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GNS, Metagame, and Meaning

Started by John Kim, December 14, 2004, 09:07:04 PM

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John Kim

So there has been a lot of talk in Chris Lehrich's thread,">On RPGs and Text [LONG].  However, there have been some pointed comments about GNS there, including some comments for me, which I think should be brought up in the GNS forum.  I am picking up particularly on Mike Holmes' points which relate to GNS in general (as opposed to stuff about myth and textuality and stuff).  I've highlighted a few portions in red which I comment on below:

Quote from: Mike HolmesIf you look back at the descriptions that Ron gives of what it is that "Premise" means as locally defined, he starts by saying it's a moral question. And then people questioned that statemtent, and he backed off to "moral or ethical." People questioned that, and he backed off to "emotionally engaging." People said, "But gamism is emotionally engaging." In the narrativism essay, Ron neatly sidesteps the issue, by using the term theme, and saying simply that premises are the questions that when answered produce theme. But then he's altering the definition of theme from Egri to start as well. So that's almost tautological. In the essay it's about "value-judgements" or even more vaugely, a "point."

So "Premise" at that point became like Obscenity is to the Supreme Court - something without a definition, but Ron knows it when he sees it. Yes, this really is the state of narrativism.

To whit, instead of defining it, Ron has instead taken to relying on people making their own restatement of what premise is to understand it. That is, he's come to understand that his definitions do not suffice for most people, and that the only way that they can come to grips with this is for the individual to restate it in his or her own words. This is even in the essay.
Quote from: Mike HolmesBecause the meaning element has to be added by someone. In sim play, the players do not add meaning, any more than one adds mythic meaning through day to day living. In sim play, the player rejects the metagame, and, sans some other controlling factor, all you get is a facsimile of life in another place.

To the extent that you insist that all creation is, in fact, meaningful, you agree with me that all play of this sort is actually narrativism. This is why I come to Beeg Horseshoe from Ron's theory. When it comes down to it, narrativism is about players creating meaning of some sort from what I can tell.

Here's where you and John Kim have always had a problem with the theory, because you rightly don't see any play by the players as being devoid of meaning. So all play that you, he, and I observe is narrativism to some extent. The only question is to what extent power is given to the players to do this in a somewhat metagame way, or to which they are required not to be storytellers, but merely the interpreters of the acts of characters inside the game.
Quote from: Mike HolmesThat is, the use of GNS is in predicting incoherence. If we go with your model, we now have to suppose that the players in sim somehow reject the "textual story" that's created by narrativism, because they want to creat myth instead. Well, again, if that's the case, then all of the power that I've given to my players has been used to create myth, and my players are all sim. In fact, there are no players who play using narrativism that I've ever seen.

Again, this shows where you and John have a problem understanding narrativism, because you both assume it's something that you've never seen, when, in fact, you have. The people who claim to play narrativism don't sit around the table saying things like, "It would be really cool to end the story with a Faulkner-esqe twist, so let's try to maneuver things so that we can accomplish that." Making a protagonist out of a character merely means making him someone who creates meaning for the players. And nothing more than that.
Quote from: Mike HolmesAll I can say, Chris, is that you're reading into Ron's statement a whole lotta stuff that isn't there. Ron has specifically said on more than one occassion that "Story Now" is merely the creation of meaning by the player at the moment it happens. It seems to me that all of the other constructs of literature or "story" are added on afterwards, making play like this, if it exists, a subset of the whole of narrativism.

Sim is not about "classifying" or any of that. Exploration does that on a basic level before we ever get to sim or nar. Sim is just the appearance or lack of it, of metagame (or any other such "disbelief suspension" breaking thing). This is why in the 3D model, the only question is that of control of "theme". That is, who's making it.
A few disclaimers here -- Ron has stated that he despises definitions of "I know it when I see it", and I sympathize strongly with him.  Also, Mike suggests that I assume that I've never seen Narrativism -- which is completely news to me.  I've suggested that, for example, my">Water-Uphill World game or my">Shadows in the Fog game might be Narrativist -- but during discussion many people rejected the idea.  I don't have any assumptions regarding the GNS classifications of my various games.  (For that matter, I don't have a strong position for most of them.)  

Mainly, I wanted to bring up your idea of GNS specifically in the GNS forum for discussion of what GNS is.  You suggest that GNS Simulationism is just the lack of metagame.  And GNS Narrativism is just the creation of meaning -- any sort of meaning.  Is that right?  I'm curious how you view Theatrix, then.  Here is a game which seems to be pretty rife with metagame, yet Ron Edwards has suggested that it is squarely GNS Simulationist.  On the other hand, I'm a bit stuck in that you suggest that for something to mean something, there was to be "metagame".  i.e. If my character decides to commit suicide, say, that is meaningless unless it was "metagame"?  I don't think I understand your position here.
- John