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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 157 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Simulationism Revisited  (Read 15842 times)
M. J. Young
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« Reply #30 on: January 01, 2004, 04:00:23 PM »

Last night was New Year's Eve, and since we always celebrate by having me cook and serve hors d'oevres for many hours my visit to these fora was very cursory. Thus I skipped over responding to Jay's interesting post.

I think, though, that I'm going to disagree.

What's the difference between gamist combat, narrativist combat, and simulationist combat? I don't think that just because combat breaks out in a game, it makes it gamist, even for a moment, necessarily (there are undoubtedly games in which they drift gamist for the combat, and then drift back, but that's a different issue). I think you can have narrativist and simulationist combat. What distinguishes these?

I think that narrativist combat (which would be the more difficult for me, personally, to identify) retains its relationship to the theme. What matters is not who wins, but which way the story twists at this point, and how the theme is addressed. You could have a narrativist engine which made this rather uncertain, in that the player characters might win or lose without reference to what the players want, and this becomes part of the address of premise--yet it strikes me that many narrativist games don't let player characters die if the players don't approve it, in essence saying, "the death of your character in combat will only happen if you believe this will address premise in a meaningful way". So combat is narrativist if it's about the premise.

Gamist combat is characterized by the desire to win, to test not the character but the player. Losing in a gamist game is a personal loss, not a theoretical one. When one of my beloved Gamma World characters was finally killed, I was in shock--I actually lay on the couch for the rest of the night trying to recover from the loss, despite the fact that in a very real sense we as players had won the game (it was the final battle of the module, and we defeated them, but at the cost of my character). Not everyone takes losses so seriously, but these are losses by the player, and that's what makes it gamist. Losing or failing in a gamist game is like losing at checkers or tennis or football or bridge--it's about whether you won or lost.

Simulationist combat is about whether the characters win or lose, and has no reflection (or very little) on the skills of the players. "Your character died." "Cool. Now we know what would happen."

Thus facing the dragon because the premise demands it is narrativist; facing the dragon because you want to prove you, the player, can beat the dragon with this character is gamist; and facing the dragon to see what happens is simulationist.

Just because it's combat doesn't make it gamist.

If I'm wrong, Jay, what makes combat simulationist and not gamist?

--M. J. Young
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #31 on: January 02, 2004, 12:38:42 AM »

Just to jump in and broaden M.J.'s comments about sim combat:

Sim combat in addition to being about 'what happens' can also be about genre fidelity - I'm the knight, he's the dragon, we fight! - and an expression of the PC's personality -  I have the beserker disadvantage, he spilled my pint, we fight!

In addition it doesn't preclude personal stake: the PC is a tool that is used to further the exploration of the shared imaginary space.  The loss of the character can limit the players access to the shared imaginary space, and hence their ability to explore (at least while new characters are created and introduced).  So PC loss for a sim player can be a bummer too.

I'm pretty sure these are obvious points but I could see a possibility of them muddying the waters.
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Ian Charvill
lumpley
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« Reply #32 on: January 02, 2004, 11:34:26 AM »

John, I'm wandering pretty far from GNS talk, but this quote of Chris Lehrich's from Plotless but Background-based Games -
Quote
So what he's doing is flinging the characters into the middle of a hideously complicated situation, and encouraging them to become important in it. The trick is that he really doesn't know the details of this situation; he's got Power Blocks and Relationships, but relatively few known details. So as the PCs go around talking to people and exploring the setting, they are also galvanizing and clarifying the situation.

That's the stuff you want to figure out how to talk about.  That's where your System-in-play is both most interesting and hardest to see.

-Vincent
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #33 on: January 02, 2004, 02:39:27 PM »

Quote from: cruciel
If you look at the whole model, it seems to me like Sim could simply be stripped out of the creative agenda layer and defined as the prioritization of the Exploration layer over the Creative Agenda (G/N) layer.  <SNIP>

It also accounts for other things not part of this discussion; like the social gamer (social contract over everything else), and the heavy immersionist (ephemera over everything else).  I know this is contradictory to the model.


Cruciel,

On the first bit I snipped . . . it seems to me that the act of prioritization is the very defintion of Creative Agenda, so you can't really strip Sim out of the CA layer - Exploration isn't anything until prioritization takes place, at which point we can identify a CA.  So barring caveats about defining Immersion via in-game causality, I think John is quite right to identify Immersion/Fabulism as outside CA.

But I agree very strongly about the second bit I snipped - preferences about things outside of CA matter, and talking about them more helps clarify what CA *isn't*.  Which hopefully eases fears that GNS is ignoring issues that are very important to some folks.

Gordon
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Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #34 on: January 03, 2004, 05:15:42 AM »

In reverse order:

Quote from: Gordon
But I agree very strongly about the second bit I snipped - preferences about things outside of CA matter, and talking about them more helps clarify what CA *isn't*.  Which hopefully eases fears that GNS is ignoring issues that are very important to some folks.


Hey thanks.

Quote from: Gordon
On the first bit I snipped . . . it seems to me that the act of prioritization is the very defintion of Creative Agenda, so you can't really strip Sim out of the CA layer - Exploration isn't anything until prioritization takes place, at which point we can identify a CA.  So barring caveats about defining Immersion via in-game causality, I think John is quite right to identify Immersion/Fabulism as outside CA.


Unless you look at it like all the layers are working at once during play.  Nothing is making anything go, it's just going, and Creative Agenda and Exploration are a couple of the artificial divisions you can analyze.  You'd need to hit Creative Agenda over the head and take away its little arrow for this to make any sense at all.

The Immersionist definition John was using:  
Quote from: John
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.


It seems like the immersion he's referring to is about in-game causality.  Actor Stance seems to be thrown in there too.  Immersion is so icky and gooey that I hestitate to touch it anymore.

Going back to the Fabulist definition:  
Quote from: John
"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".


This seems like foresaking the fidelity/verisimilitude/whatchamacallit of explored elements for the sake of "story".  Since my big fat wake up call on Nar last time the Beeg Horseshoe came around, I don't see story without theme anymore.  Story has conflict, conflict creates theme.  No conflict, no story; no theme, no story.  So, the dynamic addressment of Premise doesn't seem like a concern - it's there whether you want it to be or not.  You could just as easily swing this gamist:  Why is there a a 50' dragon in a 20'x20' room?  Who cares! Smash it!
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- Cruciel
Jason Lee
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« Reply #35 on: January 03, 2004, 05:16:19 AM »

Duplicate post.
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- Cruciel
John Kim
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« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2004, 11:55:29 AM »

Quote from: cruciel
  The Immersionist definition John was using:  
Quote from: John
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.

It seems like the immersion he's referring to is about in-game causality.  Actor Stance seems to be thrown in there too.  Immersion is so icky and gooey that I hestitate to touch it anymore.  

Actually, I now doubt the name I used.  My conception is really based on rgfa Threefold Simulationism, but I didn't want to use that word because Ron had used the same word to define something different, or so I thought.  I used "Immersionism" because that was a term already in use from Petter Bockman's adaptation of the Threefold for Scandanavian LARPs.  However, there is nothing in rgfa Simulationism which specifically encourages one to stick to Actor stance.  

One can engage in simulation through Director stance as well -- though I think that "Director" is a bad term for it.  For example, it is fairly common in my Vinland game for play to pause to talk about viking culture and life.  For example, after Kjartan's marriage we talked about what his living arrangements would be like after that.  Liz (Kjartan's player) argued convincingly that the Vinlanders should have more private space in their homes than historical Icelanders, whose homes were less divided because of lack of wood.  So that's technically Director-stance on the part of the player, defining background rather than acting out one's PC.  But it's still fully simulation, part of the process of defining what things would really be like.  

I agree that "immersion" is a very tricky term, and thus I don't use it for definitions.  I do think that it's clearly important, though.
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- John
Jason Lee
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« Reply #37 on: January 03, 2004, 12:35:19 PM »

Total agreement as far as director stance and maintaining in-game consistency.  This used quite often in my style of play, where everybody may voice how they think a character should behave.

Quote from: John
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.


The bolded portion is where I took Actor Stance from.  It seemed like the absence of meta-game was a requirement.  I see now that's not what you meant, you just meant the absence of meta-game to control of the narrative structure (right?). After re-reading it it makes more sense.  I guess then, I'm seeing a priority on Exploration with the bolded portion being a specific Technique.
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- Cruciel
Silmenume
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« Reply #38 on: January 08, 2004, 10:49:43 AM »

First of all I would like to wish everyone here at The Forge a very Happy New Year’s!  Thanks for making this such a wonderful and stimulating site.

Quote from: M. J. Young
I think you can have narrativist and simulationist combat. What distinguishes these?

Just because it's combat doesn't make it gamist.


I agree.  I have never argued that there is no such thing as Sim combat, rather I have argued that the examples you gave were mostly Gamist in orientation.  What determines the mode of said combat, is as you indicated, the creative agenda in operation.  In other words, in the observational mode of play what is the player’s reason for said combat, what meaning is being sought?

Narrativist combat, in the observational method, would be as you indicated, dealing with questions that relate to premise.  Thus a player who was interested in seeing “what would happen if”, would be motivated to see what would happen to the premise if the Knight engaged in combat with the Dragon.  The outcome may, or may not, be a concern to premise, if the act of actually engaging in combat itself is the issue being addressed to premise.  The fact it was the Knight of the house of Roses and not the Knight of the house of Lilies, or that it was Knight and not a Paladin.  Like you said, it all has to do with addressing premise.  In Narrativism one is willing, IF it came down to it, to break character to do this to address premise in a meaningful manner.  That makes this a meta-game drive, as it is not motivated from within the SIS, but outside.

In Gamist combat, in the observational method, would be as you indicated, dealing with personal loss, or its obverse, personal victory.  In either case, whether one wins or loses, it’s about the question of victory.  If I pit my Knight against this Dragon, will I win?  However, one may also pit their Knight against the Dragon to be the first to do so.  This would be victory over other players.  Or one may pit the Knight against the Dragon because it was the most efficient way to gain EP’s or to challenge the DM (victory over DM).  Or one may pit a specific design of Knight against a specific type of Dragon to see how various designs (experimentation on formalized system – system mechanics) impact achieving victory over the Dragon.  Thus, even if the specific encounter itself was not motivated by the immediate desire of victory, the knowledge being developed is sought to facilitate the chance of victory in the future.  In military parlance they’re probing attacks.  The skirmishes are not meant to be won, though that would be acceptable, rather their purpose is to reveal information that will be exploited to aid in the strategic goal of victory.  However, even if one wasn’t motivated by a personal victory on any level, those things being tested, combat tactics, character design, etc., their value is measured not against aesthetic creation as a value in and of itself, but rather their effects on the outcome (whether victory was achieved or not) of the combat.  Lastly, said combat was not motivated from a character point of view, but from a strictly meta-game player desire.  

So while a player may be seeking information in the form of feedback, if the value of that information gathering effort (the observed battle of the Knight and Dragon) is to be employed so that the player’s personal goals of victory are facilitated, or the information gathered from the observation of the exercise of the operative elements is generated in reference to victory, even in the abstract, that’s Gamism.

Quote from: M. J. Young
Simulationist combat is about whether the characters win or lose, and has no reflection (or very little) on the skills of the players.


I agree that the combat is about whether the characters win or lose, however as we are roleplaying it MUST always be the character that wins or loses the combat because we are not physically pounding on each other. Thus, that the character wins or losses does not reflect or determine what CA was in operation, rather it is the why the combat was engineered that makes that distinction.  It is the meaning the player derived from that win or loss that determines which CA was in operation.  If the “character’s” loss in combat is taken as a reflection of the combat skills of the player, or if the “character’s” loss in combat is interpreted as representing the player’s personal loss in combat, that would be Gamist.  The question becomes what motivated the combat, and what information was being sought.

Doing something “just to see what happens” is not a priority of Sim specifically, but by the necessity of the creative act of roleplay explored in all modes of the Creative Agenda.  Simulationist combat, in the observational method, would be dealing with questions that that reflect the priorities in Sim, specifically those questions that reflect upon the character’s personality, the setting or situation or are motivated by the character’s personality, the setting or his situation.  Thus having a Knight face a Dragon in combat, in a Sim prioritized combat might be asking the question of “why is this Knight doing this?”  How would this Knight react to having to fight this Dragon?  What would drive this Knight to face a Dragon?  How would this Knight be affected after having fought the Dragon, assuming he survived?  Does this Knight have the courage to face certain death?  Did this Knight demonstrate courage during the battle?  What would happen to this situation as a result of the Knight fighting the Dragon? These are all questions of character.  How would the defeat of the Dragon affect the political or ecological landscape (questions of situation and setting)?  How would not defeating the Dragon affect the political and ecological landscape?  

Since this is a social past time where we are creating to affect those joining in this past time as well amusing ourselves, one could observe what type of an affect this combat would have on the players at the table  (This question is something that the player in the role of DM might ask.)  Yes winning or losing is not without consequence, from a character point of view not too many people are willing to seriously endanger or throw their lives away just to satisfy some sort of idle curiosity (just to see what happens), but in any case that should be a question that the character would be willing to ask of himself.  This does not mean that the player must feel what the character is feeling, but it does mean that this combat should involve the character’s interests in some way.  

What person, and thus by extension what created character, could legitimately face the horror of combat with a dragon and walk away completely unaffected?  I doubt that even the most hardcore of Gamists would literally stand in the middle of a street just to see what would happen if he went into combat against an onrushing car.  Yet it is just that response to conflict that is one of the exploratory actions of Sim (and any fictional narrative), though the player himself need not feel anything or empathize with the character in particular.

To be Sim the combat should be motivated out of situation and the meaning of the results of the combat must ask what results it had on situation.  To be Sim the combat should be motivated by the character and the meaning of the results of the combat must ask what results it had on the character.

Quote from: M. J. Young
"Your character died." "Cool. Now we know what would happen."


Gamist – “Yeah I lost.” – Question of Victory
Narrativist – “Yeah, I was willing to die to uphold the chivalrous virtues.” – Question of Premise
Simulationist – “Yeah, at least my character was brave enough to try and bought a little time for the town to evacuate in the process.” – Question of Character and Situation

Yes there can be Sim combat; its just the reasons for creating that combat must reflect or relate to those elements that are prioritized in the Sim CA.  Sim isn’t about winning losing; I believe it is about creating as a satisfying end unto itself.  It is, as Alan so elegantly put it, about creating an aesthetic.

Aure Entaluva

Silmenume
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Jay
Ian Charvill
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« Reply #39 on: January 08, 2004, 11:22:03 AM »

Quote from: Silmenume
Narrativist – “Yeah, I was willing to die to uphold the chivalrous virtues.” – Question of Premise
Simulationist – “Yeah, at least my character was brave enough to try and bought a little time for the town to evacuate in the process.” – Question of Character and Situation


This may be contentious but...

I'd put those the other way round.  Your simulationist example seems to be hitting on the real world moral issues of bravery and what you would die for and your narrativist example seems to be relating to an in-game imaginary element of 'the chivalrous virtue'.

The at least seems to speak to the feelings of the player much more than whether they're using first or third person to speak about their character.

Which I guess is why people talk about single decisions being non-diagnostic of GNS.
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Ian Charvill
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #40 on: January 08, 2004, 11:30:22 AM »

Hello,

Jay, what you're running into is the problem of scope.

You will never successfully provide an exemplar of all Gamism compared with all Simulationism compared with all Narrativism.

The categories are too broad to be exemplified and compared at that level. It's better to drop down into a particular sort of each one, with the three sorts sharing some common Explorative features. Then the comparison can mean something.

I also think you might consider using real, actual examples of play rather than "if a player" hypotheticals - especially when those hypotheticals include descriptions of internal states and motivations, which are really not going to clarify anything.

Best,
Ron
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Silmenume
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« Reply #41 on: January 16, 2004, 01:22:50 AM »

Greetings -

Ian - The bravery issue to me is not a moral issue, but one of character i.e., definitional.  "He was cheerful, with a smile for everyone, had a ravenous appetite for stories and good drink, and was a brave man."  At least that is how I intended its usage.  The question of holding up chivalrous virtues I had intended to be an example of premise in play - are you willing to die attempting to uphold chivalrous virtues?  If my examples were ill conceived, I apologize.  They sort of evolved out of precedent.

I do agree that single decisions are non-diagnostic of GNS, what was offered was the outgrowth of established argumentative form.  They were offered as "an" example and were not meant to be diagnostic.  By diagnostic I am guessing that means by looking at an instance of play one could then determine/diagnose which CA is in operation.  Rather I was trying to demonstrate a CA and what the player might consider important (what meaning might be derived) in regards to a similar event occurring in all three agendas.

Ron - as poorly as I faired, your post actually supports a position I was struggling to argue.  Simply that merely doing something just to see what happens, in this case pitting a knight against a dragon, is not indicative of any particular agenda.  Perhaps my examples were poorly wrought, but the same gist was implied in your post.  The fictional examples are artifacts of the way the posts evolved.  

The use of hypotheticals which include descriptions of internal states and motivations probably will not clarify anything on a diagnostic level, which CA is being expressed, but internal states and motivations are central to the players' reasons for playing (the meanings created and derived) and thus should be of intense interest to the DM's running their games.  For the sake of proving which CA was in effect perhaps my examples were inappropriate, but that there are internal processes in operation should not be automatically dismissed and brushed under the rug.

Both Gamism and Narrativism have or at least allow for overt meta-game feed back loops between player and DM to facilitate the creation of meanings that are desired by the players.  Sim, by its priority for a low or reduced meta-game expression process, needs to find other ways to employ this feedback loop.  During the game proper, the Sim DM is left to the difficult task of observing the social reinforcement behavior in real time and making on the fly decisions regarding that behavior.  Another process would be the post-game "debrief" which could be direct by talking to the players or indirect such as reading the players' blogs or listening to the players’ conversations after the game.  I think this meaning feedback loop is vastly underutilized in Sim play, and that meaning as a whole tends to get dismissed from the model because it isn’t diagnostic.  While it is a slippery topic to deal with, Meaning is the flipside of the CA.  It is precisely this lack of feedback that I believe that many people leave Sim (the “world” isn’t responding to their interests) or that DM’s find it hard to run effectively.

So yes, little value to the diagnostic process, but vital to be aware of as roleplay is a meaning creation process.   One may raise the objection that if they have no diagnostic powers, why worry about internal states.  Because roleplay is a meaning creation process, the DM, by being aware of his player’s desires, can front-load, specifically create events or develop narrative (lower case ‘n’) tools that maximize the chances of the players generating their desired meanings.

I should have probably split this into a new thread – I am just too much of a mallet head to figure that out at present.

Aure Entaluve,

Silmenume
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #42 on: January 16, 2004, 06:10:42 AM »

Hi Jay,

Since your post consists of replies, I'm going to let it stand as part of this thread.

But it's really time to call this thread closed. Please, everyone, take sub-topics elsewhere.

Best,
Ron
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