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Author Topic: The Secret of Sim  (Read 30234 times)
lumpley
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« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2005, 11:02:03 AM »

"The beeg horseshoe," "trouble pinning sim down"... I'm telling you, that's not really how it is. Sim's well and solidly understood, by many of us, as its own thing and pinned down just fine.

That some people don't understand it doesn't mean that it's not.

(Ron's been saying this for a while now, of course. Like here recently: Re: Question for Vincent.)

My very straightforward advice, if you happen to be someone who doesn't understand sim and wants to: stop attending to the idea that sim's not theoretically well-developed here, accept that it's your understanding that's wanting, but apply yourself to understanding narrativism first.

My very straightforward statement, if you happen to be someone who feels that sim is not theoretically well-developed here: in fact, you don't understand the CAs. If you want to, see the previous.

-Vincent
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2005, 11:26:59 AM »

"The beeg horseshoe," "trouble pinning sim down"... I'm telling you, that's not really how it is. Sim's well and solidly understood, by many of us, as its own thing and pinned down just fine.

That some people don't understand it doesn't mean that it's not.

(Ron's been saying this for a while now, of course. Like here recently: Re: Question for Vincent.)

My very straightforward advice, if you happen to be someone who doesn't understand sim and wants to: stop attending to the idea that sim's not theoretically well-developed here, accept that it's your understanding that's wanting, but apply yourself to understanding narrativism first.

My very straightforward statement, if you happen to be someone who feels that sim is not theoretically well-developed here: in fact, you don't understand the CAs. If you want to, see the previous.

This is button for me, so you'll have to excuse my tone.  Just because you don't agree with something doesn't mean you don't understand it.  Also, something can be fully understood and still be flawed; understanding involves understanding the flaws as well, not daydreaming about perfection.  And a flawed theory doesn't equate to an under developed theory.  Sim can be fully understood, fully developed, and still flawed.  It's like the Yugo of Creative Agenda.

Also, it would be helpful to know which definition of Sim you are refering to.  I would imagine it is either the dream definition or the discovery definition, but I'm unsure.
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- Cruciel
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« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2005, 11:28:11 AM »

Being true to a character is a powerful motivation across the CAs.

-Vincent

I see how in black white thinking if Sim is focused on being "true to character" it might imply that Narrativist games must not be. I don't believe that though. I'd say that players with different creative agendas are true with a different emphasis.

Say a Mormon Palladim blows into town to grapple with moral delimas. The player states their position. others state theirs. The shit hits the fan and they deal with the fall out. True to character is part of stating your beliefs. This addresses premise, making the story happen here and now during the game. Which is my understanding of Narrativism.

Say I'm exactly the same Palladin in the exact same town but this time I've come in to emerce myself in the character and setting. I don't care so much about grappling with a moral delima. True to my character this time could be making my thinking track along with what I think the character would think, empathizing with their emotions and acting out events in a way that was true to that understanding. I might use props (like a costume, Book of Mormon, or having an unloaded revolver on the table) to help put me in the mind set. I might use language that was appropriate to the time and place again for the purpose of putting me in the mind set. Regardless of actually dealing with the problem at hand my success would be feeling the whole bit of being a Dog in the Vinyard.

Meanwhile a Gamist player might view their character as a pawn to be used and expended. Ture to character might mean gaining that characters victory conditions but not involve emersion at all.


Okay - now for the Engle Matrix Game bit - (I'm predictable.) Say I'm running a Mormon Palladin in the Old West. I start the game by making arguments to define what is going on in the town. Half of my arguments don't involve my character at all. The ones that do try to give him a good position to solve the problem. I'm on the one hand creating the premise that I will eventually deal with. On the other I'm setting up my character to defeat it, but I can emerse myself in the world so that as long as it remains true to my vision and I feel it as it happens - my character could die the big death and I could still call it a personal victory because I got the emersion experience. The same person could engage in all three creative agendas at different times in the game. Each time being true to the character in different ways.

Chris, I don't see anything there outside of Nar play. You were addressing a theme. You weren't reproducing just any part of the period; you were reproducing a part that was interesting and clearly problematic.

It could have been Narrativist play but...

If I had set out to engage racism, then the way I played would certainly be Narrativist play. As it happened I was just acting out what I precieved the character would do, without thinking about the moral issue. It was only really after the game that I realized we had gone into that ground. I'm from Kentucky and remember when they desegragated the schools so I don't intentionally go down that road. Engaging color lines isn't fun - it's way too close to home.

So if my intent was to be true to the character and emerse myself in the role, isn't that part of Sim?

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
talysman
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« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2005, 11:36:47 AM »

I think there are a few misconceptions in this thread about what I'm saying here. before I get to those, however, I'll answer Vincent directly.

I'm not struggling with Sim. I get it. I get Gamism and Narrativism, too. I like them in their lighter forms; I can think of examples of my past play where I'm playing mild Gamist or mild Narrativist, but lots of other times that are heavy Sim.

I think our disagreement comes from my not making clear what it is I'm saying about Premise, partially because I had a much longer article planned and then abandoned that addressed in detail what the similarity between Gamism and Narrativism really means. the short answer is that it's a something that exists in the person addressing the Premise; it's the player taking situations that arise in the game world, comparing them to personal experience and to other stories, and saying "here is what I think" through the actions of a fictional character.

the reason why this is hard to understand is because yes, if you shine a hard light on Sim, you see that *of course* there's a social component and *of course* the fictional events and characters were created by people around the table, again by comparing what has gone on before in The Fiction to their personal experiences and to other stories. but what I'm saying is: the Sim preference is to exalt The Fiction (Character, Setting, Situation and Color) over the needs of the individual.

it might be easier if I sidetracked and talked about two forms of communication we see in everyday life. there is communication between two people about relationships and there is communication mediated by an impersonal topic of conversation, such as a discussion about how a machine works. one form is personal, the other is impersonal; they can sometimes be confused, with a conversation about the weather or government actually carrying a personal subtext, communicated by body language or tone of voice. there are times when people communicate, but not in the same mode; the person expecting a personal connection considers the other person dry, boring, mechanical, while the other person considers the first to be too intense.

what I'm saying is that Gamism and Narrativism are based on the first form of communication, while Simmulationism is based on the second. Simulationism is *depersonalized*.

parts of what I said are not new. I'm really surprised that some people are having trouble accepting the "Sim exalts The Fiction" part, because Ron said it in dfferent words, and Vincent's said it, and so have others. my point -- the new part -- is the rest of the sentence: Sim exalts The Fiction and is antagonistic towards the personal; it attempts to minimalize the interactions within the group, either the "look at me! I'm great!" interactions of Gamism or the "look at me! I have a meaningful moral statement!" interactions of Narrativism. that sounds harsh, but I'm betting lots of hardcore Sim players think of hardcore Gma/Nar players as egotistical. I've certainly seen the disparaging comments flying around that seems to back this up.
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John Laviolette
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timfire
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« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2005, 11:38:53 AM »

I completely agree with Vincent. For a while I was one of those who thought Sim was underdeveloped/misunderstood. But after a few key experience of seeing the three CAs in action, I came to the realization that Ron's celebrationism/emulationism (whatever he's calling it) works perfectly fine. I'll also be honest---I think most people who propose definitions of Sim hold a too narrow view of what Sim is.

I know there aren't many, but I know there are a few good, 100% Sim games out there. Metal Opera is the one I've played most recent (which was a while ago). I don't view this of a fault of the Forge, though. Ron has argued for some time that the percentage of *true* Sim-prefering players is actually pretty low. I think he's probably right, and I think that's why we don't see more Sim games.

(I think we also don't see as much Gam as we do Nar because there are other venues for people to scratch that itch.)

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John Kim
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« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2005, 11:53:24 AM »


May I suggest that some of the failure to "get" sim comes from the aversion to the Sim designs that we've seen commercially?

Those designs tend to have a whole lot of fat that maybe should be trimmed, but tradition has dictated that there are systems and subsystems within commercial/ trad/mainstream Sim designs that have come to be expected. Sim designs tend toward Sacred Cow bloat more than Gam or Narr designs.

Actually, it seems to me the opposite.  That is, people like Vincent Baker and Chris Chinn have expressed extreme aversion to traditional commercial RPG designs that are labelled as GNS Sim, but they also support the current definitions -- claiming to "get" Sim.  If we're going to talk on a meta-level about who has problems with the current definitions vs not, does anyone have collections threads or suggestions about which posters we are talking about?  Here are some threads that I see as the recent varying takes on GNS and Simulationism in particular...

The Model as seen by Valamir
What GNS Is About
Referee/Player Sim/Nar Clash
Sim is Bricolage and makes myth - comments?

I guess there's also Joshua BishopRoby's Leaving the Big Model and GNS.  I know that M.J. has had theories about GNS Sim as "wanting the increase in knowledge from discovery" -- but I don't have a thread reference specifically on that topic.  As Valamir comments in his take on "The Model" --

Simulationism has long been a problematic agenda to understand.  In my effort to more clearly define it I have elected to replace the Right to Dream with Discovery, not as an additional term, but because I think Discovery more accurately relates to what Simulationism is about.  In my opinion, the Right to Dream is what all of role playing is about and is thus more accurately applied to Exploration than to Simulationism.  Dreaming is a rather passive endeavor.  But Discovery requires decisive action and focus and is more appropriately on par with the other two agendas.

To my mind, this is the basic problem with definitional debates.  That is, there's nothing wrong with a category of gaming which is about pursuing increase in knowlege (as M.J. suggests); or a category about bricolage (as Jay suggests); or about pursuing discovery (as Ralph suggests); or about celebration (as Ron suggests most recently).  However, these are overloading a single term.  
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- John
talysman
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« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2005, 12:11:41 PM »

I would like to add that I hope the above addition answers some of the specific questions raised by Nathan, Joshua, and others. I'm not saying there's no social component to Sim, that there is no Group; I'm saying that Sim prioritizes The Fiction over The Group. perhaps, in some cases, pretending there is no Group, that the individual concerns of the people around the table don't really matter even when they do.

Joshua: I don't think the deciding factor is going to be whether playing Sim with strangers is closer to playing Sim with friends than playing Nar/Gam with strangers is to playing Nar/Gam with friends. for a couple reasons: first, because I'm not saying group dynamics and personal feelings have nothing to do with anything; I'm saying Sim disparages certain kinds of social interactions that Gam/Nar prefer. second, it's possible to make friends with strangers through roleplaying, with any agenda, which makes judging these things tricky. third, I have the sneaking suspicion that Nar/Gam with strangers works *better* than Sim with strangers.

the deciding factor, to me, is whether people who prefer impersonal communication over personal communication outside of roleplaying will prefer Sim or Gam/Nar. for an example, high-end autistics are known for getting more excited about things than about people, since they don't pick up on interpersonal cues; so, which Creative Agenda attracts the most high-end autistics?

I think Bob's suggestion about the lack of quality Sim design is dead on. I also think that, yes, part of the problem is that most of the discussion about Sim has been initiated or directed by people who fundamentally don't like Sim. I like Sim, but I'm pointing out what just might be the deep reason for the hatred people feel for Sim, as well as the antagonism Sim-only players feel towards Gam/Nar. I feel I've got a good grasp on the definitions of all three agendas, but I've been disappointed with the discussion of Sim because of the anti-Sim taint. even in Ron's essay on Sim, it's clear that Ron doesn't quite like it except as support for Nar/Gam and thinks there's something a little broken about people who play only Sim. Vincent's had some pretty harsh opinions of Sim, too. reading comments about Sim from people who prefer Nar/Gam means weeding out the hostile opinions from the true insights. and, to spread the blame around a little, it doesn't help the discussion that some Sim people react defensively towards this latent hostility, even to the point of defending their specific playstyle from other Sim people.

we need to look at Sim a little more clearly. and, as I suggested, there's a whole potential area of Sim that hasn't been fully explored: mechanical techniques to generate Setting and Color during play, from a minimal set of rules. Sim mechanical generation of Setting and Color has been limited to clunky random tables that are mostly used for GM prep, since use during play slows things down a bit, although there's always that one random table or two a GM will toss in. on-the-fly Setting/Color generation has usually been freeform and nonmechanical. I think this sharp distinction has caused some mistaken opinions about mechanics vs. freeform, but we can only be certain by exploring this.
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John Laviolette
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2005, 12:12:38 PM »

I know that M.J. has had theories about GNS Sim as "wanting the increase in knowledge from discovery" -- but I don't have a thread reference specifically on that topic.

As I recall, the original thread is: Understanding: the "it" of Simulationism.  It's a bit old now, but probably still reasonable valid.
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lumpley
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« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2005, 12:29:21 PM »

John L: Oh! Oh, I see.

Yes. If you mean by "exalting the fiction" basically the same thing that Ron means by "celebrating the input," then yeah, right on.

...as I suggested, there's a whole potential area of Sim that hasn't been fully explored: mechanical techniques to generate Setting and Color during play, from a minimal set of rules.

I for one consider that a whole potential area of game design. If you develop along those lines for a sim game, expect your work to inspire nar and gam games too.

-Vincent
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2005, 12:36:47 PM »

You know, I had a whole response here about dysfunctional Sim, and then I closed the stupid window.

The gist was, give everyone an opportunity to play Sim, to celebrate your source material, and don't reserve the fun for the GM, and you'll have a fun game for those who want it. I don't think that exists.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

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komradebob
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« Reply #25 on: November 15, 2005, 12:51:59 PM »

You know, I had a whole response here about dysfunctional Sim, and then I closed the stupid window.

The gist was, give everyone an opportunity to play Sim, to celebrate your source material, and don't reserve the fun for the GM, and you'll have a fun game for those who want it. I don't think that exists.

It sounds exactly like how I use Universalis.
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Robert Earley-Clark

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Josh Roby
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« Reply #26 on: November 15, 2005, 04:13:27 PM »

"The beeg horseshoe," "trouble pinning sim down"... I'm telling you, that's not really how it is. Sim's well and solidly understood, by many of us, as its own thing and pinned down just fine.

The thing that really bothers me, Vincent, is that the people who "get" Simulationism generally don't like Simulationism, so I am extremely leery of accepting their definition and characterization of the agenda.  It's like a vegetarian telling you about steak.

To compound the problem, nearly every poster who does avow a preference for Sim repeatedly gets their observations drowned out by the people who don't.  I mean, hell, I don't like Sim, but I'd like to hear from somebody that does what it is that characterizes their preferences.
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #27 on: November 15, 2005, 04:30:05 PM »

Okay. I completely and unreservedly endorse the definition of Sim as celebration/intensification of input, AND I like it. I don't like it as much as I do N - it's definitely candy and not steak for me - but I do really enjoy it. My particular brand is adventure stories - pulp, superhero, and action. My characters don't face or engage with genuine Premise - to the extent that genuine human issues are important in the material that I'm celebrating, the protagonists hardly ever engage them in any problematized way. Captain Crusader (yes, I've really played a character by that name) doesn't have a second thought about his ideals - and indeed, I'd be annoyed if a GM kept throwing him moral dilemmas. His universe doesn't have them. You beat the bad guys, they go to jail until the next time. You're a Hero. I'm not deconstructing, I'm not challenging, I'm revelling in something fun that I love with other people who love it too.

That's Sim as I understand it.

When I play the same genre, but choose to confront and interrogate the material? That's N.
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komradebob
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« Reply #28 on: November 15, 2005, 05:02:10 PM »

"The beeg horseshoe," "trouble pinning sim down"... I'm telling you, that's not really how it is. Sim's well and solidly understood, by many of us, as its own thing and pinned down just fine.

The thing that really bothers me, Vincent, is that the people who "get" Simulationism generally don't like Simulationism, so I am extremely leery of accepting their definition and characterization of the agenda.  It's like a vegetarian telling you about steak.

To compound the problem, nearly every poster who does avow a preference for Sim repeatedly gets their observations drowned out by the people who don't.  I mean, hell, I don't like Sim, but I'd like to hear from somebody that does what it is that characterizes their preferences.

I actually find that the people who claim not to like Sim often give very good definitions of Sim.

What I find muddles the issue however, is that when folks who favor Sim point to what they like, inevitably someone comes along and co-opts it for another agenda. Matrix-Gamer's example screams Sim to me, yet someone immediately came along and claimed it to be Narr. That's the sort of thing I'm talking about. There seems to be this overwhelming need for any enjoyable experience to be lumped with Narr ( or more unusually, Gam) and anything dull, drab, overwritten or otherwise annoying to be labelled Sim.

Okay. I completely and unreservedly endorse the definition of Sim as celebration/intensification of input, AND I like it. I don't like it as much as I do N - it's definitely candy and not steak for me - but I do really enjoy it. My particular brand is adventure stories - pulp, superhero, and action. My characters don't face or engage with genuine Premise - to the extent that genuine human issues are important in the material that I'm celebrating, the protagonists hardly ever engage them in any problematized way. Captain Crusader (yes, I've really played a character by that name) doesn't have a second thought about his ideals - and indeed, I'd be annoyed if a GM kept throwing him moral dilemmas. His universe doesn't have them. You beat the bad guys, they go to jail until the next time. You're a Hero. I'm not deconstructing, I'm not challenging, I'm revelling in something fun that I love with other people who love it too.

That's Sim as I understand it.

When I play the same genre, but choose to confront and interrogate the material? That's N.

Yes. Exactly. What is so hard about that?

I really do think one of the underlying problems with understanding Sim is the examples of Sim game designs many of us have encountered. Frankly, I think a lot of those designs fail to deliver Sim reliably. Many techniques that have been developed here to support Narr designs have application in Sim designs. I would suggest that the push for "rules lite" type games is equally an attempt to deliver Sim reliably as it is to deliver Narr. Many Sim designs continue to utilize techniques that evolved out of Gamism supporting  mechanics from early rpgs. The fact that these techniques may not even be useful or supportive of Sim is never actually considered.
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
ctrail
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« Reply #29 on: November 15, 2005, 06:01:35 PM »

Just a thought here...

It really seems like Simulationism has been defined in a specific way for use in the GNS model. That's what I take Ron to mean in the thread that Vincent cites when he says that it is a labile term- that it could have very different meanings in different contexts, but that it is being used to mean a very specific concept in this context.

It also seems like a lot of people have a preconception of what Simulationism should mean. They either have a sense of what that word means in other contexts, and are using that, instead of Ron's definition, to decide what it means in this context, or maybe they feel like there is another Creative Agenda besides the ones listed in the GNS model, and that Simulationism should refer to that. So they find the definition of the term given by the GNS model problematic.

Perhaps it is useful to note that GNS, as a term in the context of roleplaying design theory, doesn't have an existing nature or meaning to be discovered. It isn't like Simulationism was something we all knew about before GNS, and that the GNS model was an explanation of what we already knew to exist. It is a system of classification, that invented the use of the term in this context. So in that sense, Simulationism means whatever they said it means.

Now, you could challenge that model as being flawed for some reason. For example, you might say that there is a fourth CA worth talking about besides the four listed, or that they should be divided differently. But this is different from trying to figure out what the terms mean. It seems to me, now that I have had it explained, that they have a reasonably clear meaning in this context.

I'm worried that this isn't concrete enough, so I'll comment on something a previous poster said from this point of view, which might make my point clearer.

Joshua, you compared the way Simulationism is defined to a vegetarian telling people about meat. But I think these cases are very different in an important way. Meat and vegetarianism were well defined before the hypothetical vegetarian made his argument. So when he explains what meat eating is, and how he dislikes it, he might have a slanted view point. But the case is very different if he were defining a new term. His new word means whatever he says it means, he can't really be biased in creating a new concept. If he describes something unpleasant, he can't really be said to be biased against his new concept, it just happens to describe something some find negative.

So the definition created here can't really be biased against Simulationism, because Simulationism wasn't a concept that existed before it was defined. Whatever the word was coined to mean, that is what it means. It might be confusing because the word has connotations besides what it actually denotes, but I don't see how the people who defined it could be wrong about what they meant by it. And if we are talking about Simulationism in the context of GNS, it seems like there are some very specific people who meant particular things.

This make sense to anyone else?
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