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Author Topic: Gamism and Premise  (Read 17287 times)
joshua neff
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« Reply #30 on: October 25, 2001, 10:27:00 AM »

Although this is offtopic regarding the main thrust of this thread, I didn't want to start a new thread just for this, so if I derail any discussion, I apologize. But I wanted to add my own comments to something Ron said:

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Part of your discussion concerns the actual practicality of group authorship. I do not claim that the coherency of such group authorship is "indistinguishable" from the coherency of a single author. I do claim that it is TOLERABLY coherent, and reliably so among like-minded role-players, enough such that stories of some merit may be constructed.


I would say that if you want the "strength" of single authorship, go write a story. If you want the "strength" of collaborative authorship, narrativist RPGs are a good way to go. I don't see one as stronger than the other, just different. As many people have pointed out (usually as a slam against narrativist play), RPGs aren't books or movies or comics. Of course they're not, so expecting them to behave the same way is unrealistic. But RPGs have strengths of their own, & from my own experience, good narrativist play leads to satisfying stories that engage the players/authors/audience. Not in the same way as reading or writing a novel, but as something different.
So, no, not "indistiguishable". But just as satisfying. (& for me, much more satisfying than playing a roleplaying game in which the GM is the primary author & the players are exploring the GM's story. I get very little enjoyment from that.)

[ This Message was edited by: joshua neff on 2001-10-25 14:29 ]
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Matt Machell
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« Reply #31 on: October 26, 2001, 12:51:00 AM »

Okay, I'll keep this brief.

My problem was with a perceived misuse of the word Premise. Using it for "what interests a player in the game" and "the themes which a narativist wishes to explore" at the same time. I have no problem with it being used for the first, but believe it just confuses people if you use it for the second as well(especially in close proximity), so it's the shorthand which annoys/confuses.

Aside: One of the things which interests me is the ways in which people interpret what a games premise is (as it's what makes a player interested it must be subjective, right?). It seems to me that what a designer thinks the premise is and a player/gm think it is can often be completely different things (possibly to do with player expectations). The vampire example at the start of the thread was what brought this home to me. What people want vs what they get.

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I suggest we stand up, put on our hats, pay for one another's drinks, and walk out of the tea-club arm in arm - disagreeing, but seeing one another's views and happy to meet again for the next conversation.


This is one of the really good things about the forge, people seem really able to do this even when they obviously diagree strongly.

I'll stop blathering now.

Matt

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contracycle
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« Reply #32 on: October 26, 2001, 04:16:00 AM »

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I'm using my essay format to answer rather than a line-by-line, because I find that the latter loses focus really


Fair enough, I have a prefernce for the sectional quote as it allows me to address specific issues explicitly.

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I have been very careful to state that my construction of Gamism does NOT specify precisely who is competing with whom. All it requires is that the competition exists, and that the participants are real people.


OK.  To reiterate, I find the conception of competition in RPG to be largely useless.  This is because:

Quote

Players may compete with other players in the same group. Players may compete as a group against other groups of players. Players may compete as a group with the GM. Players may compete, via the GM, with the designer of the scenario (who is indeed a real person and therefore eligible).


The first form of behaviour appears to be disfunctional, IMO.  at least, I have only ever encountered it in a form I considered disfunctional.  The second form would appear to me to describe tournament play almost exclusively, which seems unecessarily specific for a general theory.  Furthermore, such play is usually a special case for the participants, not their regular mode.  The third form is meaningless, because a competition between a side with limits and a side which is limitless is not any sort of challenge for either party.  The last form is equally strange, since the active participants will never meet their opponent, and are competing with them only by proxy (the GM).  This exhibits much the same problem as option 3.

As a result, I don't believe that any of the above meaningfully describe gamist play, nor do they shed any light on gamist motives.  I think the gamist is much more attracted to "challenge", which we possibly associate with competitiveness between real people, but I don't believe this is strictly necessary.  There are many forms of challenge, IMO, which do not rely an actual competitive behaviour against another person.  Climbing mountains springs to mind, with the frequently expressed motive "because its there".

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Therefore, to suggest that my construction of Gamism always relies upon inter-player competition (and conflict of interest specifically among players) is not accurate.


Right.  I think the gamist player is not competing against real people at all, but is experiencing the "competition" experienced by their character by proxy.  The response that the player gives to the challenges presented by the game are the driver for gamist play; the test is whether the player can correctly analyse the problem and implement a solution.  That is why I feel that describing this behaviour as "competitive" misses the point in almost every respect.

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Is competition an "appropriate" basis for role-playing? You suggest, for instance, that the main reason for bringing such a thing into role-playing is "malice aforethought,"


Bad choice of phrase; in the UK "malice aforthought" is a mildly humorous verbose way of saying "deliberately".  What I was saying that, if a person (player) is motivated by competition, deliberately selecting such a cooperative behaviour as RPG in which to experience this competition seems rather odd.  It suggests to me that characterising the motivation of gamists as competitive is a red herring, because the one factor we know for certain is that their preferred form of play, inasmuch as they are RPGers, is largely cooperative.  Secondly, even if it were true that at one point there was a significant incidence of competitive gamism, your argument about the winnowing induced by M:tG is a good one, and that if we accept that theory we should adress not a notional gamist which once existed, but those remaining gamists which exist today.  I.e. those gamists who were not merely interested in comeptition framed with fantastic trappings, but who are attracted to RPG qua RPG.

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To remove these people (or more accurately, these preferences) from the sphere of "proper" or "real" role-playing appears to me to be classic synecdoche and rather unfair.


This is essentially what I am arguing your present schema does; by mischaracterising their motivation as competitive, we appear to me to be entirely missing a discussion of non-competitive challenge which would address their concerns.

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Questions for "testing my skill" would include "against what?" in which case an answer that included an active fellow human with opposed interests in-game (or more subtly, a scenario design that could be said to have "opposed interests") would indicate Gamism. Other


Right.  And at this point, what I believe is the imposition of an assumed competitivenes, IMO you miss the "bite" for gamists.  I am essentially asserting that the diagnosis of "competitivism" in gamists is mistaken, and that conclusions drawn from this diagnosis will also be mistaken.

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The only thing that has to get tossed out is the insistence that a non-competitive role-playing behavior has any claim to the term Gamist. Again, if this comes down to a very fundamental disagreement between you and me, then we have to live with it. I do not foresee any budging on my part if


OK, fair enough.  I have attempted to outline above why I think competitive roleplay is a non-sequitur.



the disagreement exists at this level, rather than at the "adjustable" or "negotiatory" level. On the other hand, I certainly think no less of you for holding an alternate view, and will refer to that view with respect.

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THING FIVE: EGRI AND PREMISE

My own use of this material is very much the same as Egri's purpose - to render the act of CREATING a story more intelligible to the practitioner. The role-playing group, to me, is in the position of the author. I modify his presentation slightly by consistently stating Premise as a question


I wholly agree with this from my reading of Egri, and that is how I would like to see the concept employed.

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my discovery of Egri). Therefore his points only apply to the various permutations of Narrativist Premises.


And this I stonrgly disagree with, because I feel that a GM serving a groupd of sim/gamist premises, for example, should and does engage in much the same activity.  The conscious and self reflective aspect of story building may not be occurring in the players, but is occurring in the GM's mind.  So to limit this process only to the narrativist participants does a gross disservice and is rather dismissive to players with other preferences.

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other words, trying to broaden his use of the term to fit ALL the role-playing Premises is nonsensical, as would be any other mix-and-match of his Premise to anything but Narrativism. (I am not claiming that you are doing anything nonsensical; I am only attempting to clarify my present point.)


I would like clarification as to why tyou find this nonsensical.  Please not that a response like "cooperative self reflective design amongst competitive gamists is a nonsensical proposition", this will of course not be answering my actual question.

Quote

Part of your discussion concerns the actual practicality of group authorship. I do not claim that the coherency of such group authorship is "indistinguishable" from the coherency of a single author. I do claim that it is TOLERABLY coherent, and reliably so among like-minded role-players, enough such that stories of some merit may be constructed.


Excellent.  Then we agree that even in the Narrativist case, there must be some modification of Egri's conception of premise and the methodologies he suggests.  I would greatly value a discussion of how these techniques can be employed in a multi-author environment, but feel that this must necessarily address how this process operates in the other aspects of the GNS too.  I do not accept that a Egrian premise ONLY occurs in Narrativist play, and players of those other games (if only the GM's) would benefit from such an analysis.  If anything, it would be MORE valuable in the othe strands, where the necessity for such coherency in story terms may be less immediately apparent.

Quote

if it is true (as it appears) that our disagreement is at a very deep level, regarding the "appropriateness" of competition in role-playing, then I suggest we stand up, put on our hats, pay for one another's drinks, and walk out of the tea-club arm in arm - disagreeing, but seeing one another's views and happy to meet again for the next conversation.


That appears to be the case.


[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-26 08:18 ]
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Valamir
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« Reply #33 on: October 26, 2001, 06:33:00 AM »

Quote

Quote

Players may compete with other players in the same group. Players may compete as a group against other groups of players. Players may compete as a group with the GM. Players may compete, via the GM, with the designer of the scenario (who is indeed a real person and therefore eligible).


The first form of behaviour appears to be disfunctional, IMO.  at least, I have only ever encountered it in a form I considered disfunctional.  The second form would appear to me to describe tournament play almost exclusively, which seems unecessarily specific for a general theory.  Furthermore, such play is usually a special case for the participants, not their regular mode.  The third form is meaningless, because a competition between a side with limits and a side which is limitless is not any sort of challenge for either party.  The last form is equally strange, since the active participants will never meet their opponent, and are competing with them only by proxy (the GM).  This exhibits much the same problem as option 3.


I'd suggest that your experience has missed an awful lot of legitimate game play.  I have played SEVERAL campaigns where the players and their characters were actively competing against each other, and this goes beyond the silly fun of paranoia into some pretty deep "secret agendas" in a B5 campaign.  For the campaign to end, some characters would have to "win" and some would have to "lose".  Unlike in a narrativist game where who the winners and losers are would be determined ideally in collaboratively by what makes for the best story, this campaign was determined soley by which player was best at keeping his agenda secret while thwarting everyone elses.  It was not dysfunctional, it was one of the best campaigns I've ever been in.

I have also structured campaigns with competition between groups on a regular basis, in fact a friend of mine is running such a game right now.  This usually stems from having 2 different groups to GM for and not wanting to have to double the prep time.  So both groups play in the same world going through the same "story" on different days...usually as rivals.  One of my climactic sessions involved finally getting the two groups together and having them duke it out.  Admittedly this is a much less common situation but it does exist.

As for competing with the GM...that is not a non existant situation, it is one of two traditional defaults.  In "old school" roleplaying you have the GM as referee, or the GM as adversary.  Sure the GM has unlimited power that hardly makes it less of a competition.  I know MANY MANY gamers who prefer rules heavy games for the primary reason NOT of any supposed realism or simulative value, but because the more rules there are the less freedom the GM has to just squash you.  I would venture to say that a LARGE LARGE percentage of AD&D campaigns (which represents a LARGE LARGE percentage of all roleplaying activity) fell into this category.  You might not like it, but its hardly dysfunctional.  It usually results in breaking out the "10-foot poles" and checking for secret doors in every room in an effort to out wit the GM's latest diabolical dungeon, avoid his death traps, and find the hidden treasure.

This sort of play tends to bore me to tears today, but it held me in good stead for many a year, and in fact was such a standard that a game like RUNE can come along (or Elfs) and Parody this style in such a way that everyone gets the joke.  The fact that everyone gets the joke should suggest to you just how widespread this sort of play was (and is as a journey to most local gamestores and cons will confirm)

To dismiss it as not existant...ridiculous.

Quote

As a result, I don't believe that any of the above meaningfully describe gamist play, nor do they shed any light on gamist motives.  I think the gamist is much more attracted to "challenge", which we possibly associate with competitiveness between real people, but I don't believe this is strictly necessary.  There are many forms of challenge, IMO, which do not rely an actual competitive behaviour against another person.  Climbing mountains springs to mind, with the frequently expressed motive "because its there".

I think the gamist player is not competing against real people at all, but is experiencing the "competition" experienced by their character by proxy.  The response that the player gives to the challenges presented by the game are the driver for gamist play; the test is whether the player can correctly analyse the problem and implement a solution.  That is why I feel that describing this behaviour as "competitive" misses the point in almost every respect.


I'm not quite sure why Ron's last post seemed to concentrate on interpeople competition.  It is certainly possible to have competition with just one person.  In your mountain climbing example...thats competition.  You may not be competing against the other climbers (although I know a good number of cliff climbers who definitely take pride in getting to the top first) but you ARE competing against the mountain.

I did not interpret Ron's essay as requiring an actual other human being on the otherside of the competition in order to qualify as Gamist...if he is, I'd have to disagree with that also.  Care to clarify this Ron?

Competition to me can caertainly be internal.

An alcoholic fighting the urge to take a drink is competing with his disease.  A clinically depressed person trying to return his life to normal is competing with his chemical imbalance.  A cancer patient is competing with his illness.  Competition is everywhere and in everything.  A Gamist game is nothing more (or less) than a game which makes such competitions the focus.  

"Can I overcome this illness?" is a gamist question
"What is the most dramatic way this illness can impact the story?" is a narrativist question
"What are the odds that with the proper treatment the illness will go into remission" is a Simulationist Question.
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contracycle
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« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2001, 07:29:00 AM »

Quote

I'd suggest that your experience has missed an awful lot of legitimate game play.  I have played SEVERAL campaigns where the players and their characters were actively competing against each other, and this goes beyond the


Does mere incidence of such behaviour qualify it as a style?  I cannot dispute that in any given group of participants such a motivation may apply, but is it consistent enough to constitute one third of RPG behaviour?

Quote

silly fun of paranoia into some pretty deep "secret agendas" in a B5 campaign.  For the campaign to end, some


Genre is not a play style or goal.  The question is: did they play these games BECAUSE they sought the opportunity to compete?  Or was competition the metaphor of This Game.

Quote

It was not dysfunctional, it was one of the best campaigns I've ever been in.


Fair enough.  And did you also feel that this indicated that all of your gaming goals were framed by such competition?  I see no reason that inter-character competition could not arise from Narrativist or Simulationist praxis; it could be accurate to the Sim, or it could be a pretext for the creation of dramatic conflict.  Do you think the behaviour you observed was specifically Gamist?

Quote

As for competing with the GM...that is not a non existant situation, it is one of two traditional defaults.  In "old school" roleplaying you have the GM as referee, or the GM as adversary.  Sure the GM has unlimited power that hardly makes it less of a competition.  I know MANY MANY gamers
who prefer rules heavy games for the primary reason NOT of any supposed realism or simulative value, but because the more rules there are the less freedom the GM has to just


Which suggests to me that they are actively avoiding competing with the GM.  I submit that the structure of the old style game is distorting their actual play goals, although now of course I am speculating on other peoples psychology.  Almost every form of formal competition starts from an initially level playing field; the above argument would suggest that RPG is one of the very few in which the playing field is massively distorted.

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squash you.  I would venture to say that a LARGE LARGE percentage of AD&D campaigns (which represents a LARGE LARGE percentage of all roleplaying activity) fell into this category.  You might not like it, but its hardly dysfunctional.  It usually results in breaking out the "10-


I would suggest that it was so dysfunctional as to drive a large expansion in the conception of RPG as entertainment.  Which is precisely how we get to be here.

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joke.  The fact that everyone gets the joke should suggest to you just how widespread this sort of play was (and is as a journey to most local gamestores and cons will confirm)


And the fact that people experience this homage as humour implies, to me, a tacit recognition of just how broken that model was.

Quote

I'm not quite sure why Ron's last post seemed to concentrate on interpeople competition.  It is certainly possible to have competition with just one person.  In your mountain climbing example...thats competition.  You may not


Why is it competition?  I usually don't like to play the definition game, but I've just run the word through an online dictionary, and all the responses it returned centered around rivalry or conflicting demands between organisms.  this is how I understand the term "competition", and I recognise Ron's caveat that competition implies the active resistance of at least a living entity capable of resisting, and motivated by some reward scheme.  A mountain is a lump of rock, it cannot "compete" with anything.  Well not without reducing the word to meaninglessness anyway.

Tangent: Privately I suspect that this misuse of the word competition arises from the tendency of late industrial capitalism to define competition as some kind of natural law inherent to the universe.


Quote

Competition to me can caertainly be internal.

An alcoholic fighting the urge to take a drink is competing with his disease.  A clinically depressed person trying to return his life to normal is competing with his chemical imbalance.  A cancer patient is competing with his illness.  Competition is everywhere and in everything.  A


NONE of these are competition.  They are all STRUGGLE.

Quote

Gamist game is nothing more (or less) than a game which makes such competitions the focus.  


It is a game which makes "overcoming obstacles" its focus.  These obstacle may be generated by:
1) comepteing players
2) a referee
3) a scenario design

The payoff is not in defeating your opponent.  The payoff is in achieving your goals.  It may be that that to achieve your goals you need to overcome some actively resisting opponent, and thus compete with them, but that aspect is secondary to the personal struggle you go through in pursuit of whatever your goal may be.

Quote

"Can I overcome this illness?" is a gamist question
"What is the most dramatic way this illness can impact the story?" is a narrativist question
"What are the odds that with the proper treatment the illness will go into remission" is a Simulationist Question.


I agree with all of these, but primarily because the first doe not, to my mind, address competition at all.  So, in the couyrse of this post, I have coined a term which I find much more appropriate, that of Struggle.  Does that appear similar enough to you of your conception of gamism to be valid?

[ This Message was edited by: contracycle on 2001-10-26 11:32 ]
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kwill
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« Reply #35 on: October 27, 2001, 08:50:00 AM »

contra, could you expressly define your understanding of "competition" and "struggle" to clarify how you distinguish them?

it seems (to me) that you may be more concerned with the process (the struggle to achieve the goal) than the motivation (the goal the player/character wants to achieve)

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contracycle
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« Reply #36 on: October 29, 2001, 03:48:00 AM »

Well, Yes, the struggle itself is the point, because in the course of that struggle you "test yourself", your decisions, your capacities.  As others have bointed out, it's not about winning, at either the player or the characetr level IMO, it is about being resisted, thwarted, frustrated, and overcoming those frustrations.  IMO.  The structure of competitive play appears only to provide an intelligent opponent; the reward systems appear only to frame the conflict.  Both of these are subsidiary aspects, not the central motivator, IMO.  Which is way I feel that a sense of gamism being "competitive" describes the subsidiary processes rather than the real issue.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #37 on: October 29, 2001, 09:47:00 AM »

I'm now fairly certain that this is just a Sematic argument on both sides. I think that we are describing the same things using words that the other side does not agree with. Ron has a need to frame the struggles in question as being between people, but has admitted that a scenario can be a proxy for that person. This is tantamount to admitting that people do not have to be on both sides of the equation, so why quibble. I fail to see how either definition is functionally different than the other.

Is it a problem with the connotations of competition, that competition can be a negative thing on occasion? Well, then in the name of political correctness, by all means lets say struggle or test instead. Nobody means to imply that Gamism is a negative thing, so we can chuck the competitive term if that's a real problem. I think that we have agreed that the central issue is, as Gareth put it, testing oneself. As long as we agree that it is a test of the player in some fashion (the character being only the player's proxy), then I think that we have a functional definition that everyone can agree upon.

What I see here is a lot of argument over terms, when we all agree on what it is that we're arguing about.

Mike
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