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Author Topic: The GNS Paradigm - a polite refute  (Read 12568 times)
Kester Pelagius
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Posts: 508


« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2002, 03:02:31 PM »

Quote
Peregrine:

Tautology
Tautology is a case in which a definition is defined by itself. There are some famous tautologies in pop-culture. Take for example this famous, but scientifically highly erronous tautology:

Natural selection is the survival of the fittist.

What are the 'fit'. Those that survive.
What sruvives: That that are selected by nature.


In other words "a circular argument"?


Quote
Peregrine:

My second issue with the GNS paradimg is one of a more observational sort. There are certain, (admittedly over-simplified but prevelent) archetypes of players that we are all familair with. These players pursue personal enjoyment in a way that becomes obvious to the point of obnoxiousness to other players. These archetypes, however, do not appear to fit well in the GNS system.


And this is different from the age old "role vs. role play" debate how?

Everyone has a *style* of play which they enjoy.

Narrowly defined strategy is merely: *the manner (strategems) in which a general seeks to decieve an enemy* more broadly strategy is the *skillful management/use of resources/skills to get the better of an adversary or opponent* in a conflict situation.

You can't have a game without strategy anymore than you could have a theory about gaming that didn't attempt to cover strategy.  The problem, as I see, which is just an opinion, my unworthy one at that, is that the terminology employed isn't as clear or concise as it could be.  (Apologies to Ron, not a personal slight.  Just a observation based upon the input/responses I have seen.)  Why?  Because in Ron's efforts to create a purely original set of terminology-- I do believe he mentioned that somewhere, that he was trying to create an original thesis divorced from all past references, more or less (I am sure Ron will correct me if I am wrong, right?)-- the Theory creates a wide gap which allows for much side trekking into the valley of confusion.

keywords: game, theory, apoglogies to Ron



"Huh?"

Yeah, huh.  I think it was Ron's intent to try to create something new, from the ground up, and thus he distanced his thesis from extant terminology.  Not altogether a bad thing.  Alas the problem is the theory doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Lest you think I am merely speaking out of me arse let me just say, for those who don't know, which aside from Ron is probably everyone, I have been trying to work on a encyclopedic entry on the GNS Theory.  To say it ain't easy is like saying the sun is hot.  Even posted an early version of it, which is now 1/5th the size of what I have, or had.

As I see it, and this is just my personal opinion, the Theory needs revising in both terminology and examples provided.



"What?  You blasphemous curr!"

Uh, yeah, if you say so.

But one thing should be painfully obvious by now.  The essays, as they stand, seem to alienate a lot of people.  Rather than dismiss these reactions as being somehow the product of intellectually inferior mongrels, maybe one should examine the complaints.  Which, as I see it, and this is just my observational opinion, is in the terminology.



"But I don't think the GNS Theory is confusing?"

Really?  And how long have you had to digest it?

To me, and I realize this is just a opinion, probably a unpopular one at that, the sorts of debates I see sound to me like nothing more than the "role vs. roll playing" arguements of old.  Now, let me tell you, I've heard and read a lot of 'em over the years.  Yes, Virginia, Kester is a oldster.  Which means I've been around long enough to know these debates cover a lot of the same basic ground regarding "styles of play" and all the rest of it, albeit with a twist.

To oversimplify:  It's just a different set of terminology that is used to express the sentiment.

Then again there is a difference.  The "GNS Model" is a GAME THEORY, if you think it is difficult to follow then type in "Game Theory" in your favorite search engine sometime.  Eyes open.

[silly humor]
Unless of course this has all been a subtle Hegalian plot by a college Professor in the pursuit of observational pscyhology pertaining to the social interaction of online communities?

Nah, that Kant be it.. er.. can't.
[/silly humor]


Quote
Peregrine:

Thank you for you time taken to read this


No, thank you for giving us all the opportunity to rant and make abject fools of ourselves by showing just how little we really know.  What, just me?  Joy of joys!  (jk)



Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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greyorm
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2002, 06:11:54 PM »

Hrm...I noticed two problems in this thread, of which I cannot recall the second.  So, to the first:

Without actual play behind the behaviors noted, the archetypes being presented are, for all intents and purposes, illusory. That is, it is a fictional creature (or creatures) constructed for the argument who, in their proscribed behavior, will support the argument.

In essence, they are a series of "What if someone did this, then did this, then did this?" which is not a foundation for discussion of the behavior of actual people, even if someone might do exactly that.

Frex, a rules-laywer who doesn't use the rules to his advantage, then later uses them to his advantage, is a fictional entity in-so-far as they are not actually the record of the behavior of a living human being (even though such a beast might exist).

Unless providence can be made of actual, human examples of "the rules lawyer" et al., rather than a described archetype and attendant possible behavior, the discussion goes nowhere, as ficitional entities may behave in any manner we proscribe to them, so it is of no use utilizing them as a base for discussion of what works and what does not.

We can invent any sort of paradigm-breaking concepts, which will ultimately wither in the light of day.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2002, 08:39:46 PM »

Quote from: greyorm
In essence, they are a series of "What if someone did this, then did this, then did this?" which is not a foundation for discussion of the behavior of actual people, even if someone might do exactly that.

Frex, a rules-laywer who doesn't use the rules to his advantage, then later uses them to his advantage, is a fictional entity in-so-far as they are not actually the record of the behavior of a living human being (even though such a beast might exist).


Well, Raven, we can chalk up this rules lawyer example on the side of reality. This guys is indeed in my group. He memorizes the rules. He does this because he can. He has a near-photographic memory. So I guess we can drop the idea of these people being fictional entities. If you look hard enough, you will find them. ANd they may not be as rare as you think.

It's more useful to point out that these behaviors are focused on One Particular Action. How about we have the guy who had bad Chinese food for lunch and has to keep running to the loo or the guy who scratches his ass with his left hand instead of his right?

Well, that's probably unfair. Maybe these behaviors are worth noting as part of RPG theory. They just don't mesh well with GNS, which was never intended to be a be-all end-all of game theory (none of 'em are, ya know). So I'd say that somewhere in this the basis for some interesting RPG theory and behavior. It doesn't work with GNS, but who cares?
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2002, 08:47:51 PM »

Jack,

My point was not that the "Rules Lawyer" et al. himself is a fictional entity or the traits of such are, rather the Rules Lawyer complete with described behavior pattern and decisions made during a fictional game is a fictional entity.

Hope that clears my meaning up.

(Further clarification: I have a rules-lawyer in my group, so I know they exist...and actually, I love him for it, its like having a second brain!)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Peregrine
Member

Posts: 44


« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2002, 05:28:48 AM »

A lot of my posting was rushed so thanks for not pulling me up to much on some of my more stupid errors.

Le Jouer: A lot of good points there.

Le Jouer wrote
Quote

I disagree. If we focus only on the observation of a behavior in its worst form, it will not tell us much. As I pointed out, a paradigm to describe functional play (which is borderline GNS at best) cannot and should not include dysfunctional archetypes. Look at it this way, turn these dysfunctional stereotypes on their heads; imagine what they do when not being disruptive or acting as a 'square peg in a round hole.' What are they ideally engaged in? How do their games work when the group in unified by its similarity of interest? Only from this can you build a paradigm for functional gaming.


I have to concede that I hadn't considered the Archetypes I'd listed as potentially the byproduct of a player NOT getting what they want. Instead I saw them (and still see them to a certain degree) as a represetnative of modes of decision making that players make in preference to decision making as explained by GNS.

Mike Holmes wrote
Quote

Narrativism, also known as Narrativist play, or making Narrativist decisions is identified by particular player decisions that are made in such a way as to address a question raised by the game that has a moral weight to it.


I am really begining to think that Narrativist Play should be renamed Thematic, as it appears that most people define it as the pursuit of resolving or exploring themes rather than a narrative which consists of characters-conflict-resolution.

Quote

The problem isn't tautology; for example "survival" isn't "That which are selected by nature," it really does carry the connotation of 'not being killed' or defective. If you attempt to reduce thus and therefore prove absurdism, you must abandon expected connotative inference.


Having completed evolution courses at Masters level I'd have to disagree with you there. Connotation and inference are concepts that should never, ever, ever be allowed into any valid discussion of a theory.

Let's see: as far as I can recall Natural Selection for an adaptation to an evironment is presently defined by Neo-Darwinism as meeting all the following criteria...

1) That generation B have a distinct phenotypic different to generation A: Some physical difference has to be observable.

2) That the phenotypic trait is iheritable: i.e. that it is not a product of the environment but is either genetic or cytoplasmic in origin.

3) That the phenotypic trait can be demonstated to result in an advantage over non-trait bearing members of the same species.

4) That inidivuals who carry the trait can be shown to produce/raise more viable offsrping than the non-trait individuals.

See the problem is that from the original old school Darwinian statement: Natural selection is survival is the fittist, we could *infer* a Lamarkian explaination: That the environment causes changes to the phenotype of the animal and then these phenotypic changes are translated to genotypic changes. Completely erroneous. The original statement says nothing about how natrual selection actually occurs: only that it does.

The same criticism can be applied to GNS at present.

I will explain further with an example: It can be observed in Africa that Flamingos are predominantly pink in colour. According to the old school definition we can infer that pink pigment in flamino feathers the product of natural selection - simply because there are more pink flamingos that white flamingos.

Indeed a certain eminant zoologist tried to explain the pink colouration around the turn of the century as camoflague for hiding against sunsets. (No, really, I'm not kidding here)

The problem is that the original definition of natural selection gives us no way to test whether any given hypothesis based on it is true.

The second, Neo-Dawrinist definition is clear enough that we can test the validity of the hypothesis that pink flamingos are the product of natural selection.

The hypothesis falls down on one major point. Put a famingo in a zoo and it turns white. The phenotype is not geneitc. It is a product of a certain type of pink shrimp flamingos eat. QED Pink flamingos are *not* a product of natural selection.

What I am getting at here is that any 'Theory' needs a definition that is clear enough, and easy enough to understand that it can be proved or disproved. At the moment the definitions of GNS are too vauge and circular for any hypothesis based upon it to be shown to be correct or incorrect. GNS is the sort of theory scientists were inventing in the 1800s. Modern meta-theory does not toelerate that kind of vagueness. Clear, well defined and externally testable points of definition are needed.

Well that was a bit of a crazy aside...

Quote

Without actual play behind the behaviors noted, the archetypes being presented are, for all intents and purposes, illusory. That is, it is a fictional creature (or creatures) constructed for the argument who, in their proscribed behavior, will support the argument.


Good point. Being completely hypothetical the behaviours would have to be shown to actually exist before they have validity. You could take my word for it that I have observed these as I've explained them in at least one instance.

Er, well, having read all this, and having places to go and whatnot I'm really not sure what to say. I still have fundamental issues with the GNS theory.

Also I still beleive that the definitions are too vague and bleed into one another.

A narrative consists of character-conflict-resolution. Players who augment their character skills and abilities in order to overcome a conflict and gain resolution are simply playing out a narrative.

Couldn't it also be said that players who enjoy demonstrating their ability to better cope with complex themes are really just engaging in player-versus-player competition on a more subtle level.

Or are they exploring a world that subscribes to 'literary reality' according to rules of tragedy/plot/comedy/happy endings as opposed to rules of physics. Does that make a decision made to pursue a moral theme simulationist?

You can choose any of these explainations:

1) I am an idiot and can't understand a simple theory.

2) I am taking exception to the way GNS is implied to be an all encompasisng gaming theory when in fact it is nothing of the sort. Also, I am an idiot and can't understand a simple theory.

3) As valid as the theory may be, for someone who has had to write and defend theories of hard science, GNS remains just too plain wishy-washy to be satisfying. There remains the possibility I am an idiot and cannot understand a simple theory.

Let me round this off also by saying that you have at least convinced me that as a tool for identifying what may be wrong with an unhappy group of players GNS has some potential.

As a tool for game design? Of that I am not so sure. Most games I know of can be twisted to be made more G than N than S, if so desired. Moral themes can be explored in D&D just as they can in Vampire. It is all in the GMing.

I look forward to seeing Kester's final encyclopedia entry on the GNS model - though - for the record I supect the theory itself still needs some serious revising before it will ever be more than a vague set of terms and circiular definitions that no two people can agree on.

Chris
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Valamir
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« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2002, 06:11:59 AM »

Quote
As a tool for game design? Of that I am not so sure. Most games I know of can be twisted to be made more G than N than S, if so desired. Moral themes can be explored in D&D just as they can in Vampire. It is all in the GMing.


That is the key misconception right there.  Its NOT all in the GMing.  The only reason its all in the GMing for a particular session is because the game is designed in such a way that requires the GM to compensate for what's not there.  In other words the GM is managing to do it in spite of the system not because of it.

Take instead a game like Dust Devils.  There is very little for the GM to do in Dust Devils aside from run the NPCs.  The very mechanic design of the game drives the game towards resolution without needing the GM to steer it.
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Matt Machell
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Posts: 477


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« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2002, 06:26:59 AM »

Hi Peregrine,

not sure how much this will help your understanding, but consider the following (which is just an example, and there are probably better ones, but it helped me understand GNS):

In an RPG a character ends up with a gun fired at him at close range as he protects his lover, the trigger is pulled. At that point a decision must be made.

1)A simulationist decision might be: Guns kill. The character should be dead.

2)A narativist decision might be, the Premise is: What will you sacrifice for love? The characters death will show that that character is willing to sacrifice everything. He dies.

3)A gamist decision might be: If the character dies, I lose. I will try and make sure the character survives.

Decisions 1 and 2 result in the same outcome, but the reasoning is different. If the premise in 1 is different, then the decision might be different. This is where the definitions appear to bleed for you (I think), the same thing can happen, but for different reasons.

The usefulness of GNS as a design tool is in ensuring that when a session occurs, all players are aware of which type of decisions are expected, so no difficulties occur when different players make decisions based on varying criteria.

So, yes, you can make narativist decisions in D&D, if all your players are aware of those expectations. But the system isn't going to aid you in your task, not unless you're fudging things. GNS suggests that thing swill go more smoothly if you use a system which supports those decisions.

Hope that helps.

-Matt
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Le Joueur
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Posts: 1367


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« Reply #22 on: November 05, 2002, 06:54:28 AM »

Hey Chris,

Quote from: Peregrine
Quote from: Le Joueur
The problem isn't tautology; for example "survival" isn't "That which are selected by nature," it really does carry the connotation of 'not being killed' or defective. If you attempt to reduce thus and therefore prove absurdism, you must abandon expected connotative inference.

Having completed evolution courses at Masters level I'd have to disagree with you there. Connotation and inference are concepts that should never, ever, ever be allowed into any valid discussion of a theory.

Let's see: as far as I can recall Natural Selection...

See, the problem is that from the original old school Darwinian statement: Natural selection is survival is the fittest...

That's a fine example you posted.  I like it a lot; it's clear, well written, and concise.  I especially enjoyed how well it stood as an example...

...of the straw man argument.

You have two competing situations here that you seem perfectly willing to bridge between whenever it suits your contrary stance.  On the one hand you claim that Darwinian theory is "survival of the fittest" and attack that as circular, then you turn around and say that The Origin of Species never says that.  The two situations are 'lay description' and 'rigorous scientific definition.'  If you want to put something down you attack the lay description; 'survival is nature selecting the fit,' 'fit is that which survives.'

I pointed out that the lay description only functions when you take into account the connotative meanings.  You attack the idea that a rigorous scientific definition cannot depend on connotation.  That makes perfect sense except your not attacking a rigorous scientific definition.  'Survival of the fittest' is never expected to be a rigorous scientific definition, nor it The Origin of Species simply 'survival of the fittest.'

Before this discussion reaches any worthwhile conclusion you're going to have to pick which you wish to discuss, the lay description or the rigorous definition.

Quote from: Peregrine
The same criticism can be applied to GNS at present.

Absolutely!  Bluntly, you use the same argumentation with GNS; it's especially obvious when you continually return to your stance on what it means and then attack that.

You either need to choose to discuss the theory with rigorous attention to all it presents or you can attack the lay comprehension of it.  It is intellectually dishonest to use rigorous attention to attack the lay comprehension and do things like dismiss the denotations of the original article (as opposed to attacking the connotations of the terms).  That's what you've been doing.  Statements like, "Does that make a decision made to pursue a moral theme, Simulationist?" show a disregard for the body of the essay that differentiates between Narrativism and Simulationism.  Likewise, your constant misunderstanding of the terms based on their names shows similar disregard.  It becomes intellectually dishonest when you attack, not the theory, but your misunderstanding of its use of terminology.

Quote from: Peregrine
What I am getting at here is that any 'Theory' needs a definition that is clear enough, and easy enough to understand that it can be proved or disproved. At the moment the definitions of GNS are too vague and circular for any hypothesis based upon it to be shown to be correct or incorrect. GNS is the sort of theory scientists were inventing in the 1800s. Modern meta-theory does not tolerate that kind of vagueness. Clear, well-defined and externally testable points of definition are needed.

It really amuses me that you make these requirements.  They almost insure a moral victory for you.  Consider again The Origin of Species, while a bit dated, it was clear, but not easy to understand.  It was neither easily proved nor disproved.  Yet, it stands as a demonstration of execution of a theory.  Theories cannot be "easy enough to understand" when their subject matter is complicated (take particle physics for example).  You want easy?  Go for the lay description.  You want "externally testable points of definition" and you're going to have to put up with a lot of complexity.

And when I say, "put up with," I mean 'take the time to understand' the theory.  Don't attack a half-understood concept of the model; that is very disingenuous.  Recognize how the model limits itself (for example it does not, nor never has, claimed to be a tool for design; unless you count a method of diagnosing problems a design tool).  Come to an understanding of how the terms are chosen.  (You seem to understand biology, do you recognize that the terminology of the GNS, for as problematic as it is, was chosen using the fairly normal nomenclature practices of biology?)

Quote from: Peregrine
Let me round this off also by saying that you have at least convinced me that, as a tool for identifying what may be wrong with an unhappy group of players, [the] GNS has some potential.

According to the essay, that is its primary design.  Good to see you've finally 'got it.'

Honestly, I have a lot of problems with the GNS myself.  Principle is exactly the traps you've fallen into.  Its terminology is very easily misconstrued, people take it for more than it purports to be (often much more), it gets continually confused for similar theories both in structure and terminology, and while built in normative fashion, it gets applied divisively (whether this is a design problem or a common malpractice, I haven't concluded).

However, I do not have a problem with it on its own merits.  Doing what it is stated for, in the absence of 'common misapprehension,' it does what it claims to.  However, I find this of little use in direct design of role-playing games.  Comprehending it offers new vistas in the grasping of the concept of gaming that are very useful, but it does not work at all well in direct application for design.  Thus as an 'understanding gaming' teaching aid it's fine, as a design aid it fails; it makes no claim to be such and it thus of limited practical use to me.

I hope you are beginning to see the fruitlessness of your argument (arguing that the GNS isn't very good for something that it says it isn't for) and accept that it isn't meant to be everything to everyone.  I welcome a rigorous discussion of design tools that would be used in the fashion that you misapprehend the GNS is for.  Those would be highly useful and I welcome the chance to discuss them.  Do you have any such ideas?  (Post them over in RPG Theory if you do; I'll meet you there.)

Fang Langford
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2002, 09:40:09 AM »

Hi Peregrine,

I'm not sure whether you saw my post earlier in this thread. It's at the end of the first page, and posts in that position are notoriously overlooked. I'm interested in your comments about those points - it seems to me that no further discussion on your refutation is possible until you do so.

Best,
Ron

P.S. I seem to have become mixed up about names. The post I'm referring to is addressed to Corey, but "Chris," "Peregrine," and other nomenclature is making no sense to me as I re-read the thread. Pay no mind; I'll figure it out soon.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #24 on: November 05, 2002, 09:59:34 AM »

On the subject of Terminology, for Kester and Perigrine's sakes (and others), there are lots and lots of threads from early on where we discussed the selected terms. In point of fact, the only person that I am certain is satisfied with them is Ron, and that only because his academic background inculcates him with a steadfastness on the subject based on the simple principle that once you start changing terms, the changes become neverending.

So, my opinion is also that Simulationism having little to do with simulation directly, and Narrativism having little to do specifically with Narrative, is highly confusing, especially to people newly aware of it. Ralph (Valamir) was, and still probably is, the strongest advocate for a change in terminology, and was, in fact, on the side of Scarlet Jester when he proposed the GEN theory. If others support Ron's terms, they have been silent. Many have come out against them. So there is no conspiracy to keep the theory obscure.

But I will say that maintaining the terms consistently has had the benefit that those few who do put the effort into the theory can understand it, and not have to deal with shifting terminology. So I can only applaud Ron with regards to that. And would not have him change it. Especially at this late date.

BTW, one can get the reasons for the terms from the ongoing thread about it's accidental relation to Threefold. Which may help some.

Mike
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