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Examples of GNS in application w/respect to play

Started by MK Snyder, November 12, 2002, 05:12:14 PM

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MK Snyder

As this is a forum for game designers, there are many threads applying GNS to game design.

I think it's not unreasonable to note that this creates some confusion, because readers encounter an essay about play, but see it applied to game systems in posts on a routine basis. I understand that this happens because there is a bridging idea of "when I say xist game I really mean game that facilitates xist play" unstated but known by forum regulars.

I think it would be useful to have some examples of applying GNS to play, as it is intended.

For example: How would we apply the GNS Model to assist this player?

"Over the years we have
suffered numerous situations of total party
dissolution. This is often due to the banal behaviour
of single character. A GM can hold asway intraparty
politics for only so long; if players want to beat on
each other eventually they will. This can actually
have  extremely humorous results at time but also
bitter results and indeed can totally ruin the game.

 I am sure that George and Lois can fill the rest of
you in on the details but the immediate villain who
leaps to mind was our fellow gamer Rob. He played
many games with us over a period of years, and
although he provided a lot of incidental humor he was
a gamemaster's nightmare.

 He sabotagued at least one of Lois's games so badly
that Lois didnt want to run it anymore- and my
campaign which involved an epic and complicated quest
was turned inside out by his character-

   His character who was an assassin and a member of
a super 'secret' society was in the habit of doing
things like going into a crowded bar amd announcing to
the patrons that he was an agent with a super 'secret'
society. He would steal from fellow PC's, lie to them,
or attack them. This resulted in some hilarious
situations actually such as his escaping from a harbor
filled with angry Elven warriors he had robbed by
catapulting himself over the walls and into the harbor
and then casting '^swim like a fish' before hitting
the water, and the classic episodes of an actual
Intra-party trial, with a judge and jury composed of
Ogres and Wolven. Of course the whole thing ended in
extreme violence and TOTAL PARTY DISSOLUTION- the
result being that the only surviving members, the
ogres, decided that only Ogres could be trusted and we
had for some time an all Ogre party."

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Way back when on the Gaming Outpost, we had a bang-up discussion about this guy, whom I named the Dickweed player. We were discussing the distinction between Dickweed players and Dickweed characters, how the latter may be a fine thing and the former cannot be, and how people will use excuses regarding the latter in order to mask or justify the former.

Dickweed player = your guy, as described.

Dickweed character = asshole protagonist whose objectionable actions (usually inadvertently) are key to resolving the story, or just as necessary as anyone else's.

Again, these are two different things, and the important thing to watch out for is a Dickweed player who pretends to be "only" playing a Dickweed character.

I visited the old Sorcerer forum to see about the thread, to discover that it's empty. I presume this is an outcome of the recent crash of their system. Has anyone archived those old threads?

Dickweed play is a Social Contract issue and, in my opinion, largely explained by a long history of GNS dysfunction. The player is basically convinced that Coherent play (of his preferred mode) is impossible, and therefore derives no pleasure from role-player per se. His pleasure arises strictly and only from disrupting the role-playing, all the while hiding, as I say, under the guise of "only playing my character." It's kind of a big fuck-you to the whole activity. He may be seen as the more proactive version of the Turtle whom I describe at the end of my essay.

Such players are to be avoided, much in the same way that we avoid bowling with people who hate/fear bowling, conversation with people who hate/fear conversation, or sex with people who hate/fear sex. In fact, I would not consider it mistaken to analogize this sort of role-player (or pseudo-role-player) with a person who can only achieve orgasm by killing his sexual partner.


Bob McNamee

I don't see there being enough instance of play info to bring GNS to bear...

My personal opinion is that it sounds like a habitually 'bored' player trying to 'liven' things up anyway they can...

A disruptive player on the Social level, not GNS level...

GM's note: concering the tavern announcements... in my old D&D games his character would be assassinated or imprisoned (probably by GM fiat)...
Bob McNamee
Indie-netgaming- Out of the ordinary on-line gaming!

Mike Holmes

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that the social level which trumps GNS cold be problematic, here. That is, there could be things going on that have nothing to do with the play so much as the player's relationships. If this is the case, then GNS does not apply, and the players have to deal with it just like any other social problem. Keep in mind that GNS only fixes one sort of potential problem and is not some sort of curall for gaming problems. Never has it claimed to be.

But, assuming completely hypothetically for a moment that this is, in fact, a GNS problem, the first thing I'd want to do is to get mor information. Particularly from the POV of Rob. The report coming from only one side will likley be biased, and as such can't make for good analysis. And in any case, the ammount of information here is scant. It's hard to make any analysis from so few examples, and less analysis.

But again, assuming for the moment that that the problem in question does have all the salient facts, and is absolutely accurate, then we examine the behaviors as evinced by the observations. First, there is the claim that the party want's to "beat on each other". Again, the "sabotage" comment sounds intentional and social level, so we have to ignore that for this discussion.

The more telling behavior is the fact that:

QuoteHe would steal from fellow PC's, lie to them,
or attack them.

Also the fact that he seemed to be trying to make this all as humorous as possible. What this all sounds like to me, and once again, this is a snap analysis that I would never make on such flimsy evidence normally, is that the player is using Player vs. Player Gamism. That is, he sees it as his role in play to outdo the other players by "beating" them, and doing so in the funniest manner possible.

There are also a number of other possibilities. One being that the player was using the extreme and dysfunctional form of Simulationism called "my guy" mode. In which the player justifies his actions by saying, "It's what my guy would do." Which according to such a player is simply adhering to Sim priorities in a legitimate way (but which again fails to note that gaming is a social activity).

He could also be a Narrativst gone completely rampant with self-addressing a premise (thou gh I doubt it). This is why most Narrativists state that protagonism must mean making the character enjoyable for all participants, not just the player himself.

In any case, the other side of the equation is totally opaque here. And that is what exactly the complaining parties see as the violations. This is important because, for there to be GNS incompatibility, there must be people of more than one preference, who don't like each other's play. We can guess that perhaps the complaintants feel injured because they prefer Sim. The behaviors that I have noted are all antithetical to Sim play.

In any case, the neat thing about rectifying GNS incompatibility is that the answer is always the same. Discuss the incompatibility, and come to a consensus on how to play. Failing that, agree to accept each other's styles. Failing that , play with someone else.

Anyhow, there you have a sample GNS analysis. As I've said, completely hypothetical.

As you've pointed out GNS ends up mostly used for design here. And I think it's more important for that, personally. I'd rather design a game that has little chance of causing a GNS problem than have to sort it out after the damage has been done.

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

M. J. Young

Quote from: Ron EdwardsI visited the old Sorcerer forum [on Gaming Outpost] to see about the thread, to discover that it's empty. I presume this is an outcome of the recent crash of their system. Has anyone archived those old threads?
The threads are not lost; they are temporarily archived off line. I'll drop you a private message on that.

--M. J. Young