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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 126 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: GNS Analogy From Art  (Read 2681 times)
ejh
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 309


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« on: August 11, 2004, 06:36:45 AM »

Just posted the following http://www.goesping.org/index.php/archives/2004/08/11/the-threefold-path/">at my blog.

Would appreciate comment, esp. on whether people see it as accurate.

I have three friends who are all artists -- all concern themselves
with the creation of images.  All consider themselves serious artists.
But they have very different attitudes and goals.

Simon is interested in accuracy.  He likes to draw and paint things
the way they really are, or, if he's painting something fictional, he
likes to paint them the way they would actually look if they existed.
Mistakes in, say, human proportions bother him a lot.  Inconsistencies
between a series of pictures supposedly of the same subject bother him
a lot.  If he draws a castle in the air, you may be sure that he has
carefully designed the interior of the castle and could tell you
what's inside it and why it's up in the air and how it stays there.
It's not that he's into "realism" as such -- he's perfectly happy to
draw with simple outlines and schematic representations, if the
occasion calls for it -- but whatever style he uses, he will be using
it in the interests of accurate representation of whatever he's
representing.

For a living, Simon works as a medical illustrator, accurately
representing bones and organs, healthy and diseased, and he also does
some architectural work, drawing buildings both real and as yet
imaginary, as accurately as possible.

My second friend, Navin, is interested in expression, in what people
call Fine Art.  He is quite as capable of "realism" as Simon, but he
is unconcerned with "accuracy."  To him an image has to mean something
as an image; it's not just a window through which you look.  He is
quite willing to "cheat" on proportions or the underlying logic of a
scene as long as the overal visual effect is what he's going for.  He
will draw things which if you think about them are impossible, but
they look right and they feel right, so Navin is happy with them.  He
drives Simon nuts with his "cheating" and inaccuracies, but to him,
working like Simon does would be a huge waste of time, because in the
end, all you have is an image, and the image stands or falls on its
own merits.  It's not that he doesn't enjoy creating worlds with his
painting, or depicting the real world; he's just conscious that what
he ends up with is a *painting* or a *depiction* of the real world,
and he wants it to be a good, effective, and powerful one, one which
moves the viewer.  Everything serves that end.

Navin is a fine artist and illustrator; his paintings hang in
galleries and his drawings adorn books.

My third friend is named Gomer.  Gomer is as good an artist as Simon
and Navin, but he enjoys a challenge.  He likes to try to accomplish
difficult things with his art, particular goals, not the general goal
of "expression" like Navin's, but objective objectives (so to speak).
Visual tricks, trompe l'oeil, for example.  M.C. Escher and Baroque
perspective tricks interest him.  He's also a Photoshop wizard and
participates in photoshopping challenges on Fark and Worth1000.com
regularly.

Like Navin, he's willing to "cheat" to achieve a visual effect; unlike
Navin, he's not working towards a general goal of artistic expression
but towards a difficult specific challenge.  Navin sees him as
obsessed with irrelevant externals, while he sees Navin as obsessed
with nebulous fluffy la-la stuff.  In the end, Navin is interested in
things which are essentially subjective and personally meaningful, and
Gomer in things which are essentially objective and arbitrary.  And
yet both Navin and he use many of the same techniques which Simon
shuns -- they are both willing to buck accurate representation for
their own goals.  It's just that the type of goal is very different.
Simon sees them both as "cheaters."  Like Navin, Gomer sees Simon as a
bit of a time waster who forgets he's making an *image* and gets lost
in the world behind the image.

Gomer is an advertising art director for a living, and has read and
mastered all the reams of marketing studies which show which
colors people respond to in a paperback cover, for example.  He has a
track record of being able to double sales of any given item through
strategic improvements of the packaging, and he's very valued at his
company.  He has a friendly rivalry with several other art directors
and they all attempt to destroy each other's product lines and then go
out for beers.

The foregoing has been an an attempt to find another way to express
the "threefold path" of roleplaying games a la [Ron
Edwards](http://www.indie-rpgs.com/).  The three artists represent the
three types of gamer.

* Simon represents a Simulationist gamer.  Simulationsts care about
  accuracy.

* Navin represents a Narrativist gamer.  Narrativists care about
  creating a literary story.

* Gomer represents a Gamist gamer.  Gamists care about challenge and
  honing their skills, and often about competition with other Gamists.

They're all doing the same general kind of thing, but with different
goals and motivations, going in different directions.  It'd be hard
for them to work together on anything unless they decided to unite in
one of these directions, i.e. Navin and Gomez put aside their usual
goals and work together with Simon on accuracy, or whatever.

Note that mistakes from the point of view of one of them might not be
mistakes at all from another's.  What Simon calls "inaccuracy" Navin
might call "expressivity" or Gomer might call "good visual strategy."
Similarly what Gomer calls "ineffective visual strategy" Navin might
call "good expression" and Simon might call "accurate representation."

If the three of them have no way to articulate their differences but
just call what they do "art," then they will come into a lot of
unnecessary conflict, as each one thinks the others are really poor
"artists."  If they can articulate their differences, they can allow
for those differences and work together if and when they choose to, by
voluntarily changing their agendas.
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ErrathofKosh
Member

Posts: 190

Lest Darkness Fall.


« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2004, 10:38:30 AM »

I enjoyed this analogy...
This is definitely one of the better ones I've seen.  However, that's only my humble opinion.  

As a warning, people trying to understand something will latch onto an analogy that they relate to and commit the mistake of thinking the analogy is the theory.  (not consciously) But, OTOH, I think this could be a good starting point for a lot of people, as long as they continue on to the real theory.

I applaud your efforts.

Cheers
Jonathan
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Cheers,
Jonathan
John Kim
Member

Posts: 1805


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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2004, 10:39:05 PM »

Quote from: ejh
If the three of them have no way to articulate their differences but just call what they do "art," then they will come into a lot of unnecessary conflict, as each one thinks the others are really poor "artists."  If they can articulate their differences, they can allow for those differences and work together if and when they choose to, by voluntarily changing their agendas.

I like this, in a way, but I don't think that it corresponds to how GNS is used.  i.e. The terms "Expressionist", "Realist", and "Commercial" can all be used to describe art.  However, few people push the idea that all art can be accurately labelled as one of these three -- or even that these three are mutually exclusive.  

So I think as a analogy this is not a good representation of either GNS or the rgfa Threefold.  I think the general approach is a good one for explaining style differences in role-playing.  But I wouldn't recommend it as a primer in either GNS or the Threefold.
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- John
Hunter Logan
Member

Posts: 86


« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2004, 05:44:19 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
The terms "Expressionist", "Realist", and "Commercial" can all be used to describe art.  However, few people push the idea that all art can be accurately labelled as one of these three -- or even that these three are mutually exclusive.  


Heh. GNS and Threefold have the same problem. Try this: The terms "Dramatist/Narrativist", "Simulationist", and "Gamist" can all be used to describe Styles of roleplaying. However, few people push the idea that all roleplaying styles can be accurately labelled as one of these three -- or even that these three are mutually exclusive.
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ejh
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 309


WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2004, 06:28:43 AM »

John,

You may be right that it's not a good description of GNS, but I don't think you could accurately describe the three fictional artists as "Expressionist," "Realist," and "Commercial."  I specifically noted that none of them had a monopoly on realism, for example, and that "Gomer" wasn't purely interested in art as commercial.  So I'm not sure you got out of it what I intended, if that was the impression you came away with.

For me the valuable part of the analogy was being able to give a description of what something like a "Narrativist" might be, and how they might differ from "Simulationist" and "Gamist," without reference to Lajos Egri.  I was in a discussion in some blog comments with people who didn't think much of Egri's literary theory, and so I thought I'd see if I could come up with an Egri-free, Premise-free description of the three modes.  Actually it was originally just an analogy about Sim and Nar, but I added Gomer the Gamist artist later on to round the three out.

I also found personally useful the comparison of "inaccurate" rendering with metagame mechanics.  In GNS, pure metagame mechanics are supposed to be conducive to both Gamist play (you use them for strategy) and Narrativist play (you use them to manipulate the story to address Premise or whatever) but anathema to Simulationist play (because they don't simulate anything).  I thought one could compare that to various "inaccurate" "cheating" rendering techniques that might be used by Gomer or Navin but shunned by Simon.

But then, I've never claimed to be an authority on GNS or GDS, so take it for what it's worth.  Constructing the analogies was a useful exercise for me.

Still love to hear Ron's take on it but I don't really expect that till after GenCon at best. :)
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