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Author Topic: My confusion lessens: GNS and Heroquest and my reviews  (Read 7686 times)
cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« on: October 08, 2005, 12:45:36 PM »

Hi chaps!

A few nights ago I was working on a review of the Issaries game for www.rpg.net  In that review I got sidetracked in to a discussion of whether HeroQuest was a narrativist game, and I expressed myself uncertain as to exactly what Gamist, Narrativist and Simulationist meant.  In passing I explain that this is not an issue, as any game can support any play style, and HQ was not written to support one particular mode of play over another.


However, this still left me baffled.  Why could I not grasp the G/N/S model?

Well time has passed, I have reflected, cogitated, and read more articles and threads.  I have thought long and hard, and I have identified reasons for my confusion, and i think began to understand the idea much better.

I have read and reread several times -
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/
 - an article which is by far the clearest exposition of the ideas. Before I had always been referred to the Provisional Glossary: I am too stupid to work from that.

Part of the issue was that for me the terms employed, and very good terms they are, have different meanings.
So when I read Pride and Prejudice, is it Jane Austen's meaning, or my own which matters?  Here I was imposing my own meanings on Ron Edward's terms - and unsurprisingly failing to grasp the model.
When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

So wrote Lewis Caroll in Through The looking Glass. I have passed in to this Looking Glass World of the Forge, and words mean different things here.

Take Simulationist.  Now that word has a very long history in rpg theory - it is employed time and again in White Dwarf and Imagine, and even more so in the early to mid 80's British rpg fanzines.  In that historical sense, Simulationist means to attempt to simulate reality in an rpg by mechanics .  It is sometimes used synonymously with that godawful term, realism.  However the earliest use of it I can find was actually in the Chivalry and Sorcery community, where it was employed by 1979.  Runequest players used it; it was what made the style of C&S %& RQ different to AD&D.   Clearly by this definition players can not be Simulationist; systems can.   

Yet here Simulationist has taken on a different set of meanings; the player finds satisfaction in simulating reality of the imaginary world.  I see this as Immersionist: I am of course reminded of Turku, but also many Gloranthan players, and other games where simulating a particular reality and exploring and living in it become the most important thing. I am by this latter definition clearly a Simulationist.

Gamist again threw me; while I am not aware of the term being employed much in rpg circles pre-Forge, if at all, my basic mistake was to read this as a defining System function, not one of the options available to players, and  a tendency towards play style.  I read games with high crunch, or game mechanic heavy, like Ars Magica, or games where the dice and rules system were intrusive as Gamist.  One can easily play Nobilis in a Gamist manner I see now; I was confusing player agendas with system design.

However the one which stuffed me the most was Narrativism.  I understood this in light of the cultural theory, especially recent work on narrativism and cultural discourse.  I was by training a Cultural Studies lecturer, and in that discipline narrativism has been employed in several distinct, and not always compatible ways.  Nonetheless, I tried to read the term narrativism through a Cultural Studies perspective: it fails to make sense in that way.  (Though Literary Theorists sometimes employ the term in a vaguely related sense as I understand it, but that is outside the scope of this response.)

Anyway, Narrativist is a complex term.  I thought maybe in the rpg sense it sounded like the dreaded Californian DMing we heard so much about in 70's zines:  The referee tells a story, and the characters get to play roles in it, but not really influence the overall narrative structure or outcome.  Now I have learnt about bangs, and such I am far more comfortable with the idea; we are looking at choices, about decisions.  This is a very long way from "Walking through the City" and narrativism as I understood it academically, or the Californian school of DM-ing.  In fact it is completely the opposite of that School, if it ever existed.

Well I am getting there. The problem was not with the G/N/S model, but with my false preconceptions have along way to go.  I am very curious about how G/N/S applies to Freeform LARP, but maybe that should await another post.

all the best
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Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2005, 02:39:03 PM »

Hi CJ

So, what are you saying? Do you feel you 'get it now'. Do you have a question, or just sharing your epiphany (assuming you feel you had one!)?

Regards
Rob
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cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2005, 05:23:53 PM »

I have noted that many people don't get G/N/S, and I now feel I do, at least far far more than i did. I can at leastnow understand the concepts, and try to tink of ways to test the models usefulness.

I had read the essays
 had read the forums
I had read the RPG net debates

And I still did not understand G/N/S!

However, I can now identify three simple reasons why

1. People often see what they expect to see.  In other forums, G/N/S i soften couched in generalised comments relating  to systems not players personal approaches.  I therefore looked at what I though G/N/S was, and completely misread the essays.  This is not helped by the fact that the terms simulationist and narrativism can be employed in different ways, the former in gaming, the latter in academic discourse.  The terms are therefore not value neutral, and it is easy to bring your preconceptions to bear.

2.  Despite termilogical exactitude, the Glossary is hard work compared with almost all the other essays, and much less revealing. Yet people alsways pointed me to the Glossary first.

3.  Most peopel who talk about G/N/S on other forums and at rpg conventions do not necessarily seem to understand to my current understanding the author intent, and it can be misleading. You really need to read the essays several times slowly.

I dunno if any of that is useful.  It was my understandings, after a lot of work. I'm pretty dumb really, but Imentioned G/N/S in my review, and taht I did not understand it, and lest that souinded like implied criticism I was determined to carry on til I did; and now I think I do, I like what I see! :)

OK, wher eit has led me is tomorrow i am going to try taping my players if they approve, amd making notes so I can perform a discourse analysis after the session, and see if i can identify which play agendas predominate.  I suspect it shifts depending oon the game and the players mood, but I think if one looks at it as similar to Berenes Transactional Analysis, where the three ego states shift but general tendencies can be seen in each players style, that might be something like how i m meant to envisage G/N/S? 

Which leads to the interesting question: could we then go on to construct Games, as in GAmes People Play, in which Gamist gets satisfacuion from Tthwarting Narrativist etc, etc.  I am sure I am not the first person to make this analogy, and if you are not familair withthe book or Transactional Analysis you will wonder ewhat rubbish I am spouting, bu iot sounds plausible. :)

Anyway cheers!

cj x



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cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2005, 05:25:55 PM »

And sorry I am a lousy typist, its 2.25am here and I am running  a blasted fever. :(  I completely failed to spell check my last post.  Bernes - Eric Berne, Games' People play, 1967

cj x
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2005, 10:39:16 PM »

Which leads to the interesting question: could we then go on to construct Games, as in GAmes People Play, in which Gamist gets satisfacuion from Tthwarting Narrativist etc, etc.

I don't know if games can be deliberately constructed that way, but I know I've played in games that ended up that way1. The problem is: Where is the Narrativist-leaning player supposed to get satisfaction from? Why would he play a game where the Gamist-leaning fellow is rewarded for stomping all over his preferences?

One other comment, in the interest of helping you get Sim:

Quote
Yet here Simulationist has taken on a different set of meanings; the player finds satisfaction in simulating reality of the imaginary world.  I see this as Immersionist: I am of course reminded of Turku, but also many Gloranthan players, and other games where simulating a particular reality and exploring and living in it become the most important thing.

Consider the group of players who enjoy applying layer after layer of complex rules to get the outcome of the action "just right." These players discuss rules and reference game books for much of their play, not because they are trying to defeat a particular challenge, but because it's important to them that the outcome is as plausible and faithful to the source material as it can be.

That kind of play is not "Immersive." You don't lose yourself in the character and viscerally experience living in the world. But it is another kind of Simulationism. Both kinds of play are Sim! They share a concern to make the Dream (as they say in Forgespeak) seem real.

1[cynicism]That game is called Mind's Eye Theater.[/cynicism]
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Adam Cerling
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Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2005, 01:03:25 AM »

I have noted that many people don't get G/N/S, and I now feel I do, at least far far more than i did. I can at leastnow understand the concepts, and try to tink of ways to test the models usefulness.

I had read the essays
 had read the forums
I had read the RPG net debates

And I still did not understand G/N/S!

I'm not sure what your not understanding? Do you feel there is a universal truth that your missing, because I don't think there is one.

Also, there is very few games that are 100% Gamism or Sim or Narratavism. There is a table in the Narratavism Article. Read the article then review the table. I think your 'DP MAp CJ', so I am fairly sure you have experience of a number of those systems and that should give some context to help your understanding of GNS.

In Sorcerer and on the Forge you will find the article 'System Does Matter'. This is because it is better to use a RPG system that better support your gaming desires, not that Gamism, Sim or Narratavism are inherently superior to one another. You often hear people bitching that Narratavism preference players looking down on say Sim or Gamism play or the other way around. But that is not in the writing. Sure individuals may be like that but thats because they are like it anyway I would guess.

However, I can now identify three simple reasons why

1. People often see what they expect to see.  In other forums, G/N/S i soften couched in generalised comments relating  to systems not players personal approaches.  I therefore looked at what I though G/N/S was, and completely misread the essays.  This is not helped by the fact that the terms simulationist and narrativism can be employed in different ways, the former in gaming, the latter in academic discourse.  The terms are therefore not value neutral, and it is easy to bring your preconceptions to bear.

2.  Despite termilogical exactitude, the Glossary is hard work compared with almost all the other essays, and much less revealing. Yet people alsways pointed me to the Glossary first.

3.  Most peopel who talk about G/N/S on other forums and at rpg conventions do not necessarily seem to understand to my current understanding the author intent, and it can be misleading. You really need to read the essays several times slowly.

I dunno if any of that is useful.  It was my understandings, after a lot of work. I'm pretty dumb really, but Imentioned G/N/S in my review, and taht I did not understand it, and lest that souinded like implied criticism I was determined to carry on til I did; and now I think I do, I like what I see! :)

I think terms of reference are a problem in communicating ideas at times, but we get that in all walks of life from business to education to social language. GNS is no different.

OK, wher eit has led me is tomorrow i am going to try taping my players if they approve, amd making notes so I can perform a discourse analysis after the session, and see if i can identify which play agendas predominate.  I suspect it shifts depending oon the game and the players mood, but I think if one looks at it as similar to Berenes Transactional Analysis, where the three ego states shift but general tendencies can be seen in each players style, that might be something like how i m meant to envisage G/N/S? 

You know, I think it is generally a bad idea to start that way. As the GM you will transmit what type of game you want. The system will also do that, hence 'system does matter'. I wouldn't bang on about narr, sim or gamism, your more likely to turn them off, but then I don't know your group - heck they might even like such an erudite discussion!

My guess is that you want to play a narrativist game, and use Heroquest. Heroquest suppots this style of play very well.

Which leads to the interesting question: could we then go on to construct Games, as in GAmes People Play, in which Gamist gets satisfacuion from Tthwarting Narrativist etc, etc. 

I don't think this is possible. The only one who can thwart a players preferred style is the 'incoherent' GM by using an 'incoherent' system. It will not be players thwarting other players.

Regards
Rob
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cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2005, 03:10:58 AM »

Morning chaps,

My fever has broken at last, about 4am, and I can now actually re-read what I wrote. I'm sorry much of it was incoherent.  This bodes rather badly for my HeroQuest review, submitted at the height of my illness.

Actually G/N/S theory is probably I would have thought quite attractive to roleplayers?  I can see why erudite Gaming Theory discussions migh sound offputting, but we are here looking at how to find compromises which promote fun.
My players loved the wonderful Patterns Book, devised by Mr Kirk I think, where he attempts to identify sucessful design strategies in rpgs - most of them are part of the way through reading it, or have completed the .pdf.  This signals to me their willingness to participate in discuussion outside of the immediate game...

Yes, I realise now that I too used Simulationist in two senses, even in my post

1. As a historical gaming term which refers to systems with mechanics designed to reflect relaity, so a battle with broadswords turne out as it weould have historically.  I suspect this tendency derives from the Grognard,that is Wargaming community, which was my personal entry point in to rpgs, where questions of realis and simulation are paramount.  Historical analysis of the roots of rpg, and the shifting use of terms, and the linguistic structures which evolved cross ssytems in to a lingua franca might make an interesting PhD.  I might seek funding, as Jonathan, Senior Lecturer Psychology at Uni.Gloucester is completing his doctorate in rpg and can supervise now. 

2. To describe the immersionist approach.  However the term immersionist is equally complex; it is post-Turku used primarily to describe in-character involvement in a world, where one becomes totally involved in livig by the laws of that reality - hence my debate last year about whether we could use approprate language structures in our game, so as to limit the smantic possibilities - the closest I could think of was running Ars Magica entirely in Latin, but I never treied as my Latin is weak and because I have noted that no matter how fluentr one becomes, we tend to think in our native tongue, no matter how irksome.   
Anyway I have used in the past, and have seen immersionist used to describe the involvement of a player in something like Glorantha, where they seek to learn more, and participate in creating more, of a consesnus world.  I am fascinate by this - such OOC immersion, where players learn and happily take on the background of the world is whjat drives me mainly as a GM - I am delighted when I see a palyer who demonstrates they understand say the Telmori-Maboder conflict, and whjo brings it up in play.  Fictional histories, mas, mythologies and cultures are primarily whjat I roleplay for - for exploring things.  Yet this si to use Exploration in a much tighther and more restrictive and les suseful sense than the Forge does.

I'll go think some more. I think the HeroQuest review will be up on Monday.  it mentions the villains of the yahoggroups list as well. :)  Yes I am "DP MAP" CJ! (what an unfortunate appellation!, yet how apt!)

cj x




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Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2005, 08:30:28 AM »

Morning chaps,

My fever has broken at last, about 4am, and I can now actually re-read what I wrote. I'm sorry much of it was incoherent.  This bodes rather badly for my HeroQuest review, submitted at the height of my illness.

Actually G/N/S theory is probably I would have thought quite attractive to roleplayers? 

Hi CJ

GNS is out of date. Read the cover to this forum and you will learn that GNS has evolved into 'Creative Agenda'.

Regards
Rob
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cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2005, 09:36:17 AM »

Yes I sort of gathered that from the artticles, but it was specifically G/N/S I was struggling with. I shall look at Creative Agendas again, but I was as intereste in the development of the ideas as in the current statuis. Still where can I find the current state of the art?   Which is the defining essay for Creative Agendas?  Just a point in th right direction will do.

cj x
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2005, 12:04:12 AM »

, but I never treied as my Latin is weak and because I have noted that no matter how fluentr one becomes, we tend to think in our native tongue, no matter how irksome.   

I suspect that may be an artifact of Latin.  Certainly I have found that I can think in my second language, and have done so - thats pretty much how I think of "fluency" anyway.  But this may be becuase it was spoken around me, and was not a dead tongue.

I'm not sure that GNS accords with Berne's transactional analysis.  I mean they are similar - they are modes of thought, and can be adopted unconsciously.  But in this they seem, to me, to be rather more like Stances than GNS.  GNS would accord more to value judgements about "good" and "bad", in that they are expressions of taste and preference.

Quote
Yet this si to use Exploration in a much tighther and more restrictive and les suseful sense than the Forge does.

It is and it isn't.  Exploration on its own is pretty general sure, but then if Simulationism is "exploration squared" we return to something more purposeful and focussed.
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Lamorak33
Member

Posts: 183


« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2005, 10:04:16 AM »

Yes I sort of gathered that from the artticles, but it was specifically G/N/S I was struggling with. I shall look at Creative Agendas again, but I was as intereste in the development of the ideas as in the current statuis. Still where can I find the current state of the art?   Which is the defining essay for Creative Agendas?  Just a point in th right direction will do.

cj x

Hi CJ

I leave this to the other more knowledgable folks. I read the articles as a background to some practical GM'ing advice garnered from a few of these chaps here - thanks guys. I'm no expert on whats current and whats not on CA and the Big Model etc.

Might I suggest you start a new thread asking that specific question?

Regards
Rob
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cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2005, 06:40:34 PM »

Thanks Rob, done! :)

My Heroquest review on rpg.net is apparently scheduled for Friday.

cj x
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2005, 09:39:53 AM »

Hi CJ, glad to see you over here.

I think that you have uncovered several of the common reasons for misunderstanding GNS stuff, and ones that we deal with all the time. Let's look at each.

1. Yep, people defintely see what they want to see in GNS. Rather, I think the specific problem is that they feel that there is something that's represented by the terms in question, and want to have the terms to describe those things. Even if the terms are not meant to describe those things in the way they'd like. For instance, GNS is not about goals, but simply about behaviors. Many people miss that fact, and want narrativism to be about making a good story.

2. When we didn't have a glossary, people said it was terrible that we pointed people to the essays. They demanded a glossary. I suppose that we could just have the glossary refer to the essays... But you see the problem. That said, if you can improve the glossary entries, I'd submit something. Can't hurt to try and do better.

3. Yep, many people bandy about GNS without having read it, again, like in 1, assuming that they just know what it means. The stuff posted about the theory here does try to make it clear that Simulationism is supposed to be taken in a unique context from GDS simulationism or any general use. But, yes, this is always a problem with any such term. That said, Narrativism is not used anywhere but in this theory. Narration and narrative are used in academia, yes, but Ron created the term narrativism specifically so that it would not be confused with the common meanings of these other terms. Somehow, however, that doesn't seem to matter, and people assume that the term predates the theory.


Basically the problem in general is that the term Narrativism gets bandied about by people who have no idea what it means. Interestingly they'll often use the term "narrative" as in "It's a narrative game." Which is a nearly non-sensical statement (pretty much all RPGs have a narrative). But somehow this general idea of a meaning for the term has arisen all over the net.

What to do about this? Well, I don't know. I mean it's like people's misconceptions about what Relativity is all about. It's a complex subject that gets "dumbed down" to try to deliver it to people who are not interested in learning the academic meaning of the term. These people then pass these definitions along as thought they're accurate, often messing even those definitions up in interpreting them themselves in the process.

I don't really think there is anything that should be done about it. Any attempt by people at this point to go about proseletyzing on the correct definitions of these terms is problematic. I only do it on rare occasions, and have been burned so many times that I really don't care to correct anyone anymore. I think that it'll have to suffice for us to try to keep the definitions straight here where there are standards of dialog that don't allow for as much drift in terminological meaning.

Yes, basically I'm saying it's everyone else's fault but ours. That may seem insular, or elitist or some such, but from the POV of somebody who spends a lot of time trying to get people to understand the correct meanings of these things, it's hard to see it as a matter of dissemination of information. I mean, once you'd taken the time to read the essays, you started to get what it was supposed to be about.

Even worse is the assumption that everyone makes that the theory claims to be the only thing one needs to know about RPG play. When, in fact, it's we here who point out that it's only a small fraction of the big picture.


Topic the second: RPGs aren't narrativism or anything like that. Narrativism is a player behavior, not a game design style or something. What can be said, possibly, is that a particular design might support a particular style of play - that players using the system to play using a mode that it supports will find the system helping them, not hindering them, or being uninteresting to them. Conversely, that means that it's automatically correct to say of every game system that it can be played using any mode of play. But that's trivial. The question of what a game supports is important, especially in regards to whether or not what it supports is "coherent" meaning having a clear creative agenda.

Because I'll agree that Hero Quest does not have very clear support for one creative agenda. I think it has a lot of support for narrativism, but it also a lot of support for simulationism. Even a little support for gamism if you look closely enough. Meaning that if you want to play the game with a coherent mode, you have to change the rules, albiet subtly, to get it to play well. I think the least drift or interpretation is required to get it so that it best supports narrativism, and that even with no clear support this is still what's best supported. But, then, that may have to do to some extent with my personal biases and how I actually do play the game.

I'm looking forward to the review.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2005, 11:30:42 AM »


Basically the problem in general is that the term Narrativism gets bandied about by people who have no idea what it means. Interestingly they'll often use the term "narrative" as in "It's a narrative game." Which is a nearly non-sensical statement (pretty much all RPGs have a narrative). But somehow this general idea of a meaning for the term has arisen all over the net.

What to do about this? Well, I don't know. I mean it's like people's misconceptions about what Relativity is all about. It's a complex subject that gets "dumbed down" to try to deliver it to people who are not interested in learning the academic meaning of the term. These people then pass these definitions along as thought they're accurate, often messing even those definitions up in interpreting them themselves in the process.

I don't really think there is anything that should be done about it. Any attempt by people at this point to go about proseletyzing on the correct definitions of these terms is problematic.

While I basically agree with the conclusion, I think it is horribly damaging to debate to make GNS out as complex subject like Relativity.  What you're implying (perhaps unintentionally) is that there is a center which is a complex and absolute truth -- whereas everyone else who talks on the subject are posers who don't understand the real meaning.

I see it quite differently.  To my view, discussion of GNS has always had shifting and imprecise meanings, ever since it has been coined as a term.  Moreover, the shifting meaning has happened just as often from people who have been central to the current definitions.  For example, the views in Ron's "System Does Matter" are different than those in his All-out dissection (LONG AND BRUTAL) which are different than those in the 2004 Glossary.  You might also look at Valamir/Ralph Mazza's The Model as seen by Valamir and Narrativism: Not a Creative Agenda

I think it is far more helpful to say that there have been many differing views on what GNS is, rather than saying that GNS is a complex truth that most people don't understand.  There have been many new concepts brought into GNS debates both at Gaming Outpost and here -- like Scarlet Jester's concept of "Exploration", Ron's adaptation of Egrian Premise, and Jay's and Chris Lehrich's adaptation of "bricolage" and Ron's thoughts on "celebration".  New ideas are a good thing, but since they continue to use the same GNS terms, it naturally leads to confusion. 

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cjr533
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2005, 12:43:23 PM »


  Narration and narrative are used in academia, yes, but Ron created the term narrativism specifically so that it would not be confused with the common meanings of these other terms. Somehow, however, that doesn't seem to matter, and people assume that the term predates the theory.

 

Hey Mike! 

Good to see you and much of what you says makes perfect sense.   However this nagged at me, because I recalled narratism being used as a description of the petit-narrative approach to Cultural Studies, and I certainly employed the term teaching in the 1990's, to refer to a particular type of Cultural Theory, of bugger all relvance here.

You can see it employed in this sense in "New Historicism: Postmodern Historiography Between Narrativism and Heterology. Jürgen Pieters Vol. 39, No. 1(February 2000) in History and Theory: Studies in the Philosophy of History amd I am sure earlier,. though tghe term was common in French cultural theory - in particular in the seminal essay 'On Walking In the City' if I remeber correctly.  So yes, Narrativism does have a murky prehistory as a term in academia, but that term is totally divorced from and irrelevant to its employment in rpg theory, and in fact I think very few people will be misled by it.

Anyway, this is completely irrlevant to the questions at stake here.  One of the things i have noted time and gain in reading about GNS is confusion as to what the terms actually signify, and I think any attempt to clarify is valid.  I gaine heart that you though my concerns were of interest; I have now worked hard to understand Creative Agendas, and hey, my time on GNS was not wasted, they seem to provide a basis.

I get the idea the whole site an dindeed all of RPG theory is an ongoing discourse, and yes people will have variant readings of terms, and employ them in many different sesnses.  Nonetheless, if there si to be some ptrogress we need to have a coherent set of ideas which we can all refer to, and the glossary is therefore acyullay probably an idea of genius. 

Thanks very much for the welcome,and for all the patience with someone who admits freely to being hard of understanding. 

all the best
cj x



 

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