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Author Topic: Simulationism Aside  (Read 18335 times)
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« on: October 17, 2005, 08:31:26 AM »

Simulationism is problematic. I don't think that I'm saying anything shocking there. There is little agreement on what it actually is, which I posit is due to the fact that there are some priorities out there that players have that they want to assign to simulationism in order that it seem more accesible as a mode of play. Rather that the definition of simulationism as "priority on exploration" somehow doesn't manage to cover what they see as actually occuring behind the scenes. Partly, it seems to me, because it's a behavioral observation, and doesn't get to the goals behind the activity.

I could go on and on (and in fact have before) about why I think these additions aren't really useful, but I'd rather try a new rout to understanding some of these issues. So let's set simulationism aside for a moment, and discuss related player motives and behaviors. Keep that in mind as you read. I'm not trying to define simulationism here (in fact, pretty much everything that I'm about to discuss is, to me, ancillary to the definition of simulationism), but instead to look at things that may be related to it.

(This is also probably related in some way to some people's understanding of the term Immersion, but I'm going to avoid that even more pointedly).

Objective World Description
To start, I specifically want to look at one behavior that is very easy to identify as to it's goal. I'm going to call it "Objective World Description" or OWD for short. Basically this is when a player (using the broad meaning of the term that includes GMs) looks to agreed to materials to find out how to define what exists in the world, and any reasonable extrapolations of actions within it that occur from such description. The example that I often use for this is the fork in the road. If the players go left, do they get to some location that is on a map or that some note says is along that road? Or does the GM just make up what's down the road to the left (potentially putting down there the same thing that he'd put if they'd gone right)? If a player slaps a noble that's written down in the canon as being a coward, does he have the character slink off, or does the GM change the nature of the noble on the spot to make him only seem cowardly and have him fight here?

It seems to me that OWD description stems from a desire to have the world of play have what I refer to often as "objective reality." Think of it this way - when you're playing a CRPG, in almost all cases, the world is set up before hand. So as you travel through it, it has a seeming "reality" to it that you discover as you go. That is, there's something pre-existing that you're uncovering as you go along. As such, maneuvering your character through the landscape has some of the feeling of exploring in the real world. That there objectively is some reality over that hill, and that you'll discover it if you (or your avatar) goes over the hill. There's an excitement that comes along with this sort of discovery, for some players.

Surprise is not enough. That is, if the GM is making it all up as you go along, and it's obvious, then the feeling that you're discovering an objective reality does not happen, even if you don't know what it is that's over the hill before you get there. That's not to say that you can't get something from these surprises. Just that it's not the same sort of thrill that exists in searching an objectively pre-set reality.

Now, the problem with tabletop RPGs is that it's very hard to enumerate the entire world. But don't think that people haven't tried. Take a look at Harn. It's quite possible that there are entries for every single human being on the continent described, including what they do for a living (I'm not sure of the actual state, but this certainly seems the goal of products like Encyclopedia Harnica).

CRPGs have to limit the world in some ways, because the machine is only so good at filling in the blanks. With a GM, however, responsible for filling in the blanks, you can theoretically drill down into any level of the reality that you want to examine. So, in fact, unless you have the players agreeing to never ask any question about anything but what's likely enumerated, there will be occasions where the GM is making things up.

Now, HWD is often accompanied by the GM faking it in these circumstances. That is, he makes up the information, but presents it exactly as he would any other information so the players don't know that it's made up on the spot. So that the appearance of the whole world being pre-existing continues. In other play, some GMs will admit that they're being extemporaneous, but get back to HWD as soon as they can. In some cases GMs will even show materials to "prove" that they're only working from HWD ("See, just like it says right here").

The point is that perfection is not expected. Even if we can't have an entirely objective world in play, players can still appeal to the idea of objectivity to the extent possible. There's value for these players to a world that's only somewhat objective.

I don't know just how common this is, actually, but I know it's not ficituous, because I myself am at least a minority of one in finding OWD to have a certain kick to it. In fact it's the problem of OWD that I find most troublesome in design. I've largely given up on it of late, but not without remorse.

Channeling Character
A similar behavior to OWD is channeling a character. When channeling a character a player does what some authors do, and create a mental construct of the character in their minds. The process by which this is done is murky, but it will suffice to say that they succeed in doing so at least to all appearances. Once this happens, the player feels that the character has it's own motives in making decisions. I think that this has some of the same kick as OWD does for the player using the method. That is, the character seems more "real" to the player, or simply has a quality that's missing from a character for whom the player is making the decisons using the character as a tool to maneuver in the game.

Interestingly, players using this will often say things like, "I wish that my character would do X, but they want to do Y." This seems scitzophrenic enough to observers that it's easy to put this off as some sort of mental abnormality of thought process. But what's really going on is that the player is seeking a certain feeling from the process that can't be gotten by using the "I'll have the character do this" reasoning. That is, the loss of "control" is less important to the player than the feeling of reality created.

The Problem of Outiside Perception
There's a commonality to methods like this in that, in each case, the appearance of player will in making determinations of what exists, or what happens in the SIS is minimized. Or the attempt to make the appearance go away is minimized. Here's the thing about these methods, for a player who does not share them, they seem exceptionally problematic. Because they do have the downside that other player motives have to be discarded in order to make them work. Sure it might be more interesting if they went to the dungeon down the right path, and not down the road to town on the left...but OWD says that they went to the town. So what harm could there be in changing things?

Well, the "harm" is in the destruction of the feeling of objective reality to the characters and places in the game. If you don't understand that feeling (and many players simply don't), then it's easy to call these behaviors dysfunctional and point to a common motive in avoiding incoherence. That is, Beeg Horseshoe says that sim is a retreat from visible player motives because incoherence in them causes problems.

And, indeed, if player motive is visible, these sorts of problems are easier to handle. Rather gam-nar incoherence can be avoided entirely if agenda is made clear, and there are other benefits to players discussing their motives in terms of effective play. So to a player used to these benefits, and who doesn't understand the benefits of the objective world techniques, hiding this way seems like it must only be some bad tactic to avoid discussing other agenda issues.

But it's not (neccessarily, some people may be using it for the wrong reasons). There is definitely something being sought here. RPGs have value as simulative activites. And enforcement of in-game causality and objective reality is part of this.


Now, these are only a couple of behaviors and attendant goals that I could associate with simulationism, there are many, many more. Which is to say that likely some simulationism happens that doesn't include either of the things I mention above. But I think that by dissociating these behaviors and goals from the definitional discussion of simulationism that we can discuss them on their own. Because they are concepts that probably should be discussed, and do certainly become part of actual creative agendas in play.

And, further, I hope that other similar concepts can be discussed on their own as well. This will hopefully be a starting point. I haven't been involved too deeply in the discussion of some of these things, of late, so I hope that I'm not just reiterating something that somebody else has said. If so, please just link me to the appropriate discussion. But I think that these things are very worthwhile to look into.

Mike
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timfire
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2005, 11:23:50 AM »

Can I upbring some other behaviors/motivations, or do you want to just stick with these two for the moment?
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2005, 12:37:16 PM »

Heya,

I've come to understand Simulationism in my own mind as a priority on the concept "to be like something else" in the game.  For instance, for games like Star Wars, Call of Cthullu, and MERP the priority was "to be like the settings from the fictional source texts."  For games with combat systems like Rolemaster or TRoS the priorty is what it is "to be like in a real fight."  For a game like ADnD2, the priority would be what it is "to be like a (insert class) in a fantasy setting like (insert module like FR, DS, or Ravenloft)." 

The 'rush' experienced by Gamists when they Step on Up or for Narrativists when the address Premise and learn something about themselves, is vaguely analagous to the rush Sim players feel when they think they've done a good job at "being like something else."  The priority, in my mind, is to try to re-live or re-experience something else that has happen or been created, and the closer they emulate it the better.

My gaming priorities don't line up with Sim all that well, so I may not be the best to comment.  However, this is the path I have taken to help myself learn just what Sim means.  Hope this adds to the discussion!

Peace,

-Troy
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2005, 01:00:10 PM »

The harm in changing things in an Objective World Description is that it makes players feel their choices were pointless. "I took the left fork, but you were gonna put the castle wherever I went. Why even bother having me choose?"

Indeed, why bother? In a Nar game, you wouldn't bother. Get to the Bang; the fork in the road is a needless distraction. In a Gamist game, you probably wouldn't bother either. Get to the Challenge. Wandering around on the wrong road doesn't get to encounters where I can Step On Up, so can we just skip it? Unless there are wandering monster tables...
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
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timfire
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2005, 01:16:10 PM »

Well, Troy kinda brought up what I wanted to, so...

It's just like in that movie, wha'cha'callit!
Sometimes, I encounter play that is filled with references to TV, movies, or other shared images/experiences. Here's an exaggereated example:

Quote
GM: You walk into coffee shop, it's bright and clean, and there's some chatty suburban soccer Mom drinking her Mondo-Vanilla-Mint-Frampachinatto. Suddenly, the barista starts screaming and shifting shape, like something out of the X-files...

Player: I pull my guns out of my long black trenchcoat and start running along the walls, while shooting at the creature.

GM: The barista turns and looks at you, and you realize its the woman from the record store!

Player: The one that looked like Drew Barrymore?!?

GM: That's the one!

OK, cheesy example. But do you notice that's there's some sort of cultural/entertainment reference in almost every sentence? I encounter this type of thing alot, and in varying degrees. But with some games/groups, this type of thing is a major driving force. A somewhat recent personal example was when I played Metal Opera. Someone in my group commented that the game was sorta like "Spinal Tap in Space" (at least, I think someone said that), and the game was played just like that. Through both OOC and IC activity, we were constantly referencing and making allusions to hair-band stereotypes. The GM *cough*Ron*cough* tried to throw in some thematic material, but we the players were having so much fun that we just ignored it.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2005, 01:42:24 PM »

Sure, go ahead and come up with others if you like. Though I would like to discuss the one's I pointed out some, too. Perhaps other threads can split off of this.

So, Troy, what you and Tim seem to be talking about could be termed Genre Emulation? Or does it go beyond that to Pastiche? I see all the "just like in..." references to be social reinforcement for this sort of activity. Is that about right? Yeah, this is not what sim is, but it's also related, I think. Though it could also be related to narrativism in some ways, I think.


Adam, your point seems to address what I'm talking about, but I'm not sure that I get what you're tryihng to say. That is, you seem to be pointing out the value of such play to a simulationism prefering player, but then you're saying that the decision isn't important to other modes? Is that it?

Mike
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2005, 03:36:39 PM »

I'm not entirely sure how this might apply to the discussion of behaviors and motivations, but I think I know exactly where such an exchange as Tim made might be rooted.

Basically, we have the SIS.. In what I've come to believe is Sim play, there is a big emphasis on the SHARED portion being as strong as possible, so as to create as close as possible to one single experience for all players, so that we don't get such mood breaking things as "Wait, wait.. I thought she had brunette hair!" and "what do you mean you run along the walls?" We've all seen Drew Barrymore, so we know what this mutating barista looks like, and we've all seen the Matrix, so we know what a man in a long black trenchcoat looks like while running along the walls shooting. We don't have to stop to explain or describe further, because we've all got the pictures laid out in front of us.

This same reason is why miniatures can be used to support non-gamist play, and why character pictures are frequently prevalent among Sim-play groups. If I'm not imagining your Paladin as a fiery redhead, then we're not sharing the same imaginative space, and dissonance is bound to occur eventually. The deep simulation players want to avoid that as much as possible.
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~Lance Allen
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2005, 04:40:50 PM »

From the title "Simulationism Aside," I take it that we should even really be discussing Simulationism at all, yet, until you want to bring the discussion back around there. What you're describing may or may not have some relationship to Sim, but that can be determined later. Before us we have these schools of techniques.

I agree with your analysis that both OBW and Channeling Character both involve minimizing the appearance of external influence. Might the ideal union of these techniques be described as "There Are No Players"? The players (GM included) strive to convince themselves in play that their only relationship to the Shared Imagined Space is that of observer.

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Adam Cerling
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komradebob
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« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2005, 06:37:28 PM »

Self Defined goals?
This seems to be a really big deal in [some] Sim play, at a much greater level of emphasis than in Narr and Gam designs. I would say that it is often tied into some important core source material, however, creating a "bungee" affect where Sim players leap out into atomic Narr or Gam play, but then return to the Sim core.

This is somewhat different than the reverse situation, where Narr or Gam motivated players demand a certain level of verite to setting or causality.
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Robert Earley-Clark

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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2005, 06:44:03 PM »

Heya,

Quote
So, Troy, what you and Tim seem to be talking about could be termed Genre Emulation? Or does it go beyond that to Pastiche? I see all the "just like in..." references to be social reinforcement for this sort of activity. Is that about right? Yeah, this is not what sim is, but it's also related, I think. Though it could also be related to narrativism in some ways, I think.


No, what I'm talking about is something like, "Wow this campaign would fit right in with one of Lovecraft's Stories..." or a reaction like "This has been the coolest fantasy campaign ever!"  Note that the priority of these statements is how close the play came to being like something else.  In the first example, it's talking about how well the campaign would fit in with the Lovecraft cannon.  The second example is discussing how well the campaign would fit in with a person's or group's ideal of what the fantasy genre should be.  For me and for what I'm suggesting, it's not about pastiche nor about recreating a specific plot.  It's about how well a particular priority (read Area of Eploration) is created within the play when compared to an outside source of inspiration.

I think that Genre Emulation might be a good term for what I'm describing, but I think we'd have to discuss it a bit more to be sure.  At the moment, I like the term but not quite sure it is inclusive enough :)

Peace,

-Troy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2005, 07:56:42 PM »

Hi Troy,

You're right, it isn't inclusive enough. If genre emulation is the overriding priority, then it's Sim, but if it's Sim, there are lots of ways to play that aren't genre emulation.

And just to be terribly confusing, genre emulation as a supportive technique can be found in many G and N applications.

Best,
Ron
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Merten
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2005, 01:57:17 AM »

So let's set simulationism aside for a moment, and discuss related player motives and behaviors. Keep that in mind as you read. I'm not trying to define simulationism here (in fact, pretty much everything that I'm about to discuss is, to me, ancillary to the definition of simulationism), but instead to look at things that may be related to it.

(This is also probably related in some way to some people's understanding of the term Immersion, but I'm going to avoid that even more pointedly).

I think that I'm identifying a lot with the things we are not discussing here (and I'm trying very much not to bring either of them into it) and since what you are describing very much sound like goals I'm/a lot of players I know are trying to achieve, few comments:

Objective World Description
To start, I specifically want to look at one behavior that is very easy to identify as to it's goal. I'm going to call it "Objective World Description" or OWD for short. Basically this is when a player (using the broad meaning of the term that includes GMs) looks to agreed to materials to find out how to define what exists in the world, and any reasonable extrapolations of actions within it that occur from such description.

Very much so; I think the underlying goal is to create a diegesis (maybe SIS, if there is a difference) that emulates a "real world", where real world could be modelled after the world we live in (or built upon it), very detailed creation (usually heavily borrowing from the real world - Hârn is a good example of this), or a creation built upon common expectations (someone mentioned popular culture references) where the actual detail is not important, but the fact everyone agrees on how things work and what elements should be emphasized. I think this is pretty much the same thing that's been referred for a long time as "suspension of disbelief".

When the simulation is good (based on what you can every day see around you or otherwise almost as richly detailed), the player doesen't have invest so much energy into making up things around his character, but can concentrate on what you call Channeling the character or some other task. Problems arise when the simulation is not so good; when things work differently that how you, as a player, imagine them working without a proper explanation. You have to spend energy on validating things (if this thing didn't work as it was supposed to work, and the effect was not properly explained, what else works differently?).

Channeling Character
A similar behavior to OWD is channeling a character. When channeling a character a player does what some authors do, and create a mental construct of the character in their minds. The process by which this is done is murky, but it will suffice to say that they succeed in doing so at least to all appearances. Once this happens, the player feels that the character has it's own motives in making decisions. I think that this has some of the same kick as OWD does for the player using the method. That is, the character seems more "real" to the player, or simply has a quality that's missing from a character for whom the player is making the decisons using the character as a tool to maneuver in the game.

This is an important point; putting the character's (from this on, the mental construct the player has made about the character, which is influenced by the character sheet, possible character background and plenty of other character creation methods - and, to some extent, players own mentality and wishes) objectives and goals before the players objectives and goals. One could say that the player is not an intresting person (which wouldn't actually be true), the character is. Player is making the decisions, but is trying to do them based on what he thinks are the character's goals and needs.

Interestingly, players using this will often say things like, "I wish that my character would do X, but they want to do Y." This seems scitzophrenic enough to observers that it's easy to put this off as some sort of mental abnormality of thought process. But what's really going on is that the player is seeking a certain feeling from the process that can't be gotten by using the "I'll have the character do this" reasoning. That is, the loss of "control" is less important to the player than the feeling of reality created.

This sometimes leads to a situtation where there obviously plenty of excitement and adventure available if the characters just confort the seemingly deadly enemy - and the players know this. However, doing such thing wouldn't just make any sense from the characters perspective, so they'll walk away, possibly ending the session or plot. With players who's primary motivation for playing is Channeling their character, this is quite an obvious way to go and other players usually support such decision - while their characters might not ("C'mon, let's go and bash his head"), which in turn might lead into the separation of the character group.
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2005, 08:25:01 AM »

First, Ron's got the subject matter here, and is showing the way in a Taoist manner. And, Adam, you have the idea precisely. I don't even know that we have to get "back around" to simulationism's definition at all, however. I think these things are interesting to discuss on their own.

So, Lance, when you say "In what I've come to believe is Sim play..." an interpretation of that which I would agree with is, "In some games that I've played which I think are Sim, XYZ tends to happen." That is the "SIS Matching" efforts that you describe are yet another technique or goal that might be strongly linked to simulationism, but otherwise in no way definitive of simulationism.

Part of the point of this thread is that no technique, XY or Z, is definitive of simulationism. Nor is any goal. Only by dissociating them from any notion that they might be definitional can we discuss them sensibly.


So, on to details: Adam, yes, I think that the two things I mention are part of the "There are no players" ideal, which I think is also one possible definition of Immersion (though, I said I would avoid that, too, didn't I). But, yes, I think that the specific goal there is to make the world feel real by trying to block out as many real world elements of play as possible. To that extent, the SIS Matching that Lance brings up can be useful. However for some groups the idea of using real world references will actually be counterproductive, no? Yes it's a very powerful way to create matchings of imagined material, but it neccessarily brings in narration of the real world.

The Turku school, for example, would be appalled, I'd think. That is, playing a LARP, if you stopped and said, "Imagine me dressed like Neo from the Matrix" that might be grounds for ejection from the game (OK, I kid, but you get the idea). So the goals here can be widely disparate.


Bob, yep, that's another goal, basically eliminating the appearance of GM influence by having the players be the drivers of all play, the GM "just playing the world." Related to Open Sim play. The idea being to obtain the ideal of the objective world, by making sure that the invisible hand of the GM is not only invisible, but actually pretty much inactive. Again, so that it's like the CRPG, where it's merely player choice driving where the character goes and what he does. There's the sticky question of whether or not putting "interesting stuff" in play is kosher or not, however. If I put in an NPC that has a need for doughty adventurers, is that manipulating the environment with drama in mind? Even if it's up to the PCs to find this NPC?

There's simply no getting around the fact that the GM has actually created the world, at least in some measure. All of the objectivity goals are, again, neccessarily imperfect. Again, the tough question there is whether or not that imperfection automatically leads to problems in play.

I think that genre has two parts to it, how well it's emulated (fecundity), and how well it's employed. I think that you can have a really Lovecraftian story created that would be dread dull to have played out. So there's at least two, and probably more, aesthetic qualities we're looking for here.

Note, interestingly, how emulation of somthing like Lovecraft might actually run somewhat counter to the idea of an objective world. Just like refering to the Matrix may break the illusion, noting that something matches literary convention could have the same effect. The "perfect simulation" seems to me to likely be dull, since nobody is actively creating drama, so as to avoid the appearance of outside interference in the objective world. This is, of course, what leads to illusionism as a technique. Trying to make it all look like it's just "player run's character, GM runs world" while moving behind the scenes to create drama.


Jukka, oh man, that's another forbidden term, sorry. Suspension of disbelief discussions are hereby banished to some other thread, if not off of The Forge completely. OK, that's over-reacting, and I appreciate what you're saying. I just don't want any part of this thread to break down into looking at the definitions of any of these (three now) problematic terms.

Quote
Problems arise when the simulation is not so good; when things work differently that how you, as a player, imagine them working without a proper explanation. You have to spend energy on validating things (if this thing didn't work as it was supposed to work, and the effect was not properly explained, what else works differently?).
I think this is somewhat besides the point. That is, given a goal of having a good simulation, of course doing it badly is to be avoided for this reason. But "doing it well" is always a goal for all play. That is, mistakes will happen with all goals, and that's just a fact of play.

The "Beeg Horseshoe" side of me wants to say that what you're describing as "not so good" play of this sort is actually "incoherence." That is, I see this sort of thing become problematic to handle only if/when there's a suspicion of players playing using gamism. The "extra effort" explanation really being a smoke screen for the acutal problem. But I could be wrong.

Your initial comments on channeling the character do put forward the viewpoint of the channeler, yes. But then your follow up comments reveal the basic problem that many people have with these methods. Which is that having the player as an outside agency have the character act in a plausible yet dramatic way is often beneficial to producing play that is enjoyable in terms of action and adventure. People used to narrativism are going to see this as the player hiding behind the character in order to avoid conflict. Again, Beeg Horseshoe says that what's really going on is that the player, used to having control taken away from them senses the pre-planned plot in question, and in order to keep his control over the character, has him avoid the GM's plot. So in actuality you have a player who is using a lot of player judgment to decide on his actions, and just qualifying the unexciting decision by saying "it's what the character would do." AKA My Guy play due to Abused Player Syndrome.

Or, from a more charitable reading, we see a general problem with two common goals in play. One to allow players control over their characters, and the other to have exciting play. The two are far from mutually exclusive. But the question is who is being denied player input into the process. If the GM denies input to the players, in order to get drama, they rebel and defy drama in order to maintain control. If the players deny the GM control (it happens), then the GM may feel that he's being denied his creative due. And if both sides deny the power to the other, then nobody can make drama. Why do they deny each other the power? Well, charitably, because visibility of input destroys the objective world feeling. Less charitably, because the one side doesn't trust the other to create drama in a way that allows them to participate.

This is where you get illusionism, even potentially player illusionism. The one side takes control from the other, and hides behind the "it's what would happen" explanation in each case, and makes it look like the other side still has control. Thus everyone is theoretically satisfied, up until the point where the illusion breaks down.

The only other sim related option is to say that it's OK not to have drama.

Sorry for the rambling here, I'm just showing the relationship of these techniques to some of the sub-agendas of simulationism.

Mike
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jmac
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« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2005, 10:03:29 AM »

I support Jukka on everything in his post - what I've read is very similar to my own thoughts. But I'm not sure how this relates to the topic, so

About the question - what relates to sim - it seems to me, that _believing_ in objectivity of game world and of characters' decisions (as part of it) is the key, which implies that players agree to ignore inevitable elements of subjective inside the game world.

So if there is a difference between sim and illusionism and participationism, from such point of view, it is in ignoring only unconscious (sim) or also conscious (ill. and part.) subjectivity of players (including GM).

Do I get it wrong that Mike is talking about "testing" the game - are it's world definitions objective enough?

I usually prefer not thinking about this objectivity assuming it's enough. When something really breaks this assumption, what Jukka described as "spending energy" happens and if energy is not enough - game seems not to be functionall anymore.
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Ivan.
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« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2005, 10:48:30 AM »

A short disclaimer; I'm relying heavily on my own perceptions on plays I've witnessed as a player (including GMing). I can't really claim on being objective, since what I'm describing here is my take on the things roleplaying culture around me (that would be; the clique of Nordic Arthaus roleplaying I identify with) is doing. It is, at best, a very narrow approach on Simulationism as I understand the term. I'm relying heavily on it because I find it hard to explain things without examples rooted on my own experiences. If I'm going completely off the track, feel free to slap me.

Jukka, oh man, that's another forbidden term, sorry. Suspension of disbelief discussions are hereby banished to some other thread, if not off of The Forge completely. OK, that's over-reacting, and I appreciate what you're saying. I just don't want any part of this thread to break down into looking at the definitions of any of these (three now) problematic terms.

Noted and understood. Wasn't aware of that.

The "Beeg Horseshoe" side of me wants to say that what you're describing as "not so good" play of this sort is actually "incoherence." That is, I see this sort of thing become problematic to handle only if/when there's a suspicion of players playing using gamism. The "extra effort" explanation really being a smoke screen for the acutal problem. But I could be wrong.

You could be right as well; I'm not completely following you here. So, if a player (including but not singling out GM) would be forcing his character (or, in the case of GM, the world) to do things that would violate what is considered to be objective view of the world - in order to gain something he, as a player, wants to gain, he'd be using gamism? If so, yes - that would definately be the problem. The way I think of Simulationism, it's very much excluding the other Creative Agendas. Using Narrativisism (I, as a player, force my character into this situtation that could produce an intresting story/conflict/something, even if my character would never do that) would probably produce similar effect. In this case the extra effort would be to watch out if other players are playing in incoherent way in order to get an advantage to achieve something.

Another possible source for such problems might be that a player is either ignoring or not understanding something in different way than other players do. Then the extra effort would be to keep an eye on if the other player is missing something else as well and making sure that he understands what you are talking about.

As for the drama: yes, if we're after dramatic play, we might run into problems - at least how I see it, achieving it either requires something to trigger dramatic play or forcing character to act in a way (which might or might not violate how the character, as a mental construct is) that produces dramatic play. I've seen this taken into account in at least three different ways:

1) Ditch the dramatic play. Dramatic play happens, if it happens, if not, other things happen. Wheter these things are intresting depends on what the players are after. Dramatic play is athing that could happen, but not the only intresting thing that could happen. (What is dramatic is, I think, a matter of another debate I haven't yet stumbled upon)
2) Prepare triggers which might guarantee that something intresting is going to happen. Triggers might be, for example, pre-written characters put into a situtation where something written into the mental constructs is going to produce dramatic play. (I think this could be called either Railroading or Illusionism, if there is a difference)
3) Use of participationism (*). Something outside the characters (either in GM or player control, depending how the GM tasking is handled) happens and dramatic play happens.

Usually a combination of two or more of the above and/or things I'm missing. Wheter this is a problem depends quite a lot on on player expectations (Creative Agenda, I think). Most of the play I've witnessed is usually built on the expectation that players have a complete control on their characters (they are supposed to create the mental construct and stay with it - wheter they do or not, is entirely up to them) and the GM (or, in some cases, other players) has a complete control on everything else. This control might or might not be challenged with a resolution mechanic or some other form of rules in varying degrees.

But, yes, My Guy play due to Abused Player Syndrome could very well happen if players expectations differ from other players expectations, like a player wanting to force his character to do something he thinks is intresting, regardless of how the character is expected to act. Wheter this becomes a problem pretty much depends on how blatant the forcing is and how different the expectations are.

Or, from a more charitable reading, we see a general problem with two common goals in play. One to allow players control over their characters, and the other to have exciting play. The two are far from mutually exclusive. But the question is who is being denied player input into the process. If the GM denies input to the players, in order to get drama, they rebel and defy drama in order to maintain control. If the players deny the GM control (it happens), then the GM may feel that he's being denied his creative due. And if both sides deny the power to the other, then nobody can make drama. Why do they deny each other the power? Well, charitably, because visibility of input destroys the objective world feeling. Less charitably, because the one side doesn't trust the other to create drama in a way that allows them to participate.

The Simulationist plays I've witnessed tend to either be player/character driven (characters are pretty much free to roam as they want, restrained only by the Objective World as GM and other players interpret it - Objective World has been created or is created during the play by GM) or using participationism (*) (at least in the form of pre-written characters) - which is usually a method known and accepted by the players. Wheter the players force control over their characters is pretty much up to them (so, in essence, they are policing themselves). If the players are defying GM control - well, this is certainly a problem, usually taking a form of argument about how things work ("There is a nuclear silo on this submarine type" "This one doesen't have one" "Does too" "Does not, and that's final").

This is where you get illusionism, even potentially player illusionism. The one side takes control from the other, and hides behind the "it's what would happen" explanation in each case, and makes it look like the other side still has control. Thus everyone is theoretically satisfied, up until the point where the illusion breaks down.

The only other sim related option is to say that it's OK not to have drama.

Sorry for the rambling here, I'm just showing the relationship of these techniques to some of the sub-agendas of simulationism.

Ramble away, I'm learning here as I type - and I definately agree with the problems that this kind of play might lead to, though I'm not completely following you with the sub-agendas. Wheter the problems materialize is, I think, a matter of how well the expectations of the players match.

*) I'm not sure wheter this could be identified as illusionism, participationism, trailblazing or something else. I think it might actually be the trailblazing most of the time, judging by this article. What I'm after is that the players are encouraged to do whatever they think they characters would do - but there are usually some parameters in the characters placed beforehand by the GM. Player iniative is discouraged if it's not in the line with the character - but since there is no straight way to validate that the player is using the mental construct of the character instead of taking the iniative to himself, this usually isn't enforced.

Am I making sense, here?
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
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