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Author Topic: Certain Misconceptions of Mine (Ron?)  (Read 8586 times)
Josh Roby
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« on: August 15, 2005, 02:14:10 PM »

It appears I have some misconceptions about GNS, as evidenced by something I said in http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16217.0;topicseen.  Anyone care to illuminate me?  Thanks much!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2005, 03:07:55 PM »

Hello!

I'll start by clarifying that my post wasn't a challenge. I inferred that you did want to talk about Creative Agenda stuff, and invited you here so we could do that and not screw up Jay's thread. If I'm wrong, and you really don't want to get all this terminological stuff bleated at you, then let me know and we can just have a beer.

Assuming the former, though, here goes.

1. There is no triangle. That's more than just a weird little statement, because a triangle implies common ground among the three corners, and indeed, a necessary connection. People used to talk about the "Threefold Triangle" and that imagery and its resulting implications sometimes creep over into talking about my stuff.

It doesn't apply to my stuff (the Big Model), though, because Creative Agenda is a very distinctive thing - as I've written recently, it's like the difference between one guy who rides his motorcycle to work and back, and another guy who suspends a motorcycle upside down, surrounds it with bronzed cabbages, and gives it a name like "Cosmos." You could say they both like motorcycles, and you could even say they both conceivably could sell their motorcycles. But to say they exist on two ends of any sort of spectrum with common aesthetic grounds of "what to do with a motorcycle" is pretty dumb - or a person would have to be so PoMo to justify it, that I'm not interested in talking to that person.

You could make a triangle out of three guys who ride their motorcycles differently - a racer, a guy who commutes to work, and a guy who pretties up the bike most of the time and tools it around a little at shows. But to me, taking that to aesthetic and creative stuff like role-playing, that's just one CA with a variety of techniques/approaches.

2. Working off your post (and let me know if my quoting is butchering it),

Quote
I don't think it would be any undue burden to assume that your typical gamer monkey could consider the elements of a game in both competitive (Gamist) and explorationist (Simulationist) terms simultaneously.

I very strongly suspect you're making a common mistake - that Exploration is Simulationism. It's not. Of course it's easy to play Gamist with very strong Exploration underpinnings. People do it a lot. Shifting to Simulationist priorities would be brutally different, as different as the sculpture/riding thing.

Creative Agenda cuts all the way from Social Contract "down" or "into" play itself. To shift CA means literally to be there for something else now. (a) As a person, socially and imaginatively, and (b) at a scale of whole reward cycles, not just moments or even scenes - much bigger, usually.

Let's say you were playing in a Gamist fashion with a similarly-inclined group of people, and you were also (and perfectly without any need to talk about Sim) imagining all the Character, Setting, Situation stuff with great intensity. Then someone turns out to have some kind of completely different priority - not just for a minute, not just about one nitpicky thing ... but entirely about being there at all - for entire reward cycles (like "levelling up" or whatever). Everything you've been doing has been off-base to that priority. This guy is there specifically to make sure that he, and the group as a support structure, celebrates the wonderfulness of (oh) a given set of inspirational material. That's why he plays. The rest of you likes that stuff, but it's mainly there to set up the challenges that lead you to Step On Up. The fleeting moments of perceived overlap with his viewpoint actually require a fair amount of "translation" on his part in order for them to work.

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... I think it's hyperbole to state that striking off to one of the GNS poles is the only way to have 'good' roleplay.

Yes, that would be hyperbole, and that's why I don't say that. I'm pretty careful (and not just to protect my ass, but because it makes more sense) to say that Incoherence is not dysfunctional (un-fun) play. It's more likely to lead to un-fun play, as I see it, but that's all. You can, for instance, get un-fun play due to incompatibilities among folks who all want to play (e.g.) Narrativist but prefer vastly different techniques.

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In fact, taking such an approach to extremes will actually delimit meaning to such a degree that it closes down new opportunities for new meaning.  I'd much rather have a little G-and-S in my Narrativist gaming experience, if you will.  I don't want to 'stay on target' on just one interpretation of elements within the SIS; I want to play with them, look at them in continually changing light, and see what different facets and subtleties I can find.

Whup! I think here you might be missing one of the key points in the "GNS and other matters" essay:

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For a given instance of play, the three modes are exclusive in application. When someone tells me that their role-playing is "all three," what I see from them is this: features of (say) two of the goals appear in concert with, or in service to, the main one, but two or more fully-prioritized goals are not present at the same time. So in the course of Narrativist or Simulationist play, moments or aspects of competition that contribute to the main goal are not Gamism. In the course of Gamist or Simulationist play, moments of thematic commentary that contribute to the main goal are not Narrativism. In the course of Narrativist or Gamist play, moments of attention to plausibility that contribute to the main goal are not Simulationism.

I'm not including the final sentence of the quoted paragraph, about what an "instance" is, because it's now resolved: at least one full reward cycle. Which can be quite a bit of play.

What I'm driving at, and why I think this quote might help your understanding, is that the relationship of the "normal words" like competition, thematic commentary, attention to plausibility, and dozens of similar things to the "big fat Capitalized words" (Creative Agenda) is very, very flexible. In other words, I agree with you about the richness and great potential of how all these things might interact. But those "normal words" are not themselves Creative Agendas - they are moments, flashes, nuances, and details of how we play at a given fairly-short segment of play.

Gordon Landis likes to talk about "Big-G, Big-N, Big-S," and "small-g, small-n, and small-s," but I tend not even to bother associating any of the smaller-case words with a CA at all.

So if you and I were playing together, and you brought in a fair dose of personal competitiveness to various decisions, and I didn't, but we did appreciate one another's input and find it all mutually supportive of why we were there at all ... then we don't have a CA clash. We like to ride a little differently, but we are both riding.

A CA-clash is more like suddenly realizing that person next to you is a space-alien and all this time you thought he was eating dinner over at your place, he's actually breeding offspring onto the plate. Nothing you've been doing is reinforcing his presence there at all, and vice versa. There is no "richness" or "ambiguity," there's flat contradiction.

Let me know if any of this was interesting or made any sense.

Best,
Ron
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2005, 09:40:31 PM »

Ah.  So the Agendas are now wholly divergent and exclusive, eh?  I must say, I find that a little sad.  I much preferred the triangle, with its attempt to describe many different kinds of play along a two-dimensional spectrum, rather than an attempt to categorize many different kinds of play into three rough groups.  This disturbingly looks like a trend towards dogma to me.

Let me see if I've got this right, then: Creative Agenda is an agreed-upon common goal created at the Social Contract level, intentionally and explicitly negotiated by the players around the table to guide play that occurs thereafter?  Or am I stating it too strongly?

What's the status of Hybrids, then?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2005, 05:16:15 AM »

No. What you seem to be missing is that Ron's model describes observable and theoretically supported human motivation towards play. The point is not to describe or categorize play styles or anything like that, but rather to pinpoint the purpose of why you play in this particular instance. This has nothing to do with labelling play styles, and it's not particularly rough or fine either. It's not even an abstraction, because there's no approximation to it at all. Consider: how, exactly, could you have a Creative Agenda half-way between Gamism and Narrativism as they are defined in Ron's model? That's like saying that I'm eating a fruit that's half apple, half orange.

You don't look at some play and say that it's 47% gamist or something like that. Rather, you recognize that humans have a motivation and drive to compete, and therefore there is gamism. Then the problem becomes to perceive who has it and when. If you can't perceive whether something is gamist or narrativist, that doesn't mean that it's partly both. That just means that you don't have direct access to that person's brain!

Let me see if I've got this right, then: Creative Agenda is an agreed-upon common goal created at the Social Contract level, intentionally and explicitly negotiated by the players around the table to guide play that occurs thereafter?  Or am I stating it too strongly?

Not really. I've never explicitly negotiated Creative Agenda, and I bet you haven't, either. It's possible in theory, but in practice what we do is talk about the priorities of the game, in concrete, and let the people figure the agenda out that way. Lately I've not even bothered to talk about goals that much, actually; I just go into the game and approve, disapprove or instruct other players according to my understanding on a case-by-case basis when they make decisions in the game. Positive reinforcement for stuff I like, negative for stuff I don't like. Seems to work much better than trying to explain in the abstract what the purpose of the game is, especially with experienced roleplayers who understand all operative terminology differently anyway.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2005, 09:00:53 AM »

Hello,

Eero's correct in all of his points, especially the part about explicit negotiation. I have no idea where you got that from what I wrote.

Your comments about dogma and so on lead me to think that you'd really rather be talking about styles and details and techniques, and that distinctions among CAs are simply out of your zone of interest. When you say "kinds of play," I think you're talking about techniques - and yes, there is of course an immense and multivariate spectrum there.

Have you seen the first couple of pages of the Provisional Glossary, in the articles section? Despite the title, the article isn't a huge list for memorization. The first section is a complete description of the Big Model using a minimum of terms. Maybe that'll help you see where your interest in styles and techniques and my terms for CA are simply different topics entirely.

Best,
Ron
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2005, 09:41:51 AM »

I think you're right in regards to my disinterest in using the CAs as currently defined, but if you don't mind, I'd like to pester you (and whoever else wants to reply) a bit more so that I at least understand the term, whether or not I make much use of them.

The provisional glossary's definition of CA -- The aesthetic priorities and any matters of imaginative interest regarding role-playing.-- makes no reference to a Reward Cycle, which I've seen a couple times as being touted as central to the determination or definition of a CA in any Actual Play.  I understand that this is an ever-developing beast, so by no means am I criticizing or demanding an update; I'm just explaining the sources of my misunderstanding as I see it.

Here are my current questions:
Is a Creative Agenda determined before play begins, or is it only something that can be determined after a complete reward cycle has been completed?  That is, is it prescriptive or descriptive?
The glossary says there are three 'currently recognized' CAs -- are you still holding out the possibility that other CAs exist?  Alternately, is 'Gamism' a CA, or are there many Gamist CAs?
Is the origin of these terms observed behavior (we have seen people play in three ways), or are they more a matter of design and function of role-playing games (we see that every RPG has three pirmary aspects)?
Are reward cycles mutually exclusive, incapable of overlap or running concurrently?
What is the status of the term Hybrid?

And probably a question Ron is loathe to answer: what are the differences between the current Creative Agenda and the old-school modes?

If I should split any of these up into separate threads, I will; I just doubt starting six threads all at once would be a good idea!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2005, 12:18:07 PM »

Hello,

I actually did address why the reward system isn't mentioned in the definition in a recent thread; I'll hunt it up for you.

Now for your questions, very briefly - more later.

Quote
Is a Creative Agenda determined before play begins, or is it only something that can be determined after a complete reward cycle has been completed?  That is, is it prescriptive or descriptive?

It's descriptive of Coherent play, which is only a subset of "all that role-playing out there." Coherent play is recommended by some (including me) to be more consistently fun, but that is not definitional.

"Before/after" isn't really a valid question, I'm afraid - if you're talking about doing it, then it's "during," but if you're talking about talking about it, then it's after.

If I wrote the whole Big Model purely descriptively, then I would barely talk about the CA's at all - instead, I'd talk about how incoherent, CA-muddled play led to all sorts of bizarre compensating behaviors. Because that's what really goes on most of the time, I think.

If I wrote it prescriptively, then each CA would have to be associated with rather complex diagrams of "game designs which help this," with a strong emphasis on reward systems. I have such a diagram for Narrativist play, but discussing it on-line is very problematic - people cannot grasp diagrams well on-line, I've found.

Quote
The glossary says there are three 'currently recognized' CAs -- are you still holding out the possibility that other CAs exist?  Alternately, is 'Gamism' a CA, or are there many Gamist CAs?

I never claimed that these three CAs were the only ones possible, just the only ones anybody has identified. Some folks have claimed others, and some folks agree with them.

For the second question, Gamism is a CA. It may be realized (made real) in bezillions of ways, some which may be very very different from one another (and I suspect it's at this level that your interest lies).

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Is the origin of these terms observed behavior (we have seen people play in three ways), or are they more a matter of design and function of role-playing games (we see that every RPG has three pirmary aspects)?

Observed behavior.

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Are reward cycles mutually exclusive, incapable of overlap or running concurrently?

No. But wait ... are you talking about aesthetically mutually-reinforcing ones (which I'm assuming for your question)? If so, then no.

But if you're are talking about CA-level differences in reward systems, then they are exclusive by definition. As you can see, this is becoming a bit of a circle, which means we'd have to go to actual play for examples rather than "if" at each other.

Quote
What is the status of the term Hybrid?

As defined in the Glossary. It hasn't changed. I consider hybrid play to be vanishingly rare and extremely fragile.

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And probably a question Ron is loathe to answer: what are the differences between the current Creative Agenda and the old-school modes?

Loathe? Bizarre, what people think I think.

I don't know what you mean by the old-school modes. Do you mean the Threefold Model? If so, then I can say very clearly that the Big Model, especially the CA part, is not the same thing as the Threefold. It was certainly inspired by it, but that's all.

If you can specify exactly what you mean by old-school modes, then I can answer it without a qualm.

Best,
Ron
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2005, 01:32:58 PM »

O-Kay!  Coherence is defined as fulfilling a CA.  There are currently three recognized CAs.  Therefore Coherent Play is, by definition, following one of the three recognized CAs.  I think that was the basis of my problem understanding everyone's Greek.  The modes of the threefold model were descriptive of all play; Creative Agendas are descriptive of only their corner of the roleplaying world -- that's the landmark difference that I had missed.

So Hybrids are vanishingly rare and fragile -- is that another observation (not a a posteriori conclusion)?  Do you hazard to speculate why that is?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2005, 02:25:06 PM »

Hiya,

Quote
So Hybrids are vanishingly rare and fragile -- is that another observation (not a a posteriori conclusion)?  Do you hazard to speculate why that is?

Another observation, yes. Theoretically, I was inclined to favor the existence of the hybrids, especially Sim underpinning either of the other two. A lot of observation and discussion later, I'm finding that the usual effect is Incoherence and often resulting frustrations.

(Incoherent doesn't have to mean everyone's sitting around mumbling and swaying. It does mean that "why we're here" tends to shift around, and may not match up well among participants.)

As for why, well, I like my motorcycle analogy. Our sculptor and our racer are hanging out together at a party because someone separately told them, "Hey, that guy likes motorcycles too."  Now they try to have a conversation, or better yet, to "enjoy motorcycles" together. They may well have some trouble ... especially if they go into it assuming that the other guy has the same values, standards, goals, whatever you want to call it.

Most people, doing most social/leisure things, have no problem gravitating toward others who share similar reasons for being there. Gamers ... well, gamers have a tendency to mistake the details involved ("we make up characters") for the goals. Then they often flounder at the goals level ... "twenty minutes of fun packed into four hours" being an excellent description.

Best,
Ron
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