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Author Topic: friendlier G/N/S definitions  (Read 24337 times)
Paul Czege
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« Reply #30 on: May 15, 2001, 06:30:00 PM »

Hey Seth,

...they are looking for the rush of being someone else. Escapism! That's what Simulationism is all about.

I'm all about escapism. I read fantasy novels and comic books. I daydream about telling my boss off, and of one-upping my ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend. I write two or three pages of stream of consciousness every day. But this thread was about redefinitions of G, N, and S in which James had added the concept of story to each of them. Escapism isn't story. My post was about the relationship between G, N, S and story. In no way was I disparaging escapism. I spend far too much time on it to take that position.

...Simulative play is compared to a dull brother's retelling of a boring day. Come now, do you think that Simulative play would be so popular if it were that boring?

The point of that description was to explain how creation of story is a meta-process that happens on top of sequence of events. We do it for ourselves so naturally, add theme and meaning to our lives, that it only becomes apparent when you meet someone who doesn't know how to do it.

But I will say that in my experience, if escapism is the goal, Simulationist games generally fail to provide it during play. It's there in buckets when I read the source material, but in actual play there ain't much. Can you say that when you play a Simulationist game that you're consistently thrilled and energized by your role and your actions? It hasn't been the case for me. Straight-up fantasizing is a hell of a lot more escapist.

Paul
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #31 on: May 15, 2001, 07:39:00 PM »

Oh my god, but it IS boring!

"Let me tell you about my character...!"

C'mon, like you LIKE listening to those stories?  I mean, most of the time it's just a laundry list of "and thens."

But while it's happening, man!  To that guy he's taking part if something magical and exciting and wonderful.  And he's right -- but it's like telling someone about a dream you had or a concert you saw.  The experience is IN the experience, not in the re-telling (which is why so much gamer fiction sucks...a lot of it is a rehash of someone else's in game experience -- or at least that's what it reads like).

Maybe this is another difference between Gamists/Narrativists and Simulationists.  I think that being an audience member in a well-done Gamist or Narrativist game would be really enjoyable (akin to watching a game of football or a movie).  In a well-done Simulationist game, the audience member would wish HE could be a part of it all.

- J

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[ This Message was edited by: Jared A. Sorensen on 2001-05-15 23:42 ]
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« Reply #32 on: May 16, 2001, 03:52:00 AM »

The mass response begins....

First, to Paul:

Quote


The point of that description was to explain how creation of story is a meta-process that happens on top of sequence of events. We do it for ourselves so naturally, add theme and meaning to our lives, that it only becomes apparent when you meet someone who doesn't know how to do it.



I wonder if there is a conflict on the definition of "story" being used.  It would appear that some of us are using story as defined as "a recounting of events" while others of us are using story more narrowly.  Haven't had my morning cup of coffee, so I can't say for sure.  :smile:

Quote

But I will say that in my experience, if escapism is the goal, Simulationist games generally fail to provide it during play. It's there in buckets when I read the source material, but in actual play there ain't much. Can you say that when you play a Simulationist game that you're consistently thrilled and energized by your role and your actions? It hasn't been the case for me. Straight-up fantasizing is a hell of a lot more escapist.



In your experience.  In my experience, my players who are exploratively oriented have been thrilled and energized by their roles and actions.  Well, at least as consistently as a strong narrative has been constructed.  :smile:  Again, I wonder if "Simulationist" is being confused with "rules-heavy".  Looking back on some of my sessions, I see that, from a player's perspective, they were more explorative-oriented.  However, the rules set being used (Mage) ran quickly and easily for us, permitting the players to immerse in their roles (immersion being a goal).

I understand your concern.  However, could it not be that these Simulationist games are just reaching the goal poorly?  Is the fault Simulationism, or its current implementations?

To Jared:

I think that you get my point.  Remember that the goal of Simulationism is not to have a story that can be retold; it is to have a story that was lived.  (Yes, perhaps I am using "story" in a loose fashion, but so are the multitudes of roleplayers out there who make James' claim that story applies to all styles.)  Sure, it may be boring to hear about the experience, but that can apply across the board.  The experience is one thing; the retelling is another things altogether.  Paul's brother could have had a fascinating experience and still not be able to relate it well.  Narrativism wants to be able to relate the story.  Simulationism wants to live the story.

To all:

My concern as this discussion progresses is that Simulationism is being judged by Narrativist standards.  "Simulationism isn't really about story, because it doesn't fit our Narrativist definition of story."  Like I said, perhaps our definition of story needs to be examined, but let us be careful.  If we are really in favor of the advancement of game design (not just Narrativist design), then we need to examine each spoke of G/N/S on its own terms.  Otherwise we do not do the cause of game design any good.

But someone may say, "There are gobs of Simulationist games out there now!"  Ah, but are they good Simulationist games?  At least one of our number has stated that they did not work for him.  True, that could be a matter of preference or situation, but could it also be that the rules-heavy, detailed-oriented RPGs are really only a poor beginning towards exploring this spoke of G/N/S?  Could it be that the world needs not just the development of Narrativism but the continued development of Simulationism?

I will leave you with something that Scarlet Jester said to me in design conversations about Alyria:

"The roots of Explorative play are not in wargaming; they are in daydreaming."

Certainly for some, daydreaming is about complex simulation.  (Just think of the alternate history crowd or the Tom Clancy technothriller fanbase.)  But for others, this daydreaming will look different.  What are we doing to facilitate their goal?


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Seth Ben-Ezra
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Logan
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« Reply #33 on: May 16, 2001, 06:34:00 AM »

Wow. This has really gone all over the place.

I'll say this again because it bears repeating: G/N/S is a guideline. Within the guideline, there are many variations. A lot of the discussion that I read here seems to be an attempt to refine the "One True Form" of each style of play. It's a fool's errand. There is no "One True Form." There's just a range of possibilities for each style.

Gordon,

Thanks for the compliment. I don't know that anything I write is brilliant, but I'm glad you see what I'm saying. Now, let's put the rest of it back in context.

Logan said:
"Most games will have some sort of plot or story to draw the players in and to give the characters something to do, regardless of G/N/S bias. That's what pre-packaged adventures are all about. The real difference is in the GM's means of presentation and the players' attitudes toward them."

Gordon said:
>I see this as saying "story isn't the differentiator". Sounds like most people agree there - but some people say "Narrativists CREATE, others don't - they tell, or watch, or participate, or [add your variation here]." On that point, I am not yet convinced.
--------------------------

Story in and of itself isn't the differentiator. All games have some sort of story which unfolds through play. It may be a simple story. It may be a really trite, contrived story, but at the end, it's a story all the same. Attitude toward the story, degree of participation in shaping the story - Those are bigger differentiators. The truth of this has surfaced and resurfaced many times. Simulationists want to experience events, to see how the story unfolds. This is why Simulationist games don't usually have mechanics which allow the players to make big changes to the flow or outcome of events. By definition (and this is supported by many posts on the rgfa list) Simulationists will accept events which aren't good for the story because they're consistent with the terms of the simulation. Narrativists won't do that. Narrativists play to create a satisfying story. Narrativist games give players the tools to do that.

Logan said:
"In a Narrativist game, maybe he dies or maybe the player changes the conditions in the story so that the character lives, but only if that makes the story stronger. Motive matters as much as the action itself."

Gordon said:
>And if you believe "staying true to the sim makes the story 'better'", is your motive not story focused?
-----------------------------------

This is a context issue. I was addressing the motives of Narrativist players. Depending on the circumstances, the Narrativist player might want his character to live, or he might want his character to die.

Looking at Sim player motives as presented here and in rgfa discussions, I suggest that the Sim player will only want his character to live if the character has the means to live within the limits of the simulation. In other words, if something happens that should kill the character, the Sim player may feel robbed if the character lives.  In that context, "staying true to the sim" may make the story better for the player - *but* the motive is *not* story focused. The motive is clearly to maintain the  verisimilitude of the simulation, which is very different from creating story the way Narrativists want to create story.

******************************

There has been a lot of discussion about Simulationist games, and about Simulationism in general. There is a lot of discussion about what Simulationism is and what it is not. A lot of people have pointed at the Immersive/explorative style of character simulation and said, "This is the One True Form of Simulation." No, it's not. It's an extreme variation, at the far end of the scale. Amber is probably the only game that even tries to support the style. At the other end, weighing in at approximately 30 tons, is Rolemaster and its progeny, MERP. In the middle of the scale, highly regarded as arguably the best Simulationist game ever written, is CoC. You can count GURPS and BESM, but I think both of those games have heavy Gamist influence. It seems likely to me that those are Simulationist games written for Gamist players, or at least for players with both Gamist and Simulationist tendencies. With that, we must look at one of Seth's assertions.

Seth wrote:
>But someone may say, "There are gobs of Simulationist games out there now!" Ah, but are they good Simulationist games? At least one of our number has stated that they did not work for him. True, that could be a matter of preference or situation, but could it also be that the rules-heavy, detailed-oriented RPGs are really only a poor beginning towards exploring this spoke of G/N/S? Could it be that the world needs not just the development of Narrativism but the continued development of Simulationism?

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

This is where it pays to remember that each style includes a variety of approaches. I think some of the Simulationist games are probably good simulationist games, good enough to gain loyal followings and maintain their place in the market. On the other hand, most of them don't really try to support that immersive style of play, a style which is directed toward character simulation and the Elaytijist ideal. It could be that those detail-oriented rpgs are a poor attempt at Simulationist play, but it's more likely that Simulationism is big enough to support both approaches.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: May 16, 2001, 06:47:00 AM »

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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #35 on: May 16, 2001, 03:25:00 PM »

Alright, life got busy, but I'm back at this - I've gotten a lot out of it, and hopefully there's some more left to get.  I'm going to stick with the "story" issues . . . and Ron's thoughts seem to touch on that most directly:

>That loose application of "story" is doing nothing but
>muddying communication.

I agree that an overly-loose application of story is probably a bad thing here - but I'm not sure which "tight" application would be wise.  Help, anyone?

>And I'm getting weary, have been for a long time, of
>going 'round and 'round with "That is not story," met
>with "Yes it is!" and then, "Well, OK, it's not, but
>I'd prefer we call it a story so I don't feel bad about >it."

Appologies if this is something you've gone 'round and 'round on, but this is where I think there's something I'm not getting, or something less than clear in the model.

Take the "thrown out the airlock" incident.  I'm assuming a Simulationist bias (this thread seems focused there, but in my mind a few twists carry this to Gamism as well), and I'm assuming that 3-20 inch bubble of air outside the ship.  Design your mechanics to support Sim concerens, make your decisions in a Sim context - is not the Simulationist creating the story of how he survived (or failed to survive) being thrown out the airlock?  Now, there may be folly in hoping to string together such mini-story creations into a coherent/effective whole story (without the GM/Metaplot outside-imposition you mention earlier in the msg), but it's got all the story elements, doesn't it?  Tension, conflict, resolution, etc . . . even theme, if you're willing to grant (and based on what I've read elsewhere,  you may not be) a general statement like "The ingenuity of humanity" or "The cold, hard nature of reality" that status.

Tell me that the tight application of story you want to apply exludes this, and I'll be happy.  Explain WHY, and I'll be even happier :wink:

That's a start - let me re-read all the wonderful stuff you folks have been posting, and see if any light bulbs go off.

Gordon C. Landis
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joshua neff
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« Reply #36 on: May 16, 2001, 04:10:00 PM »

gordon--

the airlock incident--okay, here's the thing: it seems to me that to look at it as an isolated incident ("this pc has been pushed out an airlock") is very simulationist--the only concern is "how do the mechanics handle this?"...from a narrativist point-of-view, a character wouldn't "just" be pushed out of an airlock--not to say that everything in a narrativist game is prescripted (i hope we all know by now that that ain't the case) nor that pcs are invulnerable, but as a gm, i sure wouldn't have a pc pushed out an airlock unless it was incredibly relevant to the story--& i certainly wouldn't kill the pc unless it was cool w/ the player...

& herein lies my point--in a simulationist game, one thing happens & that causes consequences & then another thing happens & that causes consequences & so on & so on...now, a story may result from this sequences of events, & it may even be a good story (& a good story may even be the goal of the group--maybe they're playing "vampire" or "call of cthulhu")--but the group has not been ACTIVELY trying to create a story...

now, if you ask them, they might say "yeah, we were trying to create a story", but they weren't, they were experiencing a sequence of events & expecting them to add up to a story--not the same thing...& that's the important thing--it's not the end result that makes a game "narrativist" or "simulationist" but how the journey is made...because the goal of narrativism isn't to end up w/ a good story that will entertain dozens of fellow members of the local rpg club, it's to create a story as a process to entertain the audience, which in an rpg is the same people as the players...

hope this helps...
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #37 on: May 16, 2001, 05:35:00 PM »

Wow, I think I may have actually "made sense" of this, at least for myself.  Thanks to all.

(The paragraph below is almost stream-of-consciousness, but somehow I think it encapsulates something, so I"m including it . . . )
So, the Narrativist would be "allowed" to actually create the fact that a 3-20 inch bubble of air surrounds the ship.  To a Simulationist (that is, someone who is playing that way at the moment), such a thing would be absurd - unless, I suppose, the character had an "alter reality" ability.  But that ability would have to have been established, defined and quantified before hand - a Narrativist could add that ability to the character at the moment of the crisis.  A Simulationist couldn't - unless the Sim defined how a crisis could add new abilities to a character instantantly - argh . . . !  hmm . . maybe this is why motivation - immediate motivation - is the key - as long as the motivation is to be true to the sim, THEN the Simulationist can "get away" with most anything the Narrativist can.  The Narrativist, on the other hand, can "get away" with such things only if they are remaining true to the story . . . hmm, the "instance" of definition of G or N or S is in a decision.  G/N/S defines decisions - a Narrativist game design decision, a Simulationist decision on how to resolve an action, a Gamist decision about generating a character.

(on a more coherent note)
Logan wrote a couple very good paragraphs that crystallized my thinking and may have gotten me over the last hump in terms of Story and G/N/S.  They're brilliant (there's that word again - probably hyperbole, but hey I'm allowed to be nice, ain't I?) acknowledgements of the general application of Story across G/N/S, and of the way in which it (Story) has a particular primacy in N.  I'll repeat 'em here and then add my thoughts:

"Story in and of itself isn't the differentiator. All games have some sort of story which unfolds through play. It may be a simple story. It may be a really trite, contrived story, but at the end, it's a story all the same. Attitude toward the story, degree of participation in shaping the story - Those are bigger differentiators. The truth of this has surfaced and resurfaced many times. Simulationists want to experience events, to see how the story unfolds.  This is why Simulationist games don't usually have mechanics which allow the players to make big changes to the flow or outcome of events. By definition (and this is supported by many posts on the rgfa list) Simulationists will accept events which aren't good for the story because they're consistent with the terms of the simulation.  Narrativists won't do that. Narrativists play to create a satisfying story. Narrativist games give players the tools to do that."

"Looking at Sim player motives as presented here and in rgfa discussions, I suggest that the Sim player will only want his character to live if the character has the means to live within the limits of the simulation. In other words, if something happens that should kill the character, the Sim player may feel robbed if the character lives. In that context, "staying true to the sim" may make the story better for the player - *but* the motive is *not* story focused. The motive is clearly to maintain the verisimilitude of the simulation, which is very different from creating story the way Narrativists want to create story."

The immediate motive is to be true to the sim.  That does not invalidate your motivation to create a story - which is tied (in the case of a simulationist) to the notion that the "best"/most satisfying way to do so is to be true to the sim.  But it does mean that your immediate motivation is NOT story oriented.  Your decision is most directly tied to one, one only one, of G, N, or S.

So - how's this definition: only in Narrativism is your motive RIGHT NOW, right as you're playing the game, right as you're making individual decisions in the course of the game, right as you're applying the mechanics to your actions - only in Narrativism is your motivation *in that moment* shaped by "am I helping to create a story here?".

Only in Simulationism is that immediate motivation "is this true to the sim?".  Only in Gamism is the immediate motivation "will this help me win?"

Wow, again longer than I thought.  Appologies if I've bored anyone - and if you think I'm way off base with something here, go ahead, let me know - maybe I missed something.

Oh, and Joshua - yes it helped.  I think what I've got here is subtly different from "the group has not been ACTIVELY trying to create a story", but only subtly.

Gordon C. Landis
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joshua neff
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« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2001, 05:48:00 PM »

* Appologies if I've bored anyone *

are you kidding? this (& the other discussions here regarding g/n/s) have helped me get closer to my own understanding of the model & the three types of play...so, thanks, gordon (& james, & ron, & logan, & paul, & raven, & everyone else)...

(but please, no group hugs, okay?)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2001, 06:06:00 PM »

Hey Gordon,

I think Josh hit it right on the nose with his assessment of the airlock situation - a "guy" is not just a guy, a crisis is not just a crisis, a moment in the story is not just a moment in the time-stream (compare the first twenty minutes of a movie with the last twenty minutes). All of these are highly loaded in Narrativism, and the situation you describe literally changes its physical necessities and outcomes depending on the answers. Whereas in Simulationism (of any stripe, I think), changing those very things - actually altering the consistency of what-causes-what - is exactly what the system-design is intended to prevent.

With any luck at all, now the following may help rather than add jargon. It's simply some vocab that summarizes a lot of what you've said.

We're talking about how a player relates to his or her character.

- Actor Stance: the player makes decisions from "within" the character's own motivations, perceptions, and biases, with no other recourse for announcing the character's actions.

- Author Stance: the player acts from "outside" the character's motivations, perceptions, etc, and makes decisions for the character's actions that "the character doesn't know about." Then character motive and so on are retroactively added on, so that the in-game events are not utterly implausible.

- Director Stance: the player manipulates elements of the in-game world in favor of outcomes that the player is interested in seeing, wholly external to the character, and obviously completely disconnected from the character's motivations and so on. (If the astronaut situation were occurring in a game which permitted Director Stance, the player might have total power over whatever means was available to survive the situation, even retroactively. Without Director Stance for the player, such things would be in the hands of the GM.)

This relates to what you've been talking about very directly - Narrativism relies heavily on player Author Stance (and some games are now encouraging Director Stance with certain mechanics as well). However, Simulationism across-the-board, as far as I can tell, generally favors Actor Stance. Just to round out the picture, Gamism generally favors Author Stance.

That said, it should be added that Stance shifts a lot during play (hence the name), sometimes very quickly, and I am NOT claiming that these are what happens every second of play - just the tendencies within each goal.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #40 on: May 23, 2001, 08:13:00 AM »

I'm glad that we're all getting to know Simulationism better, a topic near and dear to my heart.

If you look at the beginning of the thread, this relates a lot to the other thread and the resistance to G/N/S as well as the Simulationism as a degenerate form (I know, I'm overstating). What I mean is that the rhetoric of G/N/S is usually delivered by the Narrativist crowd. It isn't always perfectly understood by those recieveing it (and, I daresay, occasionally delivered poorly). So they may interperet it as being derogatory even if it is not. Despite the fact that the Narrativist crowd doesn't find the descriptions of G and S disparaging, that doen't mean that many G and S people won't.

And then you wonder why they act defensively? I started out the same way until I took the time to learn the whole thing. Now I get it and am not put off by it. But in this world of political correctness you are shocked when people dislike the definition that you give to their style of play?

Be a little more patient, please.

Mike Holmes
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