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Author Topic: A Simulationist Thinks About Narrativism  (Read 4915 times)
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #30 on: January 09, 2002, 02:54:20 PM »

I think that there are quite a few exceptions to Jesse's OOC rule for Smulationists. The most obvious one I can think of is that if there are two or more equaly valid decisions from a Simulationist view, then using OOC knowledge to choose one for player reasons is completely acceptable.

For instance, a character comes up to an opponent that he knows is more than his match. It's completely reasonable that the character could challenge himself and attack, and also reasonable that he might retreat to avoid the danger. Given that both are acceptable to the Simulationist, he can probably make the decision using OOC knowledge. For example, this is only a game, nobody will really get hurt; why not attack? Or some such player reasoning.

Really, using OOC knowledge is only objectionable to many Simulationists if it is used in a fashion that breaks the verisimilitude of the scene. Only the real Immersionists hate knowing what their charcter does not.

Mike
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jburneko
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« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2002, 03:15:08 PM »

Guys!

First of all I specifically asked that any comments on my essay be sent to me privately until an 'official' revised version had been released.  Until then I will only say this in response.

First of all one of my revisionary goals is to remove most of the Forge jargon from it.  It is meant to be an essay for a general uninformed audience.  As such when I refer to Simulationists, I'm not refering to the experiemental simulationists out there or among us.  I'm talking strictly about the set of gamers who, when you suggest that perhaps they act on out of character knowledge or make a decision based on something other than, 'what their character WOULD do', look at you funny and think you've just commited a blasphemous sin against the god of role-playing.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #32 on: January 09, 2002, 03:22:39 PM »

Hey,

This is exactly why I don't post drafts any more. My comments to Jesse regarding his essay, months ago, include amending precisely the same phrases that Daredevil and Mike are objecting to.

No, in-character or out-of-character "experience" are not dichotomized between Simulationism and Narrativist play. No, Author and Director stances are not the exclusive domains of Narrativist play.

I respectfully request a careful reading of my essay regarding these exact issues, before any indignant cries of "Narrativist favoritism" crop up.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #33 on: January 10, 2002, 04:44:38 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

I respectfully request a careful reading of my essay regarding these exact issues, before any indignant cries of "Narrativist favoritism" crop up.


Ron,

If cries of "Narrativist favoritism" continue to crop up, consider that it might not be the *content* of your essay but the language-choice used in creating it. If it takes a *careful* reading to avoid misinterpertation maybe the essay's innate even-handedness can be made clearer by adjusting the language.

Another Note: If Narrativist play is in fact your preferred mode of play, consider that you might have a bias somewhere in there.

-Marco

PS: To Jesse--I greatly liked your article. If you feel people are trashing it before it's done, for what it's worth, *I* found it well written and very relevant.  It fills in a lot of gaps for me.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: January 10, 2002, 06:06:07 AM »

Hi Marco,

I have some points for you.

1) Please identify any instances of favoritism toward Narrativism in the essay, in a thread dedicated to that purpose. I am not interested in claims that a given phrase "makes you feel that it might be" favoritism, but a veritable smoking gun.

As you know, the essay is a work in progress. It undergoes very slow revision, but it does occur. Both Gamism and Narrativism are slated for additional material, for which I have extensive notes - and those notes are already influenced by you, as well as by others.

2) Read the "Metamorphoses of a gamer" thread. Matt's interests are certainly Simulationist in large part - am I marginalizing him, or urging that he turn to "real" role-playing (ie Narrativism, if I were to exhibit the alleged bias)? No. I am providing encouragement for him to find ways to satisfy those interests.

Before anyone defends the poor, misunderstood Simulationists from Biased Me, you'll have to identify some instance of that bias actually hurting someone.

3) Bias may be implied or inferred. Without concrete examples or instances to talk about, the discussion devolves into "Are too," and "Am not," and I'm not going to enter into that. I accept that you may be right in inferring bias - thus, I ask for examples. Do me the same courtesy by accepting that you may be wrong in doing so, and be ready to consider a valid counter-argument. That will begin once a primary argument has been presented, which it hasn't.

I do not regard highly the expectation that, to be "good," or "well-written," a complex idea must be easily and immediately understood by anyone. All discourse requires one round of, "Are you saying X?" and "Yes, I am saying X" before any further discussion can occur. I don't have time or energy to hold down both ends of this necessary process for people, so the reactions of people who don't take the time to do this are irrelevant.

Best,
Ron
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Marco
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« Reply #35 on: January 10, 2002, 07:04:32 AM »

Hey Ron,

Before I go off on this, let me say that I think the work you're doing with RPG's is excellent, relevant, and has had beneficial results. I respect your opinion. I don't believe your article states anything that favors Narrativism over Simulationism. There is no smoking gun. The article has content that is valid and interesting, defines its terms carefully, and is well written.

I'm telling you that if you're seeing a trend of reaction (Gamist complaining about the definition, Simulationist saying their getting miss-interperted, observers saying The Forge is 'rules-light,' etc.) *some* of that trend may be due to the *way* things are often said here.  I have an example of this--I don't want to make this inflamatory. The example is extreme--I am *not* comparing you to the issues I'll go into below. The example is a real-world one that, I hope, makes a point.

A person I know offered his services to a charity organization. He was told he could contribute working with Wife Abusers--the state sponsored a class as part of the rehabilitation for spouse abuse. The people who had pitched the class and ran it were adherents of a particular class of feminist ideology. He had to go to their meetings (and study their philosophy) before they'd let him "teach a class."

Their statement: You, if you are a white, heterosexual male, are a wife abuser. The blood of beaten women is literally on your hands.

Not married? Doesn't matter.
Never hit a woman? Doesn't matter.
Protected a woman from assault? Doesn't matter.

How could they say this? If you followed their argument it was this:

You are a hetro white male. You profit from the predominant powerstructure and are not working directly against it (if your are an extreme activist then they'd give you a pass. I doubt anyone reading this is working that hard against the dominant paradigm). By your tacit support of society you create a structure that aids and abetts the systematic abuse of women. Therefore some of their blood is on your hands.

Now, the above is an interesting, perhaps telling argument. Calling a hetero-white-male a Wife Abuser obscures any point they might be trying to make with the average observer. Their *language* suggests they think you're a violent woman-beating barbarian. Their *content* suggests that they think you, and them, and everyone else needs to strongly support massive societal change to make hitting women less common.

This is an *extreme* and *loaded* example and I'm using it because it is the only example I've run into that so strongly makes the distinction. While an average observer might agree with the argument, the language it's couched in provokes (as it's intended to) a strong, visceral, argumentative reaction. People would constantly, angrily, tell them they were not wife abusers.

In their literature there is no "smoking gun." You'll never find a passage in their books that says YOU HIT A WOMAN or YOU'RE OKAY WITH WOMEN BEING HIT. It isn't in there. But there's no denying that their world choice, how they frame their arguments, etc. is very telling.

Regards,
-Marco
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #36 on: January 10, 2002, 07:27:52 AM »

I get your point, but bad eample, Marco.

By analogy, then, the Forge folks are saying that others are bad, just in a way that implies that people are bad in one way, when they mean another.

What I think you mean to say is that the Forge language may imply that certain styles are bad when not intending to do that at all. Is that correct? I think I agree with your point to an extent, but would say that people should read with a more critical eye.

I think that people do have biases, and they will show, almost no matter what you do. And given that most members on the Forge have at least said that they agree that all styles are created equal, I think that the onus is on the reader to do the necessary filtering. Otherwise the process of communication (writing in this case) will become very laborious.

BTW, Ron and Jesse like Narrativism. So what? If the essay is biased, take it for what it is. Are we now saying that you can't be an advocate for what you like? If they feel that there are advantages to a certain style, they should feel free to state those. An essay on what Narrativists like may necessarily state that they don't like the effects of Gamist of Simulationist mechanics. These statements are opinion, and should be treated as such.

As far as my objection to the OOC thing, Jesse, I think my point still stands. I don't think that the non-Immersionist Simulationist is extreme, or even rare. I know a lot of em. All I'm asking is that you amend the statement to say that OOC is abhorent to some Simulationists. Which I agree is totally true.

Mike
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contracycle
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« Reply #37 on: January 10, 2002, 08:05:13 AM »

I don't think that Ron or anyone else is consciously writing this material manipulatively .  I do think that no person can escape their own biases, however.  The result I believe is a document that makes and honest and honourable stab at "objectivity" as is possible.

That said, there remain differences of opinion, and that some of them are felt to be somewhat inflammatory.  THAT said I think there are enough signposts on the forge for an Sim/Gamists to come in here knowing to apply caveat emptor.  Personally I find seeing, umm, narrativism in its native environment, as it were, very useful, because I'm precisely after the ways that other people approach things.  even if I disagree with an analysis from one angle, it at least allows me to see the differences in interpretation inherent to our individual angles.

Does the Forge treat Sim and Gamism in as much depth as it treats Narrativism?  No, no IMO.  Should it?  No, not IMO.  Or at least, not my place to say.
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Marco
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« Reply #38 on: January 10, 2002, 08:05:53 AM »

Mike,

Maybe it is a bad analogy. And I could certainly do the filtering myself--that's true--but why *not* take a look at the language?  If the author of the GNS article is biased, there are ways of dealing with that--see below--that are a lot less likely to get people showing up, reading it, and then making a post saying "Gamist is NOT Competition!" followed by 20 other posts saying "we agree with you."

I'm saying that statements along the lines of:

1. 'The simulationist CoC player has no control over when or how he goes insane, meets monsters, etc'
  -- [paraphrase from above discussion]


2. The description of GNS-related game design as Incoherent (I know what it means--incoherent implies things inconsistent doesn't), "_deceptive_ Narrativist Color," (emphasis added) and "horribly dysfunctional" applied to Seventh Sea, Earth Dawn, etc.  ... "vampire example are especially screwed if they have Narrativist leanings and try to use Vampire: the Masquerade."
  -- [From the big GNS essay, which is required reading for The Forge ]

Is unnecessairly inflamatory.

What's being said is that:

1. In Sim-play the GM is responsible for the architecture of the story. A player may avoid or participate in certain plot events but he doesn't make the *framework* for the story (in general) and when the player does alter the framework (say, committing honorable suicide) it's usually a surprise to the GM and can be a nasty one.

2. A lot of games don't provide a mechanism for players to create plot and methods of its resolution. If you're trying to do that in VtM, you're going to need a lot of social-contract work with the GM to pull it off. A more Narrativist version would put that directly in the game.

This isn't going to upset anyone. They might disagree--but they won't make a Carthridge Must Be Destroyed post.

-Marco

[Note: I agree with both points above. I think the Narrativist game design ideas have a *lot* to offer. It's good stuff--but there are ways of talking about 7th Sea or even VtM without using "horribly disfunctional," and 'deceptive.' ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #39 on: January 10, 2002, 08:15:51 AM »

Hey,

In the past, when a thread went off on a point of this sort, I asked people to take it to private email, as a courtesy to the thread's originator and original issue. I have subsequently learned that this was sometimes interpreted as marginalizing or isolating the people in question from public debate.

So, with apologies to the thread - and with hopes that it can simply pop back into shape, without being derailed - I'll carry on.

The first point is that there is no trend of negative reaction regarding Narrativist bias and so forth. There are a few individuals who lose no opportunity to resurrect the claims, and I was hoping to forestall them. The main trend is astoundingly positive - I do not make public the private messages and emails of thanks for the site, with multiple examples of improved enjoyment of play, because they are private, but they are so numerous that I am content with the goals of the essay and the Forge in general.

On to the discussion.

One of the differences between the example Marco provides and the purpose/standards of the Forge, is that the activists are demanding social change from others, whereas the Forge is not demanding any change at all. I hope it is demonstrating that discussing RPG theory helps people have more fun in the hobby, and that creator ownership helps publishers reach some forms of success more consistently, but Clinton and I are not even requesting, much less demanding, that anyone change their behavior.

That difference is significant, because it means that I have no stake in anyone "accepting" the arguments I present. I would like people to consider them fairly, without agenda, and I am willing to go a little ways to help people get to that point, if they are interested. However, I (unlike the activists) have the luxury of writing off anyone who doesn't go that far. As I've said many times, people are perfectly free to write me off as the Bad Old Man in the Corner. If someone disagrees with me that much, we do not have to fight, whereas with the activists, that degree of disagreement means we absolutely have to fight (ie politically).

Another difference concerns the direction of change or perspective - in the case of the activists in question, it is unilateral: "Of all the possible outlooks, we want everyone to adopt this one." In the case of the Forge, the proposed (offered? proffered?) outlook is plural: "Let's consider a framework that permits a variety of priorities and approaches."

This difference is significant as well, because any perceived "bias" in terms of preferences of play does not automatically falsify the argument in question. As long as stated, verbalized arguments and points are not invalid in plain logistic/rhetorical terms, then we're cool. Biases can sit on our heads and make faces at one another, but the arguments and meeting of minds are occurring legitimately. (In other words, the associative-logic, or illogic, of the activists in question is not admissible.)

My final points: the essay is evolving, slowly. All points being made on the Forge are being taken into account (although the essay is not intended to be a "state of the art" summary, but a statement of my own conclusions). All discussion at the Forge is held to strict standards of courtesy and fair time (although I regret not being able to address certain things in detail due to time constraints, e.g. the latest Scattershot offerings).

In summary, this place is a symposium, not a political convention or confrontation (nor, as has been suggested, a coffee-shop). Unless some person's outlook actually disrupts the quality of discussion for a particular point, I'd prefer that people not wave the "Maybe you're biased" flag, as it has no argumentative power.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #40 on: January 10, 2002, 08:21:13 AM »

Much better examples. Certainly, it's always a good idea to try and be as clear as possible, and consider the potential beligerency of terms used for emphasis. But it's hard not to let something drop once in a while; forgiveness is simpler. But, FWIW, I for one will continue to try to improve my clarity, and I hope that others will try to read a little more critically.

Remember that there are big limitations to this medium. Emotional context is often really difficult to convey (which is why I use the stupid emoticons), for example. If everyone keeps this in mind, we'll all be better off.

Mike
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