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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 232 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Humor and GNS  (Read 8226 times)
M. J. Young

Posts: 2198

« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2002, 10:41:25 PM »

There is humor at the game. This is the sort of disruptive stuff like Monty Python gags and stories you heard at work and that kind of thing. At that point, you're definitely in the social level, out of the game entirely.

There is humor about the game. This happens when someone starts to see absurdities in the setting or the system and making fun of the whole. I've got an innkeeper in one of my D&D game cities who speaks with an Irish brogue. Only once has anyone noticed that there's no Ireland in my game and he's the only person in the world that has that accent. But it's the kind of thing that could disrupt a game if someone suddenly starts picking at it and finding the absurdity. That doesn't mean it isn't enjoyed by some of the players; but again, it's out of the game.

There is humor from the game. We tell a great story of one player character who attempted to save himself by using one of two psionic teleportation skills he knew to move his spaceship out of danger. Thing was, one of the skills had already been shown to move ships without contents, and when he chose the wrong one in his haste he dumped his entire crew in space--a moment we still laugh about. Those funny stories are still a bit disruptive; but they're something of a metagame humor, something that is funny because we're both participants and observers.

There is humor in the game. One of my player characters is very gamist with an occasional narrativist drift. He (the character) married a non-player character, a very spunky princess he'd rescued. It is part of the world now that he is married to her, and she is the one person who can always see through his bluster and knows that for all his posturing and projecting and appearance of confidence, he hasn't got a clue what he's doing or how to make it work. A simple "uh-huh" or "yeah, right" from her has the entire table in stitches (including the player) because she bursts his illusions about himself. She is more than just a comic foil, but she is still a comic foil, giving his stories that humorous charm. I've had players whose play is inherently fun because it's funny. It isn't that the player is making out-of-character jokes, but that the characters are making in-character jokes and playing in character when they are funny people. That is not at all disruptive. It is no more disruptive than the one-liners Bruce Willis spouts in his action films during the fight scenes, or those momentary calms in horror pictures when you thought the killer was going to jump out and he didn't, and then he did. In-game humor can be very entertaining.

It also has absolutely nothing to do with whether the game play is narrativist, gamist, or simulationist. It only has to do with whether the characters in the game are funny people and the players can carry it off effectively.

--M. J. Young

Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2002, 09:24:43 AM »

Quote from: MK Snyder
Oh, and I want to point out--the GNS model is about *play*, not games.

The discussion concerning humor keeps sliding into a discussion about the games themselves.

To be precise, it was you who brought up Hackmaster. And I only responded to say that particular examples were, well, particular examples.

And, while games cannot technically be said to be Gamist or whatever, one can say that a certain game best supports a particualr sort of game. I would contend that, as written, Toon most readily produces Gamist play.

And this is all beside the point anyhow, which was simply to say that humor does not coincide with any one mode. Which you don't seem now to object to. You are merely saying now, it would seem that humor can be Narrativist in some cases. Which I doubt anyone will disagree with.

Raven, my use of the term Meta-Narrativism was ment to express pretty much what you are getting at, and I'm completely on your side. So I'm not sure why you're respondig to me as if I'm arguing otherwise.


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Walt Freitag

Posts: 1039

« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2002, 11:16:02 AM »

Ah, I just figured out how to explain the problem I have with humorous play being interpreted as Gamist play because the participants are "competing to see who can get the biggest laugh."

Of course, they're clearly not doing that in the examples from my own play that I'm thinking about. But as patently obvious from experience as that appears to me, I can't deny that there is some shadow of competition involved, just as there is in all role playing. To refute the convenient gamist classification, I have to identify another higher priority.

That priority is expressing creativity. Not in competition against the other players, but for its own sake and for the shared enjoyment of all.

Expressing-creativity-through character, setting, situation, etc. is a form of exploration-of those things. This specific form of exploration being the highest priority makes such play unambiguously Simulationist.

Only if there were clear evidence of competition being a higher priority than expressing creativity -- such as players passing up opportunities to deliver appropriate straight lines because it would mean other competing players would get the laugh -- would I call such play Gamist.


This is not to claim that all play intended to express creativity is Simulationist. Only in the absence of a higher Gamist or Narrativist priority. In Gamist Toon play, for example, players express creativity through inventive competition in a creative arena. Same with competitive storytelling games like Once Upon a Time. And creativity is probably definitionally implied in Narrativist play, unless there's a way to have player authorship without player expression of creativity.

Given that the goal of "expressing creativity" can exist in all GNS modes, can we further say that it exists so universally as to be meaningless for analyzing play (like "having fun")? I don't believe so. It's clearly not always a priority. None of the following instances of play put priority on expressing creativity at the instant of play: a player choosing the most conventional solution to a problem because it's the most effective; a player making character decisions based on a character personality/behavior model; a GM describing pre-prepared setting details; a GM performing "refereeing" functions in a resolution mechanism. And when it is a priority, it's usually being exercised within a specific domain -- for example, a GM might express creativity in narrating an evocative description of a scene, while the scene itself is straight out of a book. Or the reverse: the verbal description may be as neutral and to the point as possible, while the GM is expressing creativity by inventing an interesting scene on the fly at the moment of play.

Now, here's the thing: I believe my theory that "expressing creativity through interacting with setting, character, etc. is a form of exploration" is a strong one. But it's a different kind of exploration that's likely to often be incompatible with other forms. If prioritization of expressing creativity in the absence of another higher priority is Simulationism, it's a Simulationism for which "prioritiztion of in-game-world causality" is an utterly inaccurate description.

In this thread I talked about types of decision-making that while technically classifiable as Simulationism, are not well facilitated by game design elements that are normally considered Simulationist. I referred there to "prioritization of the creation of specific outcome qualities." I think there may be a direct relation between that and the "prioritization of expression of creativity" described here. These concepts don't contradict GNS in any way, but they introduce distinctions that GNS doesn't address that could be useful in game design and in analyzing play. Including accounting for humor as an in-play priority that can at times outweigh other key priorities (including competition and in-game-world causality), without having to classify such behavior as Gamism on a flimsy pretext, or cast it out from the sphere of role-playing entirely.

- Walt

Wandering in the diasporosphere
Seth L. Blumberg

Posts: 303

« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2002, 02:26:49 PM »

Quote from: Ron
Prioritizing humor in the absence of G, N, or S? During role-playing? Seth, it's easy. When this happens, the role-playing ceases and everyone's just hangin' out socially.

Okay, yeah, you're right. I didn't think about what it would look like if what I was talking about actually happened. Mea culpa.

Quote from: Walt
Of course, they're clearly not doing that in the examples from my own play that I'm thinking about.

Don't assume your own play experiences are universal. Maybe your history of humorous play is Simulationist; mine has been Gamist, with no exceptions (that come to mind right now, anyway).

the gamer formerly known as Metal Fatigue
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