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Author Topic: Making Big Model kabobs.  (Read 6946 times)
komradebob
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« on: August 28, 2004, 09:36:23 AM »

I've been reading these other recent threads that suggest we might approach creative agendas as skewers going through the big model, and that many, may creative agendas beyond Gamist-Narrativist-Simulationist may exist.

Personally, I like the comparison to a skewer, although I disagree with the idea that the skewers match up to creative agendas.

Here's the thing. I dislike the nested model/hierarchical model as it stands.

Individually, I think the different levels of the model say insightful things that inform my ideas about game design and play styles. They are useful in pointing out why dysfunction can occur in a gaming group (conflicting CAs, for example), and for analyzing why I might like to play using a given set of rules.

Taken as a whole unified hierarchal model, I think they create as many problems as they solve.

My thought:
The activity of roleplaying itself is the skewer. Parts from the various levels of the Big Model are the food bits you put on it, and this creates the play style.

I'll take it a step further, and say that the order you place them on the skewer also affects play style, and can be vitally important to functional play. In this case, the skewer sort of becomes a prioritization list (from most to least important to an individual player) of each of the levels of the model. I'm going to suggest that functionality/dysfunctionality of actual play can also occur as a result of this prioritization just as easily as dysfunction caused by conflicting CAs.

Part of my thinking on this is due to the fact that I can think of times when, personally, something like setting and color were way more important issues to functional play than creative agenda. In fact, I've seen times when creative agendas got flipped around both by groups and individuals, but where setting and color were constant. That experience leads me to believe that prioritization of the elements/levels of the big model are more mobile than the hierarchal model suggests.

Summation:
1) The levels of the Big Model are mobile, not hierarchal, in terms of prioritization.

2) It is the assessment of content of a skewer (what elements of each level are present) plus prioritization of those elements that provides insight about a given game design or actual play.

3) By allowing for mobilty of the elements of a given level and their prioritization, it is somewhat easier to account for designs or play styles that seemingly do not fit into the current hierarchal model well. For example, Tourism-sim continiues to be roleplaying ( remember, the activity of roleplaying is the skewer here), with conflict being an extremely low priority ( so low that it may apparently be absent).

4) None of this post is meant to deny the validity, insightfulness, or worth of any of the levels of the Big Model. Rather, I question whether the current hierarchal setup of those levels may be standing in the way of game design and play analysis.

Thanks,
K-Bob
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2004, 09:58:31 AM »

I totally agree.

Check out this thread:
Exploration and Creative Agenda for a lot of discussion on the topic.

I'd be totally into re-opening that discussion although I agree with Ron that it is not a major difference in thinking, more a People's Front of Judea vs. Judean People's Front sort of thing.

yrs--
--Ben
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komradebob
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2004, 01:59:01 PM »

Hey, those Judean Peoples' Fronters are nothing but blushing accomodationists!

hehe
k-B2
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
clehrich
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2004, 05:09:31 PM »

Sorry, Bob, I missed this one.

I think you're completely right: the hierarchical structure of the model gets it into all kinds of logical confusions and problems.

From the thread Ben pointed to, it's clear that there's a lot of disagreement about just how hierarchical the model actually is.  And various metaphors have been constructed to explain it in different ways.

To me, the point is that there is an established relationship between any two "tiers" or "boxes" of the model.  That is, for example, CA has a specific type of relationship to Techniques.  That fixed relationship can be expressed logically, chronologically, or whatever, but it is in any event fixed within quite limited boundaries.

What I have not seen is a serious argument about why this should be the case.  It's not a question, to me, of clarifying how the model does or doesn't work.  The question is why anyone thinks these relations have inherent or intrinsic qualities.

If such relations are dropped, what you have is a dynamic process of creating such relations.  In your kabob model, you're saying that roleplay is the act of doing so, of putting hunks of stuff on kabobs.

As it happens, I agree with you entirely.  But it seems to me that this isn't a cosmetic change.  The model is built up from definitions that presuppose these fixed relations.  So if we remove that fixity, the definitions themselves start to weaken somewhat.  I think that's to the good, because I think the weakest part of this model is those relations and the assumptions that underlie them.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying, "Yes, I agree, and I think this matters quite a bit."
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Chris Lehrich
M. J. Young
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« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2004, 08:35:17 PM »

I wish I could say that I understood all that I just read. Unfortunately, it's late, I'm way behind on everything, and my wife is insisting on chatting with me while I read.

However, I think that the heirarchical nature of the model arises from a sort of set theory concept. The point is that exploration is a subset of social interaction. Techniques are a subset of exploration, and ephemera a subset of techniques. Creative agenda are a special aspect of the model, as this "level" defines the relationship between exploration and techniques, or perhaps it would be better to say that creative agendum controls the way in which techniques relate to exploration.

Thus the heirarchy is inherent to it.

What the heirarchy does not mean is that one part is more or less important than another. That's an artifact of the use of the word "heirarchy" that doesn't apply in this usage.

--M. J. Young
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2004, 08:54:51 PM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
However, I think that the heirarchical nature of the model arises from a sort of set theory concept. The point is that exploration is a subset of social interaction. Techniques are a subset of exploration, and ephemera a subset of techniques. Creative agenda are a special aspect of the model, as this "level" defines the relationship between exploration and techniques, or perhaps it would be better to say that creative agendum controls the way in which techniques relate to exploration.


BL>  The problem with a "set theory sort of concept" is that "is a subset of" and "contains" and all those other pretty mathematical words need a firm grounding in reality and strong definition when they are applied to real things, like a gaming theory.  Set theory alone is meaningless except in a mathematical sense.

So what does "a subset of" mean in this context?  Clearly, a technique is not a particular type of Creative Agenda, so the standard meaning is right out.

yrs--
--Ben
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Rob Carriere
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2004, 11:25:42 PM »

Ben,
My personal mental crutch: I don't consider them sets, but classes in the OO software sense. Subset then becomes the software engineering HASA (or, usually, HASMANY). So, for example, an instance of a Technique has-many instances of Ephemera.

Just my EUR 0.02.
SR
--
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clehrich
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2004, 02:50:17 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
The problem with a "set theory sort of concept" is that "is a subset of" and "contains" and all those other pretty mathematical words need a firm grounding in reality and strong definition when they are applied to real things, like a gaming theory.  Set theory alone is meaningless except in a mathematical sense.
Well put, Ben!  This is the crux of the matter, in my opinion.  I would myself usually put it exactly the reverse way --- that set theory and the like become exceedingly difficult and dangerous precisely when we think that we're talking about real things --- but either version works.

Incidentally, for those who like math and logic better than the social sciences, Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica has a thirty-page section called "The Theory of Logical Types" that is applicable if you want to think in terms of set theory.
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Chris Lehrich
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2004, 08:32:10 AM »

Hello,

Maybe I'm too metaphysically-dismissive even to engage in this discussion, but ...

Play, interaction, imagination, and satisfaction are real things. They have features we can describe to one another, recognize, and validate.

Ideas about how they work are attempts to articulate relationships among the real things which we cannot actually perceive. Sometimes discussing ideas can reveal things which we can perceive, but didn't know we should be looking for (Creative Agenda falls into this category).

"Theory" to me only means "ideas which make maximal sense, given what we've validated so far."

I don't see a problem with any of the above, nor any need to make theory (as I construe it) accord with any other criteria. If other folks want it to, they can go for it - e.g. Chris' article.

Hence, although I am strongly committed to developing the theory, it seems to me far more important to focus on the real-stuff first, the ideas second, and have the theory emerge from those.

I'm definitely on the "inductive" end of the hypothetico-deductive model, at least at this point.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2004, 09:02:05 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
"Theory" to me only means "ideas which make maximal sense, given what we've validated so far."

I don't see a problem with any of the above, nor any need to make theory (as I construe it) accord with any other criteria. If other folks want it to, they can go for it - e.g. Chris' article.


Yup.

Quote from: clerich
I think you're completely right: the hierarchical structure of the model gets it into all kinds of logical confusions and problems.


Chris, I think this is only true when people try to bring in outside stuff and apply it to what the theory must be or should be saying.

Ben's comment about set theory is the same way.  A nice piece of information, but I see no valid reason why any outside understanding of set theory should have any impact on how the Big Model is structured.

To the extent it points out an interesting avenue for thought, great.  At the point where it starts confusing things because the model doesn't live up to various constructed standards from other disciplines...I shrug and say "so what, we're not talking about those other disciplines".

Clarity in presentation is good.  Worrying about theoretical constructs from other disciplines and whether the model fits with those is a big waste of time IMO.



Quote from: komradebob
Rather, I question whether the current hierarchal setup of those levels may be standing in the way of game design and play analysis


This doesn't even make sense to me.  The hierarchal structure exists because bigger pieces are made up of small pieces.  It is a relationship that cannot simply be ignored.

All Techniques are made up of Ephemera.  Ephemera are parts that build technique.

All Techniques are aspects of system at work.  The sum total of all Techniques is for practical intents and purposes the system as play relates to the elements of Exploration.

All Exploration occurs inside the social context of the group.  



These relationships are not some arbitrarily spuriously invented hierarchy that is holding back analysis.  These relationships reflect how these components actually work together from the largest scale of social interaction to the smallest scale of moment by moment even at the table.

The structure of the hierachy has never ever been remotely related to anything even approaching the concept of priority.  Ever.

In case that isn't clear, no case has ever been made that the larger macro elements of the model are more important to a given player than the smallest ephemera.  The hierarchy has never been one of priority greater to lower.  Ever.

In other words, yes K-bob, the various elements that wind up being skewered in a given play style can have greater or lesser importance to a player on an element by element, player by player basis.  Nothing in the model or it hierarchy has ever said otherwise.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2004, 09:38:08 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,

Maybe I'm too metaphysically-dismissive even to engage in this discussion, but ...

Play, interaction, imagination, and satisfaction are real things. They have features we can describe to one another, recognize, and validate.

Ideas about how they work are attempts to articulate relationships among the real things which we cannot actually perceive. Sometimes discussing ideas can reveal things which we can perceive, but didn't know we should be looking for (Creative Agenda falls into this category).

"Theory" to me only means "ideas which make maximal sense, given what we've validated so far."

I don't see a problem with any of the above, nor any need to make theory (as I construe it) accord with any other criteria. If other folks want it to, they can go for it - e.g. Chris' article.

Hence, although I am strongly committed to developing the theory, it seems to me far more important to focus on the real-stuff first, the ideas second, and have the theory emerge from those.

I'm definitely on the "inductive" end of the hypothetico-deductive model, at least at this point.


BL>  Hey, Ron, I think we're talking past each other here.  Or, particularly, I think that the set theory thing is screwing us up.  So lets can it.

What my problem is is that I still don't understand what the brackets mean on the model.  I have this vague sense of "higher is more background and in larger time" and the implied "smaller is more moment-to-moment," but that's all.  And, to me, the model seems to be saying something more precise than that, particularly because it uses the brackets and not, say, just a numbered list.  I just can't figure out what it is trying to say, so I can't even say whether I agree with it or not.

From where I stand, while I can totally understand the difference in time scale between the levels, that is really the only difference I can see.  Hence, my agreement about a "kabob" model or, as I think of it, a "pile" of elements, sort of strewn about every which way.  You seem to see a deeper structure, but I can't quite grasp what it is.

yrs--
--Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2004, 06:48:21 AM »

Hi Ben,

Well, we missed our opportunity to discuss this at GenCon. Jasper got it, though.

I suggest that the person you need to talk to is Vincent. He has a much better touch than I do.

I'll try a little, though. The brackets are categories that describe or label distinctive, identifiable behaviors. The very idea of such a category carries with it different possible sub-types, or composed, if you will, of a variety of different approaches.

This is only to say that one group's Social Contract may look different from another's and isn't, I think, very hard.

Now for the issue of one bracket existing within another. This means that a category like Social Contract must include Exploration. The Exploration is a particular and required kind of Social Contract, focused in a way that most things in the Social Contract don't have to be, in relation to the hobby/activity (role-playing) that we're talking about.

Accepting for the moment that System (as I define it) is a piece of Exploration, then I hope you can see that Techniques would therefore be pieces, applications, sub-categories, and so forth of System. (Bearing in mind that System is not independent of the other four parts of Exploration)

Creative Agenda is presented as an arrow in this model for a reason. Creative Agenda is not a layer within the brackets or boxes. It is a remarkable and very human tyer-together for a particular group, during a particular unit of play, which shoots down from System in Exploration into Techniques. Since all Exploration is a sub-type of Social Contract, and since all Techniques are composed of Ephemera, the whole model is engaged via Creative Agenda.

What it looks like for that group is everything you're familiar with observing yourselves and other groups all these years. You know when Person X has been teased just a little too much, so the others back off some. That's Social Contract, and guess what? It affects what everyone now expects from everyone else in regard to imagining stuff at the table - for instance, it might mean everyone turns away from the teasing and buckles down harder to imagining what's going on (in another group, it might mean taking a break from the Exploration). Whatever that group does with its Explorative intensity, though, then affects Techniques being used, and so on.

Where's the Creative Agenda in all this? It's very clear: whatever fun was threatened by the one person potentially getting mad, that's the Creative Agenda. Everyone adjusts to make sure that the fun doesn't get lost. That's why CA is an arrow, holding the "layers" together for a given group of people.

As a side note, that's why I really think it's more important to understand the model than it is to wrangle about the relationships among CAs.

Best,
Ron
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