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Archive => GNS Model Discussion => Topic started by: james_west on May 10, 2001, 09:37:00 PM



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: james_west on May 10, 2001, 09:37:00 PM
I've been thinking about a less confrontational set of G/N/S definitions:
see what you think. Put this way, I think most people would call themselves
Gamist ... note that by this set of definitions, Feng Shui is primarily gamist.

Everyone in role-playing games is interested in telling stories. The difference in playing styles depends on the kind of stories they're interested in telling.

Gamist GM:
is interested in telling adventure stories, in which the characters must overcome physical obstacles, puzzles, and opponents to accomplish their goals. The story is akin to a summer blockbuster. (In fiction, this is Mac Bolan or Conan)

Narrativist GM:
is interested in telling stories in which the primary conflicts are on an internal or interpersonal level. There may be explicit physical conflict in it, but if so it arises as a result of complex motivations. The story is focused on exploration of character. (In fiction, this is Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner)

Simulationist GM:
is interested in telling stories in which the effects of a particular setting, event, or physical law is played out in as internally consistent a fashion as possible. The story is focused on exploration of a premise. (In fiction, this is most science fiction.)
...
These look rather different than existing definitions I think, but if you consider them carefully, I think you'll find they do a pretty good job of maintaining the core of the meaning while (a) getting rid of the notion that only narativists are telling proper stories (which I think is what most people find offensive), and (b) clearly avoiding mention of mechanic, stance, etc.

(Note that this contradicts my last post in another thread, in that these explicitly work only for RPGs)

                   - James

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-05-11 08:41 ]

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-05-11 11:22 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Logan on May 11, 2001, 03:23:00 PM
The question is not whether the definitions are confrontational. The questions are whether the definitions are accurate, whether they serve their purpose, and whether they're expressed in terms that people can understand and apply. Your definitions are not accurate.

The primary purpose for the G/N/S 3-fold with respect to game design is primarily to determine a game's bias or priority in design.

A Gamist game is intended to challenge the players. Its rules are crafted give players assets they can use to overcome the challenges in the game world.

A Simulationist game is intended to simulate the conditions in the game world. Its rules are crafted to support the simulation.

A Narrativist game is intended to facilitate the telling of satisfying stories. Its rules are crafted to help the GM and players tell stories. It's worth noting that in the rgfa debate, there is a distinction between "dramatist" for the telling of intense, dramatic stories derived from character interaction and "storyist" for the telling of stories based on a plot or sequence of events.

The secondary purpose of G/N/S is to determine the players' bias or priority in playing the game. Note: I believe ascribing player motivations should be primarily left to the RGFA model as represented in John Kim's faq and the debates posted at rec.games.frp.advocacy, but I can't deny that people use G/N/S to classify player's preferences for play. I also agree that some players have preferences which make them more likely to prefer certain types of games. Therefore, I proceed at the risk of weakening my arguments in other areas. That said...

A Gamist player is primarily concerned with overcoming challenges, solving puzzles, increasing his character's capabilities, and winning the game.

A Simulationist player plays to experience conditions in the game world and to do things which he can't or wouldn't do in the real world.

A Narrativist player plays primarily to tell the best story he can involving his character.

Storyline or plot is a common thread in roleplaying games. To that end, any game may tell any sort of story, from action/adventure to science fiction to horror and complex tales of internal conflict. The limitations here are produced by the system in use (ergo the designer's intent) and the social contract between the GM and players who use those rules.

Furthermore, specific techniques used in play and specific mechanics individually may be applied to any sort of game. From a design perspective, a game gains its G/N/S bias from the sum of its mechanics. From a play perspective, a game gains its bias from the actions of the GM in applying those mechanics and from the actions of the players during play. The expectations and limitations on GM and player might be explicitly stated in a social contract before play begins, or may develop over time as play continues.

This means a Narrativist game may well have some Gamist and Simulationist mechanics, and these mechanics may be entirely appropriate for the game and function without compromising its design. It also means players may use a variety of play techniques to attain their goals, regardless of their G/N/S preference.

What's interesting is that play techniques have gained a sort of bias based on the debates at GO and discussions here in support of any style of play. For example, to read discussions here, you would think that any use of in-character stance or immersion roleplaying is automatically an example of Simulationist play. That may be true if the player is completely locked into that stance to the exclusion of all else, as exemplified by the Elaytijist credo; but ordinarily this is just one technique in the roleplayer's arsenal. The player's observed bias will be determined as much by what he tries to do and why he tries to do it as what he actually does or how he does it.

For reference, I believe the GM occupies an interesting middle-ground between designer and player. He is actually some of both, and is affected by issues relating to both. As referee and arbiter of rules, he must understand the game's intent and how to apply its rules. If he doesn't understand, or if he doesn't agree with those rules, he will change them to suit himself. If he has a social contract with his players, that contract may result in further changes or limitations. As Gm and "Keeper of the Campaign", he plays the roles of NPCs and everyone else in the game world. He may also have a bias which affects which games he prefers to run, and what changes he makes to systems he chooses to run for his players. For instance, a Gamist GM may actually compete with his players. It seems silly because he controls most of the environment and he can kill PCs at will, but I have no doubt a certain number of GMs take great pleasure in running a game where they, in all fairness and within the limitations of the rules, outsmart and defeat the players. Similarly, a Narrativist GM running a Simulationist game may well fudge die rolls and manipulate outcomes to produce a more satisfying story.

Best,

Logan


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: james_west on May 11, 2001, 04:03:00 PM
Logan,

I haven't much time at the moment, but ...

To start with, let me say that the G/N/S system is interesting, and potentially quite useful. I like it. However, as currently defined, it has three main problems:

(1) It's muddy. Witness all the different threads in this and other fora in which people try to figure out how these categories apply to actual games. This muddiness isn't a sign that the people are perceiving the games differently (in most cases), it's a sign that the definitions aren't very usable in practice. If people can't figure out how to apply definitions, it means the definitions have problems, not the people.

(2) It's divisive. I haven't seen this myself, but apparently other people have. The categories as stated apparently routinely piss people off. This is most probably because everyone perceives themselves to be telling stories. So, in their opinion, where do you get off telling them that they're not ?

(3) The areas have too much overlap with eachother.  To wit, in the current system , how do you tell the difference between a narrativist system that concentrates on overcoming challenges (but doing it
by telling stories) and a gamist sytem in which the primary conflicts are interpersonal ? I think that the answer is, you can't, and I can't even tell whether the things I described are possible under the system you describe.

So, let me reiterate:
(A) I think the G/N/S concept is fundamentally sound.
(B) I think the definitions are clearly not usable in practice as stated, given that even a single person seems to interpret them differently on different days.
(C) I think that the definitions as stated have the effect of pissing people off. If you can avoid this without abandoning the concept, it would be a good thing.

In order to address these issues I proposed a redefinition which attempts to cover the same philosophical ground/allow the same sorts of distinctions to be made (in the language of my previous post, map the same space), but which avoids these issues.

The definitions I propose could clearly use some work. However, I challenge you to take them and try to apply them to games, and see if they aren't easier to use than the definitions you gave.

(Oh - I can see that I caused some confusion by adding the "Mac Bolan/Conan" type references. I wasn't meaning that the game style was genre-specific, I meant it as a comparison to literary style.)

                     - Thanks,

                      James

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-05-11 20:09 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on May 11, 2001, 04:11:00 PM
To paraphrase Francois Truffaut, the best way to critique a RPG is to write another one.

That said, I don't see GNS as being flawed -- I use it all the freakin' time when I design my games.  I don't think it is necessary to be able to categorize games with the threefold model.  If anything, it's main purpose seems to be not to answer questions but to *ask* them.  And in searching for an answer, one grows and learns.

- Jared


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 11, 2001, 04:32:00 PM
I'm going to zoom in on just one aspect of this.

Logan wrote:
------------
>A Narrativist player plays primarily to tell
>the best story he can involving his character.

I think the realization I was exploring in my "Story Thoughts" post was that even in a pure board game, I would often be playing primarily to tell the best story I can involving my game pieces - but somehow, it was *important* (in the past, sometimes very important - as I've slowly begun to recognize bad tradeoffs in that model, it's becoming less important) that that story emerge "naturally" from the (NOT story creation-related) rules.

And I'm not sure that G/N/S really covers this, especially  G/N/S with the "you will be primarily only one of these things - or at least only one at any given time" focus.

So I guess I'm with James on the "muddy" issue - not that that invalidates G/N/S ('cause I find it very useful, in playing, running, and thinking about deisgning [yes, that's VERY distinct from "actually" designing] RPGs), but it does leave me wanting it to be "better".

I'd like G/N/S to be "Understanding RPGs", doing for RPGs what "Understanding Comics" does for comics (about which I know far too little to carry the analogy any further, really.  But . . . 4 color Superheroes=D&D, Sandman=Nobilis is awfully tempting.  Probably means someone else came up with this, and I'm just remembering it).

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Zak Arntson on May 11, 2001, 04:42:00 PM
And just as Understanding Comics is a comic book, we should put out an Understanding RPGs book as a series of RPGS contained in one volume ...


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 11, 2001, 04:48:00 PM
Jared wrote:
-----------------------
>If anything, it's main purpose seems to be not
>to answer questions but to *ask* them.   And in
>searching for an answer, one grows and learns.

Ah, very wise - or should that be wise-a$$? :smile:  In either case, I think that's an excellent point.  My mind has been drifting in this direction: "what *are* the important questions about RPGs?"  It seems like there ought to be dozens, but I can nevercome up with more than a few:

--What is it you enjoy about RPGs?
--How can you optimize a game design to be about that?
--How can the GM/Players influence a game session to most be about that?

Well, I'm wandering off-topic here - suffice it to say, if some one is clear about exactly what questions G/N/S is asking, I'd love to read 'em.  Oh, and answers aren't *always* a bad thing . .  .


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Logan on May 11, 2001, 05:47:00 PM
James,

What I've found on most fora is that people have a very difficult time with the idea of context. G/N/S (or G/S/D, if you prefer the RGFA model) are guidelines. Within the guidelines, there is a great deal of latitude. This is what I've been trying to express with my recent posts.

If you're looking for me to pat you on the head and congratulate you on producing some vastly superior alternatives to the definitions that already exist, try again. It looks to me like you just mashed the same words around and bolted on your own incorrect assumptions. There are players who really are quite satisfied to develop their characters through violence, measuring accomplishment by the monsters they've slain with no real regard for story until after the dust settles.

You drew a nifty little diagram that shows how people's preferences can be charted, so I know you understand what I'm saying. Most people are not "pure" anything. Ron is an exception. He's a pitbull for the narrativist cause. The RGFA crowd would certainly consider him a hardcore Dramatist and I'd bet they'd be be very interested in his relationship mapping technique for setting up conflicts in an adventure. He's an exception.

Most game designs aren't usually all that pure either. Even Extreme Vengeance, a Narrativist poster child, has a rather suspicious-looking experience table for earning perks and advancing levels. Again, the 3-fold must be viewed as a guideline rather than absolute law. Failure to do that feeds the ugly side of the debate.

Most people should be able to understand the 3-fold. Any way you look at it, D&D is primarily a Gamist game, Call of Cthulhu is primarily a Simulationist game, and Theatrix is primarily a Narrativist game. There will always be people who have preferences that make them more likely to prefer one sort of game over another, just as there will always be people who like a variety of different styles.

Best,

Logan


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: james_west on May 11, 2001, 06:15:00 PM
Logan,

      I'm not saying G/N/S is completely uninterpretable, and I agree that there exist paradigm games that clearly fit into each of the categories.

     What I'm saying is that the way the system is stated
makes it difficult to discuss and pisses people off. That this is true seems self-evident to me: look at the way most discussions of it go. Whether you think people should be able to understand it or not, it's clear that people don't.

     This does not make it useless; it makes it less useful than it could be if it were stated in a way that
was easily interpretable, rather than like an ink-blot psychology test.

                                             - James


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Logan on May 11, 2001, 07:07:00 PM
I've seen and cited evidence that people dislike the terminology. The idea of being Gamist is not as warm or fuzzy as being "game-oriented." There are a certain number of people who resent categories and think any 3-fold is a bad 3-fold. They won't be convinced, and that's to be expected. Beyond that, I think the other big problem is the inevitable fact that John Kim and the RGFA contingent got here first with their G/S/D 3-fold. That model's express purpose is to analyze player behavior and preferences.

With that model in place, G/N/S is redundant with respect to player preference. People who are aware of the RGFA model resent that aspect of G/N/S. Of course, there is a whole lot to the Edwards model beyond G/N/S. It would be ideal to somehow reconcile the 2 models, make them parts of a greater whole with just one set of terms. Unfortunately, I doubt that will happen.

Even so, all this debate is really a tempest in a teapot. I mean, what you have are fuzzy theories embraced and debated by relatively few people. If the materials were compiled and distributed, more people might become interested, but it'd still be a very small number of people.

We agree on a lot more points than we disagree. I understand your desire to make the thing more user-friendly, but there is a point of balance. If you change your terms and definitions every week, no one will know what anyone's talking about. Even then, every little change must be debated and debated some more before people will accept it.

Best,

Logan


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 11, 2001, 07:26:00 PM
Hello,

Thought I'd jump in. I have only a few brief comments.

1) Logan has represented G/N/S thinking as best as I, for one, understand it. I could not possibly improve on his explanation, with the caveat that "tell" a story means, in this instance, "create" rather than "relate what has been previously conceived." I know Logan knows that, but it can get missed sometimes.

You should know that the System essay is rather old - it's a primitive, first attempt at explaining what I thought was an interesting implication of the G/D/S material, its independence from Tweet's D/F/K. I would be perfectly happy if Logan's first post on this thread were to be the skeleton of a new essay, perhaps with a number of examples.

2) James, I do not agree that everyone who role-plays is out to contribute to making a story of good quality. In fact, I think that the converse is true - that such a priority is quite rare among role-playing culture. Plenty of people like to see a GM deliver a story, or to read stories in their rulebooks, or to feel as if they are participating (acting) in a story that they are receiving. I also think everyone who role-plays likes to see some of the COMPONENTS of story - characterization, e.g. - in their activity ("It's not just a rook, it's MY rook, named Bert.").

However, Narrativism is the active commitment to producing story, when "story" is fully defined - protagonists facing conflict under circumstances that carry emotional weight to the audience, with the outcome contributing to that emotional reaction we call "theme."

Please note that when I say "full," I am not suggesting that story-creation is the fullest expression of role-playing. You have, I think, fallen into the trap of seeing judgment in my System essay - yes, I like Narrativist play (or more accurately, am bewildered by the othe priorities, in practice), but it is only ONE thing to do with the basic concept of role-playing.

3) I also think you place too much emphasis on the confusions and misconceptions of others, say, on RPG.net or GO. Much of this is merely the prancing, pouting verbiage that often passes for discourse on the Internet - based on the sophomoric notions that all opinions are valid, that saying something validates it, and so on. If a person cannot actually read and comprehend the essays/fora on the topic, which is demonstrably the case for many of the G/N/S critics, then I have no obligation to meet their points (or lack thereof).

There are no judgments in my essay. When I say "dungeon crawl," my lip does not curl; when I say "rules-heavy," my nose does not go up in the air. These are descriptive, demonstrably real phenomena. "Seeing" such judgments about them in my writings is a classic case of projection. Reacting to such misperception with insult, resentment, and many adjectives elicits only one possible response from me - the same response given by any adult to adolescent yelping.

There are many who do not fit this mold, of course. I've had some powerful discussions with people who DO read and think well, who have not been satisfied - those discussions continue. (My favorite dance-partners are the Scarlet Jester and M.J. Young, both of whom have enriched my thinking considerably.) I have learned, too, that in many cases, my best bet is to wait ... there are people on this thread, now, who were bitterly opposed to the ideas involved initially.

4) I see no evidence, WHATSOEVER, that this body of developing theory is divisive among role-players. Furthermore, I find the entire notion absurd - how are role-players "unified" at present, anyway? Against whom? (These are rhetorical questions.)

5) I also find your claim that people get different results from applying the theories (in classifying systems, for instance) to be odd. In many cases, people are trying out the ideas, seeing if they are coming up with conclusions that work for others. Discussion, and perhaps debate, then results in a shared conclusion. I think the discussion of Feng Shui is an excellent example - I see, in that thread, a very coherent understanding of Feng Shui as a Simulationist game using a form of narrative (Hong Kong action movies) as a context, but not creating such narrative as a goal. Yes, it's tricky - but no, it's no flaw of G/N/S that it took us some discussion to work it out.

A good example, also, is that no one has disputed the notion that Vampire uses a highly Simulationist system, with echoes of Gamism, and that its design tends to override any Narrativist tendencies of play. A number of people (like me) then say, "Hey! No wonder this game puzzled and frustrated me during play. No wonder it seems that the people who like it so much have little in common with my goals in role-playing. I get it now."

I think you're mistaking discussion about the more problematic games (due either to mixture of goals, like Champions, or to an unusual application of one of them, like Feng Shui) for confusion about application in general. I don't see that confusion among us at all.

I suggest a "classification" thread, so that perhaps we can talk about which games have what elements - of course, that would entail clarifying Stance, Currency, D/F/K, and reward-punishment systems in a lot of detail too. I'm all for it. I'd like to cull the thousands of words I and others have contributed on these matters, which are now buried in back-threads on GO, into decent foundation essays.

Best,
Ron



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: greyorm on May 11, 2001, 10:06:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-05-11 22:15, james_west wrote:
What I'm saying is that the way the system is stated
makes it difficult to discuss and pisses people off. That this is true seems self-evident to me: look at the way most discussions of it go. Whether you think people should be able to understand it or not, it's clear that people don't.


I don't agree with that...rather, I can't agree with that.
Humans are notorious for getting themselves worked into knots over perceived meanings and statements, twisting things around due to knee-jerk perceptions without real study.  This is even more true of people on-line.

That is, people in general want to hear what they think they hear, and don't take kindly to hearing anything else.

By the logic you used above ("people argue about it, thus it must be poorly phrased"), everything ever said anywhere is poorly phrased, from evolution to religion to quantum physics to who knows what else.

This seems to me like saying that since not everyone understands why the sky is blue, the way physics describes it is "broken" or because certain quacks or misled individuals use quantum theories to support their own notions, those theories are poorly stated.

That's, of course, ridiculous, since the people who actually know those theories have no trouble discussing them or understanding what they mean (and of course there are often disagreements even between professionals).

I'm not saying all this as an attempt to flame you or put you down, just point out the logical error in the statement, so please don't take it as anything except that.



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: james_west on May 12, 2001, 11:00:00 AM
I've only got a moment - but

The way I parse the majority of the replies is,

"People who don't understand the system are stupid and obnoxious anyway, and thus we don't care whether they understand it or not."

(Three different posts above largely condense to this.)

Let me paraphrase your terminology, but talking about a different area, to see if you can see why your definitions might be offensive to even reasonable people.

"There are three types of people: there are Democrats, there are Greens, and then there are honest, god-fearing people who work hard and love their children."

(I'm not trying to start a political argument; this is
an analogy.)

"There are three types of gamers: there are gamists, there are simulationists, and then there are thoughtful people who tell richly themed stories with well-developed characters and meaningful player contributions."

So you see, I'm beginning to think y'all's claims that you don't see why people are offended must be disingenuous.

To use the last poster's analogy: if a majority of physicists can't make a theory work, the theory is substantially modified or abandoned (note cold fusion.) We're not talking about laymen here; we're talking about other gamers.

I'll reply at greater length later (probably tomorrow). Further, note that this is only one of several issues, and probably the least important of them.

                         - James


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 12, 2001, 11:34:00 AM
james--

i think it's a shame that's the message yr getting, because i don't see that as what anyone's trying to say...

everybody here who has discussed the g/n/s model has said over & over again that there's no hierarchy implied--while ron may be a hardcore narrativist (& i think of myself as one), that doesn't mean anyone here thinks narrativist is "better" than gamism or simulationism (except as personal preferences)...so, i'm not sure where yr getting the notion that anyone is saying this...& there's certainly no implied sneering towards gamism or simulationism...


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: james_west on May 12, 2001, 12:27:00 PM
Joshua,

The model explicitly states that
narrativists are telling stories, and
no-one else is.

This offends people, plain and simple.
Everyone thinks of themselves as telling
valid stories.

Saying that you don't mean to be offensive
with this is about like saying, "I'm truly sorry
that you're an idiot."

I understand the model. I even agree with it
for the most part, although I think of it as a jumping
off point rather than a destination. I personally
sometimes run pretty much straight gamist stories,
but with the right set of players and with enough
time will run narrativist stories (more or less, on
both; simulationist elements are certainly included.), and so I see the difference and think they're both good for different things under different circumstances.

HOWEVER, I also can clearly see why people are offended, and I think it's a bad idea to offend people when a few changes in terminology can preserve the core ideas and remove the part that annoys people.

You may want to call a Spade a Spade, but nowadays they prefer to be called African American, and if you want to avoid giving offense, you will too.

                            - James


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 12, 2001, 12:38:00 PM
* The model explicitly states that narrativists are telling stories, and no-one else is. *

well, actually, narrativism is about "creating stories"--actively, rather than "letting stories happen"...

so, yes, all (or most) gamers would say they tell stories, but narrativism means you are actively trying to create a good story, which is a different thing althogether (check out a different thread in this same forum regarding that difference--"story thoughts" is the name of the thread)...

now, i won't deny that there are those gamers who do cop a "better gamer than thou" attitude, & will boldly claim "ROLEplaying is superior to ROLLplaying" or some other such crap...i just don't think it happens here...


[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-05-12 16:39 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 12, 2001, 01:13:00 PM
james--

a further thought:

to say "narrativists aim towards creating good stories, gamists & simulationists don't" isn't anything like saying "sorry to call you an idiot"--it's simply saying that different people have different goals...as someone who's pretty damn narrativist, i'm not offended if you say "gamists are interested in overcoming challenges & narrativists aren't"...of course i like to overcome challenges, but not in the way gamists do--i want my character to overcome dramatic challenges (usually--sometimes it's fun to have a character fail) but i don't care whether or not i, as a player, overcome any challenges...

i think one of the reasons narrativism hasn't been as widespread in rpgs as gamism & simulationism is because "story creation" hasn't actually been seen as a primary goal in rpgs all along--in the early days, there was rarely a mention of story creation, good or bad, active or passive, in rpg rulebooks--the focus was on accuracy & verisimilitude of the gameworld, balance of characters & challenges...all good gamist & simulationist stuff...the "rpgs as story" movement is a fairly recent one (which isn't to say story was never ever a concern--just not in the rpg rulebooks) w/ games like "ars magica" & "vampire"...

now, i was always concerned w/ story, which is why i didn't run a lot of stuff & when i did, i wasn't the best gm...there simply wasn't anything to support narrativism in the rpgs i read (1st ed "ad&d" & "basic d&d", "boot hill", "top secret", "gamma world", "traveller", etc) & not having much of a head for mechanics, i never even thought you could have story-facilitating systems in rpgs...so i just ran stuff as is & railroaded my players into the story i wanted to create...

now, of course, all rpgs have "story" stuff in them...most rpgs still don't reflect story-creation in the mechanics, but they all pay lip service to "how important story is"...

to be honest, i don't think it is--i mean, it is to me, but it isn't to everyone, certainly not to the point of having story-facilitating mechanics...not only do i think that's okay, i think it should be celebrated...are you interested in challenge more than story? great! cool! do you think story is just the end effect of exploring characters & setting? brilliant! the forthcoming "rune" seems to be an unabashedly gamist game, full of competition & winners & losers, & it looks like it could be a lot of fun...

so, i think if there's an "offense" taken, it's not because of the "snootiness" of narrativists (or theorists) but because people have been stressing all 3 goals at once, as equally important...they are equally valid, but i don't think they're equally important to all people all of the time...

does that make any sense?

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-05-12 17:13 ]

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-05-12 17:15 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: greyorm on May 12, 2001, 02:43:00 PM
Quote

"People who don't understand the system are stupid and obnoxious anyway, and thus we don't care whether they understand it or not."

(Three different posts above largely condense to this.)


This is a major strawman...no one has said "anyone who doesn't understand the system is stupid and obnoxious and their points aren't worth listening to."

In fact, being one of the posters you are referring to, why would I say that?  I'm only beginning to really understand the model now.  Am I thus calling myself an idiot?
Apparently, according to you.

But no, you'll note that everyone has been talking about the "people you can explain the model too, even the ones that don't get it" and "people you can't explain the model to, and refuse to abandon misperceptions."

That's quite a stretch from your claim of what is being said by anyone on this forum, and none of the three posts condense to the statement you've made in any way.

Face it, there are reasonable people and pig-headed people.

Quote

"There are three types of gamers: there are gamists, there are simulationists, and then there are thoughtful people who tell richly themed stories with well-developed characters and meaningful player contributions."


If you see that initially, I can see it.  If you examine the model and still see that, you're WANTING to see it.

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To use the last poster's analogy: if a majority of physicists can't make a theory work, the theory is substantially modified or abandoned (note cold fusion.) We're not talking about laymen here; we're talking about other gamers.


I think I see exactly what the problem is here: you haven't figured out what the model is saying.  The model says nothing about who is telling stories...the model clearly and implicity states *goals* of gaming, or rather "what makes me satisfied in a game."

As well, the model works, provably so, so it isn't a theory like "cold fusion," which plain doesn't work and thus must be rebuilt or abandoned.  People here understand it and work it every day.  So this isn't a case of "a majority of physicists can't make it work", it is like any complex theory: not understandable at a cursory glance, even to a "professional."

And what makes you think that being a gamer should automatically give one the ability to understand the "theory of gaming"?  That's like saying anyone that can hit a baseball should be able to understand physics, or every accountant should understand the bernoulli number sequence (ok, I don't actually know what that is, but hopefully you see the point).



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 14, 2001, 08:09:00 PM
I think James is onto something when he says "The model explicitly states that narrativists are telling stories, and no-one else is" is what somehow offends.

Joshua rebuts/clarifies what the model says with:

>well, actually, narrativism is about "creating
>stories"--actively, rather than "letting stories
>happen"

But (and this is obviously only one man's opinion here), how is "letting a story happen" indirectly via, say, Simulationist rules any less "active" in "creating" a story?    I could see someone (at the moment, not me, but . . . ) strongly argue that they LIKE such stories more, that they are BETTER created in this way, because the direct attention of a conventional Narrativist approach feels too artifical and contrived.  I think the distinguishing characteristic here is not on the fact of story creation, or the active/passive nature of it.

Assuming (outside of G/N/S) you're interested in story, the question becomes, in what WAY are you interested in creating that story.  I'm making this up on the fly here (and after I said in another thread I was going to think a good bit before posting - appologies if this is useless and sloppy, and I retain the right to retract it all later), but maybe Narrative-focus simply means you like the players (and GM?) to think directly in terms of "story" issues as they create the story (and, ideally, have game mechanic tools that reflect that), Game-focus means you like the players (and GM?) to think in terms of "competitive" issues as they create the story (and, ideally, have game mechanic tools that reflect that), and Simulation-focus means you like the players (and GM?) to think in terms of "verisimilitude" issues as they create the story (and, ideally, have game mechanic tools that reflect that).

The E-thing is "verisimilitude" of character.

I have to think about this, but I'm liking having G/N/S focus on "how" rather than "what".  Of course, I'm not currently including those who do NOT pick story as their "what" . . .

Sigh - I'm probably complicating things where I shouldn't.  Hope someone finds this at least amusing, if not helpful.

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Paul Czege on May 14, 2001, 09:05:00 PM
Hey Gordon,

how is "letting a story happen" indirectly via, say, Simulationist rules any less "active" in "creating" a story?

It's less active from the player standpoint in that the player never uses Authorial (or Directorial) stance. Here's a slightly edited paste of something I wrote to a pro-railroading thread on G.O.:

Think about the power an author has when he's writing a book. He can introduce objects. He can introduce new characters at dramatic moments. And then think about the power a player has during a typical Simulationist game. Generally he's proscribed from operating with knowledge other than what his character has managed to glean from in-game events. No author of fiction operates this way. And no gamemaster operates this way. The reason railroading creates a more coherent and pleasing narrative outcome to a scenario in the typical Simulationist game is because only the gamemaster has the power to do a large subset of the things that make stories good, like invent characters, describe the outcomes of actions, invent backstory on the fly, orchestrate dramatic coincidences, etc. Those are key powers that no author of fiction could function effectively without.

I could see someone...strongly argue that they LIKE such stories more, that they are BETTER created in this way, because the direct attention of a conventional Narrativist approach feels too artifical and contrived.

Anyone who argues that placing characters in an environment and observing them to see what happens creates better stories than traditional authorial methods is an idiot. An ant farm can be fascinating, but it's not a story.

Paul


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 14, 2001, 09:16:00 PM
* But (and this is obviously only one man's opinion here), how is "letting a story happen" indirectly via, say, Simulationist rules any less "active" in "creating" a story? *

i think you just answered yr own question, gordon--letting something happen is decidedly NOT active--& that's one difference between narrativism & simulationism...i would argue that those people who claim "but i AM a narrativist! i love story--i just want to let it unfold thru play & see what the result is, rather than trying to FORCE it" are, in fact, much more oriented towards simulationism than narrativism...(& i'm not saying narrativism means "forcing" a story any more than i'm saying simulationism is about "forcing" an  environment--but i have heard people make that claim regarding narrativist mechanics)...

* I could see someone (at the moment, not me, but . . . ) strongly argue that they LIKE such stories more, that they are BETTER created in this way, because the direct attention of a conventional Narrativist approach feels too artifical and contrived. I think the distinguishing characteristic here is not on the fact of story creation, or the active/passive nature of it. *

see, i disagree...sure, someone could argue that they like a story better when it's a result of play, not a factor w/in it (in fact, a certain rpgnetter did argue that to me just recently)--again, i would argue that saying you "like story" doesn't make you a narrativist anymore than paying lip service to verisimilitude makes you a simulationist or saying "i like a good challenge" makes you a gamist...
as ron pointed out, if you were to sit down & start writing stream-of-consciousness, you might get a good piece, but you would almost certainly not get a good STORY (& as much as i love the idea of "first thought, best thought", the guy who coined that phrase, allen ginsburg, revised his poems constantly, as did his buddy jack kerouac revise his novels)..."but rpgs aren't novels" someone yells from the back of the auditorium--yr right, they aren't...but as i've said before, sitting around & waiting for a GOOD story (w/ relevant, engrossing premises & themes & drama) to just happen is as likely as a bunch of improv actors standing around on stage waiting for a good play to happen...& to continue w/ the play analogy, i would argue that following a script, even a good script, is simulationist, while improv theatre, even if the resultant story falls flat, is narrativist, as it's not concerned w/ replication but w/ CREATION...

telling a narrativist "those mechanics are unnatural" is about as constructive & meaningful as telling a simulationist "those mechanics yr using are unnatural--who needs verisimilitude?" or telling a gamist "who cares if the game is balanced? just play the damn thing!"...

you know, it just occured to me that it's late & i need sleep, so i may not be making any sense at all...



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 14, 2001, 11:19:00 PM
Despite my best intentions to let this sit and come back to it later, I checked the board from home, and now I'm gonna go and try and say something intelligent (or at least intelligible) . . .

In response to my:
how is "letting a story happen" indirectly via, say, Simulationist rules any less "active" in "creating" a story?

Paul sez:
It's less active from the player standpoint in that the player never uses Authorial (or Directorial) stance.

2 reactions - 1st, YES, I'm pretty sure I understand what you're saying here, and I agree - I sense a lot of "meat" in realizing that Authorial/Directorial stance aren't really associated with Simulationism.  My 2nd reaction is to question my 1st - is it really not possible to be Authorial in a simulation?  Couldn't there be provision for, say, occasionally the rules of the simulation will break down, and in order to be true to the spirit of the simulation, we allow an Authorial step-in to get things back on track - and only to get things back on track?  While it might be true that "only the gamemaster has the power to do a large subset of the things that make stories good, like invent characters, describe the outcomes of actions, invent backstory on the fly, orchestrate dramatic coincidences, etc. Those are key powers that no author of fiction could function effectively without", what if the players (by convention of the group, though you could formalize it in the rules system) can veto such acts with a "not true to the simulation" vote - or if we allow players to have the Authorial power, subject to the "true to the simulation" rule as well?

Paul goes on to say:
>Anyone who argues that placing characters in an
>environment and observing them to see what happens
>creates better stories than traditional authorial
>methods is an idiot. An ant farm can be fascinating,
>but it's not a story

Well . . . I can't strongly argue this because part of why I'm in these discussions is I'm often unhappy with the amount/type of story that is generated with what everyone calls Simulationist and Gamist RPGs.  But I'll take a stab
at it . . . running with the above, a Simulationist is not restricted from using Authorial methods, they are just constrained in their use by being true to the simulation.  I'll assert that this is traditionally judged in a kind of group-consensus way, with players who try to get away with "too much" prevented by the GM and/or peer pressure, but in theory it could be managed by the game system.  And if one the prime requirements you have for you're story is that it is true to the simulation . . . you're no idiot, you're just trying to make the story you're most interested in.  Maybe the "hard" science fiction analogy works here - it's IMPORTANT to such folks that the science is REAL in such fiction.  The story is RUINED if it's not - doesn't matter if it's dramatically better for Spaceman Spiff to survive 15 mins in hard vaccum - he can only be allowed a few seconds.  A good author will work to set up dramatic situations that are consistent with the science, but in a showdown between the 2, science wins.

So I'm again left thinking the story vs. not story, creating vs. not creating ain't quite it - something about how you're creating, and what kind of things are important to your story, seem like bigger factors.

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 14, 2001, 11:40:00 PM
(Now, lets see if I can sensibly respond to a few things joshua said . . .)

"i would argue that those people who claim "but i AM a narrativist! i love story--i just want to let it unfold thru play & see what the result is, rather than trying to FORCE it" are, in fact, much more oriented towards simulationism than narrativism"

It's situations like this that convince me there's something "off" in the G/N/S model, or my understanding of it.  'Cause if enough people are saying they are story-focused, but don't match other aspects of the "narrativist" label, I don't wanna argue with 'em.  I'll accept that they are story-focused, with whatever restrictions they put on it - narrativism must be about more than just story-focus.  I suspect that FOR ME, the "baggage" of simulation/gamist issues get in the way of the stories I WOULD LIKE to be able to create in RPGs - but others might see that baggage as the very thing that makes the story "worth it".

"again, i would argue that saying you "like story" doesn't make you a narrativist anymore than  . . . "

Agreed - not a narrativist.  But still story-focused?  Maybe.

"telling a narrativist "those mechanics are unnatural" is about as constructive & meaningful as telling a simulationist "those mechanics yr using are unnatural--who needs verisimilitude?" or telling a gamist "who cares if the game is balanced? just play the damn thing!""

Again, agreed - but I'm still left thinking this means G/N/S are different in what KIND of story you're telling, and HOW, rather than whether you're creating a story at all.  At least, as a valid type of G and S - I don't mean to say you can't have G's and S's that really aren't about story, merely that you can have some that are.  At least, it's looking that way to me.

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 15, 2001, 05:52:00 AM
gordon--

well, let me reiterate:

narrativism isn't about "telling stories"--it's about CREATING stories, & there really is a big difference...paul's point about authorial & directorial stance is a good one--in narrativist games, the gm is not the sole author of the story, the entire group is--& to assume that an author could create a good, compelling story by only writing from what 1 character knows & perceives is pretty silly...

is the g/n/s model "off"? well, sure, as much as any model is off--the map is not the territory...people love to try to discredit the model by saying "well, look at my friend here--he doesn't fit neatly into any category!"...well, of course he doesn't, few humans fit into any category neatly...that doesn't invalidate a model (especially one that's still in development, like g/n/s)...


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Logan on May 15, 2001, 06:12:00 AM
Yes. What Brother Neff said.

And more.

Gordon,

It seems to me that you're pretty clear on the G/N/S relationships. I also think they're pretty much on the mark. It's just I suspect that we have more work to do explaining the nuances. Most games will have some sort of plot or story to draw the players in and to give the characters something to do, regardless of G/N/S bias. That's what pre-packaged adventures are all about. The real difference is in the GM's means of presentation and the players' attitudes toward them. As is often pointed out, the goal in Narrativism is to get the entire group to participate in creating the story. Most Narrativist systems have mechanics which promote that activity. Sim systems usually don't. There, the player goal is to have an unusual experience, and part of that experience is seeing how the story will unfold. It's a rather passive view, but valid all the same. Sim systems are usually built to support that viewpoint. What's interesting is that Gamist systems sometimes do have tools which could be used to create story, but the players don't usually use them to do that. Gamist players usually use them to take advantage of a situation and to help their characters win the scenario.

Directly addressing your assertion about hard vacuum in an SF campaign, you're right. It should be fatal after a several seconds' exposure.  This would be true in a Narrativist game as much as it would be in a Simulationist game. The difference is in how the players deal with it. In a Simulationist game, the character gets shoved out an airlock without protective equipment or means of rescue and he dies. He dies because he got pushed out and death is consistent with the conditions in the simulation. It's that simple. In a Narrativist game, maybe he dies or maybe the player changes the conditions in the story so that the character lives, but only if that makes the story stronger. Motive matters as much as the action itself.

In a Narrativist game, the player may have a lot of recourse. If the death serves no good purpose, the player could trigger a flashback which shows the character finding a locker stuffed with an emergency spacesuit. The character puts it on and is now wearing it. As the hatch opens, he's just putting the helmet in place. Now he has air and probably some survival equipment. Or maybe the player wants a different story. Then, the character does get flushed out the lock without a suit. And he's still alive. Hmmm... It seems that the character isn't human. He thought he was human, but evidently he's not. He's a robot? He's what? There's an unexpected wrinkle. Either way, the character grabs a piece of external equipment and begins the long climb back inside.

Of course, we're assuming the character wants to live, and that dying is bad for the story. If the character were infected with some sort of hideous disease or an alien parasite, maybe he hit the airlock on purpose and sacrificed himself to the void in order to protect his comrades. Then, the player might use Narrativist means just to make sure the character is dead. These are only a few of many possibilities.

Finally, this is not to say that even a primarily simulation-oriented game couldn't give the player some story-making tools. It's just that Sim games usually don't do that.

Best,

Logan

[ This Message was edited by: Logan on 2001-05-15 10:16 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 15, 2001, 11:01:00 AM
Thank you all, for taking the time to respond.  I suspect that I'm harping on minor/semantic differences here, but those kind of things can be important to people, so I'm going to dive in one more time . . .

Joshua says:
"narrativism isn't about "telling stories"--it's about CREATING stories"

Can I rephrase this to "creating stories in a particular way?" (that could be said better - "Narrativism is about making the conventional tools of storytelling more directly available to the RPG participants"? erg . . .)  Then we can add things like involving the entire group, taking an Authorial/Directorial stance, and etc. as "signs" of Narrativism.  I'm just not seeing how G and/or S can't also be about creating stories (and that is how the model comes across, even if it's not what it really means to say).  I'm also trying to hew to the Ron Edwards "one and only one" line - I know many are much more accepting of "blending" than Ron is, but at the moment, taking that more extreme approach seems valuable for the insights it might reveal.

Joshua also stated:
"people love to try to discredit the model by saying "well, look at my friend here--he doesn't fit neatly into any category!"

Yeah, and I hope I don't come across that way - I'm more interested in understanding/improving than discrediting.  But if you've got enough data points that don't fit your model (lots of G and S-focused players saying "I am too about story!  Creating story.  All about that.  I just also  . . ."), that's usually a sign the model might need a tweak or three.

Logan said:
"Most games will have some sort of plot or story to draw the players in and to give the characters something to do, regardless of G/N/S bias. That's what pre-packaged adventures are all about. The real difference is in the GM's means of presentation and the players' attitudes toward them."

I see this as saying "story isn't the differentiator".  Sounds like most people agree there - but some people say "Narrativists CREATE, others don't - they tell, or watch, or participate, or [add your variation here]."  On that point, I am not yet convinced.

Logan goes on to use my hard SF vacuum example to BRILLIANTLY point out Narrativist options.  I may have picked a bad analogy for my point, but since it led to this - I ain't complaining.  But let me cherry-pick a couple quotes:

"In a Narrativist game, maybe he dies or maybe the player changes the conditions in the story so that the character lives, but only if that makes the story stronger.  Motive matters as much as the action itself."

And if you believe "staying true to the sim makes the story 'better'", is your motive not story focused?  A weird fer'instance just occurred to me, that brings in elements of gamism as well - let's suppose the ship travels by some sort of field-generating drive that creates a "bubble" around the ship (a "hard" SF sim better have a real good support for this).  As a result, the first 3-20 inches outside the ship are breathable.  In a gamist approach, maybe the first thing that's needed is the PLAYER needs to realize this, and try to grab onto something (strength roll) to keep within the safety zone.  In a more simulationist approach, maybe the there's an intelligence/memory roll to see if the CHARACTER remembers/figures it out.  In both cases, the group involved sees themselves as serving the creation of a story - the desperate grabbing for a handhold, ANY handhold, as the player makes a strength roll, or the nagging memory trying to surface at the back of the brain - will he remember in time?

Now, I'm interested if people claim that those can be less-than-ideal ways to create a story - if this was the heir to the empire, for example, and the "story" everyone wanted to tell was the political intrigue of his assuming the throne, it'd be silly to kill him off in this way.  While the grabbing/remembering stuff are great story ELEMENTS, they might get in the way of the "bigger" story.  I can accept that - it's happened enough in my personal RP history, and is a big part of why I read and occasionally join in these discussions.  But maybe there are people out there for whom the bigger story is ruined unless these little elements remain true to S or G concerns.

"Finally, this is not to say that even a primarily simulation-oriented game couldn't give the player some story-making tools. It's just that Sim games usually don't do that."

But isn't that MY point? :smile:  If a Sim game (or group convention when playing that game) gives the players some story making tools, and they use 'em - they're creating a story.  So if Narrativism is distinct from that, it must be distinct on some other basis than simply story creation.  This is especially true if you're using the Ron Edwards "one and really only one" of G, N & S, where we can't say that Sim w/story tools is just a Sim/Narrative mix.

Wow, longer than I thought.  Thanks again,

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on May 15, 2001, 11:52:00 AM
Re: Simulationist games as "story-telling" games...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the stories in these games told after the game is over?  Like, you play and play and play and when the game is over, you can relate the events as a story -- but the events are not a "story" as it happens.

It's like real life.  My day-to-day life is not a story -- but the events that occur in my life can be written or related in some way as a story.  

In a Narrativist game, you're not living the story...you really are telling a story, albeit as it happens -- dramatic literary/cinematic techniques may be employed and there is a conscious knowledge and effort re: the story as it is happening.


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: GreatWolf on May 15, 2001, 01:04:00 PM
Quote

On 2001-05-15 15:52, Jared A. Sorensen wrote:

It's like real life.  My day-to-day life is not a story -- but the events that occur in my life can be written or related in some way as a story.  

In a Narrativist game, you're not living the story...you really are telling a story, albeit as it happens -- dramatic literary/cinematic techniques may be employed and there is a conscious knowledge and effort re: the story as it is happening.



Now that is a useful distinction.  I do think, though, that it behooves us to remember that there are those who prefer to live the story, rather than tell the story.  (I actually enjoy both.)  Living the story (more than anything else) is at the heart of Simulationism/Explorationism.



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Paul Czege on May 15, 2001, 02:39:00 PM
Hey everyone,

I think Jared just hit the nail right on the head. Though if I hadn't been so busy today, I would written a post that hit it before him. (No, I'm not competitive, why do you ask?) Maybe I'll just play "pick up the pieces":

Living the story (more than anything else) is at the heart of Simulationism/Explorationism.

I'm not sure Jared's post can be used to support this point. Let me go back to something from Gordon's post and by way of it, explain what I mean:

Joshua says:
"narrativism isn't about "telling stories"--it's about CREATING stories"

Can I rephrase this to "creating stories in a particular way?"


No, you can't. I will, however, allow you to rephrase it to "creating stories during play." And this, I think, is the essence of Jared's post.

I used to dread phone calls from my brother. He'd call to tell me what he'd been doing, but he didn't understand how to make it significant to his audience. He'd tell me about a trip he'd taken, and it would be a series of "and then we did this...and then we went here...and then we did this" without any crafting of to make things relevant to the listener, and without any of the important information about his feelings and reactions and levels of excitement or frustration that most people introduce into their conversations to show the personal drama of their experiences. Without that stuff, each and every thing he'd talk about felt tedious, like too much information.

Life is like that. It's a series of things that don't mean much without human feelings and reactions and moral judgements. When a person who knows how to approach his audience tells about his experiences, he organizes what he's saying around a theme. He manipulates his story to create tension. He uses techniques to make the audience interested in the story. Our lives are like a Simulationist game. They only have theme and meaning when we organize the events that way, and when we tell about them.

So, the difference between G/N/S in my mind is that a Narrativist creates a story with the characters as protagonists during play, partly by eliminating all the "too much information" the Simulationist puts up with, but also through use of Authorial/Directorial techniques like introducing characters and orchestrating dramatic coincidences; the Gamist creates a story during and after play with the player as the protagonist; and the Simulationist creates a story after play by selecting and organizing those game events that best tell a story about the character, and de-selecting the irrelevant and the tedious.

Jared isn't saying that Simulationists live the story. There is no story until the game is over. When someone says that a Simulationist doesn't create story, he means the Simulationist doesn't create story during play the way a Narrativist does.

Paul

[ This Message was edited by: Paul Czege on 2001-05-15 18:47 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: GreatWolf on May 15, 2001, 02:58:00 PM
Okay, I will yield the point that perhaps Jared's post does not completely support my point, but I still think that my point stands.

Several people here have complained that most gamers only think of new settings when designing games, as opposed to mechanics or premises.  I think that there's a simple explanation for this.

Most gamers are Simulationists, or as I would prefer to say, Exploratives.

And they are saying what they would like to experience.

Why do you think so many gamers like playing mages or superheroes?  Is it because they want to tell gripping stories about mages or superheroes?  Course not!  It's because they want to imagine the thrill of tossing a fireball or flying faster than a speeding bullet or teleporting into the astral plane.  They want to live an experience.

Paul, the analogy with your brother fails to elucidate the point.  Or rather, it paints both Gamism and Simulationism in a bad light.  To a Simulationist, the details are not necessarily boring.  In fact, most Simulationists these days skip over the boring and cut to the interesting, at least in my experience.  That's because they are looking for the rush of being someone else.  Escapism!  That's what Simulationism is all about.

So why bother if there's a well-constructed story at the end.  That's not the goal.  Simulationists want to live someone else's life.

I am a little disturbed that this goal seems to be slighted here at the Forge.  For all the talk of Actor Stance, it seems as though the vocal proponents here don't really understand it at all.  Immersive play is disparaged as a goal, and Simulative play is compared to a dull brother's retelling of a boring day.  Come now, do you think that Simulative play would be so popular if it were that boring?

But instead, come, drift away with me on the mists of dreams, while I show you a world that you have never seen.  For a few hours you can live another life, wield powers beyond mortal ken, even change the world around you for the better.  For a few hours, adventure and excitement will enter your parched world.  The glory and wonder of imagination will dance in your eyes as you dream with me.  Come, glory in the dance, and care not that no other shall understand what you feel right now.  Is the sunset less glorious because it fades?  Or is its beauty in its ephemeral nature?  It is fleeting, but the memory rides strongly in the mind and soul long after the dice are packed away and the game is over.  For a moment, a halting moment, we reached out and touched the stars.

That is Simulative play.

Dull?  Boring?  I think not.

Irrelevant?  I think not.

I ask all of you to consider, do you really understand Simulative play?  Or have you (unintentionally or otherwise) been slandering a glorious style of play?

{Seth turns off his flames, dusts off the soapbox, and steps down.}

Okay, someone else's turn.  :smile:



Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Paul Czege on May 15, 2001, 06:30:00 PM
Hey Seth,

...they are looking for the rush of being someone else. Escapism! That's what Simulationism is all about.

I'm all about escapism. I read fantasy novels and comic books. I daydream about telling my boss off, and of one-upping my ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend. I write two or three pages of stream of consciousness every day. But this thread was about redefinitions of G, N, and S in which James had added the concept of story to each of them. Escapism isn't story. My post was about the relationship between G, N, S and story. In no way was I disparaging escapism. I spend far too much time on it to take that position.

...Simulative play is compared to a dull brother's retelling of a boring day. Come now, do you think that Simulative play would be so popular if it were that boring?

The point of that description was to explain how creation of story is a meta-process that happens on top of sequence of events. We do it for ourselves so naturally, add theme and meaning to our lives, that it only becomes apparent when you meet someone who doesn't know how to do it.

But I will say that in my experience, if escapism is the goal, Simulationist games generally fail to provide it during play. It's there in buckets when I read the source material, but in actual play there ain't much. Can you say that when you play a Simulationist game that you're consistently thrilled and energized by your role and your actions? It hasn't been the case for me. Straight-up fantasizing is a hell of a lot more escapist.

Paul


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Jared A. Sorensen on May 15, 2001, 07:39:00 PM
Oh my god, but it IS boring!

"Let me tell you about my character...!"

C'mon, like you LIKE listening to those stories?  I mean, most of the time it's just a laundry list of "and thens."

But while it's happening, man!  To that guy he's taking part if something magical and exciting and wonderful.  And he's right -- but it's like telling someone about a dream you had or a concert you saw.  The experience is IN the experience, not in the re-telling (which is why so much gamer fiction sucks...a lot of it is a rehash of someone else's in game experience -- or at least that's what it reads like).

Maybe this is another difference between Gamists/Narrativists and Simulationists.  I think that being an audience member in a well-done Gamist or Narrativist game would be really enjoyable (akin to watching a game of football or a movie).  In a well-done Simulationist game, the audience member would wish HE could be a part of it all.

- J

_________________
jared a. sorensen / http://www.memento-mori.com
indie game design from beyond the grave


[ This Message was edited by: Jared A. Sorensen on 2001-05-15 23:42 ]


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: GreatWolf on May 16, 2001, 03:52:00 AM
The mass response begins....

First, to Paul:

Quote


The point of that description was to explain how creation of story is a meta-process that happens on top of sequence of events. We do it for ourselves so naturally, add theme and meaning to our lives, that it only becomes apparent when you meet someone who doesn't know how to do it.



I wonder if there is a conflict on the definition of "story" being used.  It would appear that some of us are using story as defined as "a recounting of events" while others of us are using story more narrowly.  Haven't had my morning cup of coffee, so I can't say for sure.  :smile:

Quote

But I will say that in my experience, if escapism is the goal, Simulationist games generally fail to provide it during play. It's there in buckets when I read the source material, but in actual play there ain't much. Can you say that when you play a Simulationist game that you're consistently thrilled and energized by your role and your actions? It hasn't been the case for me. Straight-up fantasizing is a hell of a lot more escapist.



In your experience.  In my experience, my players who are exploratively oriented have been thrilled and energized by their roles and actions.  Well, at least as consistently as a strong narrative has been constructed.  :smile:  Again, I wonder if "Simulationist" is being confused with "rules-heavy".  Looking back on some of my sessions, I see that, from a player's perspective, they were more explorative-oriented.  However, the rules set being used (Mage) ran quickly and easily for us, permitting the players to immerse in their roles (immersion being a goal).

I understand your concern.  However, could it not be that these Simulationist games are just reaching the goal poorly?  Is the fault Simulationism, or its current implementations?

To Jared:

I think that you get my point.  Remember that the goal of Simulationism is not to have a story that can be retold; it is to have a story that was lived.  (Yes, perhaps I am using "story" in a loose fashion, but so are the multitudes of roleplayers out there who make James' claim that story applies to all styles.)  Sure, it may be boring to hear about the experience, but that can apply across the board.  The experience is one thing; the retelling is another things altogether.  Paul's brother could have had a fascinating experience and still not be able to relate it well.  Narrativism wants to be able to relate the story.  Simulationism wants to live the story.

To all:

My concern as this discussion progresses is that Simulationism is being judged by Narrativist standards.  "Simulationism isn't really about story, because it doesn't fit our Narrativist definition of story."  Like I said, perhaps our definition of story needs to be examined, but let us be careful.  If we are really in favor of the advancement of game design (not just Narrativist design), then we need to examine each spoke of G/N/S on its own terms.  Otherwise we do not do the cause of game design any good.

But someone may say, "There are gobs of Simulationist games out there now!"  Ah, but are they good Simulationist games?  At least one of our number has stated that they did not work for him.  True, that could be a matter of preference or situation, but could it also be that the rules-heavy, detailed-oriented RPGs are really only a poor beginning towards exploring this spoke of G/N/S?  Could it be that the world needs not just the development of Narrativism but the continued development of Simulationism?

I will leave you with something that Scarlet Jester said to me in design conversations about Alyria:

"The roots of Explorative play are not in wargaming; they are in daydreaming."

Certainly for some, daydreaming is about complex simulation.  (Just think of the alternate history crowd or the Tom Clancy technothriller fanbase.)  But for others, this daydreaming will look different.  What are we doing to facilitate their goal?




Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Logan on May 16, 2001, 06:34:00 AM
Wow. This has really gone all over the place.

I'll say this again because it bears repeating: G/N/S is a guideline. Within the guideline, there are many variations. A lot of the discussion that I read here seems to be an attempt to refine the "One True Form" of each style of play. It's a fool's errand. There is no "One True Form." There's just a range of possibilities for each style.

Gordon,

Thanks for the compliment. I don't know that anything I write is brilliant, but I'm glad you see what I'm saying. Now, let's put the rest of it back in context.

Logan said:
"Most games will have some sort of plot or story to draw the players in and to give the characters something to do, regardless of G/N/S bias. That's what pre-packaged adventures are all about. The real difference is in the GM's means of presentation and the players' attitudes toward them."

Gordon said:
>I see this as saying "story isn't the differentiator". Sounds like most people agree there - but some people say "Narrativists CREATE, others don't - they tell, or watch, or participate, or [add your variation here]." On that point, I am not yet convinced.
--------------------------

Story in and of itself isn't the differentiator. All games have some sort of story which unfolds through play. It may be a simple story. It may be a really trite, contrived story, but at the end, it's a story all the same. Attitude toward the story, degree of participation in shaping the story - Those are bigger differentiators. The truth of this has surfaced and resurfaced many times. Simulationists want to experience events, to see how the story unfolds. This is why Simulationist games don't usually have mechanics which allow the players to make big changes to the flow or outcome of events. By definition (and this is supported by many posts on the rgfa list) Simulationists will accept events which aren't good for the story because they're consistent with the terms of the simulation. Narrativists won't do that. Narrativists play to create a satisfying story. Narrativist games give players the tools to do that.

Logan said:
"In a Narrativist game, maybe he dies or maybe the player changes the conditions in the story so that the character lives, but only if that makes the story stronger. Motive matters as much as the action itself."

Gordon said:
>And if you believe "staying true to the sim makes the story 'better'", is your motive not story focused?
-----------------------------------

This is a context issue. I was addressing the motives of Narrativist players. Depending on the circumstances, the Narrativist player might want his character to live, or he might want his character to die.

Looking at Sim player motives as presented here and in rgfa discussions, I suggest that the Sim player will only want his character to live if the character has the means to live within the limits of the simulation. In other words, if something happens that should kill the character, the Sim player may feel robbed if the character lives.  In that context, "staying true to the sim" may make the story better for the player - *but* the motive is *not* story focused. The motive is clearly to maintain the  verisimilitude of the simulation, which is very different from creating story the way Narrativists want to create story.

******************************

There has been a lot of discussion about Simulationist games, and about Simulationism in general. There is a lot of discussion about what Simulationism is and what it is not. A lot of people have pointed at the Immersive/explorative style of character simulation and said, "This is the One True Form of Simulation." No, it's not. It's an extreme variation, at the far end of the scale. Amber is probably the only game that even tries to support the style. At the other end, weighing in at approximately 30 tons, is Rolemaster and its progeny, MERP. In the middle of the scale, highly regarded as arguably the best Simulationist game ever written, is CoC. You can count GURPS and BESM, but I think both of those games have heavy Gamist influence. It seems likely to me that those are Simulationist games written for Gamist players, or at least for players with both Gamist and Simulationist tendencies. With that, we must look at one of Seth's assertions.

Seth wrote:
>But someone may say, "There are gobs of Simulationist games out there now!" Ah, but are they good Simulationist games? At least one of our number has stated that they did not work for him. True, that could be a matter of preference or situation, but could it also be that the rules-heavy, detailed-oriented RPGs are really only a poor beginning towards exploring this spoke of G/N/S? Could it be that the world needs not just the development of Narrativism but the continued development of Simulationism?

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

This is where it pays to remember that each style includes a variety of approaches. I think some of the Simulationist games are probably good simulationist games, good enough to gain loyal followings and maintain their place in the market. On the other hand, most of them don't really try to support that immersive style of play, a style which is directed toward character simulation and the Elaytijist ideal. It could be that those detail-oriented rpgs are a poor attempt at Simulationist play, but it's more likely that Simulationism is big enough to support both approaches.


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 16, 2001, 06:47:00 AM
Seth,

"I wonder if there is a conflict on the definition of "story" being used. It would appear that some of us are using story as defined as "a recounting of events" while others of us are using story more narrowly."

From my perspective, no one can take seriously the notion that "story" means "recounting of events." All role-playing consists of causally-determined events (via any application of D/F/K). This is an all-inclusive concept. However, as any and every discussion of narrative makes clear on page 1, "story" is a sub-set of "recounted events" with highly specific features.

"the goal of Simulationism is not to have a story that can be retold; it is to have a story that was lived. (Yes, perhaps I am using "story" in a loose fashion, but so are the multitudes of roleplayers out there who make James' claim that story applies to all styles.)  Narrativism wants to be able to relate the story. Simulationism wants to live the story."

And those multitudes are flatly wrong. That loose application of "story" is doing nothing but muddying communication. (You are seeing here my professorial/academic position that the NUMBER of people saying a wrong-thing is irrelevant, by the way.) *Simulationism wants to live a series of causal events, story either injected whole-cloth from outside (via GM, or metaplot + GM), or absent.*

This is not dissing Simulationism! It IS, however, describing precisely the behaviors in question, as stated so nicely by folks like the Scarlet Jester and the website Paul Czege cited. And I'm getting weary, have been for a long time, of going 'round and 'round with "That is not story," met with "Yes it is!" and then, "Well, OK, it's not, but I'd prefer we call it a story so I don't feel bad about it."

"My concern as this discussion progresses is that Simulationism is being judged by Narrativist standards. "Simulationism isn't really about story, because it doesn't fit our Narrativist definition of story." Like I said, perhaps our definition of story needs to be examined, but let us be careful. If we are really in favor of the advancement of game design (not just Narrativist design), then we need to examine each spoke of G/N/S on its own terms. Otherwise we do not do the cause of game design any good."

Judging? No judging. Not in your paraphrase of the concept. No, not even my comments in this post (and if you can believe it, not on my "long and brutal" post either). I am about accurate description and dissection - and rule #1 is don't use a loaded term for multiple meanings. Simulationism simply ISN'T about making stories, even though in some applications story is important (e.g. metaplots). This is not a bad thing - I am simply describing what people do.

Furthermore, there are some serious, serious advocates of Simulationist techniques and standards out there, and I consider it perhaps the most widespread and widely-acknowledged goal of role-playing, especially if you consider the older, genre/reality version (e.g. GURPS) as well as the newer, Drama-heavy, character-experience version. These account for the vast majority of RPGs and, I think, the vast majority of role-playing activity. LARPing is huge. On a slightly more negative note, the term "immersion" has been widely adopted as a BASELINE standard of quality play, which I (speaking as an advocate of acknowledging ALL of G/N/S) find obnoxious.

In other words, Simulationism is not the underdog. Its goals ARE being facilitated by a wide variety of role-playing designs and activities. They have been since the moment role-playing appeared, and have not slackened for an instant.

Nor is it being judged as "minor" or "inferior" by folks like me, Josh, Logan, Jared, and Paul. But UNTIL its fundamental, distinctive qualities are acknowledged, and not CONCEALED by a fits-all use of the term "story," optimizing Simulationist or any other goals, or even having productive discussions about any aspect of RPG design, becomes very difficult.

Best,
Ron


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 16, 2001, 03:25:00 PM
Alright, life got busy, but I'm back at this - I've gotten a lot out of it, and hopefully there's some more left to get.  I'm going to stick with the "story" issues . . . and Ron's thoughts seem to touch on that most directly:

>That loose application of "story" is doing nothing but
>muddying communication.

I agree that an overly-loose application of story is probably a bad thing here - but I'm not sure which "tight" application would be wise.  Help, anyone?

>And I'm getting weary, have been for a long time, of
>going 'round and 'round with "That is not story," met
>with "Yes it is!" and then, "Well, OK, it's not, but
>I'd prefer we call it a story so I don't feel bad about >it."

Appologies if this is something you've gone 'round and 'round on, but this is where I think there's something I'm not getting, or something less than clear in the model.

Take the "thrown out the airlock" incident.  I'm assuming a Simulationist bias (this thread seems focused there, but in my mind a few twists carry this to Gamism as well), and I'm assuming that 3-20 inch bubble of air outside the ship.  Design your mechanics to support Sim concerens, make your decisions in a Sim context - is not the Simulationist creating the story of how he survived (or failed to survive) being thrown out the airlock?  Now, there may be folly in hoping to string together such mini-story creations into a coherent/effective whole story (without the GM/Metaplot outside-imposition you mention earlier in the msg), but it's got all the story elements, doesn't it?  Tension, conflict, resolution, etc . . . even theme, if you're willing to grant (and based on what I've read elsewhere,  you may not be) a general statement like "The ingenuity of humanity" or "The cold, hard nature of reality" that status.

Tell me that the tight application of story you want to apply exludes this, and I'll be happy.  Explain WHY, and I'll be even happier :wink:

That's a start - let me re-read all the wonderful stuff you folks have been posting, and see if any light bulbs go off.

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 16, 2001, 04:10:00 PM
gordon--

the airlock incident--okay, here's the thing: it seems to me that to look at it as an isolated incident ("this pc has been pushed out an airlock") is very simulationist--the only concern is "how do the mechanics handle this?"...from a narrativist point-of-view, a character wouldn't "just" be pushed out of an airlock--not to say that everything in a narrativist game is prescripted (i hope we all know by now that that ain't the case) nor that pcs are invulnerable, but as a gm, i sure wouldn't have a pc pushed out an airlock unless it was incredibly relevant to the story--& i certainly wouldn't kill the pc unless it was cool w/ the player...

& herein lies my point--in a simulationist game, one thing happens & that causes consequences & then another thing happens & that causes consequences & so on & so on...now, a story may result from this sequences of events, & it may even be a good story (& a good story may even be the goal of the group--maybe they're playing "vampire" or "call of cthulhu")--but the group has not been ACTIVELY trying to create a story...

now, if you ask them, they might say "yeah, we were trying to create a story", but they weren't, they were experiencing a sequence of events & expecting them to add up to a story--not the same thing...& that's the important thing--it's not the end result that makes a game "narrativist" or "simulationist" but how the journey is made...because the goal of narrativism isn't to end up w/ a good story that will entertain dozens of fellow members of the local rpg club, it's to create a story as a process to entertain the audience, which in an rpg is the same people as the players...

hope this helps...


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on May 16, 2001, 05:35:00 PM
Wow, I think I may have actually "made sense" of this, at least for myself.  Thanks to all.

(The paragraph below is almost stream-of-consciousness, but somehow I think it encapsulates something, so I"m including it . . . )
So, the Narrativist would be "allowed" to actually create the fact that a 3-20 inch bubble of air surrounds the ship.  To a Simulationist (that is, someone who is playing that way at the moment), such a thing would be absurd - unless, I suppose, the character had an "alter reality" ability.  But that ability would have to have been established, defined and quantified before hand - a Narrativist could add that ability to the character at the moment of the crisis.  A Simulationist couldn't - unless the Sim defined how a crisis could add new abilities to a character instantantly - argh . . . !  hmm . . maybe this is why motivation - immediate motivation - is the key - as long as the motivation is to be true to the sim, THEN the Simulationist can "get away" with most anything the Narrativist can.  The Narrativist, on the other hand, can "get away" with such things only if they are remaining true to the story . . . hmm, the "instance" of definition of G or N or S is in a decision.  G/N/S defines decisions - a Narrativist game design decision, a Simulationist decision on how to resolve an action, a Gamist decision about generating a character.

(on a more coherent note)
Logan wrote a couple very good paragraphs that crystallized my thinking and may have gotten me over the last hump in terms of Story and G/N/S.  They're brilliant (there's that word again - probably hyperbole, but hey I'm allowed to be nice, ain't I?) acknowledgements of the general application of Story across G/N/S, and of the way in which it (Story) has a particular primacy in N.  I'll repeat 'em here and then add my thoughts:

"Story in and of itself isn't the differentiator. All games have some sort of story which unfolds through play. It may be a simple story. It may be a really trite, contrived story, but at the end, it's a story all the same. Attitude toward the story, degree of participation in shaping the story - Those are bigger differentiators. The truth of this has surfaced and resurfaced many times. Simulationists want to experience events, to see how the story unfolds.  This is why Simulationist games don't usually have mechanics which allow the players to make big changes to the flow or outcome of events. By definition (and this is supported by many posts on the rgfa list) Simulationists will accept events which aren't good for the story because they're consistent with the terms of the simulation.  Narrativists won't do that. Narrativists play to create a satisfying story. Narrativist games give players the tools to do that."

"Looking at Sim player motives as presented here and in rgfa discussions, I suggest that the Sim player will only want his character to live if the character has the means to live within the limits of the simulation. In other words, if something happens that should kill the character, the Sim player may feel robbed if the character lives. In that context, "staying true to the sim" may make the story better for the player - *but* the motive is *not* story focused. The motive is clearly to maintain the verisimilitude of the simulation, which is very different from creating story the way Narrativists want to create story."

The immediate motive is to be true to the sim.  That does not invalidate your motivation to create a story - which is tied (in the case of a simulationist) to the notion that the "best"/most satisfying way to do so is to be true to the sim.  But it does mean that your immediate motivation is NOT story oriented.  Your decision is most directly tied to one, one only one, of G, N, or S.

So - how's this definition: only in Narrativism is your motive RIGHT NOW, right as you're playing the game, right as you're making individual decisions in the course of the game, right as you're applying the mechanics to your actions - only in Narrativism is your motivation *in that moment* shaped by "am I helping to create a story here?".

Only in Simulationism is that immediate motivation "is this true to the sim?".  Only in Gamism is the immediate motivation "will this help me win?"

Wow, again longer than I thought.  Appologies if I've bored anyone - and if you think I'm way off base with something here, go ahead, let me know - maybe I missed something.

Oh, and Joshua - yes it helped.  I think what I've got here is subtly different from "the group has not been ACTIVELY trying to create a story", but only subtly.

Gordon C. Landis


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: joshua neff on May 16, 2001, 05:48:00 PM
* Appologies if I've bored anyone *

are you kidding? this (& the other discussions here regarding g/n/s) have helped me get closer to my own understanding of the model & the three types of play...so, thanks, gordon (& james, & ron, & logan, & paul, & raven, & everyone else)...

(but please, no group hugs, okay?)


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 16, 2001, 06:06:00 PM
Hey Gordon,

I think Josh hit it right on the nose with his assessment of the airlock situation - a "guy" is not just a guy, a crisis is not just a crisis, a moment in the story is not just a moment in the time-stream (compare the first twenty minutes of a movie with the last twenty minutes). All of these are highly loaded in Narrativism, and the situation you describe literally changes its physical necessities and outcomes depending on the answers. Whereas in Simulationism (of any stripe, I think), changing those very things - actually altering the consistency of what-causes-what - is exactly what the system-design is intended to prevent.

With any luck at all, now the following may help rather than add jargon. It's simply some vocab that summarizes a lot of what you've said.

We're talking about how a player relates to his or her character.

- Actor Stance: the player makes decisions from "within" the character's own motivations, perceptions, and biases, with no other recourse for announcing the character's actions.

- Author Stance: the player acts from "outside" the character's motivations, perceptions, etc, and makes decisions for the character's actions that "the character doesn't know about." Then character motive and so on are retroactively added on, so that the in-game events are not utterly implausible.

- Director Stance: the player manipulates elements of the in-game world in favor of outcomes that the player is interested in seeing, wholly external to the character, and obviously completely disconnected from the character's motivations and so on. (If the astronaut situation were occurring in a game which permitted Director Stance, the player might have total power over whatever means was available to survive the situation, even retroactively. Without Director Stance for the player, such things would be in the hands of the GM.)

This relates to what you've been talking about very directly - Narrativism relies heavily on player Author Stance (and some games are now encouraging Director Stance with certain mechanics as well). However, Simulationism across-the-board, as far as I can tell, generally favors Actor Stance. Just to round out the picture, Gamism generally favors Author Stance.

That said, it should be added that Stance shifts a lot during play (hence the name), sometimes very quickly, and I am NOT claiming that these are what happens every second of play - just the tendencies within each goal.

Best,
Ron


Title: friendlier G/N/S definitions
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 23, 2001, 08:13:00 AM
I'm glad that we're all getting to know Simulationism better, a topic near and dear to my heart.

If you look at the beginning of the thread, this relates a lot to the other thread and the resistance to G/N/S as well as the Simulationism as a degenerate form (I know, I'm overstating). What I mean is that the rhetoric of G/N/S is usually delivered by the Narrativist crowd. It isn't always perfectly understood by those recieveing it (and, I daresay, occasionally delivered poorly). So they may interperet it as being derogatory even if it is not. Despite the fact that the Narrativist crowd doesn't find the descriptions of G and S disparaging, that doen't mean that many G and S people won't.

And then you wonder why they act defensively? I started out the same way until I took the time to learn the whole thing. Now I get it and am not put off by it. But in this world of political correctness you are shocked when people dislike the definition that you give to their style of play?

Be a little more patient, please.

Mike Holmes