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Author Topic: Simulationism Revisited  (Read 7780 times)
John Kim
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« on: December 26, 2003, 02:17:24 AM »

OK,

After more-or-less fence-sitting for a while, I am starting to form my own opinions on GNS as a whole.  I will hold off on comments on Narrativism for Ron's upcomming essay.  However, here I want to talk about Simulationism.  After looking through various older threads as well as current discussion, I believe that understanding of GNS Simulationism is frequently muddled.  I think the ideas of addressing Premise and Exploration as separate goals are very insightful -- but the points get lost in how they are expressed.  

This quote from the recent thread highlighted it for me:
Quote from: Silmenume
  For a player who might be described as expressing himself in a Simulationist fashion he might have been motivated by the following -

To experience what it is like to live the life a knight fighting against impossible odds.
To experience what it's like to save the life of another.
To experience what it's like to be in deadly combat.
To experience what it means to operate under the bonds of Chivalry, Duty, etc.
...
The Simulationist desires to experience the life of the character, hopefully in a fashion that is exciting and interesting.  The interesting thing is that exciting and interesting fashion of experiencing things leads to exciting and interesting stories.  The important thing to remember is that the Simulationist does not enter into a game with the number one priority of creating a story; it's just that the game, by virtue of exploring character and situation automatically leads to story creation.

I believe that this is quite off-base.  GNS "S" as defined has nothing to do with simulation or immersion.  There is no particular attachment to "living another life" or anything of that sort.  It is solely about exploration, which doesn't require immersion nor is it even peculiarly benefitted by immersion that I can tell.  Further, one can be Narrativist without self-consciously thinking about "story" as your goal.  You may just be playing your character -- but if everyone focuses on the PCs' moral decisions, then chances are good that play will address a Premise -- i.e. you are playing Narrativist.  

However, I think that there are good reasons for misunderstanding:
    [*] Even though it was long ago pointed out that Simulationism is a misnomer, the name has stuck.  The only defense that Ron offers is that it doesn't have a specific wrong connotation, even though it is misleading. [*] It is the same name as the rgfa Threefold term "Simulationism", which is about immersion. [*] The Simulationism essay talks almost exclusively about traditional designs, without noting that most of the qualities discussed are not part of the definition. [*] The example game Mongrel from the essay is an illustration of traditional design rather than something which demonstrates the range or flexibility of the style.  [*] Most important, no terminology is offered to distinguish between the GNS mode as a whole and traditional associations with it. [/list:u]
    To address this final point in particular, I would like to propose a few terms:

    Immersionist is a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.  This is defined pretty much as the rgfa term "Simulationist" is defined in my FAQ.  It is also the term used in an adaptation of my rgfa FAQ which appeared in the book for Knudepunkt 2003 ( http://www.laivforum.dk/kp03_book/ ), which is on the Scandanavian LARP scene.  

    Fabulist is a term coined by Christopher Kubasik in a http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=4839">Jan 2003 thread, which is vaguely termed as "an active use of the imagination that, in the context of the shared story between players, possesses a logic that defies physics and responds to poetic concerns".  In other words, it is the opposite of Immersionist and encourages conscious attention to story qualities.  

    Finally, I think that the old term Explorationist makes far more sense for the "S" of GNS.  I will use it in this article to illustrate this.  The obvious solution can frequently be right -- if you define something as emphasis on exploration, why not call it "Explorationism"?  Use of Sim as a term seems to feed the frequent confusion on the subject.  

    ---------------

    Now, here is the key:   The Immersionist/Fabulist split is not at all the same as the Explorationist/Narrativist split.  I will illustrate three possibilities of Explorationist here:

    (1) Explorationist / Fabulist:

    These are games which feature conscious attention to story, but do not have dynamic addressing of Premise.  Toon is a great example.  Play has nothing to do with seeing what it really feels like to be a cartoon character, or to simulate a different reality.  The purpose of play is to be funny -- to spin an entertaining yarn.  Players are directly rewarded for making other participants laugh.  This is not Narrativist, though, because the theme is pretty much designed into the game and scenario.  By picking the situation, the GM is more-or-less designating what subject will be mocked.  The players and GM will do a good job at poking fun -- which does have moral content, by the way.  But most of the meaning in this genre comes from the choice of subject.  

    I think that Ron is correct in his assessment of Theatrix as being Explorationist as well.  It is solidly Fabulist -- with plot points, description in story terms, and a bunch of narration being given to the players.  However, the focus of the game is on spinning out an interesting plot.  PCs have personality traits but they are defined at character creation.  The GM is encouraged to plan out the story arc of the game in terms of dramatic development.  It encourages the GM to allow players to change details to suit them, but it intends that the dramatic pacing and meaning should be determined by the GM based on how the PCs are defined.  This encourages theme, but discourages dynamic addressing of Premise.  

    It is important to distinguish these from Narrativism.  Exp/Fab concentrates on making a good story.  With a good set of players, Theatrix may well produce stories which are fascinating to read about.  But in play, there is little emotional impact to what happens -- just intellectual plot twists and portrayal.  The in-game events could feature some great moral choices, but they would be ones which stem from character design.  A reader who doesn't know the Descriptors, traits, and context might be caught up in hearing about it.  However, to the participant's it won't be gripping.  

    These games will be a creative outlet, which is a valid outlet.  But they do not have emotional weight or depth for the players.  


    (2) Explorationist / Immersionist:

    These are more traditional designs, which emphasize representational elements of play -- i.e. in-game reality rather than meta qualities.  When they are truly Explorationist, this means that the focus is on elements of in-game reality rather than on dynamic story.  

    One clear type of this game is a culture game -- like GRG's Sengoku or Paul Mason's Outlaws of the Water Margin.  This is a game which sets out to teach about another culture through the device of role-playing.  This includes not just facts about the region and society, but what it is like to be a part of that.  There will be a story, but it is a device for learning rather than an end in itself.  Other games may feature other types of learning.  I've mentioned Traveller before in my history of science education, for example.  

    The goal can also be more artistic as opposed to educational.  I would say that Harn is a fine example.  The finely-crafted setting is itself an artistic work.  By role-playing, players not only view the material but add to it and expand on it -- filling in the skeleton of book-read-Harn into a deeper played-Harn.  


    (3) Explorationist / Mixed:

    I think more common Explorationist designs are mixed.  For example, Pendragon includes learning about Arthurian literature and culture -- and also includes some mechanics for emulating Arthurian stories.  The reality mechanics represent the Immersionist side, while Passions represent the Fabulist side.  

    I'm not very experienced with White Wolf games, but it seems to me that Vampire: The Masquerade has similar design.  It has a detailed background which is explored (like Harn is), but it also suggests that the game emulate story structure -- with a few nods towards that like scene-based mechanics and defined Nature and Demeanor for the PCs.  

    -----------------------

    These points are not new, but I think that it is important to benefit from them.  Sifting through old threads is tedious and not very rewarding without direction.  I think that to make points clear we need to incorporate people's excellent discussion into the GNS model -- like Christopher's Fabulist distinction, which goes well with the rgfa Threefold concept of Immersionism that was dropped.
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    - John
    M. J. Young
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    « Reply #1 on: December 26, 2003, 05:02:22 PM »

    I'm having trouble finding the referenced thread; however, I have taken issue with what I have viewed Silmenume's rather narrow view of simulationism in the past--not that I think simulationism is never about experiencing what it's like to be someone else, or can't be immersive, but rather that I think the core of the mode is found elsewhere.

    In the recent thread http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9034">Simulationism, started, I believe, by Calithena, I analogized simulationism to an interest in non-fiction.
    Quote from: There, I
    This is an interest in information for its own sake, in discovery, in exploring ideas and places and things.

    That's what simulationism is like: it's mind-expanding, in that we're learning about something. It might be learning about people, or about places (real or imaginary), or about situations or color or just about anything else.....but if you love learning about something, then that's what the core of the simulationist experience is: learning about something.

    Certainly you can learn about people through immersion in character; but you can learn about moral questions through immersion in character (understanding the issue by seeing it the way this other person would see it), and you can face great challenges in which immersion in character is a factor (recognizing that certain solutions to the problem would not be acceptable to the character, and so limiting the range of options). Yet I think that people who do simulationism as immersion exclusively tend to exclude the bulk of that which is simulationism--the Great Thought Experiment, as someone once wrote to me.

    There was a recent thread specifically addressing this immersion question--Silmenume started it, and I took exception to his suggestion that immersion was central to simulationism. I've found it, it's http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8465">Why we (I?) roleplay - especially in the Simulationist mode.

    In any event, I have always maintained that immersion is a completely isolated question from creative agenda; today I would say it is in the category of techniques, methods we use to reach the objectives of our creative agendae, applicable to all of them.

    Simulationism can be immersionist; it need not be, and that's not a telltale for it.

    --M. J. Young
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    M. J. Young
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    « Reply #2 on: December 26, 2003, 05:18:08 PM »

    Having now stumbled on the referenced post over in http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9050&start=30">[Narrativism essay] Concept & excerpt (on the third page), I'm going to say more on it. Not surprisingly, I'm going to take issue with Jay's position.

    I agree that someone might pursue those experiences as approaches to simulationist play; but again, Jay's emphasis on immersion as a hallmark of simulationism (which it is not) shows in his selection. One could as easily play the story of the knight to who sets out to slay the dragon and rescue the princess for any of the following reasons.
      [*]To determine by experimentation whether a knight of that level of ability is a match for a dragon of that design.[*]To attempt to test certain strategic and tactical possibilities (weapon choice, choice of ground, and others) to see whether these make a difference in the outcome of such a battle.[*]In response to the recognition that a character of this type would in fact risk his life to save a princess from a dragon, even if the player does not have any particular desire to do so.[*]To cement a political alliance with the knight's family and that of the princess which will improve the player's opportunities to explore the milieu.[/list:u]I could probably come up with others, all of which are simulationist in nature and none particularly immersionist.

      Immersionism is a red herring in identification of creative agendae. It exists in all three agendae, impacts play significantly, can be used effectively in the right context for any, and tells us little or nothing about what the player actually wants from the game. Yes, much simulationist play is immersionist, particularly in regard to exploration of character; much is not, particularly in regard to exploration of system; and as John has rightly recognized, the balance falls in many different places in many different games, all of which are simulationist.

      Any help?

      --M. J. Young
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      Caynreth
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      Agata Góralczyk


      « Reply #3 on: December 27, 2003, 03:11:18 AM »

      I'm still struggling with the difference and the nuances between N and S.

      This thread - especially the idea of the Great Thought Experiment - is very helpfull as it points out that immersion is more of a technique than part of any special CA.

      'Interest in information and discovery for its own sake' - hm...
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      Silmenume
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      « Reply #4 on: December 27, 2003, 09:00:33 PM »

      Quote from: M. J. Young
      Jay's emphasis on immersion as a hallmark of simulationism...


      I am afraid that I have to disagree with you in the strongest of terms.  I have NEVER said that "immersion" is a hallmark of simulationism.

      I have said, and I still maintain, that Simulationism is about the desire to Experience something, but that does not imply immersion at all.  One could simply desire to play the "tank" because they want to experience the power of being an ass kicker.  There is nothing immersive about that on any level.  Such a character would in all likelihood be played in pawn stance for nearly its entirety.  This kind of uber shallow character is a completely valid form of Simulationist roleplay.  As long as the player's desire to be a killing machine did not turn into a competition to be the baddest asskicker of all the players (not characters) on a meta-game level, or morph into a desire to defeat anything the DM can throw at him, he remains well within Simulationist play and has not drifted into Gamist play.

      As Ron has said before, "immersive" play, although it is a term he does not believe has much merit, can be expressed in all modes of play, G, N, or S.

      The one hallmark of Simulationist play that I do stand by is the very vital need to maintain the internal causality of the Shared Imagined Space.  The corollary to that is that meta-game is kept to a minimum.  Other than that, just about anything goes for Simulationist play.  It is for this very reason that I believe that Simulationist play is so diverse and rich in experience.

      Quote from: M. J. Young
      To determine by experimentation whether a knight of that level of ability is a match for a dragon of that design.


      The above is pure meta-game as the character would have no concept of "level" nor would he have any concept of dragon "design".  Also the notion of "experimentation" regarding the two ideas is pure meta-game.  This motive is breathing all over Gamist agenda, specifically Hard Core, especially when you consider

      Quote from: Ron Edwards
      "... Hard Core occurs when Gamist play transmogrifies into pure metagame: Exploration becomes minimal or absent, such that System and Social Contract contact one another directly, and, essentially, all the mechanics become metagame mechanics."


      Experimentation, level and design, as indicated, are all meta-game.

      Quote from: M. J. Young
      To attempt to test certain strategic and tactical possibilities (weapon choice, choice of ground, and others) to see whether these make a difference in the outcome of such a battle.


      If these interests are purely meta-game player-only interests then you have a gamist agenda.  If these interests are character interests then you have Simulationism.

      Quote from: M. J. Young
      In response to the recognition that a character of this type would in fact risk his life to save a princess from a dragon, even if the player does not have any particular desire to do so.


      That sounds more like the "immersive" style of play that you accuse me of proselytizing; in this case the player is staying true to character even to the point of possible loss.

      Quote from: M. J. Young
      To cement a political alliance with the knight's family and that of the princess which will improve the player's opportunities to explore the milieu.


      Once again you have a meta-game agenda when you speak of the "player's" opportunities.  This could either be Narrativist by virtue of making a decision that purposefully opens up story options, or Gamist if the player is seeking to gain some sort of competitive advantage over the other players or the GM.  The key here is speaking of the player and not the character, which automatically pulls one out of Simulationist mode of play.

      So I say again - Simulationism is not synonymous with "immersive,” but it is about the desire to experience things while maintaining internal causality as a high priority.

      Aure Entaluva,

      Silmenume
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      Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

      Jay
      John Kim
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      « Reply #5 on: December 27, 2003, 10:26:15 PM »

      Quote from: Silmenume
        The one hallmark of Simulationist play that I do stand by is the very vital need to maintain the internal causality of the Shared Imagined Space.  The corollary to that is that meta-game is kept to a minimum.  Other than that, just about anything goes for Simulationist play.  It is for this very reason that I believe that Simulationist play is so diverse and rich in experience.
      ...
      Once again you have a meta-game agenda when you speak of the "player's" opportunities.  This could either be Narrativist by virtue of making a decision that purposefully opens up story options, or Gamist if the player is seeking to gain some sort of competitive advantage over the other players or the GM.  The key here is speaking of the player and not the character, which automatically pulls one out of Simulationist mode of play.

      So I say again - Simulationism is not synonymous with "immersive,” but it is about the desire to experience things while maintaining internal causality as a high priority.  

      I understand that you think that, but I also believe that this is incorrect for the GNS model.  The thing is, this is exactly the definition of Simulationism in the rgfa Threefold Model.  However, in his GNS model Ron took the same term and used it for a different definition.  I confronted a lot of this over the past year, starting with my thread http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5113">Confused over Simulationism + example campaign.  Because it is confusing, I relabelled the rgfa term as "Immersionism" in my post here, following Petter Bockman's adaptation of my Threefold FAQ (cf. my http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/threefold/">Threefold page).  This is why I also now advocate using "Explorationism" do describe the mode which prioritizes exploration.  

      My point is that you are making what I think is a good and important distinction.  It was the subject of much discussion which I participated in on rgfa.  However, it is not the same as the Narrativist / Explorationist distinction.  

      By your definition, games like Toon, Theatrix, or Feng Shui would be Narrativist, because they do encourage violating internal causality and meta-game thinking about "story".  However, I claim that they are not Narrativist because they do not encourage dynamic addressing of moral Premise.  I do think this is an important distinction, which is what makes Ron's model different from the earlier rgfa Threefold.
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      - John
      M. J. Young
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      « Reply #6 on: December 28, 2003, 10:59:08 PM »

      First, let me apologize to Jay if I've misrepresented his position; it seems to me even yet that his emphasis on experience must be to some degree immersive.

      However, I am confident[list=1][*]that metagame priorities and external causalities are valid in some forms of simulationist play, such as those John just identified in which simulation of genre is achieved by metagame approaches;[*]that simulationist exploration of system to determine such things as tactical advantages and game break points is not gamist;[*]that exploring character honor and motivation from an external viewpoint is an entirely valid approach to simulationist exploration of character.[/list:o]

      There is no reason in the world why you can't talk about player opportunities and player intentions and desires in relation to simulationism; after all, as we've hashed out many times on these boards, there's no such thing, really, as character opportunities, intentions, or desires, because the character only exists as a tool for the player.

      Jay, you're a wonderful advocate for a particular kind of simulationism; but you're making the mistake of thinking that anything that isn't that kind of simulationism isn't simulationism. It's the same mistake as is made by those who think that D&D is not competitive because the players aren't playing against each other. There are gamist games in which players play against each other, and gamist games in which they work together against the game. There are simulationist games in which internal causality is absolutely required, but also simulationist games in which metagame techniques and player interests quite validly and directly impact events.

      We can play a wargame about the Battle of Gettysburg to see whether one of us can outplay the other and win that battle given the same troop strengths Grant and Lee had at the time. That would be gamist. We could play the same wargame to see what would have happened had Pickett's brigade not charged the artillery, or Meade not held the hill, or otherwise altering the tactics of each side to see what might have happened--and that is not gamist, but simulationist, because the objective is to explore the possibilities of what might have happened. In the same way, I can have my RPG character go after the dragon for very gamist reasons that have to do with trying to prove that I've got what it takes to beat a dragon with this character, or for very simulationist reasons that I want to explore whether it is possible to beat a dragon with a character of this caliber (or in fact for the very narrativist reasons of wanting to send a character to almost certain death in the name of honor to explore the demands of honor as a virtue). Sure I can do it for simulationist reasons of wanting to experience something; but I can do it for very disengaged simulationist reasons of wanting to watch what happens to "him" (not "me") when I put him in that situation.

      Finally, I can see why you would think that my statement
      Quote
      In response to the recognition that a character of this type would in fact risk his life to save a princess from a dragon, even if the player does not have any particular desire to do so.
      sounds immersive. I didn't mean it that way. I meant it not as "I'm going to do this because it is what I would do if I had his values", but as "He's going to do that because he's an idiot who thinks he has to do that kind of thing in situations like this; he'll probably get himself killed, but that is what he would do." I clearly remember having a character who strongly believed in honor, and as the third-level party leader of a motley and undisciplined group of mostly second level characters, he agreed to take a drow princess home to her family somewhere fifteen miles below ground through uncharted underdark mazes populated by creatures so dangerous that the things they ate for breakfast could kill him with a glance--all because when the princess requested that he escort her, I knew that his honor would not permit him to decline a request from a member of a royal household whatever the danger to himself. I was not happy with the referee, because I knew he knew that would be the answer.

      Maybe we're talking past each other. I would make a major distinction between experiencing something and observing something. I have the impression that you think simulationism is always about experiencing something; I think it can be about that, and/or about observing something. If you'll agree that there is a valid distinction here and that both are valid forms of simulationist play, then probably the disagreement we have is mere quibbles over specific instances; but if you're going to insist that experiencing is required and observing is something else, then we've got a major disagreement, I think.

      --M. J. Young
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      Ron Edwards
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      « Reply #7 on: December 29, 2003, 06:05:53 AM »

      Hello,

      Well now, I'm all confused.

      1. John, I do consider internal causality to be the primary definitional concept for Simulationist play. I've expanded it well beyond "physics in the game world," such that it can be applied to, say, character psychology or genre-faithfulness, but the idea remains the same. At least it does in my mind.

      I cannot for the life of me imagine how you see my definition of Simulationism as differing from yours. "Prioritizing Exploration" and "prioritizing internal causality" are synonyms. What could one prioritize about Exploration per se except its own internal causes, of whatever sort? There isn't anything else.

      2. More generally, I think the word "simulation" is perfectly valid for what I'm talking about. It's not merely a historical or default term. It works for what I'm expressing; my section in the Simulationism essay about that is built to show that no usage of the term denies my its use - not to say that the word has no meaning and therefore I might as well use it.

      2. Jay and M.J., I think the word "to experience" is causing a little more trouble than it's solving. Remember, grasping the N/S distinction is a personal process; people often have to find the right verbs and examples for themselves. Sometimes it's better to let that happen without constantly over-correcting bits and pieces along the way.

      Best,
      Ron
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      Gordon C. Landis
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      « Reply #8 on: December 29, 2003, 02:25:20 PM »

      Hmm .. . let me take Ron's three points and add my effort to disentagle things a bit.

      Point one, which I take as saying that John's Immersionist statement is mostly the same as GNS Sim.  Here's the Immersionist statement I see Ron pointing to:
      Quote from: John Kim
      Immersionist is a style of play and game design which focusses on in-game causes, reducing the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment.

      I think Ron's point is about "in-game causes"="internal causality"=Sim, and I agree with that.  But the second part of John's Immersionist quote is (to my mind) the key.  The desire to "reduc[e] the visible impact of non-representational elements like plot points, scene breaks, and narration assignment" is something outside of GNS priorities (not Creative Agenda factors), and as John points out, a Sim (or Explorationist, in his terms) priority can exist with that stuff (Immersion) dominating, or absent, or sorta-important.

      Note that this in-game causes/internal causality stuff is always important to any RPing, and Sim just means that it becomes the definitive priority of play.

      To further point to John's Immersionist/Fabulist axis as outside GNS (which is clearly - to me - how he means to use it, though I'm perhaps taking that outside-ness even further than he intended), consider that some folks might consider that in-game causality is actually WELL served by allowing breaks in Immersion.

      My guess is that this confusion is cleared up by saying that Immersion isn't really about in-game causes/internal causality, it's about the other stuff - preferred styles of play, that MIGHT be seen by particular groups as serving that Sim/Explorationist priority.  Or not.  And that allows John's definition for Explorationist be essentially the same as Ron's Simulationist, without losing the interesting and important (IMO) distinction John wants to create regarding an Immersion/Fabulist split - which he flat-out states is NOT meant to be the same as the Sim/Nar split.  By including that "in-game causes" bit as part of Immersionist, John (inadvertantly, I think) creates a link that need not be there.  You can prioritize the in-game causality with or without Immersion.

      (The above reads as rather repetitous, but I'll leave it all in on the chance one repetition reads better than another . . . )

      Point two, about the terminology - I'll just add that one big (as I recall) reason that Explorationist was rejected was that the term had a meaning, created by the Scarlet Jester in his GENder model (back on GO), and it seemed wrong to use the word he/she created as a counterpoint to GNS as an actual priority within GNS.

      Point three, "to experience" - yeah, I can imagine an understanding of that phrase/concept that gets to the core distinction between N and S.  It doesn't work for me, and I share the concern others have about using it.  It seems to me to point to the wrong place to look, some kind of internal mental state.  But if it were understood to mean the group as a whole prioritizing the creation of an experience - creating The Dream - then it might be helpful to a particular individual understanding the S/N split.  

      Hope that's in some way helpful,

      Gordon
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      John Kim
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      « Reply #9 on: December 29, 2003, 04:55:14 PM »

      Quote from: Ron Edwards
      Well now, I'm all confused.

      1. John, I do consider internal causality to be the primary definitional concept for Simulationist play. I've expanded it well beyond "physics in the game world," such that it can be applied to, say, character psychology or genre-faithfulness, but the idea remains the same. At least it does in my mind.

      I cannot for the life of me imagine how you see my definition of Simulationism as differing from yours. "Prioritizing Exploration" and "prioritizing internal causality" are synonyms. What could one prioritize about Exploration per se except its own internal causes, of whatever sort? There isn't anything else.

      Wow.  Where to start.  It seems that you're missing a big part of the picture here, particularly in what rgfa Threefold Simulationism is about.  

      I can tell you right now that the rgfa Simulationist-tending posters would say that allowing genre-faithfulness as an influence destroys rgfa Simulationism and indeed turns it into something which they intensely dislike.  This is something which we discussed at considerable length.  I have links for a bunch of the threads on my http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/threefold/">Threefold page.  So I don't think it really is the same idea.  

      Pure rgfa Simulationism is a rare style where the GM is greatly restricted compared to most campaigns.  If the GM actually sticks only to in-game causes, she can no longer make adventures for the PCs.  Planning out a story is strictly forbidden.  In practice, this means that direction is usually turned over to the players.  Without a scripted adventure goal, the players must make PCs who pro-actively go out and seek out adventure.  If they simply have PCs who sit around waiting for the adventure to happen, then nothing happens.  

      As an example, my description of http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6178">Plotless but Background-based Games describes one approach towards this.  


      As for what else you can prioritize...   Well, you can prioritize story, which is different than Story Now -- as you just emphasized by saying http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9050">story can be part of any mode.  For example, making up funny events isn't about internal causality.  Something being funny is a story quality -- i.e. it is about player reactions.  If you do things on the basis of whether the other players will laugh, it seems to me that this is not an internal cause.  However, neither is it Narrativist in that it need not answer a moral question.  

      From previous discussion, you seem to agree that one can prioritize the creation of story without being Narrativist.  For example, in http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=90414&highlight=#90414">this post, I described a case where the players were following GM directions to create a particular story.  You agreed with me that it was not Narrativist.  

      The key point is that if I decide on a theme (i.e an answer to a question) before play, then the result is not Narrativist.  However, deciding on a theme is itself a story-based decision.
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      Ron Edwards
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      « Reply #10 on: December 29, 2003, 08:02:39 PM »

      Wait, wait ...

      John, here you say in post #1 that Simulationism is all about internal causality. "Yup!" I say. Then you say in post #2 that it doesn't, and that I don't understand.

      Hands thrown up - whatever. I'll just point to what Gordon said. I agree with him.

      And ... oh well, against my better judgment, I'll say this too. Regarding those RFGA Sim posters, John, in terms of this particular issue, I've said it before and I'll say it now - they were so hung up on their own little cabbage-patches of Sim application that all discourse about the basic criteria was lost in frenzied appropriation of the term. It's plain synecdoche to me: "I'm Sim! No, I am!"

      Rejecting "genre-faithfulness" as a basis for Simulationist play is ipso facto inconsistent with the internal-causality criterion - I don't care how passionate they were about it. All that is "Judean People's Front vs. People's Front of Judea" to me; their individual possessiveness of it (based on internal-causality-of-what) isn't worth much critical attention.

      And none of it invalidates my point - that you say internal causality is the key to Simulationist play, and so do I. I permit a much broader scope for that principle than the folks you're referencing, that's all.

      But you know what? All this is just a sideline to the real issue. Which is: I think all of your initial post is good reading ('cept for the terms-thing; Sim it is and Sim it shall be). I buy it. I think you've re-stated some of my points about "story-oriented" as expressed in my GNS essay (which people seem to gloss over for some reason), in that whether we "end up with a story" isn't a feature of GNS-mode classification at all. I don't think it's a new point, and I'm not sure why we need terms for it like Fabulist and Immersionist (I shy away from using this term for anything, though), but it's a good point.

      Best,
      Ron
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      John Kim
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      « Reply #11 on: December 30, 2003, 12:16:45 AM »

      Quote from: Ron Edwards
      Wait, wait ...

      John, here you say in post #1 that Simulationism is all about internal causality. "Yup!" I say. Then you say in post #2 that it doesn't, and that I don't understand.  

      Um, no.  Everything I said is that rgfa Simulationism is all about internal causality.  However, by internal here I mean non-metagame -- or in other words it is solely about logic internal to the world.  So it cannot include "Oh, this will make for a good adventure" or "This will be a good story".  There is often a story that results, but it is a generated one rather than a planned one.  

      It may sound strange, and it's not for everyone, but it can work.  My http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=5113">Water-Uphill-World campaign was like this.  (And I did explicitly say this back in February: that it worked by purely in-game causes.)  I would guess that you've never played in a game which was close to pure rgfa Simulationism.  You probably had or were GMs who always thought in metagame story terms -- i.e. "What should the next adventure be?"  That isn't a slam.  There are lots of kinds of gaming that I've never tried as well.  Everyone's experience is limited.  But I think it's important to keep an open mind.  

      As I read more about them, I think the drive behind rgfa Simulationism is similar to the movement towards "freeforms" in LARPs in Australia and Scandanavia.  There, rather than trying to control the story, they just set a bunch of characters loose at each other and marvel at what results.  

      Quote from: Ron Edwards
        Rejecting "genre-faithfulness" as a basis for Simulationist play is ipso facto inconsistent with the internal-causality criterion - I don't care how passionate they were about it. All that is "Judean People's Front vs. People's Front of Judea" to me; their individual possessiveness of it (based on internal-causality-of-what) isn't worth much critical attention.  

      And none of it invalidates my point - that you say internal causality is the key to Simulationist play, and so do I. I permit a much broader scope for that principle than the folks you're referencing, that's all.  

      The thing is that genre isn't all internal in the sense that I mean.  Much of genre is what I call "story conventions".  i.e. It is about meta-game things like who the PCs are, where the story starts and ends, whether action is "on-screen", and so forth.  I have an essay on the subject, called http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/genre/definition.html">Understanding Genre in RPGs.  

      Also, you could look at the old rgfa genre discussions that I referred to.  For example, there is http://groups.google.com/groups?dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&threadm=553nd9%24dic%40apakabar.cc.columbia.edu&rnum=1">Genre and Believability from Nov 1996.  This is pre-Threefold per se, but Lea Crowe, Mary Kuhner, and myself were roughly the pro-Simulationist contingent.
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      Ron Edwards
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      « Reply #12 on: December 30, 2003, 05:52:03 AM »

      Hi John,

      I'm familiar with these references you're linking to. All of them are confirming to me that we are agreeing on just about anything imaginably important.

      I don't see any merit to telling one another "you don't get what I'm saying," so let's not do that.

      Best,
      Ron
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      Gordon C. Landis
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      « Reply #13 on: December 30, 2003, 10:29:10 AM »

      OK, another post attempting to explain why I think John points at an important issue, but is also "agreeing on just about anything imaginably important" with Ron:

      It is true (as far as I can tell) that an rgfa-Simulationist would be unhappy in many GNS-Sim oriented games.  GNS does NOT say (really, it doesn't) that getting a bunch of Sim-liking folks together is all you need to do to produce enjoyable play.  There are important issues in roleplaying enjoyment that are NOT GNS-focused (though I'd say they can be much more manageable given some understanding of the insights of GNS).  Fabulist/Immersionist (the concepts, not the particular terms) is one such issue.

      That the prioritization of internal causality by rgfa-Simulationists excludes certain methods is important - they won't enjoy play that thinks you can prioritizie internal causality by, say, referencing genre.  But in GNS terms, that doesn't change the fact that both the rgfa-Sim group and the genre-fidelity group are prioritizing internal causality.  They just have different opinions/preferences about what that means and/or how to do it.

      I think it is very useful to identify these mostly GNS-independant issues which none the less are very important to determining whether or not a particular person/group enjoys play.  That's how I read John's initial post starting this thread (besides being useful claification of "story" and etc.).  Understandable (to me) issues with the term "immersion" aside, putting Immersionist vs. Fabulist at the top of a list of such issues makes sense to me.

      Gordon
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      John Kim
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      « Reply #14 on: December 30, 2003, 02:31:50 PM »

      Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
        That the prioritization of internal causality by rgfa-Simulationists excludes certain methods is important - they won't enjoy play that thinks you can prioritizie internal causality by, say, referencing genre.  But in GNS terms, that doesn't change the fact that both the rgfa-Sim group and the genre-fidelity group are prioritizing internal causality.  They just have different opinions/preferences about what that means and/or how to do it.  

      I'm a little concerned about possible miscommunication when you say prioritize.  So rgfa Threefold Simulationism is distinguished by the decision-making technique of trying to use only non-meta-game causes.  So there is a priority on that in terms of effort.  But that doesn't necessarily define what the game is about in some essential way.  

      For example, some styles of paintings are very concerned with realism, such as keeping to the laws of perspective.  But following the laws of perspective doesn't mean that your painting is about the laws of perspective in terms of personal meaning.  I don't have any great enlightenment here, but I thought I'd throw in a warning about possible miscommunication.
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