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GNS, Intent and Motivations

Started by Valamir, September 23, 2002, 11:21:42 AM

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Mike Holmes

Quote from: deadpanbobExcept that G/N/S is a taxonomy that screams motivation - that answers the question "Why did he jump up and down and tell the GM he sucked when he made that role?"  "Because he preffered to make a Gamist decision during that instance of play"

If we then go on to define Gamist play as being only those behaviors that model Gamist play, well then we've succeeded in creating a definition that has no use to me other than creating a layer of obscure jargon that doesn't have any meaning.

I think that this is your problem. And Ralph's as well. Ralph, I understand and agree in every way with what Ron is saying. It couldn't be your failure to understand that's the problem and not Ron's reticence to try to explain it?

If I see a player kill the baby kobolds, because they aren't worth any EXP alive, then I will assume that this is a Gamist decision. I can't see how it prioritizes verisimilitude, or narrativist premise. What I can't assume is what motive caused the player to do what he did. Yes, he has "some motive that causes him to make gamist decisions" but that's just begging the question. What motive is that? Was it because he likes powerful characters? Was it because he felt that this is waht the other players expected of him? Was it because he sees monster death as winning? Was it because he's just been trained to kill all monsters he comes across and would not be comfortable in not killing them? Could be any of these motives.

(Before anyone objects, yes, this is a slanted example. But Ron never said that there were not times when you can't tell what GNS mode is employed. I use an obvious example to make a point. There will be times, as I've said when you are not at all sure.)

I can speculate as to motive, and I may even be correct on occasion. But who cares? The important thing with GNS theory is not to identify why players do what they do. It' is only to say that they do three different things. And to the extent that they do these things one can say that the player doing them likely (note, likely) prefers this sort of decision making for some reason. It does not matter for the purposes of he theory what that reason is (or reasons are). Only that they seem to have one.

As such , we can identify such players, and cater to their preference; and I can design games that support the mode I choose. This is the utility of GNS, Bob. Why must it do more to be useful? Why must it be about the motives that lead to the behavior, and not just the behavior itself.

I agree that it would be more useful if it did address motives. That would be just great. But as all of us here seem to agree, no model is likely able to do that. So, given that, I for one will be satisfied that we have a behavioral tool rather than none at all.

Mike
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

deadpanbob

Mike,

Okay, so G/N/S is only a taxonomy of behavior.  It groups behaviors into three categories and says "Everything that looks like this is Gamist behavior" and so on.

Yes, that is useful, to the extent that there is some rubrick for deciding what Gamist or Simulationist or Narrativist behavoir is - but when I've asked that question before I've been told that it is mostly a matter of opinion.

I don't misunderstand at all what Ron, or what you, are saying.  I don't fail to see that GNS as written can be applied as a taxonomy of only behavior.

I just don't agree.  It might surprise you to find out that I think behavior is a much more powerful predictor of people's preferences than attitudes, lifestyles, demographics etc.

However, that only applies, in my opinion and my experience, when the behavior can be easily categorized and is realtively definitive - like spending money on something.  A person may express a motivation to 'simplify' their life, but if they then go out and purchase a subscription to several 'Simplify your Life' magazines, and buy lots and lots of products designed to simply their life, well, the behavior and the motivation don't exactly gee up in my mind.

But with a social activity like roleplaying, there is a lot going on.  I can pretty readily tell the difference between most Simulationist behaviors that I've observed (always remembering that this is IMO) and either Narrativist or Gamist behaviors.  But between Narrativist and Gamist behaviors there is a lot of overlap - barring the extreme examples both you and Ron have cited.

Take killing the baby orc - this could be viewed as Narrativist behavoir if you take out the motivation you ascribed to it: if I don't kill the orcs I don't get EXP.  Unless the player expresses that motivation to you explicitly - how can you be sure that he/she isn't thinking that killing the baby orc is in line with the overall theme of the story?

See, to my eyes, its a lot easier to identify Stance than it is Mode.  I can readily tell when someone I'm gaiming with (again, remembering that this is IMO) is in Director or Author or Actor stance.  But as GNS points out, while some of the combinations are odd, any stance could potentially apply to any behavioral mode.

Maybe, my inability to distinguish between Narrativist behavior and Gamist behavior is precisely becuase I tend to favor both modes pretty equally (after an internal examination of my motives and the types of roleplaying that I enjoy).

I'm not going to argue that anyone else should look at motivations - or is hamstrung by my own perceptive limits.  However, that doesn't mean that I need to necessarily agree with the statement

Quote from: Mike Holmes
...the important thing with GNS theory is not to identify why players do what they do. It' is only to say that they do three different things. And to the extent that they do these things one can say that the player doing them likely (note, likely) prefers this sort of decision making for some reason. It does not matter for the purposes of he theory what that reason is (or reasons are). Only that they seem to have one.

I also do not agree that

Quote from: Mike Holmes

That would be just great. But as all of us here seem to agree, no model is likely able to do that.


While I'm not a psychologist by training or inclination - I know a little bit about this field of study from some intense discussions with my father - a child and adolescent psychiatrist.  In fact, a lot of people theorize that a model of behavior that includes motivation can exist.

I'm not saying that we should try and build one.  I'm just saying that the current GNS model, or rather my current internalization thereof, doesn't seem to fully meet my needs as a game designer.

Yes, it has moved my thinking forward by leaps and bounds - and caused me to think about things in ways that I never would have before - and for that reason alone the model is useful.

As I said before, we are probably at an "Agree to Disagree" moment.  I don't think I'm going to convince anyone else, and so far, no one has convinced me in terms of motivation/intent and how that relates to behavior within the context of GNS.

Cheers,

Jason
"Oh, it's you...
deadpanbob"

Marco

Quote from: Mike Holmes

If I see a player kill the baby kobolds, because they aren't worth any EXP alive, then I will assume that this is a Gamist decision.

Mike

Not to really get into this--but isn't the "because" satisfying motivation there--I mean, the example wasn't "someone kills baby kobolds." Once someone answers the motivation question ("they're not worth XP alive") then it becomes Gamist.

I'm not arguing with anyone here. I think I get what Ron is saying but belive the application of GNS to anyone but yourself (where you do know the motivation) is shaky and fraught with bias--so is there a clearer cut case where you don't have a "because" clause?

-Marco
---------------------------------------------
JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
http://www.jagsrpg.org
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland

Valamir

Marco, I had this big long reply to Mike forming in my brain, but thankfully, I read your post first and you succinctly summed up exactly what I was going to say.

In my mind to say "because it isn't worth EXPs alive" IS the motive, and claim its not is just playing semantics games for which I see no point.

Simply observing behavior in isolation tells us nothing.  Character A kills Baby Kobolds could easily fit into any GNS stance.  There's a wealth of potential premis exploration that could be going on in accepting the murder of infants because they are of a different race...pretty powerful metaphor actually.

Its only in the REASON for this decision that GNS has any meaning at all...and the reason why IS motive.

The decision was motivated by gamism, the decision was motivated by simulationism, the decision was motivated by narrativism.  The motive is built into the very definition of the terms.

I have yet to hear how it can possibly work viewed any other way.

Marco

Hey Val,

We agree on something! (Arrgh--RUN!! Flying Pig!!) ;)

I suspect Mike might say (has said?) that it's a series of behaviors plotted like data points that tells you something.

I submit that even with lots of data, it's still subjective. A plotted point, in this case looks like several fuzzy spots--each sharp to the percent that it fits a given mode.  

While I think that eventually some general determination might be made by a sort of monte-carlo technique (more fall within the gamist zone) it's basically still the projected motivation of the observer at work for each and every given point of data--and that will eventually drive the percentage.

-Marco
---------------------------------------------
JAGS (Just Another Gaming System)
a free, high-quality, universal system at:
http://www.jagsrpg.org
Just Released: JAGS Wonderland

damion

So G/N/S specifies behaviors rather than motives, priorities, ect.?
I agree with jason, et al that it doesn't make sense.

Quote
Interested in whether someone's playing Gamist-ly? Look for the prioritized competition, scoring, winning, and reinforcement thereof across the group.

Interested in whether someone's playing Simulationist-ly? Look for the prioritized attention and commitment to the Exploration, reinforced across the group.

Interested in whether someone's playing Narrativist-ly? Look for the prioritized commitment to addressing Premise (as defined specifically for Narrativism), reinforced across the group.
Now a person prioritizing something is essentally a modivation.

I think what Ron is saying is that GNS IS about motives, about why people behave in a certian way.  GNS has to be about motives, because GNS is a tool to understand, make better games.
I can make a game the encourages people to kill kobolds for advancement, but I can't make a game the encourages a person to go 'die kobold, yeah! 10 EXP!' (well, not without specificly encouraging that specific thing. )  

However, we have no access to a persons inner reasons, so we can only observe their behavior take what we think is their modivation. In this sense GNS is about behavior, we need to map behaviors to modivations.  However, we must make a game to encourage modivations, which them map back to behaviors.
James

Valamir

Marco...heh, I think we agree on far more than we disagree on.  Its just more fun to discuss the disaggree stuff :-)  Further, I agree with your comments on plotting points.  To me, the purpose of the data points is precisely that...to allow us to infer through the collected behaviors the motivations we can't know directly.  In fact, there are some other threads around here where I discuss decisions on the atomic level, and hypothetical "decision maps" which were essentially the same concept as a monte carlo simulation (except of course you can really rerun the same parameters 1000 times in reality).

James N.  You've summed up exactly how I've been thinking of GNS all along.  GNS is about motivations...we can't observe motivations, so we observe a series of behaviors and from this infer the G N or S motivation that lies behind them.  That's why I was so floored by Ron suddenly yanking the motivation piece out of the theory...without it...it just stops working.

contracycle

Well I couldn't disagree more - motivations are largely irrelevant, and are certainly of questionable reliability.

I tried to avoid this previously but really, the simplest example is politics.  Almost everyone who engages in politics - please not not necessarily the party machine - does so to Make The World Better.  Radically opposed Democrats and Republicans are motivated by the SAME GOAL; what they disagree on is the METHODOLOGY by which that goal is achieved.

It is therefore utterly useless to try to identify which party to support on the basis of their core motivation IMO - its either going to be essentially identical or hidden (in the case of the opportunist).  But both sides can and do disagree over HOW to make the world better and what constitutes a better world in the first place.

Of course the model is subjective; it has to be.  But you can sit back and think "I THINK that Bob is motivated by gamism on the basis of X and Y observations...".  And you can attempt to verify that by interacting with their behaviour; you cannot investigate their motivations effectively.

Rons claim is this: according to his observations, those are the three broad categories into which Actual Play can be sliced, regardless of how or why this ocurred.
Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

deadpanbob

Quote from: contracycle

I tried to avoid this previously but really, the simplest example is politics.  Almost everyone who engages in politics - please not not necessarily the party machine - does so to Make The World Better.  Radically opposed Democrats and Republicans are motivated by the SAME GOAL; what they disagree on is the METHODOLOGY by which that goal is achieved.


Of course, no one gets into politics to further a personal agenda beyond making the world a better place.  It's all about that call to serve.  The lure of power, for instance, plays no part in anyone's motivation to become a politician. [/sarcasm].

Really, the motivations for why anyone does anything are varied.  Nobody is arguing that.  But just because the motivations are variable, doesn't mean they are unknowable.  Behavior is suggestive of motivation - IMO and in my experience.  

We'll just have to agree to disagree.

Cheers,

Jason
"Oh, it's you...
deadpanbob"

contracycle

Quote from: deadpanbob
Of course, no one gets into politics to further a personal agenda beyond making the world a better place.  It's all about that call to serve.  The lure of power, for instance, plays no part in anyone's motivation to become a politician. [/sarcasm].

You missed my point.

Voter A opposes racism, and therefore votes for a Democrat who advocates affirmative action.
Voter B  opposes racism, and therfefore votes for a Republican who opposes affirmative action.

How are we to tell them apart based on motivation?  And if there motivations are identical, should not their decision be?

"Lust for power" is precisely an imputation made of someone elses state of mind.  It is unverifiable speculation and almost totally meaningless- - if asked if they "luisted for power", they would say no.

Equally, the REASON that someone thinks that G or N or S is "the best way to have fun" is much less unimportant than the fact that they DO think that G or N or S is the best way to have fun.  To challenge the observation that behaviour is broken into these three categories you would have to depart from motivation and cite something observable.
Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

deadpanbob

Quote from: contracycle

You missed my point.

Voter A opposes racism, and therefore votes for a Democrat who advocates affirmative action.
Voter B  opposes racism, and therfefore votes for a Republican who opposes affirmative action.


This to is an imputation of motive.  Both voters, per your example, voted for different candidates, based on the same motivation - i.e. an internal reasoning that we can't know unless they specifcally stated their intent.  And frankly, if Voter A thinks that affirmative action is the way to oppose racism - that is part of his motivation for voting for the Democrat.

Again, I understand that G/N/S referrs to behaviors - but the distinctions to me, especially between those things that could be Gamist and those things that could be Narrativist behaviors, are too fine.  There is too much common ground, as near as I can tell, to consistently make the distinction between these two without, preferrably, an explictly stated motive, or an imputed motive.

My lust for power example was a challenge to the notion that all politicians are motivated by a desire to make to the world a better place.

I challenge your last example too - on the grounds that more than an opposition to racism was in play for both voters.

Frankly, saying a person enjoys G, N, or S play, without an explicit affimative statement from them, based solely on outside observations of their behavior, is just as subjective.  We are now in the realm of impuning value - as in, "This player engages in behavior over a series of Instance of Play that appears to be Gamist behavior.  That is, his behavior is most consistent over time with Gamist behavior.  Ergo, he enjoys Gamism."

All we can say, if we restrict ourselves to the observable behavior is "This player tends to engage in Gamist behavior.  Therefore, this player tends to engage in Gamist behavior."

That's not very useful to me.  If we read into the GNS essay that people won't consistently behave in ways that they find distasteful, we can impune, infer, guess that they enjoy the behaviors that they consistently behanve in.

Except that, again, in my experience, there are a lot of RPGers out there who play Game X one night a week, week after week, and claim to have fun.  And yet, when introduced to a new game concept that better matches the mode of play that they preffer (here I am again getting inside people's heads), they suddenly say "Wow, this is so much better than Game X".

I lot of people day to day behavior is habitual - that is they don't think about it much.  Roleplaying can be such an activity.  If a player starts their gaming career with a bunch of dyed-in-the wool Gamists (that is to say a group of individuals who typically exhibit Gamist behavior as judged by observing that behavior over a long series of Instance of Play), that new player may play for years thinking that Gamist behavior is the 'right' way to play the game.

For the sake of argument, let's say this player actually would have more fun engaging in Simulationist behavior.  But, he still has fun when playing with his friends (i.e. he doesn't mind the Gamist behavior too much, and he thinks, "well, this is the way the game is played, so even though I don't really enjoy this part, I like spending time with my friends, and every once in a while, I even enjoy the game for itself").  When he does enjoy the game for itself, lets say again for the sake of this argument, it is because for that brief moment, play has drifted into Simulationist behavior.

Now, lets say that this new player takes a risk and goes to play with another group who is playing TROS. All of a sudden, this player is going to think "This is the way my regular group should be playing!  Wait until I introduce them to THIS!".  But, when he does introduce them to TROS, they don't like it.  They can't stand Simulationist or Narrativist behavoir.  Now tension has been introduced.  The group may find that it can no longer play with the player who prefers Simulationist behavior, and vice versa.

Now, what I'd like to know, as a game designer in-the-rough, is if I'm trying to build a game that satisfies those people who prefer Simulationist modes of play - how do I evaluate that through playtesting if I don't impune motives?  What if a group of playtesters really likes new things - the so called early adopters.  They might all say, "Yeah, this game is cool.  Yeah I had fun."  They might all engage in play over the course of several sessions that appears to be Simulationist driven - but only because the flavor text in the game suggested they play this way.

Now, when I try to distribute my game, I find a lot of people complaining about how my game isn't 'real' engouh.  Or that it doesn't 'refelct the genre'.  Or that its missing a whole suite of critical rules for 'things that come up quite often in this game'.  Well, those complaints could all point to the fact that the game doesn't support Simulationist play.

So I'm stuck.  GNS provides a great tool for us to talk critically about roleplaying in a way that is one step (at least) removed from the emotion and subjectivity that can often rear its ugly head.  But as a game designer, if I, I'm sure because of my limitations, can't use the theory to design a game for a specific audience, then it is only useful as a discussion tool, and not as an evaluation tool.

Cheers,

Jason
"Oh, it's you...
deadpanbob"

Ron Edwards

Jason,

Don't forget that you can apply the concept of "motives/intent" as you see fit to the model. Once you've done that, its utility to you as a designer re-appears.

Best,
Ron

deadpanbob

Quote from: Ron EdwardsJason,

Don't forget that you can apply the concept of "motives/intent" as you see fit to the model. Once you've done that, its utility to you as a designer re-appears.


Ron, yeah, I know ;-)

As I stated above, I understand where you are coming from.  I'm in a one-day lull at work, and thus engaging in a little Forum based Gamism - i.e. trying to get in the last word.

Actually, I love, and I mean love, a good debate about a topic that interests me - such as roleplaying.

And while this isn't actually germaine to this topic - I just want to thank you and your Forge compatriots again for providing us with the context of GNS so we can have these debates in a relatively civilized fashion and for providing the Forge as a forum to do so.

Cheers,

Jason
"Oh, it's you...
deadpanbob"

jdagna

The politics analogy brings up some interesting comparisons.

Politics gives us a powerful argument in favor of a "behavior-only" set of modes.  In politics, those modes are easily defined, be they liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republic/Libertarian/etc.  It is a good bet that you can tell a Senator's political mode (i.e. party) merely by observing his voting record.  We really don't need a motive to determine this with great precision.  On the other hand, motive may help.  Does the candidate want to reduce government?  He's probably conservative.

Politics provides us with a significant advantage, however.  In politics, decisions are discrete and measurable.  He voted yes or no (or didn't vote).  He did so 51 times.

In a game environment, it isn't going to be so simple.  Think of a simple decision in a game, for example: "You see a group of orcs."  Some people charge in, others sneak around for an ambush, others simply avoid the orcs.  Which of those decisions corresponds to which GNS mode?  You can't say.  Even a group of Gamists might argue which of the three choices to take - and the number of choices isn't even limited to three!

If gaming were as simple as politics we could say "Just look at the player's record" and establish his mode with great precision.  We can still insist on measuring modes via behavior - it is still a valid approach.  I just don't think it is sufficient given the complexity of the behavior.

Mike Young's example was perfect. "If I see a player kill the baby kobolds, because they aren't worth any EXP alive, then I will assume that this is a Gamist decision."  We assume this is Gamist because prioritizing EXP is a Gamist mode.  

If you remove the because and say "If I see a player kill the baby kobolds, then I will assume that this is a Gamist decision" you're left with a statement that just doesn't hold up any more.  Without the intent behind the action, we cannot easily assign it to a mode.  Gaming actions are just too complicated most of the time.
Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com

Valamir

I think part of the disagreement here, especially Gareth's, stems from two different degrees of thinking about motive here.

When I use the word motive or intent I'm not referring to the deep dark secrets lying in the recesses of someones mind which even THEY probably don't understand, and often would flat out deny anyway.

Thus, when discussing why someone killed the kobold babies I'm not interested in knowing whether it was because of some long harbored resentment towards his baby brother.  If this is the sort of motivation you're claiming is irrelevant, than absolutely, I'm with you.  I'll label this "Psychological Motive" merely to distinguish it.

But one can't circumvent the "Game Motive" that is at work.  As J's pointed out yet again "because they aren't worth XP alive" IS the only thing in that example that distinguishes G from N from S in the decision.

Instance of Play isn't going to get us there.  No matter how many data points we collect, if they are all devoid of Game Motive they are never going to lead to a GNS determination.  

Using these labels for clarification I stand firmly by my assertion that Motive (i.e. Game Motive) is completely inseperable from GNS.   Or to put it another way.  GNS does not exist in a meaningful way apart from this motive.