least it does in my mind.

I cannot for the life of me imagine how you see my definition of Simulationism as differing from yours. "Prioritizing Exploration" and "prioritizing internal causality" are synonyms. What could one prioritize about Exploration per se except its own internal causes, of whatever sort? There isn't anything else.

Wow.  Where to start.  It seems that you're missing a big part of the picture here, particularly in what rgfa Threefold Simulationism is about.  

I can tell you right now that the rgfa Simulationist-tending posters would say that allowing genre-faithfulness as an influence destroys rgfa Simulationism and indeed turns it into something which they intensely dislike.  This is something which we discussed at considerable length.  I have links for a bunch of the threads on my Threefold page.  So I don't think it really is the same idea.  

Pure rgfa Simulationism is a rare style where the GM is greatly restricted compared to most campaigns.  If the GM actually sticks only to in-game causes, she can no longer make adventures for the PCs.  Planning out a story is strictly forbidden.  In practice, this means that direction is usually turned over to the players.  Without a scripted adventure goal, the players must make PCs who pro-actively go out and seek out adventure.  If they simply have PCs who sit around waiting for the adventure to happen, then nothing happens.  

As an example, my description of Plotless but Background-based Games describes one approach towards this.  


As for what else you can prioritize...   Well, you can prioritize story, which is different than Story Now -- as you just emphasized by saying story can be part of any mode.  For example, making up funny events isn't about internal causality.  Something being funny is a story quality -- i.e. it is about player reactions.  If you do things on the basis of whether the other players will laugh, it seems to me that this is not an internal cause.  However, neither is it Narrativist in that it need not answer a moral question.  

From previous discussion, you seem to agree that one can prioritize the creation of story without being Narrativist.  For example, in this post, I described a case where the players were following GM directions to create a particular story.  You agreed with me that it was not Narrativist.  

The key point is that if I decide on a theme (i.e an answer to a question) before play, then the result is not Narrativist.  However, deciding on a theme is itself a story-based decision.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 29, 2003, 08:02:39 PM
Wait, wait ...

John, here you say in post #1 that Simulationism is all about internal causality. "Yup!" I say. Then you say in post #2 that it doesn't, and that I don't understand.

Hands thrown up - whatever. I'll just point to what Gordon said. I agree with him.

And ... oh well, against my better judgment, I'll say this too. Regarding those RFGA Sim posters, John, in terms of this particular issue, I've said it before and I'll say it now - they were so hung up on their own little cabbage-patches of Sim application that all discourse about the basic criteria was lost in frenzied appropriation of the term. It's plain synecdoche to me: "I'm Sim! No, I am!"

Rejecting "genre-faithfulness" as a basis for Simulationist play is ipso facto inconsistent with the internal-causality criterion - I don't care how passionate they were about it. All that is "Judean People's Front vs. People's Front of Judea" to me; their individual possessiveness of it (based on internal-causality-of-what) isn't worth much critical attention.

And none of it invalidates my point - that you say internal causality is the key to Simulationist play, and so do I. I permit a much broader scope for that principle than the folks you're referencing, that's all.

But you know what? All this is just a sideline to the real issue. Which is: I think all of your initial post is good reading ('cept for the terms-thing; Sim it is and Sim it shall be). I buy it. I think you've re-stated some of my points about "story-oriented" as expressed in my GNS essay (which people seem to gloss over for some reason), in that whether we "end up with a story" isn't a feature of GNS-mode classification at all. I don't think it's a new point, and I'm not sure why we need terms for it like Fabulist and Immersionist (I shy away from using this term for anything, though), but it's a good point.

Best,
Ron


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 30, 2003, 12:16:45 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Wait, wait ...

John, here you say in post #1 that Simulationism is all about internal causality. "Yup!" I say. Then you say in post #2 that it doesn't, and that I don't understand.  

Um, no.  Everything I said is that rgfa Simulationism is all about internal causality.  However, by internal here I mean non-metagame -- or in other words it is solely about logic internal to the world.  So it cannot include "Oh, this will make for a good adventure" or "This will be a good story".  There is often a story that results, but it is a generated one rather than a planned one.  

It may sound strange, and it's not for everyone, but it can work.  My Water-Uphill-World campaign was like this.  (And I did explicitly say this back in February: that it worked by purely in-game causes.)  I would guess that you've never played in a game which was close to pure rgfa Simulationism.  You probably had or were GMs who always thought in metagame story terms -- i.e. "What should the next adventure be?"  That isn't a slam.  There are lots of kinds of gaming that I've never tried as well.  Everyone's experience is limited.  But I think it's important to keep an open mind.  

As I read more about them, I think the drive behind rgfa Simulationism is similar to the movement towards "freeforms" in LARPs in Australia and Scandanavia.  There, rather than trying to control the story, they just set a bunch of characters loose at each other and marvel at what results.  

Quote from: Ron Edwards
  Rejecting "genre-faithfulness" as a basis for Simulationist play is ipso facto inconsistent with the internal-causality criterion - I don't care how passionate they were about it. All that is "Judean People's Front vs. People's Front of Judea" to me; their individual possessiveness of it (based on internal-causality-of-what) isn't worth much critical attention.  

And none of it invalidates my point - that you say internal causality is the key to Simulationist play, and so do I. I permit a much broader scope for that principle than the folks you're referencing, that's all.  

The thing is that genre isn't all internal in the sense that I mean.  Much of genre is what I call "story conventions".  i.e. It is about meta-game things like who the PCs are, where the story starts and ends, whether action is "on-screen", and so forth.  I have an essay on the subject, called Understanding Genre in RPGs.  

Also, you could look at the old rgfa genre discussions that I referred to.  For example, there is Genre and Believability from Nov 1996.  This is pre-Threefold per se, but Lea Crowe, Mary Kuhner, and myself were roughly the pro-Simulationist contingent.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 30, 2003, 05:52:03 AM
Hi John,

I'm familiar with these references you're linking to. All of them are confirming to me that we are agreeing on just about anything imaginably important.

I don't see any merit to telling one another "you don't get what I'm saying," so let's not do that.

Best,
Ron


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on December 30, 2003, 10:29:10 AM
OK, another post attempting to explain why I think John points at an important issue, but is also "agreeing on just about anything imaginably important" with Ron:

It is true (as far as I can tell) that an rgfa-Simulationist would be unhappy in many GNS-Sim oriented games.  GNS does NOT say (really, it doesn't) that getting a bunch of Sim-liking folks together is all you need to do to produce enjoyable play.  There are important issues in roleplaying enjoyment that are NOT GNS-focused (though I'd say they can be much more manageable given some understanding of the insights of GNS).  Fabulist/Immersionist (the concepts, not the particular terms) is one such issue.

That the prioritization of internal causality by rgfa-Simulationists excludes certain methods is important - they won't enjoy play that thinks you can prioritizie internal causality by, say, referencing genre.  But in GNS terms, that doesn't change the fact that both the rgfa-Sim group and the genre-fidelity group are prioritizing internal causality.  They just have different opinions/preferences about what that means and/or how to do it.

I think it is very useful to identify these mostly GNS-independant issues which none the less are very important to determining whether or not a particular person/group enjoys play.  That's how I read John's initial post starting this thread (besides being useful claification of "story" and etc.).  Understandable (to me) issues with the term "immersion" aside, putting Immersionist vs. Fabulist at the top of a list of such issues makes sense to me.

Gordon


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 30, 2003, 02:31:50 PM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
  That the prioritization of internal causality by rgfa-Simulationists excludes certain methods is important - they won't enjoy play that thinks you can prioritizie internal causality by, say, referencing genre.  But in GNS terms, that doesn't change the fact that both the rgfa-Sim group and the genre-fidelity group are prioritizing internal causality.  They just have different opinions/preferences about what that means and/or how to do it.  

I'm a little concerned about possible miscommunication when you say prioritize.  So rgfa Threefold Simulationism is distinguished by the decision-making technique of trying to use only non-meta-game causes.  So there is a priority on that in terms of effort.  But that doesn't necessarily define what the game is about in some essential way.  

For example, some styles of paintings are very concerned with realism, such as keeping to the laws of perspective.  But following the laws of perspective doesn't mean that your painting is about the laws of perspective in terms of personal meaning.  I don't have any great enlightenment here, but I thought I'd throw in a warning about possible miscommunication.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on December 30, 2003, 03:43:35 PM
John,

Yes, I think you're right - saying "prioritize" about rgfa-Sim *is* a mistake on my part, as "prioritize" is all about GNS.  Perhaps because rgfa-Simfolk want so strongly to reject the metagame (which you're proposing to call "Immersionist", right?), they are very likely to display a GNS-Sim priority, as G and N so openly invite metagame involvement.  But if there's flexibility in there for a small dose of Fabulism (perhaps covert, or unrecognized, or simply [and this might be controversial] unexpressed-but-really-you-know-it's-there-if-you-look -- so don't look -- Fabulism) . . . then there can be Immersionist N- or G-prioritizing play.

After all, there's actually a HUGE amount of ground between no-metagame and any-metagame-you-want.  Where and how you draw the line between what counts as "too much" will vary.  The Immersion-Fabulist axis, as I see it, is more of a spectrum than a binary test - except to those at either extreme.

Gordon


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: lumpley on December 30, 2003, 05:17:50 PM
Down in Actual Play I agree with Gordon: Adventures in RGFA Simulationism (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=95285).  It's kind of a long example plus some rhetoric.  The short form:
Quote from: I
But it seems to me that the Threefold's Simulationism and Dramatism comment on the Exploration level, not the CA level.  They aren't creative agendas nor do they point to them.  They're ways to Explore.  Different tastes, different takes on in-game causality, character and setting integrity, participant authorship (when and about what), the role of mechanics, whether roleplaying is "fundamentally" internal to each participant or shared between them, dogmas about what "breaks immersion" and what "snaps suspenders."

Thus any CA can be served by any given Threefold approach to play.

Stripped of ideals and dogmas, do the Threefold's approaches each contain a core of complementary techniques?

-Vincent


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Paul Czege on December 30, 2003, 05:57:53 PM
Hey Vincent,

Stripped of ideals and dogmas, do the Threefold's approaches each contain a core of complementary techniques?

Interesting. I submit instead that they are uppity techniques (and ephemera), that think they can determine Creative Agenda. Remember the diagram:

[Social Contract [Exploration [Creative Agenda --> [Techniques [Ephemera]]]]]

Paul


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 30, 2003, 06:57:53 PM
Quote from: lumpley
Thus any CA can be served by any given Threefold approach to play.

Stripped of ideals and dogmas, do the Threefold's approaches each contain a core of complementary techniques?

Quote from: Paul Czege
Interesting. I submit instead that they are uppity techniques (and ephemera), that think they can determine Creative Agenda.

OK, so just to check, both of these to confirm what I said in the beginning.  Just to remind you -- I suggested that Immersionist/Fabulist is a division of technique which is not the same as GNS Creative Agenda.  So you could have Explorationist/Immersionist and Explorationist/Fabulist.  Now, Vincent and Paul have just extended that to suggest that there is also Narrativist/Immersionist and Narrativist/Fabulist.  (I was waiting for the Nar essay to comment on Narrativist.)  Certainly rgfa Simulationism is nothing but technique.  It is a recommended practice of decision-making.  It is not described as an end goal but as a way of directing effort.

As for the Threefold "thinking" that they are Creative Agendas, I think that's reversed.  Simulationism as a concept predates the Threefold Model, and the Threefold Model predates Creative Agenda.  It's unreasonable to expect an earlier model to fit into later-developed categories.  In other words, GNS mistook Threefold Simulationism for a Creative Agenda when in fact it was a category of techniques.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Paul Czege on December 30, 2003, 07:30:17 PM
Hey John,

As for the Threefold "thinking" that they are Creative Agendas, I think that's reversed. Simulationism as a concept predates the Threefold Model, and the Threefold Model predates Creative Agenda. It's unreasonable to expect an earlier model to fit into later-developed categories. In other words, GNS mistook Threefold Simulationism for a Creative Agenda when in fact it was a category of techniques.

The chronology is irrelevant. As depicted in the diagram, Exploration is built on a foundation of Social Contract. And Creative Agenda is built atop that foundation of Exploration. Techniques are wielded properly by those with their feet planted upon such a Creative Agenda. RGFA Simulationism purports that techniques are sufficient for producing coherent play (e.g. Creative Agenda).

Paul


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: lumpley on December 30, 2003, 08:12:37 PM
Paul: Ha!  "Uppity" because of ideals and dogmas, which I specifically stripped!

Anyhow treating the CA arrow as though it separates Exploration from Technique seems super-odd to me.  I'd say it this way: Techniques in application drive Exploration, which taken together over time fulfill or fail to fulfill Creative Agenda.  "On a high roll, you narrate" contributes directly to Exploration, and we have to watch for a while to see how it serves your CA.

John: You're the expert: if the Threesome was never about what-we'd-now-call-Creative-Agenda you'd know better than me.  Certainly Ron's identified CA in a way that lets us approach it more clearly and directly than the RGFAers ever had.  But I personally suspect - again, not having read any of it recently - that there's a lot of CA-level nonsense mixed in with the techniques.

Okay, now do I really suck so bad that I can't go read some old usenet?  Guess not.  Here's a quote, from you coincidentally:
Quote from: Long ago, relatively, John Kim
This is an ideal which I strike for in some of my games: a game where the players never ask or question what the "genre" is. Instead, they would tend to talk about the characters, the world, and how it works.  If asked what "genre" it is in, they would be hard-pressed to say.

Which is exactly what I mean: it looks like CA talk but actually isn't.  Your non-genre ideal serves a Creative Agenda, but which?  Impossible to say.  I don't intend to hold you to something you wrote in the past, naturally, it's just to show that there was attention paid to "what we get out of roleplaying" on RGFA.  Just a misidentification of techniques as such with "what we get out of."  As Paul says.

(In fact I remember that conversation from first time around!  "Cough, cough!  'Genre-convention apologists'?  That's a rather cold dismissal of a valid approach to gaming."  I had to look "apologist" up in the dictionary!)

-Vincent


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 31, 2003, 12:10:47 AM
Quote from: lumpley
  John: You're the expert: if the Threesome was never about what-we'd-now-call-Creative-Agenda you'd know better than me.  Certainly Ron's identified CA in a way that lets us approach it more clearly and directly than the RGFAers ever had.  

Well, I should say I'm still somewhat torn about Creative Agenda.  I tried expressing what I saw as the split in the start of this thread, but Ron surprised me by saying that my Immersionism (i.e. rgfa Simulationism) was the same as GNS Simulationism.  I was concerned that a distinction that is still important to me (i.e. Immersionist/Fabulist) was getting confused with GNS Simulationism.  Still, I certainly agree that Ron's Narrativism and the Creative Agenda stuff is a very important addition to the arsenal of RPG theory (along with Lumpley Principle and plenty of other good discussion here).  

Quote from: lumpley
 Okay, now do I really suck so bad that I can't go read some old usenet?  Guess not.  Here's a quote, from you coincidentally:
Quote from: Long ago, relatively, John Kim
This is an ideal which I strike for in some of my games: a game where the players never ask or question what the "genre" is. Instead, they would tend to talk about the characters, the world, and how it works.  If asked what "genre" it is in, they would be hard-pressed to say.

Which is exactly what I mean: it looks like CA talk but actually isn't.  Your non-genre ideal serves a Creative Agenda, but which?  Impossible to say.  I don't intend to hold you to something you wrote in the past, naturally, it's just to show that there was attention paid to "what we get out of roleplaying" on RGFA.  Just a misidentification of techniques as such with "what we get out of."  

Actually, I'm thrilled to have rgfa brought up.  I think continuity of ideas is great.  My thoughts on role-playing have developed since then, in no small part thanks to The Forge, but what I wrote then still represents what I felt and to a large degree still feel.  

When I said that non-genre is my ideal, I mean just that -- it is a quality which I would ideally want to have in my Immersionist games.  In short, I like it.  That is still true.  I also play in and run genre-using games, but non-genre is still "an ideal which I strike for in some of my games" ... just like back then.  

Now, does this mean that if a game is non-genre that I will expect nothing else of it?  Of course not.  But the same is true of any other ideal.  I don't think there is any single isolated quality which would guarantee that I will enjoy a game.  There may be some games with moral Premise-addressing that I like, and some that I don't.  There may be some exploration that I like, and some that I don't.  My point is that I don't have a simple answer for "what I get out of a game".  

Quote from: lumpley
  (In fact I remember that conversation from first time around!  "Cough, cough!  'Genre-convention apologists'?  That's a rather cold dismissal of a valid approach to gaming."  I had to look "apologist" up in the dictionary!)  

Er, sorry about that, but I didn't say it!  It was Lea Crowe!  I think I was pretty good in that thread to always say that using genre conventions was a valid approach, even when I was extolling the virtues of non-genre.


Title: Reconciling Observation and Experiential Play
Post by: Silmenume on December 31, 2003, 03:09:25 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
I have the impression that you think simulationism is always about experiencing something; I think it can be about that, and/or about observing something. If you'll agree that there is a valid distinction here and that both are valid forms of simulationist play, then probably the disagreement we have is mere quibbles over specific instances; but if you're going to insist that experiencing is required and observing is something else, then we've got a major disagreement, I think.



Mr. Young, I am uncertain exactly how to articulate the dawning of my new understanding, but if you indulge me for a moment while I walk through my though process, I think I have found a way to meld our two thought processes.

I have thought long and hard on your "observation" method/goal(?) and how it fits into roleplay.  Obviously you do it, so it must fit in the model somehow.  I had a thought that I layed out in my Goals expressed and emergent Goals thread.  I was fishing around for terms and I used the word Goal in the title and later adopted the term, "central idea," espoused by Marhault, in reference to the 3 modes of play.  I am not saying that even this term is the correct one, but for the purposes of this thought experiment please stay with me.  The important idea for me was that one either did something to express X or one did something to in the hopes of experiencing the effects of doing X.

After a little more thought I think the following better expresses what I am trying to grapple with -

One does something and observes it effects on something external or one does something and experiences that act of doing internally.

In other words one could do something for the sake of observation it effects.  To use your example of the Knight and the Dragon, you place the two in direct conflict under certain circumstances (Knight of Level X - Dragon of Design Y) to observe the results of that conflict and then weigh the merits of the effects of a Knights level versus a Dragon of Design Y (meaning creation!) by referencing the results against the ability to reach victory.

I'll buy that, but here's the proviso.  Observation as a goal/method of play isn't something that is specific to Simulationism.  The nature of the doing something X determines which mode of play that action falls under.  For example a player may wish to do something specifically to see how that act will affect story creation, which to me makes it a narrativist act.  Because that act engages the "central idea" of story creation then it is an act that could be termed Narrativist.  A player could also do the same act that will affect story creation, but do so because the want to experience the joy, the delight, the satisfaction, etc., of creating and putting such an act into play that is also Narrativist.  So one could be doing something to either observe its effects (meaning creation) or to experience the act of doing (meaning creation) and still be in the same creative agenda.  The same could be applied for Simulationist play as well - you do something to observe its effects on something external to the player or you do something to experience internally the action of doing X, we just haven't settled yet what exactly Simulations play is.

Actually both reasons for action X, observe and experience, can be in operation at the same time.  The key here is in what ratio.  In the purely observational mode then observation motive is all and experience is nil, and I think the reverse extreme would be Turku or "Immersionist" - at least in reference to Simulationism.  The observationist goal/method tends to minimize the importance of empathizing with the character as character is more tool or construct while the experiential goal/method tends to maximize the importance of empathizing with the character.

Is this a possible way to reconcile your Observational and my Experiential motives?

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: lumpley on December 31, 2003, 09:53:04 AM
John, cool!

I knew it wasn't you who said it.  The whole "Cough, cough!" quote was from somebody later in the convo.

So if your Immersionism is an approach to Techniques, what is it?  Can you talk about it in concrete Technique terms, who gets to say what about what and when, without crossing over into CA territory?  Forget about GNS, forget about the in-game, can you pick apart the real live inter-player interactions and show us how they work?  After that, can you build a ruleset that works the same way, so we can try it ourselves?

I've been working to do the same to my own favorite approach to Techniques, co-GMing, ever since I first came here.

Meanwhile, there's no need to position your Immersionism relative to the GNS Creative Agendas, just like I don't need to position my co-GMing relative to them, just like random example game designer doesn't need to position her "I like d8s!" relative to them.  There's no more call to split the world into Nar/Imm Nar/Fab Sim/Imm Sim/Fab than there is to split it into Nar/d8-heavy Nar/d8-light.  What spans from Technical Approach to Creative Agenda is the individual game in play.

-Vincent


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on December 31, 2003, 12:35:02 PM
Hi all,

Vincent, Paul - thanks for jumping in.  I think my points are pretty much in agreement with yours.  John - to repeat myself (perhaps more clearly thanks to the additional input), I think the Immersion (rgfa-Sim) vs. GNS-Sim confusion came up simply because you included "in-game causes" as definitional to Immersionism.  But (I think) that's only PART of your definition, and you mean something different than the GNS "prioritize Exploration" by it - you mean (as Vincent and Paul seem to tease out) a preference for certain Techniques and styles.

I do think Immersionism, along with many outside-GNS preferences about Techniques, crosses with GNS a bit in that Techniques-in-action are the parts of a Creative Agenda.  I think an Immersionist preference is more likely to persue Sim, because the Techniques that it rejects turn out to be very useful for G and N.  At some point, to reject the Techniques of G or N is to reject G or N.

Given the difficult history of Immersionism on rgfa, here at the Forge, and elsewhere, I think it's no surprise that it turns out to be particularly problematic.  I find it immensely useful to have identified the places where Immersionism (as John means it - and as he's a veteran of the rgfa wars on the subject, I'll take his meaning with greater weight than many others) has nothing whatsoever to do with GNS, and to notice that it's the places where a little overlap does happen/can be seen to happen that cause much of the grief.

Gordon


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: lumpley on December 31, 2003, 01:11:35 PM
Quote from: Gordon
I do think Immersionism, along with many outside-GNS preferences about Techniques, crosses with GNS a bit in that Techniques-in-action are the parts of a Creative Agenda. I think an Immersionist preference is more likely to persue Sim, because the Techniques that it rejects turn out to be very useful for G and N. At some point, to reject the Techniques of G or N is to reject G or N.

I agree, maybe despite appearances to the contrary.  I'd say that it's hard to find a System that both satisfies Immersionist constraints and also serves Narrativism.  I expect that it's possible - John's very Water Uphill game might have employed such a System - but then that's still a big step short of designing a game that does it.

Similarly my co-GMing preference.  If you want both Narrativist play and co-GMed play, you have to solve some pretty tricky problems with who delivers adversity to whom.  I happen to know that they're solvable in action, but can I formalize the solutions I've seen into game rules, so other people can use 'em?  Maybe maybe not.  I haven't managed to yet.

-Vincent


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on December 31, 2003, 05:45:40 PM
Quote from: lumpley
  So if your Immersionism is an approach to Techniques, what is it?  Can you talk about it in concrete Technique terms, who gets to say what about what and when, without crossing over into CA territory?  Forget about GNS, forget about the in-game, can you pick apart the real live inter-player interactions and show us how they work?  After that, can you build a ruleset that works the same way, so we can try it ourselves?

I've been working to do the same to my own favorite approach to Techniques, co-GMing, ever since I first came here.  

Well, as far as the very basics of system, I think that many systems are close to what I am looking for -- but few or none are exactly what I would want.  I was pretty satisfied with the HERO System except for the hideous learning curve.  I've had to change a bunch of things about the RuneQuest system for it to work with my Vinland game, and I'm still not satisfied with some (in particular unarmed combat and mass combat).  

I definitely have my peeves and problems with common systems, but I think most of my games wouldn't be called as mechanically innovative.  There are some sticky points, especially with personality mechanics and hero points -- but the distinctions are subtle.  My house system for the Water-Uphill campaign was related to CORPS and Fudge -- centered on skill + die roll vs difficulty.  (Edited to add: There was a rather unique magic system, but it was never completed to my satisfaction.)  

Currently I am pondering about what system I should use for an upcoming Star Trek campaign.  Currently I am pondering something loosely based on the Action! System.  I'll start a separate thread for it, I guess in the design forum.  

Quote from: lumpley
  There's no more call to split the world into Nar/Imm Nar/Fab Sim/Imm Sim/Fab than there is to split it into Nar/d8-heavy Nar/d8-light.  What spans from Technical Approach to Creative Agenda is the individual game in play.  

Well, but no one here thinks that d8s are a sure sign of Narrativism.  However, from reading various threads, it seemed to me that people seem to frequently identify Immersionism (i.e. rgfa Simulationism) with GNS Simulationism.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: lumpley on January 01, 2004, 05:26:36 AM
Quote from: John
Well, as far as the very basics of system, I think that many systems are close to what I am looking for -- but few or none are exactly what I would want...

Okay, I get you.  But who gets to say what about what, and when?  I'm sure you've noticed, we thrive on subtle distinctions!  We are subtle distinction enthusiasts!

Maybe, down in Actual Play, choose your favorite past RGFA Simulationist episode of play and break out exactly how the inter-player / player-GM negotiations went.  Without for god sake without worrying about GNS Creative Agenda.

Not an easy question!  But if you want to show us what you're talking about, that's how.

-Vincent


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Jason Lee on January 01, 2004, 01:07:18 PM
If you look at the whole model, it seems to me like Sim could simply be stripped out of the creative agenda layer and defined as the prioritization of the Exploration layer over the Creative Agenda (G/N) layer.  Likewise, the Fabulist approach is the prioritization of Creative Agenda over Exploration.  

As for immersion, MJ defining it as an individual technique makes oodles of sense to me (though I think it's ephemera, like stance).  This is probably because we are thinking of a similar type of immersion.

If you look at the whole model like individual cogs in a machine, instead of arches in a long hallway, I think a lot of this is accounted for.  It also accounts for other things not part of this discussion; like the social gamer (social contract over everything else), and the heavy immersionist (ephemera over everything else).  I know this is contradictory to the model.

Less is more - that's what I've been thinking anyway.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on January 01, 2004, 02:10:49 PM
Quote from: lumpley
  Okay, I get you.  But who gets to say what about what, and when?  I'm sure you've noticed, we thrive on subtle distinctions!  We are subtle distinction enthusiasts!

Maybe, down in Actual Play, choose your favorite past RGFA Simulationist episode of play and break out exactly how the inter-player / player-GM negotiations went.  Without for god sake without worrying about GNS Creative Agenda.  

OK, I'll see about trying to writing up game observations in more detail.  I have talked about some episodes and personal observations about my games at various times.  Here are some references:

Confused over Simulationism + example campaign (Feb 7, 2003)
Plotless but Background-based Games (Apr 22, 2003)
Shadows in the Fog Playtest (Jul 24, 2003)
Open Play for the Soul (Nov 26, 2003)

I wasn't thrilled at the progress of the SitF playtest discussion, but I agree 100% that examples and actual play are vital.  My current Vinland campaign isn't as strictly rgfa Simulationist as some of my previous campaigns, though it certainly has strong influences.  Unfortunately, I didn't keep very good records of my Water-Uphill game, and it's been a little over three years -- so it's a little hard to talk details.  I'll see about writing up more on my convention game "Extra Credit" and some discussion of Vinland.


Title: Re: Reconciling Observation and Experiential Play
Post by: M. J. Young on January 01, 2004, 04:00:23 PM
Last night was New Year's Eve, and since we always celebrate by having me cook and serve hors d'oevres for many hours my visit to these fora was very cursory. Thus I skipped over responding to Jay's interesting post.

I think, though, that I'm going to disagree.

What's the difference between gamist combat, narrativist combat, and simulationist combat? I don't think that just because combat breaks out in a game, it makes it gamist, even for a moment, necessarily (there are undoubtedly games in which they drift gamist for the combat, and then drift back, but that's a different issue). I think you can have narrativist and simulationist combat. What distinguishes these?

I think that narrativist combat (which would be the more difficult for me, personally, to identify) retains its relationship to the theme. What matters is not who wins, but which way the story twists at this point, and how the theme is addressed. You could have a narrativist engine which made this rather uncertain, in that the player characters might win or lose without reference to what the players want, and this becomes part of the address of premise--yet it strikes me that many narrativist games don't let player characters die if the players don't approve it, in essence saying, "the death of your character in combat will only happen if you believe this will address premise in a meaningful way". So combat is narrativist if it's about the premise.

Gamist combat is characterized by the desire to win, to test not the character but the player. Losing in a gamist game is a personal loss, not a theoretical one. When one of my beloved Gamma World characters was finally killed, I was in shock--I actually lay on the couch for the rest of the night trying to recover from the loss, despite the fact that in a very real sense we as players had won the game (it was the final battle of the module, and we defeated them, but at the cost of my character). Not everyone takes losses so seriously, but these are losses by the player, and that's what makes it gamist. Losing or failing in a gamist game is like losing at checkers or tennis or football or bridge--it's about whether you won or lost.

Simulationist combat is about whether the characters win or lose, and has no reflection (or very little) on the skills of the players. "Your character died." "Cool. Now we know what would happen."

Thus facing the dragon because the premise demands it is narrativist; facing the dragon because you want to prove you, the player, can beat the dragon with this character is gamist; and facing the dragon to see what happens is simulationist.

Just because it's combat doesn't make it gamist.

If I'm wrong, Jay, what makes combat simulationist and not gamist?

--M. J. Young


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Ian Charvill on January 02, 2004, 12:38:42 AM
Just to jump in and broaden M.J.'s comments about sim combat:

Sim combat in addition to being about 'what happens' can also be about genre fidelity - I'm the knight, he's the dragon, we fight! - and an expression of the PC's personality -  I have the beserker disadvantage, he spilled my pint, we fight!

In addition it doesn't preclude personal stake: the PC is a tool that is used to further the exploration of the shared imaginary space.  The loss of the character can limit the players access to the shared imaginary space, and hence their ability to explore (at least while new characters are created and introduced).  So PC loss for a sim player can be a bummer too.

I'm pretty sure these are obvious points but I could see a possibility of them muddying the waters.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: lumpley on January 02, 2004, 11:34:26 AM
John, I'm wandering pretty far from GNS talk, but this quote of Chris Lehrich's from Plotless but Background-based Games (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6178) -
Quote
So what he's doing is flinging the characters into the middle of a hideously complicated situation, and encouraging them to become important in it. The trick is that he really doesn't know the details of this situation; he's got Power Blocks and Relationships, but relatively few known details. So as the PCs go around talking to people and exploring the setting, they are also galvanizing and clarifying the situation.

That's the stuff you want to figure out how to talk about.  That's where your System-in-play is both most interesting and hardest to see.

-Vincent


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 02, 2004, 02:39:27 PM
Quote from: cruciel
If you look at the whole model, it seems to me like Sim could simply be stripped out of the creative agenda layer and defined as the prioritization of the Exploration layer over the Creative Agenda (G/N) layer.  <SNIP>

It also accounts for other things not part of this discussion; like the social gamer (social contract over everything else), and the heavy immersionist (ephemera over everything else).  I know this is contradictory to the model.


Cruciel,

On the first bit I snipped . . . it seems to me that the act of prioritization is the very defintion of Creative Agenda, so you can't really strip Sim out of the CA layer - Exploration isn't anything until prioritization takes place, at which point we can identify a CA.  So barring caveats about defining Immersion via in-game causality, I think John is quite right to identify Immersion/Fabulism as outside CA.

But I agree very strongly about the second bit I snipped - preferences about things outside of CA matter, and talking about them more helps clarify what CA *isn't*.  Which hopefully eases fears that GNS is ignoring issues that are very important to some folks.

Gordon


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Jason Lee on January 03, 2004, 05:15:42 AM
In reverse order:

Quote from: Gordon
But I agree very strongly about the second bit I snipped - preferences about things outside of CA matter, and talking about them more helps clarify what CA *isn't*.  Which hopefully eases fears that GNS is ignoring issues that are very important to some folks.


Hey thanks.

Quote from: Gordon
On the first bit I snipped . . . it seems to me that the act of prioritization is the very defintion of Creative Agenda, so you can't really strip Sim out of the CA layer - Exploration isn't anything until prioritization takes place, at which point we can identify a CA.  So barring caveats about defining Immersion via in-game causality, I think John is quite right to identify Immersion/Fabulism as outside CA.


Unless you look at it like all the layers are working at once during play.  Nothing is making anything go, it's just going, and Creative Agenda and Exploration are a couple of the artificial divisions you can analyze.  You'd need to hit Creative Agenda over the head and take away its little arrow for this to make any sense at all.

The Immersionist definition John was using:  
Quote from: John
a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.


It seems like the immersion he's referring to is about in-game causality.  Actor Stance seems to be thrown in there too.  Immersion is so icky and gooey that I hestitate to touch it anymore.

Going back to the Fabulist definition:  
Quote from: John
"an active use of the imagination that, in the context of the shared story between players, possesses a logic that defies physics and responds to poetic concerns".


This seems like foresaking the fidelity/verisimilitude/whatchamacallit of explored elements for the sake of "story".  Since my big fat wake up call on Nar last time the Beeg Horseshoe came around, I don't see story without theme anymore.  Story has conflict, conflict creates theme.  No conflict, no story; no theme, no story.  So, the dynamic addressment of Premise doesn't seem like a concern - it's there whether you want it to be or not.  You could just as easily swing this gamist:  Why is there a a 50' dragon in a 20'x20' room?  Who cares! Smash it!


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Jason Lee on January 03, 2004, 05:16:19 AM
Duplicate post.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: John Kim on January 03, 2004, 11:55:29 AM
Quote from: cruciel
  The Immersionist definition John was using:  
Quote from: John
a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.

It seems like the immersion he's referring to is about in-game causality.  Actor Stance seems to be thrown in there too.  Immersion is so icky and gooey that I hestitate to touch it anymore.  

Actually, I now doubt the name I used.  My conception is really based on rgfa Threefold Simulationism, but I didn't want to use that word because Ron had used the same word to define something different, or so I thought.  I used "Immersionism" because that was a term already in use from Petter Bockman's adaptation of the Threefold for Scandanavian LARPs.  However, there is nothing in rgfa Simulationism which specifically encourages one to stick to Actor stance.  

One can engage in simulation through Director stance as well -- though I think that "Director" is a bad term for it.  For example, it is fairly common in my Vinland game for play to pause to talk about viking culture and life.  For example, after Kjartan's marriage we talked about what his living arrangements would be like after that.  Liz (Kjartan's player) argued convincingly that the Vinlanders should have more private space in their homes than historical Icelanders, whose homes were less divided because of lack of wood.  So that's technically Director-stance on the part of the player, defining background rather than acting out one's PC.  But it's still fully simulation, part of the process of defining what things would really be like.  

I agree that "immersion" is a very tricky term, and thus I don't use it for definitions.  I do think that it's clearly important, though.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Jason Lee on January 03, 2004, 12:35:19 PM
Total agreement as far as director stance and maintaining in-game consistency.  This used quite often in my style of play, where everybody may voice how they think a character should behave.

Quote from: John
a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.


The bolded portion is where I took Actor Stance from.  It seemed like the absence of meta-game was a requirement.  I see now that's not what you meant, you just meant the absence of meta-game to control of the narrative structure (right?). After re-reading it it makes more sense.  I guess then, I'm seeing a priority on Exploration with the bolded portion being a specific Technique.


Title: Sim combat reflects Sim priorities
Post by: Silmenume on January 08, 2004, 10:49:43 AM
First of all I would like to wish everyone here at The Forge a very Happy New Year’s!  Thanks for making this such a wonderful and stimulating site.

Quote from: M. J. Young
I think you can have narrativist and simulationist combat. What distinguishes these?

Just because it's combat doesn't make it gamist.


I agree.  I have never argued that there is no such thing as Sim combat, rather I have argued that the examples you gave were mostly Gamist in orientation.  What determines the mode of said combat, is as you indicated, the creative agenda in operation.  In other words, in the observational mode of play what is the player’s reason for said combat, what meaning is being sought?

Narrativist combat, in the observational method, would be as you indicated, dealing with questions that relate to premise.  Thus a player who was interested in seeing “what would happen if”, would be motivated to see what would happen to the premise if the Knight engaged in combat with the Dragon.  The outcome may, or may not, be a concern to premise, if the act of actually engaging in combat itself is the issue being addressed to premise.  The fact it was the Knight of the house of Roses and not the Knight of the house of Lilies, or that it was Knight and not a Paladin.  Like you said, it all has to do with addressing premise.  In Narrativism one is willing, IF it came down to it, to break character to do this to address premise in a meaningful manner.  That makes this a meta-game drive, as it is not motivated from within the SIS, but outside.

In Gamist combat, in the observational method, would be as you indicated, dealing with personal loss, or its obverse, personal victory.  In either case, whether one wins or loses, it’s about the question of victory.  If I pit my Knight against this Dragon, will I win?  However, one may also pit their Knight against the Dragon to be the first to do so.  This would be victory over other players.  Or one may pit the Knight against the Dragon because it was the most efficient way to gain EP’s or to challenge the DM (victory over DM).  Or one may pit a specific design of Knight against a specific type of Dragon to see how various designs (experimentation on formalized system – system mechanics) impact achieving victory over the Dragon.  Thus, even if the specific encounter itself was not motivated by the immediate desire of victory, the knowledge being developed is sought to facilitate the chance of victory in the future.  In military parlance they’re probing attacks.  The skirmishes are not meant to be won, though that would be acceptable, rather their purpose is to reveal information that will be exploited to aid in the strategic goal of victory.  However, even if one wasn’t motivated by a personal victory on any level, those things being tested, combat tactics, character design, etc., their value is measured not against aesthetic creation as a value in and of itself, but rather their effects on the outcome (whether victory was achieved or not) of the combat.  Lastly, said combat was not motivated from a character point of view, but from a strictly meta-game player desire.  

So while a player may be seeking information in the form of feedback, if the value of that information gathering effort (the observed battle of the Knight and Dragon) is to be employed so that the player’s personal goals of victory are facilitated, or the information gathered from the observation of the exercise of the operative elements is generated in reference to victory, even in the abstract, that’s Gamism.

Quote from: M. J. Young
Simulationist combat is about whether the characters win or lose, and has no reflection (or very little) on the skills of the players.


I agree that the combat is about whether the characters win or lose, however as we are roleplaying it MUST always be the character that wins or loses the combat because we are not physically pounding on each other. Thus, that the character wins or losses does not reflect or determine what CA was in operation, rather it is the why the combat was engineered that makes that distinction.  It is the meaning the player derived from that win or loss that determines which CA was in operation.  If the “character’s” loss in combat is taken as a reflection of the combat skills of the player, or if the “character’s” loss in combat is interpreted as representing the player’s personal loss in combat, that would be Gamist.  The question becomes what motivated the combat, and what information was being sought.

Doing something “just to see what happens” is not a priority of Sim specifically, but by the necessity of the creative act of roleplay explored in all modes of the Creative Agenda.  Simulationist combat, in the observational method, would be dealing with questions that that reflect the priorities in Sim, specifically those questions that reflect upon the character’s personality, the setting or situation or are motivated by the character’s personality, the setting or his situation.  Thus having a Knight face a Dragon in combat, in a Sim prioritized combat might be asking the question of “why is this Knight doing this?”  How would this Knight react to having to fight this Dragon?  What would drive this Knight to face a Dragon?  How would this Knight be affected after having fought the Dragon, assuming he survived?  Does this Knight have the courage to face certain death?  Did this Knight demonstrate courage during the battle?  What would happen to this situation as a result of the Knight fighting the Dragon? These are all questions of character.  How would the defeat of the Dragon affect the political or ecological landscape (questions of situation and setting)?  How would not defeating the Dragon affect the political and ecological landscape?  

Since this is a social past time where we are creating to affect those joining in this past time as well amusing ourselves, one could observe what type of an affect this combat would have on the players at the table  (This question is something that the player in the role of DM might ask.)  Yes winning or losing is not without consequence, from a character point of view not too many people are willing to seriously endanger or throw their lives away just to satisfy some sort of idle curiosity (just to see what happens), but in any case that should be a question that the character would be willing to ask of himself.  This does not mean that the player must feel what the character is feeling, but it does mean that this combat should involve the character’s interests in some way.  

What person, and thus by extension what created character, could legitimately face the horror of combat with a dragon and walk away completely unaffected?  I doubt that even the most hardcore of Gamists would literally stand in the middle of a street just to see what would happen if he went into combat against an onrushing car.  Yet it is just that response to conflict that is one of the exploratory actions of Sim (and any fictional narrative), though the player himself need not feel anything or empathize with the character in particular.

To be Sim the combat should be motivated out of situation and the meaning of the results of the combat must ask what results it had on situation.  To be Sim the combat should be motivated by the character and the meaning of the results of the combat must ask what results it had on the character.

Quote from: M. J. Young
"Your character died." "Cool. Now we know what would happen."


Gamist – “Yeah I lost.” – Question of Victory
Narrativist – “Yeah, I was willing to die to uphold the chivalrous virtues.” – Question of Premise
Simulationist – “Yeah, at least my character was brave enough to try and bought a little time for the town to evacuate in the process.” – Question of Character and Situation

Yes there can be Sim combat; its just the reasons for creating that combat must reflect or relate to those elements that are prioritized in the Sim CA.  Sim isn’t about winning losing; I believe it is about creating as a satisfying end unto itself.  It is, as Alan so elegantly put it, about creating an aesthetic.

Aure Entaluva

Silmenume


Title: Re: Sim combat reflects Sim priorities
Post by: Ian Charvill on January 08, 2004, 11:22:03 AM
Quote from: Silmenume
Narrativist – “Yeah, I was willing to die to uphold the chivalrous virtues.” – Question of Premise
Simulationist – “Yeah, at least my character was brave enough to try and bought a little time for the town to evacuate in the process.” – Question of Character and Situation


This may be contentious but...

I'd put those the other way round.  Your simulationist example seems to be hitting on the real world moral issues of bravery and what you would die for and your narrativist example seems to be relating to an in-game imaginary element of 'the chivalrous virtue'.

The at least seems to speak to the feelings of the player much more than whether they're using first or third person to speak about their character.

Which I guess is why people talk about single decisions being non-diagnostic of GNS.


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 08, 2004, 11:30:22 AM
Hello,

Jay, what you're running into is the problem of scope.

You will never successfully provide an exemplar of all Gamism compared with all Simulationism compared with all Narrativism.

The categories are too broad to be exemplified and compared at that level. It's better to drop down into a particular sort of each one, with the three sorts sharing some common Explorative features. Then the comparison can mean something.

I also think you might consider using real, actual examples of play rather than "if a player" hypotheticals - especially when those hypotheticals include descriptions of internal states and motivations, which are really not going to clarify anything.

Best,
Ron


Title: Rebuttal, Meaning and Feedback loops and other non sequiturs
Post by: Silmenume on January 16, 2004, 01:22:50 AM
Greetings -

Ian - The bravery issue to me is not a moral issue, but one of character i.e., definitional.  "He was cheerful, with a smile for everyone, had a ravenous appetite for stories and good drink, and was a brave man."  At least that is how I intended its usage.  The question of holding up chivalrous virtues I had intended to be an example of premise in play - are you willing to die attempting to uphold chivalrous virtues?  If my examples were ill conceived, I apologize.  They sort of evolved out of precedent.

I do agree that single decisions are non-diagnostic of GNS, what was offered was the outgrowth of established argumentative form.  They were offered as "an" example and were not meant to be diagnostic.  By diagnostic I am guessing that means by looking at an instance of play one could then determine/diagnose which CA is in operation.  Rather I was trying to demonstrate a CA and what the player might consider important (what meaning might be derived) in regards to a similar event occurring in all three agendas.

Ron - as poorly as I faired, your post actually supports a position I was struggling to argue.  Simply that merely doing something just to see what happens, in this case pitting a knight against a dragon, is not indicative of any particular agenda.  Perhaps my examples were poorly wrought, but the same gist was implied in your post.  The fictional examples are artifacts of the way the posts evolved.  

The use of hypotheticals which include descriptions of internal states and motivations probably will not clarify anything on a diagnostic level, which CA is being expressed, but internal states and motivations are central to the players' reasons for playing (the meanings created and derived) and thus should be of intense interest to the DM's running their games.  For the sake of proving which CA was in effect perhaps my examples were inappropriate, but that there are internal processes in operation should not be automatically dismissed and brushed under the rug.

Both Gamism and Narrativism have or at least allow for overt meta-game feed back loops between player and DM to facilitate the creation of meanings that are desired by the players.  Sim, by its priority for a low or reduced meta-game expression process, needs to find other ways to employ this feedback loop.  During the game proper, the Sim DM is left to the difficult task of observing the social reinforcement behavior in real time and making on the fly decisions regarding that behavior.  Another process would be the post-game "debrief" which could be direct by talking to the players or indirect such as reading the players' blogs or listening to the players’ conversations after the game.  I think this meaning feedback loop is vastly underutilized in Sim play, and that meaning as a whole tends to get dismissed from the model because it isn’t diagnostic.  While it is a slippery topic to deal with, Meaning is the flipside of the CA.  It is precisely this lack of feedback that I believe that many people leave Sim (the “world” isn’t responding to their interests) or that DM’s find it hard to run effectively.

So yes, little value to the diagnostic process, but vital to be aware of as roleplay is a meaning creation process.   One may raise the objection that if they have no diagnostic powers, why worry about internal states.  Because roleplay is a meaning creation process, the DM, by being aware of his player’s desires, can front-load, specifically create events or develop narrative (lower case ‘n’) tools that maximize the chances of the players generating their desired meanings.

I should have probably split this into a new thread – I am just too much of a mallet head to figure that out at present.

Aure Entaluve,

Silmenume


Title: Simulationism Revisited
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 16, 2004, 06:10:42 AM
Hi Jay,

Since your post consists of replies, I'm going to let it stand as part of this thread.

But it's really time to call this thread closed. Please, everyone, take sub-topics elsewhere.

Best,
Ron