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Author Topic: Simulationism Aside  (Read 18616 times)
Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2005, 11:32:25 AM »

Heya,

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

-Aw, shucks.  It's not that confusing, Ron.  In play, all games have a setting.  If a setting is something like Middle-earth or The Death Star or even something a little more generic like "The Roaring Twenties" then that is just part and parcile of what setting is.  Of course players of all three agendas will want to make sure that the Lore is protected.  All five components of Exploration are in every game, as you repeatedly state. It's just that when the genre is elevated to be the Point of play, then it becomes Sim.

-I think I just restated exactly what you said, but it's probably one of those "say it for yourself" momemts, which thankfully I'm starting to have for the first time.

Peace,

-Troy
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2005, 12:57:18 PM »

Having always found Simulationism confusing (except to the degree enlightened by Kat Miller's "Play House" metaphor), I am struck by Mike's thought on "objective world" and Ron-and-Troy's on "genre emulation" as a goal-in-itself (as opposed to a supporting Technique to generate Color): Here we have two "Simulationist" objectives that seem at odds with each other and potentially painfully incompatible.

The "Objective World" players -- or you might call them the "logical extrapolation" players -- take a certain set of precepts ("a world just like ours, except that magic works, by these rules...") or a certain set of fictional sources treated as "observational data" and then see "what happens if..." If the result is very different in tone from the source material, so be it; if the known starting point produces surprising results, so much the better. The aim of the exercise is to fill in the blanks left by the original source, or to extrapolate more imagined reality from the given starting point, in a way that respects the initial "facts" and follows logically from them; just imitating events from the canon sources would be a disappointment to such players, because that's already been done.

The "genre emulation" players -- or you might call them "look and feel" players -- don't start with just a set of precepts, but always with a certain set of fictional sources, and they don't treat these sources as "data," but as an aesthetic standard to emulate. If implausible cause-and-effect reasoning is necessary to replicate the tone of the source material, so be it (viz. "saving the appearances" in Ptolemaic astronomy); if different starting points all produce results similar to the original source, so much the better. The aim of the exercise is to imitate events from the canon sources; extrapolating into what happened "behind the scenes" in the original source (the "underbelly campaign") or creating a result with a starkling different tone from the source would be a disappointment to such players, because it departs from what they enjoyed in the original.

SPOILERS ahead, like any of you hasn't seen the original Star Wars films:

To take a stark "actual play" example of how these goals could clash, consider Curtis Saxton's astounding and slightly scary Star Wars Technical Commentaries, particularly The Endor Holocaust, where he argues, with impressive (to me) physics knowledge, that the destruction of a Death Star battlestation in low orbit over the forest moon of Endor would have caused nuclear winter and wiped out all the fuzzy little Ewoks soon after the end of the movie.

For an "objective world" / "logical extrapolation" player, this "Endor Holocaust" idea is dynamite: it follows logically from crucially important canon events and would have tremendous consequences to extrapolate and explore, enough to start a campaign in itself.

For a "genre emulation" / "look and feel" player, the "Endor Holocaust" idea is horrible: it brutally departs from the optimistic tone and the "good guys do good things" morality of the original source, enough to bring a campaign to a crashing halt by itself.

And if you have both types of player in the same game when you present an "Endor Holocaust" scenario, the resulting misery looks an awful lot like Incoherence.

I can't say this with any confidence -- I'm no theorist, and more importantly, I lack 'actual play" experience with coherent Simulationists -- but I'd suggest the possibility that these "goals" might be two separate and mutually incompatible Creative Agendas previously lumped together under "Simulationism."
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komradebob
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« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2005, 01:32:17 PM »

Could it be that the major motivation of Sim play and game design is to cover up the fact that adults are enjoying "Play Pretend" by disquising the activity with tomes of rules?

I'm only half joking about that.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2005, 01:42:08 PM »

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.
Well I'm not sure what your saying about "believing." That is, to be quite precise, there is no objectivity about the game world other than the players attribute it to it. That is, it's all "made up" at some point along the way. Or are you just pointing out that there's a willful ignoring of the subjective parts? The problem is that this is where the problems always begin.

Quote
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).
Well, by my phylology, illusionism and participationism are sorts of sim, but if you mean "open sim" as the the third sort, I'd agree.

Quote
Do I get it wrong that Mike is talking about "testing" the game - are it's world definitions objective enough?
No idea what you mean here. No, I wasn't talking about "testing" (as far as I know?). :-)

Quote
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.
Well, here's the thing, what if you just assume that anything by any trusted player is going to be correct?


Jukka, you're making tons of sense, and I think you understand the theory quite well. But what you're doing here is standing on the verge of betraying the entire nordic scene for one giant heap of dysfunction. That is, I could interpret what you're saying as most of the urge to play sim as a rejection of gamism such that it might breed Pawn stance (implausible play). Note, too, that I've never seen implausible narrativism play - the notion that players "force" their characters to do implausible things to make play "interesting" is absurd because, thematically, implausble things aren't interesting. I suppose a person could play a very post-modern game in which plausibility were cast aside to creat post-modern themes (and actually the game Court of Nine Chambers might actually intend that), but I've never seen it once in play.

Anyhow, we're getting into definitions of illusionism and simulationism which, again, I want to avoid (my fault from starting to slip back that way). So if you want to continue this line of thought, please start a new thread and let me know so I can come over.  :-)

Mike
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2005, 01:49:47 PM »

Having cross posted the above, I'll risk posting again.

Sydney, I think it's not really surprising that there are sub-modes that are entirely disparate. Take the difference between hardcore gamism and gentleman gamism. Especially the difference between play that allows pawn stance, and that which does not. No room for these gamism types to play together. Vanilla vs Pervy narrativism, same thing.

Bob, if we start from an assumption of dysfunction, and discover dysfunction, that's circular logic. Prove that's why play is this way.

Mike
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HenryT
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« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2005, 02:00:07 PM »

Jumping back to the original comment, what you call Channeling Character sounds like a good description of the group I play with.  We generally try to be flexible about it ("My character wouldn't do X, but it seems like the game would be more interesting that way...could you do Y, so that he'll do X in response?"), but there's certainly a sense that the character is an independantly simulated person with their own wants, motivations, and behaviors.

I think the description as "exploration of character" is actually fairly apt here.  The interest is in asking questions like "what would this person do when faced with this situation?" or "how does this person resolve this aspect of their life?"  (Indeed, we occassionally play mini-games in which we take characters from different games and throw them into some setting to see what happens and how they interact, often inspired by a "Wouldn't it be neat if this character of mine could talk to that character of yours?")

However, this is all generally done (again, in my group) with a strong narrativist underpining.  Watching the characters interact is a big part of the game, but the real payoff is seeing the characters make choices that address a premise.  The point of paying attention to careful simulation of a character is so that, when they do reach a bang, there's a coherent character who can make a meaningful choice, shaped by what's happened to them (whether or not the player thinks this is the right one).  (I've been debating to myself for a few weeks how to classify this style of play, but my general conclusion has been that it's narrativist play with strong simulationist support.  But I could be completely wrong.)

(As one more aside, I agree that playing pretend is a big element of it, although these days my group isn't trying all that hard to cover it up.)

Henry
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komradebob
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« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2005, 02:28:23 PM »

Quote
Bob, if we start from an assumption of dysfunction, and discover dysfunction, that's circular logic. Prove that's why play is this way.


Ever see a gamer try to justify their hobby to a non-gamer? Particularly a non-gamer with a negative view of gaming?

I was that gamer just a few days ago.

I suspect I would have been vastly better off saying that I like "Play Prertend" and leaving it at that.

I don't think that "Play Pretend" is dysfunctional.

Rather, I think it is treated as a form of suspect deviancy from cultural norms by society at large. I suspect RPGs have developed as a protective response/cover for those who enjoy "Play Pretend" into their adult years.

I truly wish that I had a more diplomatic way of putting that idea forward.

Sim isn't hard to understand. It just happens to be the CA with the least "protective cover"- no societally appreciated competition, no high-brow premise/moral statement. Just straight up, joyous wallowing in Play Pretend. As an adult, no less. Ya pervs.
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Robert Earley-Clark

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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2005, 05:55:48 PM »

Sydney, I think it's not really surprising that there are sub-modes that are entirely disparate....

You're probably right that these are incompatible sub-modes rather than independent Creative Agendas -- although I'm aesthetically seduced by the idea that "emulator"/"look-and-feel" Simulationism is the mirror-opposite of "extrapolator"/"objective world" Simulationism just as it's often noted Gamism and Narrativism mirror-image ("admire my clever, gutsy, consequence-full strategic choices" vs "admire my profound, gutsy, consequence-full moral choices"). If anyone can point me to earlier discussions of sub-modes of Sim, I'd be grateful, and mercifully quiet.

More important: I realized I do have some actual Actual Play experiences that show emulator vs. extrapolator disfunction in evidence, with me very aggressively and even disruptively in what I think is Mike is talking about when he speaks about an "Objective World" mode. Both, interestingly, are from my first-ever "real" rolepaying experience (as opposed to 10-year-olds futzing with D&D combat) and my first real GM:

1) Freeform, one-on-one, set in the Star Wars universe (geekdom's Book of Common Prayer), with me as sole player and the GM adding some setting tweaks of her own.

My "Objective World"/extrapolator hits immediately: I want to play an Imperial Customs official: not a good guy, not even a cool bad guy, but someone I consistently portray as a cowardly, petty, bureaucratic bully -- because (setting aside my self-esteem issues, thank you very much) in a galactic tyranny, imagined as an objective and logical world, there'd have to be such people, right, so "let's pretend" I'm one and see what it's like.

I remember with particular and perverse pleasure offhandedly referring to the torture devices used on Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back as "barbershop chairs," the GM blinking and asking what I meant, me explaining that was Imperial slang for the things (into which my character was about to put her favorite good-guy NPCs), and her accepting it -- only to have me explain post-game that I'd made the term up on the spot. If you want to emulate the tone of the Star Wars films, of course, such slang is jarring at least; but if you think of Star Wars as an objective world to explore (extrapolate) unseen crannies of, again, it makes sense that bureaucratic torturers would have such trivializing slang for their tools.

In the end the GM had her NPC heroes abduct/rescue my character and, um, blow up a Star Destroyer with psychic mind powers, but we ended at that on her bemused sense of defeat, and my sense of mild triumph, that my character was too miserable a rat to do anything further with that was Star Wars-y.


2) Same GM, playing with a group in an ongoing campaign, using Star Wars rules in an original setting of the GM's. There were various incidents of Objective World mindset taking us off the GM's track throughout the campaign:

In the first session, I, the real person, immediately forgot a placename mentioned to my character, and the GM wouldn't let me just "remember" it, so I started outlining an elaborate program of investigation (what are the major corporate interests? Who would want to assassinate person x?) until the GM blanched and had me accidentally see an NPC with the required information.

Later on, the GM needed us to jury-rig something about a spaceship, and two other (male) players had a great deal of fun talking in-character about the various modifications they'd need to make and what they should be careful of lest they cause the reactor to explode on the spot; I listened with great approval, the GM with bemusement: She just figured they'd make a roll and get on with it, not invent problems for themselves for the sheer delight of extrapolating different aspects of an imaginary technology -- but, hey, if it were really an Objective World, jury-rigging a complex system would be problematic, so they made it so.

At the climax of the campaign, instead of diving in heroically to destroy the villains' lair alone, I had my character alert the authorities amd beg for military intervention. The GM agreeably had the military come in and then order the PCs to storm the lair anyway, instead of sending in, oh, qualified professionals. In terms of her goal of emulating adventure stories, I was perversely trying to get rid of the climactic saving-the-day fight scene; in terms of an Objective World, my character was doing the logical thing.

(P.S. Human sexuality disclosure, as required by the Ron Edwards "Infamous Five" Act of 2004: Yes, the GM was a female and I was (err, am) male; yes, we were attracted to each other; but we (mostly me) consciously stepped back from that brink early on and ended up as good friends to the present day, with her soon dating and ultimately marrying one of the other guys in the all-male group. Photos of their newborn baby available on request).



Mike, apologies for going on longer than I intended, but Actual Play examples usually do a theory discussion some good. Are these things I'm talking about decent examples of your idea of "Objective World Description" Simulationism as opposed to other forms of Sim? If not, why not, and what would be a better example, so I (and others) can be sure we understand you better?
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Andrew Norris
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« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2005, 09:24:49 PM »

Hi, all. I'd like to jump back to the subject of genre emulation for a minute.

Our group does "Just like in that movie..." constantly. Sometimes we're trying to evoke a theme or mood, say "This argument goes just like the one John Cusak has with Minnie Driver in Grosse Point Blank."

Most of the time, though, it's an effective shorthand. We can take a character, say "Think X from his/her role in Y", and it saves us having to go into detailed description. I usually load up an appropriate photo and display that before the game.  I find that especially useful, because detailed Exploration in terms of "What does this guy look like" bores the hell out of me.

I think I'm saying that "Just like in that movie..." is sometimes nothing like genre emulation.
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Merten
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« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2005, 09:48:28 PM »

Could it be that the major motivation of Sim play and game design is to cover up the fact that adults are enjoying "Play Pretend" by disquising the activity with tomes of rules?

I wouldn't dismiss this as untrue; I think it's a major contributive factor for the Sim play at least for me, sometimes with the tomes of rules, sometimes without them (though with unwritten rules, as it's been pointed out to me). The "Playing the house" reference Sydney pointed out makes sense to me; if (and this might be pretty exterme example) you're participating in a week-long LARP about being an inmate in prison, one could say that you are "Playing the prison" or "Play pretending to be a prisoner" and they would be right. Change the medium from LARP to tabletop roleplaying and there you go.

I'll make a bold statement (that, at this point, only addresses one narrow approach to Simulationism):

Simulationist play isn't about putting your character into situtation and watching what happens (player is being a third party and might be identifying with the character, but is foremost getting the kicks for being a player and playing a character), it's about being the character and getting a first-hand account on what happens and the feelings assosicated with it. Being a third party gives the player a safety net of not directly experiencing what the character experiences but identifying with it ("My character ordered them to be killed and I could identify with the feeling of power and lack of remorse my character probably had - but I'm not my character"), whereas being the character gives a safety net of not identifying (outside the game) with what the character does but experiencing it ("I ordered them to be killed and felt powerfull - and no remorse - but that was my character, not me as a player. I was my character during the play and afterwards, this chills me to the bone").

I think I'm semi-intentionally drifting towards a topic (Immersion) which was not supposed to be discussed.

Jukka, you're making tons of sense, and I think you understand the theory quite well. But what you're doing here is standing on the verge of betraying the entire nordic scene for one giant heap of dysfunction. That is, I could interpret what you're saying as most of the urge to play sim as a rejection of gamism such that it might breed Pawn stance (implausible play). Note, too, that I've never seen implausible narrativism play - the notion that players "force" their characters to do implausible things to make play "interesting" is absurd because, thematically, implausble things aren't interesting. I suppose a person could play a very post-modern game in which plausibility were cast aside to creat post-modern themes (and actually the game Court of Nine Chambers might actually intend that), but I've never seen it once in play.

Only on a verge of betraying my take on one clique of the Nordic scene as a giant heap of dysfunction - and even then, I'm pretty much disagreeing about the dysfunction. The nordic scene is a diverse one and a lot of it would happily dub the approach I'm stating as "fascist", "autist" or "Turku closet-play".

I'm again not completely following you (and this is probably me still not understanding the GNS) with the stances and implausible play. The way I see it, it's entirely plausible for character to miss out a "scene" of play by sitting in a closet because he is afraid, and it's entirely plausible for the player to do this, because he's experiencing the same fear the character does (or at least acknowledging it). The character might leap from the closet into a middle of dramatic scene because player wants to (author stance?) or because player feels that the character would do this because of something (actor stance?). The reasoning is not intresting to the other players since they assume the player knows what he is doing, though they also assume he's staying in the actor stance.

I guess I can see why this can be thought to be dysfunctional (there's no way to validate how the player came to the decision - it's not stated in any way, it just happens because the player/character wills it to happen), thought I don't personally see it as such. I don't know if this is relevant, but I've been having enormous problems to understand the GNS model because I find it hard to see some of the problems I think it's addressing - one of them being that the process of play I'm familiar with is terribly open for exploiting, but I fail to see this as a problem because exploiting does not happen (or I'm not noticing it). This is probably out of the scope of this discussion.

I don't know if there is such a thing as "implausible" narrativist play (I'm not very familiar with narrativist play - or at least, I've never identified it as such); for me as a player, it would be implausible to be playing a fearful character who would not run away from a violent confortation, because as a player I'd feel running away to be not intresting. "Forcing" this character to stay in place, overcome his fear and save the day would be plausible if the motivation to do so exists in the mental construction - if it doesen't, staying isn't really an option as the fear kicks in. "Forcing" the character to stay despite him not having a motivation to do so would be implausible, even if it might produce dramatic play - motivation to stay does not exist in the mental construction and I'd be violating my own mental construction if I'd "force" the character to stay.

However, running away is plausible because it contributes to the objective world description and because objective world description is thought to be more important goal than achieving dramatic play. So, a one session play might end shortly because there is no motivation for the characters to do anything - and this is a problem I've stumbled into from time to time. Is this assosicated with the pawn stance?

Anyhow, we're getting into definitions of illusionism and simulationism which, again, I want to avoid (my fault from starting to slip back that way). So if you want to continue this line of thought, please start a new thread and let me know so I can come over.  :-)

I'm trying to avoid slipping there, though I'm not sure if I'm actually heading straight there - I find it hard to express my thoughts without backing them up with lot's of background. If this message goes the wrong way, let me know, and I'll start a new thread from it.

In any case, thanks for taking the time and provoking my thought; I think I'm at least getting the GNS better now. :)
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
contracycle
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« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2005, 01:33:31 AM »

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?

I'm confused.  In CRPG's player choice is minimal - you can only decide to use the pre-created paths.  So, the GM's hand is overtly visible and interventionist, much more so than TT RPG.  There literally is no possibility for appeal of imporoivisation, there is only that which has been pre-made.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2005, 03:12:24 AM »

Heya,

Andrew Wrote:

Quote
I think I'm saying that "Just like in that movie..." is sometimes nothing like genre emulation.

Okay, this is important.  It can be easy to get confused about what it is we're saying when we are describing basic Emulation and Genre Emulation.  Read what Ron wrote here:

Quote
Hi Troy,

You're right, it [Genre Emulation] 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.

Just because someone says in a game, "Hey that's kinda like what Will Riker did in that Star Trek episode..." doesn't at all mean you are engaging in Sim play.  It's just color.  Someone is describing what someone or something else in the SIS is like. 

NOW, if someone in the group said, "I want to know what it would be like to be Will Riker (or someone in the same position as Riker) in a Star Trek episode," then that is Sim play. 

The difference is in the first case, the statement is just an adjective.  It's describing something else that just happens to be like an instance from a movie, TV show, book, whatever.  In the second statement, the overriding priority of the player is to experience something he has seen or read in another, outside source.  It is the second instance of play folks are describing as Genre Emulating Sim Play.  Not all Sim play is Genre Emulating.  My example of combat in Rolemaster and in TRoS are two examples of what I consider Sim mechanics, but they don't emulate a particular Genre of books, movies, or what-have-you.  They are Emulation of another sort.  Real World Emulation, if you will.

Make sense, Andrew? :)

Peace,

-Troy
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jmac
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2005, 03:17:55 AM »

Sorry for that "irrefragable", Mike. I'm using a dictionary quite often - not always sure what words people really use ;-)

Are those problems with ignoring the subjective significant in this topic, should we talk about them here or elsewhere?

I can't actually agree that "objective world" and "genre emulation" are qualitatively different.

It seems to me that exploring objective world is just emulation of a particular genre (like "realism" or something).
From certain point of view the difference is in quantity of deviation allowed from original material - static media or group stereotypes alone.

Other difference must be priority of genre...?

And again I feel very familiar with what are you saying, Jukka!
I want to comment this example with running away from threat or staying. It really seems right to run if character is a coward, but there are situations when ingame motives to stay are present and character is a coward and what would she do is not clear. What motives are used when "objective" stuff can't give you a clear answer?
Drama driven?
Dice?
Player's personal motives? (you know, player owns her character in some way)
Maybe genre elements have to show themselves in such situations? (I choose this one)
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Ivan.
Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #28 on: October 19, 2005, 03:36:46 AM »

Heya,

Quote
It seems to me that exploring objective world is just emulation of a particular genre (like "realism" or something).


And this is why the word "genre" is troublesome word.  Check the Provisional Glossary.  I wouldn't get bogged down in trying to define what Genre is.  I plan on just focusing on the topics already raised in this thread :)

Peace,

-Troy
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jmac
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #29 on: October 19, 2005, 03:52:12 AM »

Troy, genre here is used as thing to be emulated in "genre emulation".

I have no intent on discussing any term. My proposion is to determine meaning of a word (even (potential) term) by context it is usen in.
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Ivan.
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